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Functional Marketing Strategies: A Guide for Any Business

By: Brandon Woods — November 30, 2021

Every business needs a cohesive marketing strategy to appeal to customers and drive them to buy your product or service. To drive people to your website and into your business, you might be tempted to appeal to a customer’s emotions. You might be looking at the competition and trying to come up with marketing strategies that help you stand out, opting for flash and pizzazz.

A man in a hoodie standing in a city

But a clever ad campaign or a brilliant video that doesn’t give customers a sense of your brand — and what your brand can do for them — is not successful. Therefore, your marketing strategy will have failed to achieve its desired effect. Learn more about how functional marketing can help your entire team and check out some functional marketing strategy examples to jump-start your campaigns.

What Is Functional Marketing? 

Functional marketing involves creating practical strategies that drive results instead of focusing solely on emotional appeal.

Putting your focus on marketing initiatives and specific goals lets you create campaigns that effectively promote your business and get results. When you focus solely on creativity and emotional appeal, your messaging can get lost — which can make your strategy ineffective.

How Can Functional Marketing Benefit Your Business?

Your business needs revenue to thrive, and you can’t get any revenue without customers. Functional marketing lets you focus on each component of your marketing strategy and how it contributes to your overall business goals.

You can use your goals and values as an organization to inform your marketing strategy, as well. About 80% of customers prefer spending their money on brands with values that align with theirs. Tie your marketing strategy into your values and mission to better resonate with your customers.

Functional marketing creates cohesion with all the marketing professionals in your team, breaking down silos and developing a structure for everyone to work together. When your sales, marketing, and customer service team work together, they can stay consistent with messaging. With this type of setup, your salespeople will have a better handle on what type of messaging is better received by potential clients — and this knowledge will refine their pitches. Your customer service team will know what was stated in the sales pitch and can create an appropriate solution to the issue.

Because functional marketing strategies are more focused on goals and outcomes, they let you identify how your tactics are contributing. Assess what is working and what is not, and then take steps to fix the parts of your marketing mix that aren’t as effective. By rooting your marketing strategy in data, you can create more specific goals.

How Can You Create a Functional Marketing Strategy?

To develop a functional marketing strategy, you need to identify specific goals and objectives and develop a plan for implementing them. Your strategy should cover all different marketing channels and functions and connect them to overall goals. Each step in your strategy should include decisions and actions your team can take to achieve your business objectives.

As an entrepreneur, you might not have a full product marketing team or a Chief Marketing Officer in place to create your strategy. Whether you’re going it alone or relying on smaller teams in marketing to create your strategy, follow these steps.

1. Set Data-Driven Goals

When you’re creating your marketing plan, your first goal might be “to get more customers” or “to increase sales” but these are broad and won’t drive specific results. Create new goals based on reliable data. Use previous figures as a springboard for your new goals. If your average click-through rate on emails was 5% in the previous year, set a goal to improve it by 3% in the next year.

Setting specific and data-driven goals lets you clearly outline how to achieve them. For example, to reach your goal of improving click-through rates by 3%, you can focus on best practices for email marketing in the new year. You can spend time modifying your email messages, segmenting your email list, and creating stronger calls to action.

Your goals can also be based on industry trends and data. Post pandemic, 58% of customers expected to do more shopping online than they had before lockdowns. Knowing these industry shifts lets you fine-tune your marketing strategy.

2. Track Your Metrics

Many people associate marketing with creativity and assume it is one of the less structured functions of running a business. Marketers do have more flexibility to try different messaging strategies, test new channels, and experiment with design. But this flexibility can also lead you and your marketing team to lose sight of how each function ties into an overall goal.

For example, if you have spent months working on a new website and rebranding campaign, it’s common to be proud of the final results. You might be excited to show your team all the new animations and video links on your site. But these features could also make your site less responsive on mobile devices. In 2021, smartphones and other mobile devices accounted for over 50% of web traffic.

Regularly tracking key metrics and performance indicators helps you keep your mind on the overall function of your marketing channels. You might find that certain types of content generate more traffic to your blog. Even if you find these topics less interesting than others, you will likely produce more, since they are better at getting people to look at your website.

3. Define Your Target Market

Your functional marketing strategy should be based on a clear understanding of your target customers. Knowing your target audience gives you the ability to create messages and choose marketing channels that appeal to them. If your primary audience is made up of post-college-age females, your best social media platform would be Instagram. This target audience would also influence what you post and when you post it.

One of the benefits of digital marketing is that it is easier than ever to choose a target audience and fine-tune your message to reach a specific buyer. When companies were only able to use broad-based marketing channels like billboards and TV commercials, it was harder to speak directly to a target audience. But now, you can create sponsored social media ads and place them in the feeds of those you are trying to reach.

These customer insights also help you refine how you service current customers, too. If you find out that you got high click-through rates on a promotion, you might create loyalty content for recurring customers, such as special discounts. If you notice that people engage with your social media more on a certain day, you can post customer appreciation posts during these high traffic times.

4. Figure Out Your Place in the Market

Conducting a business analysis is a necessary part of your functional marketing strategy. Do some research on where you stand in the market. Identify your top competitors and see how their products compare to yours. This will help you figure out what sets you apart so you can better communicate your unique benefit to potential customers.

Perform market research analysis to determine where your competitors stand in terms of market share. Look through their digital marketing channels to see what they do and what they have identified as their unique value. Read customer comments on social media and customer ratings and reviews. Knowing what their customers value about their business helps you position yourself.

Identify your weaknesses and potential market conditions that might negatively impact your business. You probably won’t be able to predict rare events like a global pandemic but you probably have a good idea of how shifts in your industry could impact you later. For example, if you sell custom finishes for homes, you likely know the housing market in your area and how changes in the cost of labor and materials might impact your pricing.

As someone with that knowledge, you can start developing strategies that will help you weather shifts in the market. It will also help you strengthen your branding and fix potential weak spots in your marketing plan.

5. Measure the Results

In following the second step, you would have decided which metrics to measure to assess your marketing tactics. In this fifth step, you can measure the results and use the data to keep refining your marketing plan. Set regular intervals for measuring your performance metrics. It’s common to do this quarterly or at the end of a marketing campaign.

Revisit your goals and look at how each campaign performed to see where expectations were met and where your marketing strategies are falling short. You might find out that your initial goals were too lofty and scale them back for the next quarter. Or, you might find out that your key targets were off — in this case, you could use the same ads and messages and target them to different social media users.

The data collected at this stage becomes the information on which you base your next functional marketing strategy.

6. Use the Data to Tweak Your Marketing Strategy

Your marketing data can inform other parts of your marketing mix, as well. Looking at engagement on your social media pages and reading customer reviews might show you that you need to change your pricing strategy. You might learn that your target customer thinks your product is too expensive considering its quality.

You might learn that customers are finding you online in unexpected ways. Perhaps you once wrote a guest blog for a vendor. If you find that this post drove more people to your website than your blog posts, offer to collaborate with more vendors. Or, do a series on the specific topic covered in your guest blog.

These insights let you refine every component of your marketing mix from your pricing to your packaging.

What Is Functional Advertising?

Functional marketing may also refer to how you choose to advertise your product. In this instance, the term refers to marketing messages that promote the functional benefits of a product or service over the emotional benefits.

The most effective ads communicate to customers how your products or services will solve their problems. Many ads appeal to emotional needs. For example, a car ad might focus on reliability and safety. This message appeals to the customer’s need to keep their family safe. A clothing ad might appeal to a customer’s need for belonging and acceptance.

Functional advertising focuses less on emotional needs and more on practical ones. This strategy is common in B2B marketing since most buyers are interested in functionality. For example, if you’re selling a printer to a busy office manager, they will likely be more interested in how much ink it uses and its output quality. Your ads probably wouldn’t be as successful if they appeal to an emotional need.

You might discover through your marketing strategy that your unique value surrounds your product’s functionality. In this case, you can start creating targeted ads communicating how your product functions differently than a competitor’s product.

Test out this strategy by creating two different paid social media posts. Focus one on how your product meets a client’s emotional needs and focus the other on how it meets a client’s functional needs. Run a few low-cost tests and see which generates more interest. Evaluate metrics to see how people engaged with each ad. You might find out that the functional approach is more effective.

How Can You Get Started With a Functional Marketing Strategy?

If you’re not working with a functional marketing strategy, start a project now. Your first step is to collect data about existing customers, sales, and your position in the market. Once you have an idea of where you are and how you are performing, you can set some data-driven goals.

Create specific and measurable goals for each function of marketing from sales to customer service. Identify metrics and key performance indicators that will tell you if your strategies are successful. Then regularly measure your performance and use the results to keep refining your strategy.

A functional marketing approach will help you build a stronger brand that appeals to your target customer. This helps improve your chances of successfully finding new customers and generating revenue, which is good for your business. Get started on your functional marketing strategy today.


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