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What Is in a Marketing Strategy?

Close Up of Gears Interlocking

If you research marketing agencies, you’re all but certain to stumble upon the phrase “marketing strategy” as a service offered, across the board. But what does marketing strategy really mean? Is it exactly the same from agency to agency (spoiler alert: it isn't)? What are good examples of a marketing strategy? What influences how you should create your own marketing strategy?

All of these are great questions to ask. We’ll define in non-jargon terms what a marketing strategy is, why you need one, and how to create one, and give some examples of successful marketing strategies you may have experienced. By the end, hopefully that broad and confusing term—marketing strategy—will make a bit more sense.

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Why do you need a marketing strategy?

You may be wondering why you should even take the time to create a marketing strategy. Fair question. Making a detailed plan about how you’ll go to market and address your target market takes valuable time and resources. You could be spending that on creating content such as videos for social media, blogs for your website, and collateral for your sales team.

The biggest reason to create a marketing strategy is to give direction and consistency to all of those aforementioned blogs, emails, and sales collateral. Our team describes the transition from mindlessly producing to strategically executing as moving from episodic marketing to accountable, transformative marketing.

Episodic marketing looks and feels like the house is constantly on fire. You’re being hounded by your sales reps for more pitch decks, better case studies, and more literature about the company. You’ve randomly set a goal for a weekly number of blogs and now you feel beholden to that number. Your social media hasn’t been updated in a week because you’re too busy with all the other requests to even think of it. And you end every day exhausted and confused about whether anything you’re doing is even making a difference.

Accountable, transformative marketing begins with having a solidified marketing strategy that effectively tells you exactly where your daily actions should go. You’ve already identified how much sales support you actually need to be producing, and rather than being reactive to requests you’re collaborating with sales ahead of time to finalize what you already have in the pipeline. You have a content calendar providing a consistent theme to your blog efforts, and your social media is easy because it’s supporting your content calendar and helping to drive traffic where you need it. Rather than on fire, your house feels like Joanna Gaines and Marie Kondo double-teamed your dream renovation. And it all comes from one very important document. Who would have thought?

What goes into a successful marketing strategy?

Simply put, a marketing strategy is a plan to promote and sell a product or a service. Grabbed that definition directly from my handy dictionary. Your marketing strategy is what you plan to do in order to tell your target market about your offer and showcase the necessary value to get them interested in what you sell. Seems easy, right?

Easy in theory, certainly tougher in action. When considering a marketing strategy, you’ll want to include a few things:

  • Your marketing mix strategy (sometimes called the 4 P’s of marketing)
  • Human resources needed to support your marketing efforts
  • Your position in the marketplace and how you plan to defend it
  • The channels you will use to get your message out
  • Budget for each channel to aid in your promotion (going back to one of those 4 P’s again)

Not every marketing strategy contains the same things, and you may find yours needs to include specific functions unique to your business and industry. For example, if you’re building a marketing plan for a subscription- or membership-based offer, you may want to include an entire segment on a rewards program. No matter what industry you’re in, you’ll need to adapt your marketing strategy to your specific go-to-market needs and the places your buyers are most likely to interact with your business.

Examples of effective marketing strategies in the wild

As professional marketers, we geek out from time to time on the most successful marketing strategies around. The following three simple marketing plan examples from GoPro, Nike, and Spotify are easy to relate to because you have almost certainly interacted with their products before—and because they’re just so well put together that we can’t help but learn from their examples.

GoPro: Give power to your community

GoPro’s product certainly lends itself to a strategy based around consumer interaction and creation with the brand. However, GoPro has taken that to the next level by getting their product into the hands of important influencers, encouraging users to generate and share their own content, and effectively placing their product at the center of this content plan.

GoPro is leaning on their ever-growing user base to continually make more and more content. They support this by showing off the content their influencers are creating—thereby creating a sense of community and inclusion among everyone who makes content on a GoPro camera. GoPro also does a great job of making their content feel appropriately grassroots in nature.

For the average consumer, doing professional-grade video editing simply isn’t in the cards. GoPro has made it acceptable—even desirable—to upload raw, emotional footage straight from their devices. In fact, they’ve even created an app for mobile phones which allows users to go from video to YouTube upload in a matter of minutes. Cut the footage quickly, hit upload, and all of a sudden your latest adventure with GoPro at the center is there for the world to see.

Nike: Live into your values

When Nike declared 2019 to be its “year for women,” it did so strategically and, we can also see through their actions, in line with their values. The defining moment of this was their “Dream Crazier” advertisement voiced over by Serena Williams, one of Nike’s biggest stars.


Nike has long held the position that everyone can be an athlete, but the company that began with the mission of making the world’s best athletic footwear has far outperformed those expectations. Nike’s marketing strategy utilizes a mix of inspirational sponsored athletes such as Justin Gallegos, who has cerebral palsy, with mega-stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo to bring to life their dual messages: everyone is an athlete, and wearing their apparel makes you a bit more like your sports idols.

Nike’s marketing strategy effectively takes an extremely tangible good—fitness apparel—and gives it tons of intangible emotion through sponsorships and highly creative advertising campaigns meant to build strong emotional ties with their consumer base.

Spotify: Make it individual

Admittedly, when Spotify first launched and was set to compete directly with one of the biggest of all brands, Apple, in the music space, there was a lot of skepticism. How would this streaming company be able to get iPhone users to download an extra application and move away from Apple Music when it was so easy to use? Consumers have already shown a strong dislike for downloading applications, as more than 70% of users fall off once they’re directed to download a native app. How is this going to work out?

As it turns out, extremely well. Spotify has, in a few short years, gone from the plucky outsider to a power in the music streaming industry, with as many paying users as the next three options combined. How have they done this? By focusing on a unique user experience centered on your individuality.

Spotify routinely produces add-ons to your playlists, and has a weekly recommendation to help you discover new music based on what you already listen to. Additionally, Spotify took their already successful Wrapped campaign to a whole new level in 2019 when it wrapped up your entire decade—and made it shareable so you could show all your friends your favorite music, and your favorite music service.

Spotify’s ability to make every user’s experience feel so hyper-individualized is a testament to product marketing, and is at the center of their incredible marketing strategy.

Write your marketing strategy in pencil, not pen.

When you sit down to create your marketing strategy, you're planning for life in a vacuum where budgets aren’t cut, timelines aren’t missed, and global pandemics aren’t wreaking havoc on everyone’s world.

That last one, COVID-19, is particularly applicable to our marketing strategy at Element Three. As we sat down in late 2019 to create 2020’s marketing strategy, we wanted to focus on speaking events. We knew that getting our people out in the world generated quality leads for our business and led to great relationships, so we were going to lean into that heavily. Then COVID happened, and that obviously became impossible.

So we pivoted, and took that idea to a webinar and podcast series instead. And it worked out pretty well. While HubSpot reported significantly lower deal volume and closed deals among all users of their CRM, we actually hit record numbers of traffic and opportunities throughout 2020. We’re extremely fortunate, but fortune tends to come to those who work for it, and pivoting the strategy when it became obvious the old one wouldn’t work was a key moment for helping our business through that period of uncertainty.

When you make your strategy, be prepared to pivot. Because planning happens in a vacuum, but your business doesn't.


Joe Mills Team Photo at Element Three

“Whatever you are, be a good one.” This advice has served Joe well as he’s worn many hats throughout his career–from college soccer player to marketing expert to Business Development Manager. He’s passionate about using big ideas to build mutually beneficial partnerships, because “to help yourself is to help others.”