About the show:
The Agency Spark Podcast, hosted by Sara Nay, is a collection of short-form interviews from thought leaders in the marketing consultancy and agency space. Each episode focuses on a single topic with actionable insights you can apply today.
About this episode:
In this episode of the Agency Spark Podcast, Sara talks with Alison Ver Halen on why strategy before tactics is so important.
Alison Ver Halen is a content marketer and SEO strategist who loves telling your story and coming up with a strategy to get it in front of your ideal clients so you can make magic together. Alison is the president of AV Writing Services. AV specializes in helping their clients improve their brand authority and online visibility using a combination of engaging content and tried-and-true SEO techniques.
- How to build a marketing strategy from scratch
- What are the essential elements of a marketing strategy
- What metrics should you pay attention to
More from Alison Ver Halen:
- Alison’s LinkedIn
- AV Writing Services Website
- Content Marketing Made Easy Book
- Download Free Marketing Workbook Here
Sara Nay (00:00): This episode of the agency, spark podcast is brought to you by monday.com, a powerful project management platform. I personally am a big user and fan of monday.com and spend most of my day working within their platform. Learn more about how to set your team up for email@example.com slash Monday.
Sara Nay (00:24): Welcome to the agency spark podcast. This is your host, Sarah nay. And today I have Allison. Verhalen a content marketer and SEO strategist who loves telling your story and coming up with a strategy to get in front of your ideal clients. So you could make magic together. So welcome to the show, Allison,
Alison Ver Halen (00:42): Thank you so much for having me.
Sara Nay (00:44): I am so excited that you're here and I'm really excited to dive into the topic that we're gonna talk about today. Cause it's something that I feel like I try to preach all of the time.
Alison Ver Halen (01:05): Oh gosh, where do I start? It is so important to have a strategy. I think we've all suffered from people, you know, trying to do some marketing and they say it doesn't work. And it's because it's usually because they don't have a strategy going in. And then the other side is usually they don't give it enough time to work, which can go along with not having a strategy. You need to know what results you can expect, how you're going to get those results when you can expect those results to materialize. And all of that means that yeah, you need a strategy and you need a way to measure those results. So that's part of building the strategy is, okay, what results do you want? How are we gonna measure it? What do we define as success? What is an indication that something needs to be tweaked or adjusted?
Alison Ver Halen (01:52): So start with the goals because I, I hear a lot of people, especially as they start marketing hearing, oh, I need to be on this channel or I need to be on this social media thing, or I need to do this hot new thing. And so they jump into it without any goals or without analyzing whether they' target audience is even on that platform or consuming that kind of content. So I always recommend that people start there, start with knowing your audience, where they're hanging out and then have those goals in place so that you can be sure to implement the strategies that are actually going to get those results.
Sara Nay (02:31): Yeah.
Alison Ver Halen (02:32): Always measure and rinse and repeat
Sara Nay (02:34):
Alison Ver Halen (03:05): Yeah. And I think that's the other important thing to remember with the strategy is that it's not said in stone, you can always, you should give it time to make sure that it's working or not. But if it's not then yeah. Pivot when you need to see what works and what doesn't. And if something isn't working, if you've given it a few months, then switch to something that is working.
Sara Nay (03:24): Yeah, absolutely. And another thing I run into a lot is there's different variations of strategy. So people think of marketing strategy as ideal client and maybe messaging other people, think of strategies laying out a full execution calendar. Some people think of it as all those things. And so I'd love to hear from you. If you're working with a business that hasn't done much strategic work, how do you get them started? And what do you walk them through in terms of developing a marketing strategy? What are the key pieces you include essentially?
Alison Ver Halen (03:50): Yeah. I do always start with the target audience because that is something, um, I think every marketing strategy needs to start with the target audience. So I start there and then I can either ask them things about their audience or I can go ahead and do the research, but I, I really think it needs to start with knowing where that target audience is, who they are, what kinds of content resonate with them, cuz then everything is going to build from that. Right? The topics you cover, where you hang out online, where you hang out in person right now that we're getting back into in person networking events, all of those things need to come back to okay, is my target audience here or should I be somewhere else?
Sara Nay (04:28): Yeah, absolutely. I think that's such an important starting point. And then from there we typically look at messaging. So you got, you touched on that a bit there in terms of what content on what channels, but typically there's some core rallying message that we help companies develop that guides the rest of their marketing and that messaging isn't based on, oh, I've been in business for 15 years and this is all of our strengths. It's more focused on the ideal clients that you're targeting and what problems you're trying to solve for them ultimately. And so do you do messaging work for your clients as well?
Alison Ver Halen (05:00): Absolutely. Yeah. I've helped them come up with taglines. I keep tweaking my own tagline for my company as a marketer, you always have to tweak those things and be like, maybe this is what I want my tagline to be, but I, I am always coming at it from okay. Yeah. What does my target audience want? What does my ideal client, what are they looking for? And how can I communicate that I can get that for them.
Sara Nay (05:20): Yeah, absolutely. And so that's what I consider a lot of the, the research phase of strategy. So it's developing the ideal client personas. It's looking at messaging, um, really understanding who you're targeting with what message, but then it, oftentimes we look at, okay, we should be on these channels on this cadence with this types of messaging. And so how do you help people transition from understanding their audience to then effectively creating a plan to reach them?
Alison Ver Halen (05:44): Yeah, so it, it does all start with that audience and again, finding out where they are online, I like to do some competitive analysis and see who's following your competitors. What are your competitors doing? Not that you should copy their strategy, but you, you can reverse engineer some of it. And if they're hanging out in a certain online platform, there's probably a reason for it. Or if they're covering certain topics, there's probably a reason for it. So you can always put your own spin on all those things, but it, it can help to see what the competition is up to.
Sara Nay (06:16): Yeah, absolutely. And then let's shift a little bit to talk about metrics. Cause I know that's a, an important piece of this puzzle that you mentioned earlier. And so let's say you've, you know, identified an ideal target market. You've worked on messaging. You're focusing on these channels that you wanna focus on after some research. How do you define what metrics to pay attention to for a business?
Alison Ver Halen (06:35): Yeah, it totally depends on the marketing strategy. Yeah. It depends on the goals we want as an SEO strategist. A lot of what we measure is traffic. How are, how many people are coming to the website? Are they sticking around or are they clicking away? What's your bounce rate? Same thing. What's your open rate? What's your click through rate? I think a, another mistake that people mistake, um, that they make with marketing strategies is they think it all comes down to what, how much are people buying from us and it's yeah. You want your marketing to end up in dollars eventually, but that's, that's not the only metric you should be measuring. You can also measure things like how many new email subscribers did you get? How many new social media followers did you get? Are you getting engagement on your posts? Is it quality engagement or is it spam bots? Yeah. Whole lot of different metrics you can measure depending on what your goal is.
Sara Nay (07:25): Yeah, absolutely. One of our core concepts is the marketing hourglass. And so it's all the ways that someone get to know like trust, try by repeat, refer a business. Mm-hmm
Alison Ver Halen (08:19): Being. Yeah. I cannot tell you how many times I've sat down with a new client and asked about what does your customer journey look like? And I just get quick
Sara Nay (08:25): Look
Alison Ver Halen (08:27): Even considered it. And it's like, okay, we're starting from scratch here.
Sara Nay (08:31): Yeah. You mentioned earlier, people dive into tactics all the time. I see that all the time. They're like, we're we should be on pay. We should be doing pay advertising. So I'm like, okay, great. What's happening with that paid traffic when they get to your website. And they're like, I don't know, like hopefully some people are converting and you're spending money on this thing. A lot of money on this thing in some cases, and you have no idea how effective it's, it's being like that's a major issue that a lot of people do is they just, as you said, dive into tactics, cuz they heard they should be on this channel and they don't understand. And they don't take the time to take a step back and think about what am I trying to do on this tactic? What's next? What's next? Which ultimately maps out the customer journey.
Alison Ver Halen (09:07): Absolutely. Yeah. And uh, that's another mistake. I see. A lot of people making is either they don't have a call to action or their call to action goes straight to by my thing. Yeah. When that doesn't actually match where they are. If they're just getting to know you, you, like you said, you have to build the, get them to like and trust you and then ask for the, buy the call to action. Doesn't always need to be by my stuff. It could be sign up for my newsletter or sell, follow us on social media or download my lead magnet or whatever it is you need them to do next. It's not always gonna be go straight for the buy button.
Sara Nay (09:42): Yeah. I couldn't agree more. And that's the thing I see the most common is no. And then they hope someone buys and then they hope someone refers them. If all the relationship building and nurturing that has to take place to get them to the refer stage ultimately. But you gotta have a lot of that stuff in place as well.
Alison Ver Halen (09:58): Absolutely. Yeah. And
Sara Nay (10:00): Cool. Allison, I really love chatting with you. I could really talk about this topic all day, but if people wanna connect with you online to learn more, where can they find you?
Alison Ver Halen (10:07): Yeah. So I am Allison forhalen on most of the social media channels. Um, you can find me. Uh, my company is AV as in me, Alison Verhalen AV writing services and my website is just AV writing services.com. So you can find my blog where I try to get people to know like, and trust me so you can check that out. I have my book content marketing made easy and there's a, you can access that on Amazon. There's a page about it on my website as well as a free PDF download workbook to go with it. So if people are interested, they can check that out on my website.
Sara Nay (10:40): Awesome. Thank you so much, Alison, for being here and thank you all for listening to the agency spark podcast and was your host Sarah nay. And we'll see you next time.
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This episode of the Agency Spark Podcast is brought to you by Monday.com, a powerful project management platform. Monday.com helps teams easily build, run, and scale their dream workflows on one platform. I personally am a user and big fan of Monday.com – I start my workday pulling up the platform and spend my day working within it for everything from task management to running client engagements. Learn more about Monday.com at ducttape.me/monday.