What Is a Marketing Process?
The marketing process is a step-by-step framework you use to make sure your marketing campaigns are well planned and effective.
With a clear marketing roadmap, you can make the most of your time, money, and resources. Your efforts are intentional and thought out—you’re not just executing random marketing tasks and hoping they work.
A strategic marketing process helps you:
- Target the right audience and meet their needs
- Set clear goals and objectively measure progress
- Choose the distribution channels and messages that’ll have the greatest impact
In other words, you can drive greater customer value, loyalty, and sales.
While working through the process takes time, it’s worth the effort.
Don’t sweat it if you’ve never used a marketing process before. We’ll walk you through it in five straightforward steps.
1. Conduct Market Research to Understand Your Audience and Competition
Market research helps you get to know your customer base and the surrounding business landscape.
Your findings then inform your buyer personas—fictional profiles that represent the needs, interests, and demographic info of your ideal customers.
These insights help shape your marketing strategy.
This part of the marketing process is also useful for learning how you can get your company to stand out from the competition and attract more customers.
And all this info can be shared with Sales and Product Development. So, everyone is on the same page when it comes to driving customer satisfaction and new business.
Simplify your approach to market research with two buckets: qualitative and quantitative data.
Qualitative data is consumer feedback. And quantitative data includes hard numbers and stats about your target audience and industry.
Combining both of them will give you the clearest picture of who your customers are, what they expect, and how you can drive more business.
Further reading: Market Research: What It Is & How to Do It
How to Collect Qualitative Data
Use focus groups, one-on-one interviews, and surveys to ask current and potential customers (like sales leads and social media followers) specific questions about your brand.
The goal is to uncover their likes, dislikes, and ways your brand can improve.
Focus on open-ended questions to get more detailed feedback than simple “yes” or “no” responses.
- What do you like about our product/service?
- What would you change about our product/service?
- What other similar products/services do you use besides ours?
- How did you find out about our product/service?
- What would you like to see more of on our social media channels?
Offer free gifts or product discounts if you’re concerned about low response rates. These types of perks can also give you a bigger number of people to learn from.
If you can’t easily contact your own customers, though, check out the Consumer Surveys app.
The app compiles 12,500 different survey responses a month on consumer habits and attitudes. And you can also use it to launch your own custom survey.
How to Collect Quantitative Data
You can collect quantitative info on your target audience and industry from survey forms (e.g., including demographic fields or sending a Net Promoter Score survey). Or by combing through credible reports (like our State of Content Marketing Global Report).
These are definitely helpful approaches. But they’re also approaches that involve a lot of time and manual effort.
It’s faster to use a market analysis tool.
For example, with Semrush’s Market Explorer, you can easily:
- Analyze competitors: Learn about competitors’ strengths and weaknesses and identify opportunities to differentiate your business
- Learn about your industry’s consumers: Discover demographic details, interests, and social media use
- Monitor trends: Stay ahead of the curve by identifying emerging patterns and opportunities in your industry
- Identify new markets: Research new markets for growth, allowing you to expand your business and reach new audiences
Open the tool and choose “Find Competitors.” Enter your competitor’s domain. Then, click “Research a market.”
You’ll see a summary report that includes details like the market size, market share, and key players.
Click “View details” to expand the list of the top brands in your industry.
Click on any domain to learn more about their traffic, top marketing channels, and market audiences.
You can also click “View details” below a domain to explore their Traffic Analytics.
By the end of your competitive analysis, you should be able to successfully answer most (if not all) of the questions related to the Four P’s of Marketing:
Compile All Your Data and Do a SWOT Analysis
After you’ve uncovered all kinds of customer and competitor insights, it’s time to use that knowledge to conduct a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis.
Answer the questions in each quadrant. Those answers will guide your marketing strategy, helping you make data-driven decisions throughout the marketing process instead of relying on guesswork.
Further reading: What Is a Competitor Analysis & How to Do it (with Template)
2. Create a Customer-Driven Marketing Strategy
Your company’s success ultimately comes down to how good you are at engaging and satisfying customers.
By keeping their preferences, needs, and expectations at the center of your marketing process, you can make strategic choices that resonate with your target audience. And support your company’s bottom line.
Here’s how to do it:
Set Clear Marketing Goals
Clear goals in a customer-driven marketing strategy set the foundation for how you’ll provide value to current and prospective consumers.
Start by asking a high-level question:
“What do we want to achieve with our marketing?”
Some big-picture examples include:
- Generating quality leads
- Increasing web traffic
- Growing your customer base
- Increasing revenue
- Boosting brand awareness
It’s OK to have more than one marketing goal. Just as it’s OK to have different strategies for different goals and audiences.
But each goal you have should align with your customer research—that’s what cements the “customer-driven” element of your marketing strategy. And ultimately helps you grow sales.
Say you learn from a survey that personal recommendations influence your target audience more than any other factor. That could translate into a goal to grow social media engagement.
Because promotions from existing customers will likely help you generate more interest and new customers.
Or maybe you learn that most customers start their buying journeys with Google searches. So, improving your SEO to gain visibility would be the smartest choice to help you grow your customer base.
Once you’re clear on your overarching marketing goals, use the SMART framework (SMART stands for specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and time-bound) to turn them into smaller, achievable steps that contribute to your ultimate goal.
For instance, if you want to get more visitors to your website, here’s what a SMART goal might look like:
“We want to increase website traffic by 50% in 12 months by creating search-optimized content about topics that align with our latest keyword research. We have a team of experienced copywriters and editors in place to achieve this.”
That gives you and your marketing team something tangible to aim for, rather than just a broad idea like “growing website traffic.” So, it’s much easier to track and measure progress.
And equally important, SMART goals ensure your marketing efforts stay focused on meeting customers where they’re at.
Use Marketing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to Evaluate Your Progress
It’s not enough to just set goals in your marketing process. You also need to be able to measure your progress toward meeting them.
Otherwise, it’s tough to figure out what marketing activities are objectively working and where you might need to tweak things to improve.
This is where key performance indicators (KPIs) come in. These quantifiable metrics let you track how effective your marketing efforts are.
Say you’re focused on retaining customers longer. You might use a sales metric like average customer lifetime value (CLV). The higher your CLV, the less money you’ll need to spend bringing in new business.
Or if your objective is to increase traffic with high-quality content, a tool like Traffic Analytics can help you monitor traffic, engagement, and conversions in comparison to your competitors.
Other helpful data analytics tools to consider include:
Further reading: 20 Marketing KPIs You Need to be Monitoring
Nail Down Your Value Proposition
Your value proposition quickly gives customers an idea of what your brand is all about. And helps you keep your marketing aligned with a central purpose.
You want it to speak to:
- How your product or service benefits customers
- How you solve their problems
- What you do better than your competitors
For example, Slack’s value proposition is:
“Made for people. Built for productivity. Connect the right people, find anything that you need, and automate the rest. That’s work in Slack, your productivity platform.”
This immediately tells visitors how Slack solves users’ problems in ways that its competitors can’t—or at least what Slack excels at. The features it highlights are major selling points for people in remote or hybrid work environments—its target customers.
Further reading: What Is a Value Proposition and How to Write One
Establish or Refresh Your Brand Guidelines
From visuals to messaging, brand guidelines help you maintain consistency in how you present your company.
They generally include details on your:
- Brand values
- Brand position
- Tone of voice
- Vocabulary to use and avoid
- Spelling, stylization, and grammar rules
- Brand assets (i.e., logo, colors, fonts, and graphics)
Following them makes sure customers get the same “vibe” from your organization at every touchpoint, which helps to build brand recognition and trust over time.
So, customers are more likely to remember your company and develop an emotional connection with it.
Without brand guidelines, it’s easy for content and other marketing assets to become disjointed and confusing for users. This makes it harder to get familiar with your company and to establish the brand trust that influences spending decisions.
For example, email marketing platform Mailchimp uses the same conversational tone of voice, playful design and imagery, and yellow brand color across its website:
On its social media accounts:
Mailchimp’s marketing content is visually striking enough to grab new customers’ attention. And consistent enough so that it’s easy to recognize.
When creating or revamping brand guidelines, make sure you involve relevant stakeholders outside of marketing. Like people in sales, product development, and the C-suite.
This kind of collaboration keeps everyone aligned and helps you get buy-in on consistently using the guidelines across departments. Which allows the brand to be represented in a way that best speaks to your audience.
When finalized, make sure all relevant team members (including freelancers) have easy access to the guidelines.
Further reading: How to Build a Brand Identity in 5 Steps
3. Develop a Marketing Plan to Execute Your Strategy
“Marketing strategy” and “marketing plan” are often used interchangeably in a marketing process. But they’re actually different things.
Your marketing strategy says, “We want to build a house.”
But your marketing plan says, “Here’s how we’ll build our house.”
Revisiting your marketing plan every quarter lets you adapt it to evolving business goals. Or if your goals change more slowly, you can use an annual marketing plan instead.
And it doesn’t have to be as long or detailed as your marketing strategy. A one-page plan is fine if it includes the key information your team needs to do their work.
List your target audience, marketing goals, value proposition, KPIs, and total budget at the top of the page as clear reminders.
Then, dive into the meat of your plan:
List Out Your Marketing Tactics
Your tactics spell out the specific actions you’ll take to achieve your marketing goals.
At a high level, this section of your marketing plan covers your chosen:
- Marketing activities
- Distribution channels
- Research methods
- Tech stack, apps, and login credentials
- Resources (e.g., people)
For example, your tactics to achieve a goal of growing organic traffic by 25% in 12 months could be:
- Marketing activities: SEO blog content
- Distribution channels: Email and social media
- Research methods: Keyword research and competitor analysis
- Tech stack, apps, and login credentials: Semrush’s Keyword Magic Tool and AI Writing Assistant
- Resources (e.g., people): In-house content marketers and freelancers
Whatever your marketing tactics are, you need the right tech tools to help you along the way. If you want to grow organic traffic but are trying to identify target keywords and track your search positions manually, you’re not using your time wisely.
This is where a solution like Semrush’s Keyword Magic Tool comes in handy. Here’s how to use it:
Enter a keyword related to your business. Choose your country, then click “Search.”
You’ll see a list of related keywords. You can sort them by fields such as search intent, search volume, trend, and keyword difficulty (KD%).
There’s also the “Questions” filter, which shows the top questions your audience is searching for answers to. These are great starting points for blog topics or section headers.
And whether you’re working with owned or paid media, our SEO Writing Assistant can help you easily create high-quality content.
Create Your Marketing Timeline
The next step in developing your marketing plan is to establish a timeline for executing your tactics. How long will it take you to achieve your goals? And what will the major milestones be?
So, if your marketing strategy goal is to increase traffic by 50% in 12 months, you should create a 12-month marketing plan. If you achieve your goal sooner, you can always revisit your plan and aim for something bigger.
Whatever your timeline is, break it down into manageable chunks to make it easier to stay on track.
For example, you might divide a 12-month plan into quarters:
- Q1: Write two new blog posts per week and one email newsletter per week
- Q2: Write two new blog posts per week and one email newsletter per week
- Q3: Rewrite 30 low-performing blog posts and repurpose 10 popular social media posts
- Q4: Create a downloadable guide to share across social media. Write four emails to promote the guide. Write two new blog posts per week and 100 social media posts
Then, conduct resource planning to make sure your team will have the time, tools, and budget to meet those goals. And to make sure everyone knows what’s expected of them.
Work back from your desired goal to determine the exact steps that’ll help you achieve it. And make sure there’s coverage for each component.
In this example, you’ll need to plan, create, edit, and approve each piece of SEO content. So, ask yourself:
- How many different steps does this workflow involve?
- How long does each step take (approximately)?
- Who is involved at each step?
- What are the deadlines for each step?
- Who will fill in if someone is out of office?
Taking the time to figure this out up front will save from scrambling in the long run.
Once you have your timeline nailed down, create a shared document or use project management software to make your calendar.
Clear labels, tags, and color-coding help collaborators can see who’s responsible for each task. And make it easier for you to monitor marketing workflows.
Here’s an example from GanttPRO:
Image Source: GanttPRO
Further reading: Marketing Calendar: How to Build One + 5 Free Templates
4. Implement Your Marketing Plan And Measure Results
Now that you’ve got a solid marketing strategy and plan in place, it’s time to get rolling and execute.
As you start working through your marketing campaigns and tasks, keep a close eye on your KPIs. So you can adjust things as needed.
Say your coffee business is ranking highly for both “coffee beans” and “tea bags” on Google. But “coffee beans” is driving twice as much traffic to your site.
That’s a sign that your target audience trusts you more as a source of information on coffee than tea. So, doubling down on that topic (with new ideas from Semrush’s Topic Research tool) would help you get more eyes on your site.
Compile all your data points across tools with Semrush’s My Reports. You can build your own report from scratch. Or start with one of our customizable, pre-set templates.
Besides examining your own performance data, track your competitors and set benchmarks against theirs. So you can objectively see how you’re doing and look for ideas to improve if needed.
If you’re looking to compare SEO metrics, check out Semrush’s Traffic Analytics. Enter up to five competitors’ URLs in the text box and click “Analyze.”
The dashboard will give you an overview on details like:
- Unique visitors
- Pages per visit
- Average visit duration
- Bounce rate
5. Build Lasting Customer Relationships
The marketing process doesn’t end after your campaign launches.
Instead, it’s time to double down on strengthening customer loyalty and advocacy. This helps boost the success of your marketing strategy and plan by deepening customer trust and satisfaction with your brand.
Lasting customer relationships make people more likely to come back and recommend you to others. In fact, over half (52%) of respondents in PwC’s Customer Loyalty Survey said they express brand loyalty by recommending companies to other people.
That word-of-mouth marketing introduces more potential customers to your company. And makes your marketing process more cost effective by increasing your average CLV.
Use Loyalty and Referral Marketing Programs
By offering customers extra perks, loyalty and referral programs incentivize customers to make repeat purchases or recommend your brand.
For example, Sephora’s Beauty Insider loyalty program lets members earn rewards for each purchase.
Customers can redeem points on items like gift cards, limited edition products, or beauty tutorials. And the more they spend, the better the rewards become.
It’s such a successful model that Beauty Insider members drive about 80% of Sephora’s sales.
And on the referral marketing front, Verizon offers substantial savings to new and existing customers:
A Loyalty Data Study by Ebbo shows that customers are attracted to:
- Free, faster shipping
- Instant discounts
- Free giveaways
So, if you’re building a loyalty or referral marketing program of your own, keep these in mind. And look at what your competition offers in their own programs.
Directly surveying customers to find out what perks they’d enjoy most will also help you tailor your program to your customers’ unique preferences. Which will help drive participation and sales.
Further reading: The Future of Ecommerce is Now: Industry Insights for 2023 & Beyond
Offer Personalized Interactions and After-Sales Support
Treating customers like people and not just a number helps strengthen their emotional connection to your brand.
And staying in touch with helpful, customized content after they purchase keeps your company at the front of their minds.
Plant business Rooted’s post-purchase email is a great example.
Their unboxing instructions help customers get the most out of their product, building trust in the product and brand while improving customer satisfaction.
Rooted’s website also has a resource center to help customers solve problems and look after their plants.
And a Discord community where customers can connect with like-minded people and learn plant care from industry experts.
By being helpful and delivering ongoing customer value, Rooted strengthens its customers’ relationship with the brand. And keeps them coming back for more.
Share User-Generated Content
Encourage customers to create and share content related to your brand. And share it on your own social media accounts.
This kind of user-generated content (UGC) turns satisfied customers into advocates who can impact others’ purchasing decisions.
This helps grow your customer base by allowing people to see organic endorsements from people who already use your products or services. And builds a valuable sense of community online.
Cosmetics brand Glossier does this well.
Image source: Glossier Instagram
The post provides social proof and a relatable use case for potential and existing customers who follow Glossier on Instagram, increasing their trust in the brand. It also keeps people talking positively about Glossier’s products.
70% of its online sales and traffic come from peer-to-peer referrals. Glossier even describes itself in its social media bios as a “people-powered beauty ecosystem.”
Here are three simple tips to encourage UGC contributions:
- Create engaging challenges: Encourage participation by creating contests or custom hashtags
- Showcase user content: Highlight UGC on your platform to show appreciation for contributions and inspire others to participate
- Provide clear guidelines: Clearly outline what type of content you’re looking for and any submission rules or guidelines to make it easy for users to contribute
For example, electronics brand OnePlus encourages UGC contributions through its “Shot on OnePlus” campaign. It involves inviting customers to share themed photography and showcasing the results in community posts, blog articles, and other marketing content.
Further reading: How to Find Influencers for Your Brand (Not Just on Instagram)
Use the Marketing Process to Stay Competitive
The steps of the marketing process are cyclical. Effective marketing comes from research, strategic planning and execution, and learning. And these tasks are never one-and-done.
Use the results of your initial marketing process to inspire future campaigns. So you can continue to learn more about your customers and improve your strategies to grow and stay competitive.
Start with Semrush’s Market Explorer tool to see who you’re up against and get insights for your marketing strategy.