I know what you’re thinking. A road trip has nothing to do with marketing. I’m fully indulging in the hot weather and the open road.
Ok fine. But bear with me here for a moment.
It may seem like a stretch, but both endeavours involve careful consideration of objectives, audience, resources, and experiences.
So if you’re game, let’s dive into the parallels, uncover valuable insights that we can apply to your marketing efforts and plan the most epic summer road trip (it’s all about balance)!
Where to Start
Like the great chicken and egg debate, there are two divergent paths at the beginning of this journey. Are we choosing the trip and then deciding who would enjoy it most, or are we choosing our adventure buds and then the trip? For example, you wouldn’t take grandma on a trip to ride the 16 highest roller coasters in North America… or maybe you would. Who am I to judge?
Similarly, for your marketing strategy, there are two choices. Start with a product or service and identify the audience that would find it most valuable, or define your target audience and then create a solution tailored to their needs. Both approaches have their merits, but understanding the implications of each is crucial for effective planning.
Choosing the “destination” first allows you to create a product or service based on your vision, expertise, and passion. You can explore innovative ideas and develop a unique offering. Once you’ve set the destination, you can conduct market research to identify the audience that aligns with your product or service. This approach can be particularly beneficial if you have specialized knowledge or identified an untapped niche.
On the other hand, selecting your travel buds (your audience) first provides valuable insights into their needs, preferences, and pain points. By thoroughly understanding your target audience, you can tailor your offerings to meet their specific requirements, ensuring a higher likelihood of success. This approach requires extensive market research, customer surveys, and data analysis to effectively identify and segment your audience. Once you understand your audience, you can develop a product or service that resonates with them and successfully addresses their needs.
Does this choice seem like murky waters? Fear, not adventure pals. Product and audience first have many arguments for why they are the better approach, but ultimately the paths converge once you choose.
Regardless of whether you prioritize the product or the audience, the core elements of your marketing strategy should always align with your overall business goals, whether to increase brand awareness, drive sales, or foster customer loyalty. With your objectives in mind, you can determine the best tactics, channels, and messaging to reach and engage your audience effectively.
So maybe the chicken came first, or perhaps the egg. Both answers can lead to a successful journey, whether the road trip of a lifetime or a powerful marketing strategy.
Now, for the sake of this analogy not becoming completely unhinged before we even set off, I am making the executive decision to plan this trip from the destination-first path.
Get in, business people, I’ll drive.
The Destination Consultation
I see you people with your hit-the-open road without a care-in-the-world attitude. To that, I say, “Not in this car, thank you. We know exactly where we’re sleeping tonight.”
I do understand the allure of a spontaneous journey. I do. But in both road trips and marketing strategies, the lack of planning can be costly and often unsuccessful.
When I define our destination, I’m talking about the overall goal of your trip (and marketing strategy). For this trip, let’s say you are driving from Cape Spear Lighthouse in Newfoundland and Labrador to Beaver Creek in the Yukon, which is close to the boundary of Alaska.
Fun fact: these are the most eastern and almost most western points in Canada. The actual most western point is somewhere deep in some mountains, and maybe your trip consultant is not feeling that outdoorsy.
Defining your destination is also a critical part of establishing a marketing strategy. While it’s essential to have an idea of what you want for your business 5 or 10 years down the road, remember that marketing strategies are like road trips – you can plan more than one. So think of this goal as something attainable to you in a shorter time frame, like a season or a year.
Your goal should be a SMART goal.
Do you aim to increase brand awareness, drive sales, expand into new markets, or build customer loyalty?
Clearly defining your destination (goal) gives you a sense of purpose and direction. It also allows you to allocate resources effectively, make informed decisions throughout your marketing endeavours and hold you accountable for what needs to be achieved.
Now that we’ve established where to end up, it’s time to plan how you get there. Luckily for you, I make a mean itinerary.
The Itinerary – Map included.
From Cape Spear, NL, to Beaver Creek, YT, is four days of straight driving. But this is the ultimate road trip, so of course, we have to stop in some places. And as I mentioned above, I will be booking your accommodations in advance.
Here’s a quick look at where you’re stopping on your trip:
Corner Brook, NL
North Sydney, NS
Grand Prairie, AB
Dawson’s Creek, BC
A campsite along Hwy 97, BC
Watson Lake, YT
Your marketing strategy works much the same as your travel itinerary. It’s crucial to break down your goal into smaller, measurable targets and milestones (just like we did with your travel stops). These serve as checkpoints along your marketing journey, helping you track progress and adjust your strategy as needed.
Here’s an example. If you’re trying to increase sales you can set targets for:
- Monthly revenue growth
- Conversion rates
- Customer acquisition
These measurable targets enable you to gauge the effectiveness of your efforts and make data-driven adjustments.
And, just like a trip, these don’t have to be set in stone. Sometimes things change, and we do what we need to – adapt.
Choose Your Friends… and Your Audience.
Let me introduce your travel buds on this trip. Bill and Ted. They love nature, and they are interested in learning about Canada. They don’t mind spending long hours in the car, and both can drive. They are trustworthy and know all the words to every hit song of the 80s. You might even say they are down for an excellent adventure.
Choosing the right travel companions is akin to choosing the right audience to help you attain your business goals.
The first step is to understand your audience’s demographics, behaviours, and preferences so you can identify the key pain points and motivations that drive their purchasing decisions.
These insights guide every decision about the rest of your marketing strategy (and your trip). They can influence the
- Selection of marketing channels
- Development of messaging and content
- Allocation of resources
- Creation of personalized experiences
By aligning your strategy with your audience’s needs and preferences, you increase the likelihood of resonating with them and building lasting relationships.
Pack Your Bags.
This concept should be pretty self-explanatory when it comes to the trip comparison. Don’t just pack flip-flops and bikinis to hike in the Yukon. You need to pack according to where you’re going. You might need flip flops in the Maritimes, but hiking boots when you reach the mountains.
Just as you pack essentials in a suitcase for a road trip, a marketing strategy requires careful planning and organization. I’m referring to the channels and tactics you need to achieve your goals. Will you focus on website design, social media advertising, direct mail, content marketing, email campaigns, influencer partnerships, or a combination of several approaches?
This part of the analogy could quickly turn into a Mary Poppins bag type of situation because the range of marketing tactics to pull from is deep, and there is not enough space to lay every option out. When we build a marketing strategy, we carefully consider the strengths and limitations of each channel, as well as the preferences of your target audience.
A well-rounded marketing strategy often includes a mix of both online and offline tactics to maximize reach and impact.
Just like you, we brought flip-flops and hiking boots.
Don’t Forget the Snacks…
No road trip is complete without snacks. Non-negotiable. There needs to be an equal ratio of sweet and savoury, and every stop should definitely have a must-try restaurant. Food is fuel, and you might as well enjoy it.
Similarly, content acts as the sustenance for your marketing efforts. Content is king. Your marketing strategy needs it to survive. However, it also adds value to your efforts. You need content to share your message but can take it further by offering helpful and engaging content to delight your customers, build brand loyalty, and foster a positive long-term relationship.
…And the Tunes!
There is nothing ultimate about a trip with no music. I want you to hit the open road and see the new horizon underneath the blazin’ sky, blasting a perfectly crafted 80s to 00s playlist (and if you don’t get the St. Elmo’s Fire reference, I’m not allowed to shame you publicly, but you’re sorely missing out).
Just as the right playlist sets the mood during a road trip, everything you can do to add to your customer’s experience elevates your brand. Whether adding a loyalty program, creating a specific sense of atmosphere when your audience visits your brick-and-mortar, or even adding personalization to your email marketing, these details are all part of creating a cohesive marketing strategy and amplifying your brand with a consistent and relevant voice.
We’ve reached the end of discussing why planning (and marketing strategy) is essential, so let’s see it in action.
You leave Cape Spear, NL, at 7 am on a Monday.
(Why am I not with you? I only meant I was driving the planning phase, but I’m sure I’ll see you soon!)
7.5 hours in, and it’s time for a break, so you stop in Corner Brook NFL, a garden city with phenomenal views of both ocean and mountains. Take lots of pictures!
Tuesday is a long day crossing on the ferry from Channel-Port aux Basques, NFL, to North Sydney, NS. Ahhh, smell that ocean air.
Blink, and you’ll miss it because you’re cruising through Nova Scotia on Wednesday to land in the capital city of New Brunswick for the night. Bill and Ted are great companions and seem to really be excited about The Maritimes.
Bonjour, c’est Jeudi! You made it to Quebec, where you will stay just outside of historical Montreal in Laval. Driving through this area gets you a little turned around, but luckily you can look at your map, and soon you’re back on track.
Friday is another long day, but you’ve reached Cochrane, Ontario! It’s hard to believe you, Bill, and Ted have hit five provinces in five days. But that’s about to change…
Because it’s Saturday, and you’re still in Ontario.
Get ready to sit with your travel buddies and your thoughts because Northern Ontario, while beautiful, is a whole lot of nothing and spotty cell service. This shorter day ends, still in Ontario, in Nipigon. Now is where things start feeling a little tense. I get it. Driving on a lonely highway gets the best of us. Bill and Ted are beginning to grumble about the diminishing quality of the snacks, and you’re now into your 6th listen of the epic playlist.
After finally making it out of Ontario on Sunday, you hit your second capital city, Winnipeg, Manitoba. Home to the loudest arena in the NHL (unconfirmed).
You’re a solid week in now. Sick of Bill and Ted, and the AC gave out somewhere in the rugged wilderness of Northern Ontario. You’re wondering why you even decided to do this in the first place (and why you’re still reading).
And then you get to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. You’re driving through, desperate to get to your hotel, when you instead turn up at the HQ of STEALTH Media. We take one look at you and your tired car and dwindling supplies and say, “We’ve got you.”
You roll out of Saskatoon with newfound vigour. There are snacks, air conditioning, a GPS instead of paper, sandwiches instead of stale chips, more travel buddies, and a brand-new camping trailer. Hey, maybe I’m even actually driving now.
We fly through Alberta, before we’re into the mountains of British Columbia. We wave at Dawson’s Creek and follow those mountains north before suddenly we’re in the Yukon. The unforgettable landscapes ebb and flow around us as we finally reach our destination.
Now, STEALTH isn’t just handing out camping trailers to anyone; but imagine you hadn’t stopped there. Would you have even made it to Beaver Creek, YT?
A marketing strategy is like a road trip. It can be going great until it isn’t. You can do your best at planning but not account for everything. And sometimes having people along for the ride who have been there before can make reaching your destination much easier.
And while I cannot confirm that we aren’t expert road trip planners, I can confirm that we are expert marketing strategists.
Whether it’s for goal setting, tactical planning, content strategy or choosing the right colour for the front door of your store, STEALTH Media can help.
If you’re interested in seeing how a marketing strategy can provide some direction toward your business goals, or if you need a recommendation for the best road trip playlists, get in touch.
We’d love to sit down and chat.
Here’s to many more summer road trips. And if you happen to be in Saskatoon, stop in and say hi!