What the best marketing processes look like: Key steps to follow
Look behind any great marketing program and you’ll likely find great marketing processes, from goal setting to team building to automated workflows.
And while reading up on processes may not be as inspiring as scoping out the latest and greatest campaigns, it’s just as important — possibly even more so.
Marketing processes are all the steps you take to plan, implement, and evaluate your creative campaigns. They give your team direction and set you up for success.
With that in mind, we’re going to take a deep dive into what the best planning process looks like and the tools you’ll need to bring it all together.
Key steps your marketing process should have
In this section, we’ll cover the most important steps to follow when developing processes to optimize your marketing operations:
1. Determine your primary and secondary goals
As a marketer, you’re probably really busy. Like, running around, constantly putting out fires kind of busy. And while you might feel like setting goals and conducting market research isn’t a priority, it’s really quite the opposite.
Defining your goals often saves time in the long run because you can focus your efforts on projects that have a clear purpose — and eliminate those that don’t. Plus, taking the time to define your goals leads to better outcomes.
In fact, Content Marketing Institute’s 2022 state-of-the-industry report shows that 62% of top-performing marketing departments use a documented strategy while only 11% of those at the bottom do the same.
So, clear some time in your schedule and sit down with your team to hash out some goals. These should include primary goals (those that are the most important or necessary to achieve) along with secondary goals (those that would be helpful to achieve but aren’t critical right now).
For many businesses, marketing goals typically include:
Driving organic traffic to your website.
Connecting with your customer base across multiple distribution channels.
Owning a majority of the market share of certain market segments.
Generating high-quality leads.
Increasing sales and revenue.
Nurturing leads through the different stages of your sales funnel.
Addressing ideal customer needs through research and testing.
Harboring loyalty with target customers by providing resources and education.
Encouraging people to take a specific action like signing up for your email list, making a purchase, registering for a course, or downloading a digital product.
Improving the conversion rate on your website.
Establishing industry authority by becoming a thought leader in your space.
Increasing brand awareness.
Boosting brand engagement on social media.
Acquiring new customers.
Understanding your key demographics will go a long way in helping you reach your target audience by providing meaningful customer value.
2. Compare possible marketing plans or approaches
Once you’ve identified what you want to achieve, the next step is figuring out how to do it. One of the best places to start is by comparing different marketing tactics and approaches. Ask yourself and your team a few questions:
What are all the different ways we could achieve each goal?
How have other companies achieved these same goals?
Have we achieved these goals in the past? If so, what worked and what didn’t?
For example, let’s say your primary goal is to drive traffic to your website. You could achieve this by starting a blog or redoubling your efforts on an existing blog. You could implement SEO strategies to harness organic traffic. Or you could run paid ad campaigns using PPC and social media.
Go through this exercise for each of your primary and secondary goals until you have an exhaustive list of all the viable plans you could use to achieve each goal.
3. Choose the best plans for your goals
Now it’s time to choose! During this step, it’s important to consider each plan carefully, thinking about the following issues:
How likely are we to achieve our goal with this plan?
How effective is this approach compared to others?
How difficult would this plan be to execute?
Does anyone on the team have experience with this approach?
Would this plan be enough on its own to meet our goal, or should it be supplemented with another strategy?
Once you’ve identified a few front-runners, dig into each plan a little deeper and define specific tactics that will support each approach.
Take Canva, for example. Back in 2015, traffic to the graphic design platform’s website and design blog had stagnated. To turn things around, Canva’s marketing team decided to take the approach of re-engineering their blogging strategy.
They defined the following marketing tactics to support this plan:
Reverse engineer their competitors’ content.
Find out what their readers really want.
Follow the data (not just their gut).
Pick the best headlines they can (and change them if they’re not working).
Create content that’s concrete and credible.
Add more images to their posts.
To measure success, Canva decided to implement these changes for sixty days and then compare results to the previous three-month period. Here are their results:
Compared to the preceding three-month period, Canva saw a whopping 226% increase in traffic. Plus, traffic from social media increased too — by nearly 500%!
4. Identify the resources and marketing budget needed
Once you’ve landed on the best approach for achieving each goal, it’s time to get into the nitty gritty. This means figuring out exactly what resources you need to implement your marketing strategy, from staffing to software to funding.
Many times, marketing departments need access to the following resources to get the job done:
Content creators (writers, designers, videographers, etc.)
Subject matter experts
SEO specialists and/or SEO tools
Technology like content marketing solutions, project management software, email marketing tools, and marketing automation platforms
Staffing positions including content strategists, managing editors, distribution specialists, and more
5. Get approvals on goals, resources, and budget
Unless you’re running a one-person show, the next step is to run your marketing plan up the flagpole for approval. Fortunately, all the work you’ve already put into defining your goals will go a long way toward winning over leadership.
Not only does it show you’re committed to the idea, but it also shows them why this plan needs to be done in the first place — a critical component to encouraging buy-in.
Famed author and speaker Simon Sinek puts it this way in his book Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Action: "People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it".
So when you’re pitching your case to leadership, hone in on your goals. Explain exactly what you expect to achieve with your plan, be it driving traffic to your website or acquiring new customers.
Then, connect these goals to the overall business goals of the organization. For example, if your company is trying to attract new customers in order to drive revenue, you should focus your pitch on how your goal of driving traffic to your website will ultimately attract new customers.
6. Set up your team
Once you’ve nailed down the approval, it’s time for action — starting with setting up your team. What your team will look like varies greatly depending on your plan. It also depends on things like your budget, your existing in-house resources, and the amount of time needed to execute your campaign.
If you already have a large marketing staff on hand, you can typically pull certain people or departments for a specific project. Using the example of re-engineering a blog to drive traffic, you could pull your blog writers, designers, SEO specialists, and managing editor onto your team.
If you’re starting from scratch, the following positions are key for your content marketing team:
Content Marketing Manager
Subject Matter Expert(s)
Once you’ve set up your team, focus everyone on important KPIs right from the start. Our 2022 State of Content Survey found that the ability to measure performance has the highest impact on a team’s success.
However, it’s the most challenging and underdeveloped part of content operations — with only 9% of marketers rating their ability to demonstrate the impact of content as “excellent.”
For most teams, the bottom line is usually metrics, achievable milestones and delivering a meaningful value proposition. But don’t get lost in the mission statement.
Defining these goals are important steps of the marketing process, but ultimately your team should be unified by one singular initiative; capitalize on market opportunities and win potential customers.
7. Create your workflows
A marketing workflow is a series of steps that need to be followed in order to execute a marketing campaign or project. When you create a workflow, you essentially define the order of these steps, who will be tasked with completing each one, and how things move from one step to another.
Back to the blogging example. When your writer finishes a draft, who does it go to? Or, when your managing editor signs off on an article, how does it get published? Are images added to the piece before or after it’s written? Is the writer responsible for images or does someone else handle that part?
Since marketing campaigns have so many moving parts, most teams use some kind of project management software to keep things running smoothly — and automatically.
Take Optimizely’s software, for example. Purpose built for marketers, our system allows all team members to track progress at a glance, showing activity history details for each task and project updates.
You can also grant access to all of the information needed to accomplish a task, user by user, so that each contributor can focus on the details that are most relevant to them.
And since things change by the minute for marketers, our software lets you make your workflows as strict or as flexible as needed using customizable task management.
8. Audit your processes
Another best practice to incorporate into your marketing strategy is to periodically (and regularly) audit your marketing processes.
This means taking a comprehensive look at your goals, objectives, strategies, and principles in order to identify any problems or missed opportunities — ultimately enabling you to fine-tune your strategy and focus on what works.
Since it’s hard to objectively audit your own department, marketing audits are typically best handled by a third party. Here are some components of successful marketing audits to keep in mind:
Audits should be comprehensive, covering your entire marketing department — not just areas where a problem has already been identified or areas where you feel especially successful.
Audits should be performed systematically to ensure there aren’t any gaps. A systematic approach accounts for every environment, principle, strategy, and operation in your organization.
Audits should be done on a regular and recurring basis — not just when things have gone wrong. Conducting periodic marketing audits allows you to discover problems early and solve them before they drag you down.
At this point you’ve made your plans, assembled your team, and created a workflow. Now it all comes down to execution.
With our blogging example, this means it's time to start coming up with topics, testing headlines, and creating content. Writers start writing, designers start designing, SEO experts start optimizing, and so on.
During this phase, it’s important to monitor your team’s progress and adapt to any changes or discoveries that may occur as you get rolling. That means being on top of new products, the product development process, changes to your organization, unexpected results in key metrics and revaluating underperforming content.
When Canva was working on their blogging plan, for example, they published an article with the headline: “Why Steve Jobs Took Long Walks and Why You Should Too.” But for some reason, the post didn’t perform very well.
So they decided to change the headline and see what happened, going with “Why Everyone From Beethoven, Goethe, Dickens, Darwin to Steve Jobs Took Long Walks and Why You Should Too.”
The adjusted piece went viral, receiving more than 70,000 shares across various social media networks.
Tools you’ll need for the best marketing mix
In this section, we’ll go over the tools you need to organize and execute a successful marketing mix.
1. Content marketing platform
The first thing you need in your marketing technology stack is a good content marketing management system. This tool should be the backbone of your stack, connecting to your other solutions while also doubling as a project management tool.
We may be a bit biased (wink, wink) but we think Optimizely’s software is the best choice here. For an unbiased opinion though, take Gartner’s most recent Magic Quadrant into consideration.
Gartner has once again named Optimizely the leader in the Magic Quadrant for Content Marketing Platforms, positioning us furthest to the right for “Completeness of Vision” and highest for “Ability to Execute” for the fifth year in a row.
Gartner also rated Optimizely the #1 vendor across all three use cases — B2B Demand Generation, B2C Narrative Design, and Complex, Distributed Marketing.
2. Content management system (CMS)
Next up is a good content management system to handle all the things that go on behind the scenes of your website, like assigning permissions and organizing content.
When choosing a CMS for your company, there's an endless variety of options to choose from, each with its own set of features and benefits. For example, some software is ideally suited for ecommerce sites whereas others are tailored towards bloggers or service-based businesses.
Which one is right for you mostly depends on what you need your website to do and how tech-savvy you are. Here are a few of the more popular CMS options out there to get you started:
3. Email marketing software
Email marketing software is another must-have tool to streamline your marketing process because it automates the marketing and transactional emails you send to your customers.
Email marketing software can also manage your contact lists, help you design and write compelling emails, and track whether messages were opened or read. It can even help you build and manage opt-in email lists, segment your lists to better target your email sends, and automatically manage subscriber responses.
image source: G2
4. Social media scheduling software
Social media scheduling software allows you to schedule posts to be published on multiple platforms at different times. This is extremely helpful because the time you’re available to post on social media isn’t always the same as your audience’s most active time.
With a good social media scheduling tool, your team can take advantage of the optimal posting times for each platform without having to be live on social media at all hours of the day.
Optimizely’s software allows you to seamlessly share assets to an unlimited number of social media apps and scheduling platforms, including Hootsuite, Sprinklr, Hearsay, Sociabble, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
By integrating your social tools, you can build posts in and approve them for publication. Then, you can centralize publishing and distribute posts to every channel with a single click.
5. SEO software
Finally, you’ll need a good search engine optimization (SEO) tool to improve the ranking of your website on search engine results pages (SERPs) without paying for ads.
First and foremost, SEO tools help you do this by optimizing your content for keywords. But they also help you do a lot more to improve the reach of your content. This includes:
Analyzing your competitor’s SEO strategy
Finding high-converting keywords to drive your content strategy
Tracking SEO progress & KPIs
Visualizing and conceptualizing data
Communicating clear ROI to clients and/or leadership
If your team is operating without an SEO expert, check out our joint webinar with SEMRush, a leader in the SEO space. You’ll learn how to:
Internally communicate the value of SEO for your company
Collaborate with outside agencies
Successfully integrate SEO with other digital marketing strategies
FAQs on marketing processes
What are the 3 phases of the marketing process?
In broad terms, marketing processes can be divided into the following three phases: strategic planning, implementation, and evaluation.
What is marketing automation?
Marketing automation is a strategy that uses automation technology to manage marketing efforts and campaigns across multiple channels. This means that you set up predefined rules and procedures, and then the technology executes it.
Many businesses automate marketing efforts like email marketing, social media marketing, customer communication, and more.
What is a comprehensive marketing strategy?
This is the overall approach that your marketing department takes to reach your goals. Your comprehensive marketing strategy will guide decisions about what tactics to use and how to best reach your target market.
Now you have a full idea of what a successful strategic marketing process should look like and how to put it to work for your company. Time to get started!