Ian Barnard is the Strategy Director at the Creative Business Company, where he helps his clients build strong brands through marketing strategy consultation. Ian also is helpfully active on social media with his digests of industry news and insights. He’s worked as a digital content strategist, a marketing specialist, a communications coordinator, and he’s joined us on the show today to talk about all things marketing strategy.
After studying civil engineering technology, Ian Barnard quickly realized a career pivot was in order.
“I got into marketing late in the game,” admits Ian. “I studied civil engineering in school and got to work in the space, and came to find out I hated it. So I switched to marketing, got an internship, and one thing led to another and I found myself really interested in strategy, and that’s brought me to where I am today.”
When it comes to marketing strategy, which can be complicated, Ian believes it’s best to start with a simple definition.
“I think marketing strategy is answering the question, ‘how are you going to achieve the business challenges you are facing?’” says Ian. “One of the best books I’ve read on strategy is Richard Rumelt’s “Good Strategy Bad Strategy” and he outlines the three main ingredients to a good marketing strategy.” These are:
- Diagnosis - Basically asking “what’s going on?” with customers and in the market. You have to be able to articulate the challenges and define what is holding the business back. Quality, in-depth research is critical during the diagnosis phase.
- Guiding policy - Once you’ve identified the challenge, then you have to figure out policy guide rails that specify how you’re going to approach solving the challenge.
- Coherent actions - After diagnosing the challenge, outlining the policies and approach to overcoming them, you have to come up with a list of tactics you’ll be using to bring your strategy to life. Tactics should be last in the strategy checklist, but most marketers usually attempt to shoehorn these in before the diagnosis and policies are in place, which causes strategic chaos.
In regards to measuring the effectiveness of a marketing strategy, Ian applies a simple two-part analytical rubric based on the age-old marketing funnel.
“I think about measuring strategy in two different ways,” explains Ian. “ You’ve got top-of-funnel metrics, which includes measurements like brand awareness and familiarity. And then you’ve got bottom-of-funnel metrics, which include consideration and conversions. You need a different set of KPIs for top vs bottom, and this is where a lot of marketers go wrong; they’re using bottom-of-the-funnel metrics to measure top-of-funnel performance, and that will never work.”
Ian then shares his approach on segmentation, ways to identify total addressable markets, how to understand competition, and how he helps clients identify the important metrics that illustrate strategic effectiveness.
“The most important advice I’ve ever received in regards to marketing is, ‘you are not the customer,’” says Ian. “A guiding philosophy of ‘I know nothing’ is helpful for marketers at any level, because it guides your inquiry and releases you from dogmatic thinking. Sure bets and instincts are good to have, but they need to be informed.”
For stories on how clients have succeeded, and failed, with marketing strategy, the differences between B2B and B2C marketing, and some real advice on how to take your strategy from flab to fabulous, listen to the full interview at the links provided above and below, and follow Ian on social media.