What is Effective Marketing?

Consultancy Digital Marketing
More Thinking

We live in a social media-driven, vanity metric-obsessed world.

Web traffic, Instagram likes, social engagement… all wearing paper crowns as the princes of digital marketing, without delivering results where it matters most.

Not that they aren’t important – they are. But focusing on sexy yet superficial stats like these without considering a holistic view of your entire marketing efforts is what differentiates run-of-the-mill ‘it kind of worked but it didn’t really’ campaigns from becoming truly effective marketing.

We’re talking about the sort of all-encompassing marketing that blends psychology and data science, technology and sales. Marketing that gets you results, tells you why and also tells you – and here’s the kicker – what to do next to make it even better.

We’re going to show you how to do that in this article – as well as introduce some of the most effective marketing techniques you can start putting into practice today.

But first, let's define effective marketing once and for all.

The key to effective marketing

For many businesses, the effectiveness of marketing is simply the number of leads generated by specific tactical activity. While lead generation and social engagement are obvious measures of marketing effectiveness, it is far from exhausting what marketing has to offer. 

It might be more commercially useful to define marketing effectiveness more generally as the return on marketing investment against a predetermined set of objectives.

These objectives can be as diverse as creating a defined market position, increasing online conversions, creating clarity among internal and external stakeholders about the mission and values of a business, identifying and refining target personas and even significantly reducing lead volumes in a move from a transactional to a nurturing lead management strategy.

In light of Covid-19 and the consequent acceleration of digital transformation across the globe, this latter strategy forms an increasing part of our work as UK and international businesses want to use strategy and technology to reduce the operational burden caused by high quantities of low quality leads. 

For example, Wall Street English franchises in Russia and Argentina both saw large, well-planned drops in lead volumes resulting in significant increases in signed contracts.

Getting outcomes like these requires careful planning and total alignment between marketing and sales, which in turn requires a content driven marketing strategy backed by a consultative approach to sales.

An effective marketing strategy depends on alignment with business objectives, strategic planning, choice of tactics, the right technology partners and a long-term mindset.

While there are intangible factors in a marketing strategy that we can’t teach (like having multiple decades of experience implementing them), we can give you the framework to execute on your own. Follow the 12 steps below to create a well-rounded, effective marketing strategy that will help you shape and refine how your customers think, feel and act towards your brand.

How to build an effective digital marketing strategy: 12 steps

Step 1: Set unambiguous objectives

In the famous strategy manual Playing to Win, the author says that ‘strategy is the child of scarcity’. This means that we create strategies and set our direction simply because it is impossible to be everywhere and do everything – we are time poor and everything has an opportunity cost, so it pays to focus exclusively on what you most want to achieve. 

Effective marketing can flourish when it is underpinned with unambiguous, clear objectives and a strong ‘why’ or purpose. Therefore you set up any ad campaigns or create any landing pages, ensure your compass is set firmly in the direction in which you wish to travel as a business. This blog and guide will help.

Step 2: Research 

When somebody mentions research, the first image that comes to mind is someone sitting at a desk, bored out of their mind. This isn’t the research we are talking about – effective research is an active process, and combines elements of all of the following: quantitative research, qualitative research, surveys and facial recognition research and applied neuroscience. 

With robust data from these sources you will have the confidence and clarity to build a razor-sharp marketing strategy that will set you apart from the competition.

Step 3: Consider the influence of psychology

An in-depth knowledge of modern psychology is a powerful tool when creating marketing strategies. Concepts such as cognitive biases, proven persuasion techniques and framing effects should all be at the front of your mind when planning your next move.

Also crucial to your marketing success is access to expertise in decision science and behavioural economics. Cognition is the first agency in the UK to appoint a formal Scientific Board of Cognitive Scientists, Neuroscientists and Data Analysts. Their remit is to use evidence to make marketing and sales more effective. Read more about our Scientific Board here – perhaps it will inspire you to start your own!

Step 4: Determine your target audience

It’s tempting to set a goal and then rush into it without further thought – tempting, but mistaken. The fact is, marketing is only as effective as its intended audience thinks it is. You could come up with the coolest campaign in the world as far as you are concerned – if your audience don’t care it will sink without a trace. 

The development of accurate marketing personas is absolutely critical to your success. By researching your audience, understanding their journey from prospect to buyer, and understanding their motivations for being associated with you, you can better tailor your messaging and resonate with the right people. 

Step 5: Set performance benchmarks

With a high-level strategy and ‘why’ in place, you now need to understand your strategy from a tactical level. What marketing channels will you use to reach your audience? What specific tactics will you use, and what are the time frames?

By setting clear performance benchmarks with deadlines attached, you keep things specific and simple. Better yet, when you have clean data like this, you can endlessly iterate and scale your activities, knowing that you have clearly defined KPIs to hit and improve upon. 

Step 6: Unlock the power of data

Following on from the previous step, data is the core component of any effective digital marketing campaign, with two caveats;

  • That it is relevant and limited to a single variable
  • Is up to date and includes all real-time feedback

It’s important to not get too hung up on data, especially if you are suspicious of its accuracy. However, good data can give you the confidence to change course quickly and be decisive at key moments. A great CRM platform can help you build up a bank of great data – this will help you learn more about customer relationship management technology

Step 7: Choose the right technology

Technology plays a starring role in effective marketing these days, but it’s important to understand that it is what the technology can do – rather than the technology itself – that matters. Does the software you have in mind help you achieve your strategy, goals and benchmarks?

There are so many platforms out there that it can be hard to make a decision, but take a step back and think carefully about what you need: you need technology that helps you to track campaigns, automate tactics and present actionable reports. For all of this, look no further than HubSpot

Step 8: Align sales with marketing

The age-old rivalry between sales and marketing is entertaining, but counterproductive in almost every way. In fact, you need the exact opposite; total strategic alignment and transparent communication between your marketing and sales teams. 

How to do this? By setting shared goals, helping the teams to bond and educating everybody on how when marketing does well, sales does well, and vice versa (data on lead to conversion ratio will help with this). The reward of sales and marketing alignment is less barriers to sales, endless ideas for content, better quality leads and handoffs, and an all round exceptional customer experience that will become its own word-of-mouth marketing machine in time.

Step 9: Invest in content marketing

Gone are the days where you can pound the phones and force your way into people’s calendars. Today, people want to be gently nurtured and educated with stories that resonate and promise to benefit them. 

The way to do this is through building content experiences that closely match the needs of your target audience. It doesn’t sound easy, because it isn’t – but with the right guidance anyone can be helpful and transparent with their content, which is half the battle. 

A key component of content marketing in 2021 is personalisation. This means using technology to create unique content at the right time, in the right place, for your prospect to extract maximum value. Start by creating an effective content marketing plan

Step 10: Automate parts of your marketing strategy 

The right technology stack allows you to automate some of your marketing activities. This gives you back some of your time so you can assess feedback, make tweaks and improve your performance. 

Automating email campaigns is a great place to start. In HubSpot, sophisticated email workflows targeted towards segmented audiences can be created quickly and easily. You can also set up internal notifications so that all team members have visibility on the sales pipeline and deal stages – ideal for timely and relevant personalised content. Our renowned HubSpot training sessions – delivered in more than 19 countries around the world – can help you learn more. 

Step 11: Measure everything 

Management consultant and executive Peter Drucker once said: “What gets measured gets managed.”

Effective marketing is all about measurement. It’s about being totally up front with what you have achieved and how campaigns have performed. Egos have to be left at the door, and pride has to be prepared to be hurt. 

As an agency, we celebrate our failures as much as our successes. When we attempt and fail, and yet we still get better, we become slightly more fearless in our approach, and success becomes that much more likely. 

Know how to evaluate feedback and metrics from the market. Then do it. This blog will get you started.

Step 12: Learn from your failures and keep going

Winston Churchill once famously said “success is not final, failure is not fatal.” Truer words have never been spoken with regards to effective marketing. This is not a field where you can rest on your laurels or ‘set and forget’. When the world changes, marketing changes, and in many ways the reverse is also true.

Stay ahead of the game by creating your very own marketing laboratory. Run tests, play with new channels, just for fun. Because you can never really know when you might catch the next big wave.

Rethinking your marketing activity: Where do we go from here?

The fact that prospects who engage with your brand don’t turn into leads immediately does not mean your marketing is ineffective. On the contrary, it means your marketing is engaging and nurturing prospects in exactly the way it should if it's to create long-term value.

So, if you want your marketing to be effective, first look at ALL the ways marketing can help your business and then engage an agency that knows how to work with evidence, emotion and complex commercial environments in which your marketing has to create value.

Hiring a marketing agency can be a minefield, and an expensive mistake if done incorrectly, so to help you with this crucial step we’ve put together a new guide. 

The latest addition to our Effective Marketing Series, How to choose the right marketing agency combines over 20 years of marketing experience to help you get your agency search right the first time round.

Download the free guide to find out:

  • Why most agency relationships fail
  • Hiring decisions that unlock business growth
  • Cognitive biases potentially damaging judgement
  • The ultimate checklist for choosing your marketing agency
  • Including a downloadable infographic checklist




Contact the team at Cognition Agency for all your digital marketing requirements.