Marketing campaigns work. Think of those cheery pre-Christmas TV ads, or the radio jingles you can’t get out of your head. From movie posters on buses to pop-up messages on websites. They’re all sharing their message with us.

But as a smaller organisation, how do you put together a marketing strategy? In this lesson, we’ll help to get you started. We’ve got a step-by-step guide and top tips on the best channels for you.


  • Recognise the benefits of marketing
  • Learn how to build an effective marketing strategy
  • Pick the channels that are right for you
  • Find tools that can help
  • Know how you’ll measure success

Read time:

26 mins

Chapter 1

Why have a marketing strategy?

Read time:

1 min

The benefits of effective marketing

Marketing is all around us. We see adverts for everything, from a pair of shoes to healthy eating campaigns. It’s not a new idea. But it’s changed more in the past 3 years than in the past 50. What hasn’t changed in all that time? It helps you reach your users.

Alka Seltzer’s ‘Plop Plop Fizz Fizz’ ad campaign doubled their sales in the 1960s, by encouraging customers to use twice the dose of their tablets.

So let’s look at how marketing could benefit your organisation.

Effective marketing can help you:

  • Get your brand known
  • Attract and keep users
  • Target your true audience
  • Let people know what you offer
  • Build trust between you and your users
  • Sell your products or services


What marketing looks like right now

Online ad campaigns lead the way. Not surprising, as we spend up to 147 minutes a day on social sites. We search online for everything from today’s weather to meal ideas. And each search gives clues as to who we are and what we want. Online channels give you a great base for repeated exposure. You can use them to spread your message and convert your efforts into sales or support.

We use online tools for market research, too. These help us see data on how our users behave. We can use that data to target potential users. It helps us tailor our campaigns.

So in this lesson, we’ll discuss all the marketing channels. But our focus will be on the digital ones.

Chapter 2

Steps to build your strategy

Read time:

6 mins

Create your plan of action

To build an effective marketing strategy, you’ll need a plan that includes the following steps:

  • Set out your objectives
  • Define your unique selling point (USP)
  • Understand your audience
  • Research and analyse
  • Explain your initiatives
  • Measure your success

We’ll be talking through each of these steps over the next few sections.


Set out your objectives

These are measurable goals. They say what you want to achieve with your strategy. The idea is to first define what you want to achieve, then start to plan how to do this. And when you define your marketing objectives, be sure to link them to your overall business plan.

Say you run a coffee shop. You might want to boost cake sales. A marketing goal could be: ‘increase the number of people who visit the café’. Then you’d set numbers that you can use, to measure your success over a period of time. For example, ‘increase by 25% … within the next 6 months’.


Define your USP

Your USP is your ‘unique selling point’. It’s what makes you stand out from other organisations. A clear USP gives you a solid base to build your marketing strategy on. Think about the issues you can solve for your users. Focus on the ones that no one else does, or no one else does well. This is what you can uniquely give to customers.

Your USP should be clear and easy to understand. It should take your values and mission into account - how your users know and remember you.


Run a SWOT analysis

What do you do well? What’s holding you back?

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It’s a self-assessment method that helps you focus more on your market, your brand and your USP.

To run SWOT analysis, draw up a 4x4 grid. Now think about your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, and note each of these in the different parts of your grid.


Spend 5 minutes drawing up your SWOT grid. Think - what strengths can you build on? What weaknesses do you need to overcome? What trends could you make use of? What external threats are there to your organisation?

Understand your audience

As users, we want to feel understood. We want organisations to feel like they live in our world and can help us. When you understand your audience, it’s easier to see things from their point of view.

With a clear idea of how your users feel and behave, you can take a really focused approach. This helps you give a great experience right from the start. You’ll gain deeper understanding through market research, data analysis and just thinking about how you keep in touch with your current users. Let’s look at how you can build your understanding of your users.


Build a selection of typical users

Use your research, data and understanding to build personas. These are short profiles that describe each of the core types of people who use your services. They help you relate to your target audience.


Your personas should include:


Age, location, income, and opinions


What do they enjoy and do?


How they want to connect with you and others


See what comes to mind in terms of age, area, income, and views. These details help you see how large your market is. From there, you can plan your approach. For example, you might see your ideal user as a woman in her late fifties. She lives in a village outside a major city and is starting to use tech to connect with her family.



Is your service aimed at food lovers, thrill seekers, busy parents, office workers? Use data you already have, to help you here. For example, you might look at your social media followers. From here, you might see that your ideal user is a yoga fan who enjoys walks and nature. This helps you to craft content that is useful and interesting to your audience.



Can you see how your users talk and act? When you look at them in this way, it can show you the kind of language, message, and marketing styles that will fit them. For example, you might see your typical user as a traditional, straight-talking type who prefers plain language and clear-cut content.


Research and analyse

Part of your research will be about your audience, as you start to build a picture of your ideal user. With this in mind, you’ll have an idea of the kind of content they might respond to. And you’ll see more clearly the issues they face. Then your content can focus on how you can help.

Now look at the rest of the market and see who else serves this audience - and how they do this. Where do they succeed or fail to make an impact? Remember to keep your USP in mind and think about how it relates to your ideal user.


Others in your market

You’re not alone in your sector. Other organisations out there could be larger or have more experience. So, look at what they do to market their goods and services. Find out what works and what doesn’t work for them.

This is where you can apply your USP. You’ll start to see what’s different between your own marketing aims and what others are doing. Make the most of gaps and trends in the market to show what you have to offer.


Your marketing methods and channels

As you gather data on your user base, start to think about the best channels and ways to deliver your message.

You might try an email campaign, print, or radio advertising, social media marketing. Or maybe a multi-channel roll-out that covers all bases.

We’ll talk about each of these channels in more detail in the next chapter. But whichever channels you go for, make sure you link your decisions with your business goals and user personas.


Explain your initiatives

As you start to build your strategy, think about who needs to see it. Do you have investors or other stakeholders who need to see the benefits? If there are team members who are getting involved in the campaign, they’ll need a plan, and details. Those not involved still need to know what’s going on.

When you pull your strategy together, keep these people in mind. Make sure you give them the information they need, at a level that’s right for them.


Top tips to get you started on your strategy:

  • Define your approach – Try brainstorming ideas, then carving out actions from these
  • Understand the content your audience wants – Tailor content to your users, based on the data you’ve got
  • Create personas – A rounded picture of your users helps you give a more tailored approach
  • Track reader comments – Respond to feedback to learn more about your users and improve your processes
  • Conduct surveys – Get useful clues about your users’ needs and see where you can improve
  • Check out the competition – Learn from others in your sector, and how they connect with users
  • Understand online habits – How do your audience view other content? Find out their preferred online channels
  • Use tools – Products like Google Trends to find popular search terms to keep your content relevant

Chapter 3

Find the best channels for you

Read time:

13 mins

What are the different channels?

We see all kinds of marketing for the products we use every day. Here, we’ll group them into online and offline channels. Look through the lists and think about the snacks you like or the toothpaste you use – which channels apply?


Offline channels include:

  • Leaflets, brochures, and business cards
  • Direct mail – Material that comes through the post
  • Adverts and articles in newspapers and journals
  • Posters – On billboards, buses and more
  • Networking and public speaking events
  • Trade shows
  • TV and radio ads
  • Sponsorship – For example, an event or local sports team


Online channels include:

  • Social media
  • Content marketing – Blogs, articles, and other web-based content
  • Email
  • Search Marketing – From ‘pay-per-click’ ads on search engines to keeping your site in the top search results
  • Webinars
  • Podcasts
  • Customer review sites


We’re about to describe some of these channels in more detail. As you read through this chapter, jot down the ones you think would work for your organisation. Note that this is just a starting list – you can change or add to it later.

Offline options

These are less common today, compared to online channels. But it’s still good to consider them. Users generally trust them more. Some have real benefits for specific products or organisations. If you have a local focus, these options can help build your client base. And they can work well with other channels, as part of a combined approach.

Let’s look at a few examples.


Face-to-face contact

Making contact in person helps you get to know your potential users – and for them to get to know you. It can build trust and show what you have to offer, in a very personal way.

You could speak at a local club or networking group. Maybe host a stand at a trade show or other event?

This platform works best if you have a product you can demo or samples to share. And if your user base is local, then face-to-face contact is certainly one to consider. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but can take up quite a bit of time and effort.

90% of consumers said that word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family were the most trusted form of advertising.

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Printed media

We experience social and other online ads briefly. We view the content, then move on. But if you want to give your users a permanent physical reminder, think about printed media. Business cards, leaflets and brochures stick around as a reminder of the service you give.

You can distribute these locally, share at events, slip into related magazines, or send out with customers’ orders. Think about your audience. If you’re targeting young professionals, place posters in busy office areas in town. Are young families your chosen users? Try putting out your message near schools and family attractions. Posters on buses or taxis will give you a wide reach – think of all those ‘stuck in traffic’ moments.

Costs can vary depending on format and quantity. Think about what you want to say, and the best format for this. If you plan to raise awareness or share contact details, business cards might be best. Want users to visit your shop or café? Leaflet the area, maybe with a special offer. To drive people to your website, make sure you include a QR code in your printed media.


Online options

Also known as digital marketing, this can be cheap, quick, and easy to measure. And as more of us spend more time online, it makes sense to market using these channels.


of UK adults use the internet

Ofcom (PDF, 5.1 MB) Opens in a new tab


of Brits use social media

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4 in 5

Online consumers Purchased through a social media ad

Statista Opens in a new tab

Let’s look at the main online channels, to see which ones might work for you.

  • Search Marketing – Pay for online adverts, or climb to the top of the search results
  • Content Marketing – Create blogs, videos and webinars
  • Podcasts – Give your users something to listen to
  • Email Marketing – Tailor emails to attract and keep users
  • Social Media Marketing – The most popular marketing channel


Search marketing

Search engines can be a useful place to advertise. More people are searching, more often – as these stats show:

We make an average of

3.5 billion

Google searches each day

Cloudwards Opens in a new tab


Users mainly use the internet to find information

Datareportal Opens in a new tab


Google users search at least 3 times a day

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Here are two ways to use search engines as part of your marketing strategy:

Pay for search adverts

Search engine marketing (SEM) is where you pay for adverts to appear in search results. You can go for banner or display ads, or Pay Per Click (PPC), where you only pay for the adverts that users select.


The pros:

  • Expanding reach – You’re paying to appear in searches with certain keywords, to reach a wider audience
  • Building brand awareness – Appearing in searches drives follow-through and sales and pushes you further up the results


The cons:

  • Time-consuming – It takes time to plan and keep track of updates
  • Expensive – This can be quite costly, especially for smaller organisations


Reach the top of the results

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is about making your website pages easier to find when people search online. For instance, someone types ‘how to wash swim shoes’. If your sportswear site’s blog page is in the top results, they’re more likely to select it. There are techniques you can use to improve your ranking in search engines.


The pros:

  • It’s free – If you do your own SEO, there’s no cost - just your time and effort
  • Brand integrity – SEO helps attract users who tend to avoid results marked ‘Ad’


The cons:

  • It takes time – Search engine algorithms change often, and results can be slow to show
  • No assurance – User behaviour and changing algorithms mean there’s no guarantee that it will pay off


Content marketing

This is all about web content that adds value. You might craft articles, blogs, or videos. Maybe launch podcasts or webinars. The aim is to give something extra to your users. Your content can inspire them, show expertise, and boost brand awareness.



When we think of online content, we often think of the visuals. Text, images, and video content all fit well in website and social channels. But don’t forget the power of audio.

With a UK audience of over 19 million, podcasts are worth a look. Podcasts are like radio shows, hosted on digital sites like YouTube, Spotify, or Apple Podcasts. We don’t need to take time out to actively read this content, like we do for blogs and posts. Most of us listen while getting on with our day – travelling, doing the housework, relaxing.

And podcasts can be a cheap and easy option. You don’t need lots of fancy kit – just a computer and a microphone to get started. You’ll need a hosting site too. Buzzsprout, or Spreaker are all examples.


Re-use your content

Spread your reach by using all your online channels. Take quotes from your blog and share them on your social sites. Short clips from podcasts can go into emails. Read longer blog posts to make a podcast episode. Link a ‘how to video’ with a website ‘top tips’ article.


The pros:

  • Provocative – Content that prompts an emotional response can give you a powerful advantage
  • A reliable source – Strong and informative content builds trust in your brand


The cons:

  • It's not easy – Creating good content takes time and effort
  • It’s not free – Hiring content creators, videographers and writers can be costly

83% of marketers said that content marketing helped meet their brand awareness goals in 2022.

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Email marketing

Email marketing can help you reach new users and build relationships. You can also use it to encourage more website visits.

When you include email in your marketing strategy, do check you’re following GDPR and PECR rules.


The pros:

Cost effective – There are no advertising fees, media space or printing costs

Flexible and scalable – You could target a specific group with a campaign, or send it out to a wider audience


The cons:

‘Spam’ – Even if you are GDPR-compliant and users have opted in, commercial emails can still annoy people

Design issues – You’ll need to check for spam trigger words and to see how your email will look on different devices

Over 50% of consumers buy from marketing emails at least once a month

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Social media marketing

Social sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram give you a way to share and communicate with your users through text, images, or video.


The pros:

Large audience – You have a potential audience of over 4 billion worldwide users

Connection – You can build relationships with your users in a friendly and natural way


The cons:

Negative publicity – Users can tag your company in negative posts. And viral posts can harm your image

Mixed messages – If you have lots of different people working on your posts, this can dilute your brand ‘voice’


Don’t forget to respond to your users and address criticism. The way you connect with them and deal with complaints says a lot about your organisation.

Using software to help your online marketing

Programmatic advertising can help you reach specific users across many online channels. Social site, website and podcast owners have space for adverts. You want to buy that space. Programmatic just does the buying and selling of this space for you, automatically.


This is how it works:

  1. A user goes to visit a walking magazine’s website
  2. Software on the publisher’s side tells advertisers ‘this ad space is available…’
  3. Software from each interested advertiser says ‘this is the type of user I’m targeting, and this is how much I’ll bid for this space’
  4. The publisher’s software decides which bid wins that space
  5. The user sees the winner’s ad on the website


In this example, bidding brands could include sellers of hiking boots, walking holidays and camp sites. They’re all competing for that user to see them, on that website, at that time.

The key thing here is that the software does the bidding. And software decides the winning bid. As it’s all automated, the whole process happens instantly, in the time it takes the user to land on that web page. Now, imagine this happening all the time, on PCs, mobile devices and connected TVs. It can be really effective at spreading brand awareness and getting new users.

Something this powerful is not cheap. You’re likely to need a marketing agency. But it’s a popular and fast-growing option, with the UK the third largest market worldwide.


Taking a combined approach

So now you’ve seen a range of different channels. If there’s a few you like the look of, that’s great! A good marketing strategy doesn’t rely on just one option. Instead, it combines the ones that work best for you. People often use many ways to look for the same thing – research shows that over half of them use three – five different channels.

Ever browsed a website, added something to your basket then decided not to buy it? Later, you see an ad on social media for the item you didn’t buy. This is multi-channel marketing at work. The channels work together, to achieve marketing goals.


Check out these well-known examples of marketing campaigns. They all used a range of channels to reach their goals.

  • One hot summer in Australia, Coca-Cola launched its 'Share a Coke' campaign. Their aim - to increase sales, through customising and social sharing.

    They printed different names on Coke bottles with the phrase 'Share a Coke with ...' Print ads, bus posters, TV and social media all carried this message. Their social media channel users loved it, and the campaign went viral. People shared photos of their own 'branded' Coke bottles. They sought out bottles with the names of friends and family.

    In 2015, an eCommerce shop opened for people to order bottles with their names. And 3 years later, Coke added name labels that you could remove and stick on clothes, books, and phones. All with the call to action: 'Share a Coke'.

  • In 2012, charities faced tough times. Donations dropped, as people struggled financially. Save the Children looked for a way to draw new supporters and raise funds. And they found it - in jolly knitwear.

    Their campaign encouraged people to wear a Christmas jumper on a Friday in mid-December and donate £1. They used press ads, radio, TV, and online channels. Social media proved a great success, with over 34,000 mentions in 2014 alone.

    Creative ideas and assets boosted the promotion. These included free knitting patterns, and activity packs for people to decorate their own jumper rather than buying a new one. They also encouraged people to pass on knitted items to their shops.

    It proved a powerful and rewarding campaign. Every December, people around the UK mark Christmas Jumper Day in their own style. And it's raised over £30 million for the charity.

  • Every Autumn, the UK health agency helps smokers to quit. And they do this in a positive way, called Stoptober. They encourage people to sign up for their 28-day challenge. This was based on research that suggests if you stop smoking for 28 days, you are 5 times more likely to stop for good.

    Started in 2012, the campaign runs for 28 days each October. Offline, there are TV adverts, posters, and billboards, printed cards and leaflets. Pharmacies stock printed materials. Online channels include a Stoptober app, daily emails, and social groups to give support.

    In its first year, the campaign led to 350,000 quit attempts. Impressed by these results, other countries like France, New Zealand and the Netherlands started similar programmes. By 2020, the number of quit attempts totalled 2.3 million(PDF, 580 KB).

Tips and ideas for a combined approach:

  • Be consistent – All your posts, flyers and emails should follow the same theme. This could be seasonal, product or offer-based
  • Track your channels – Use different discount codes for different media, to see where your users found you
  • Discounts and giveaways – Try face-to-face or paper-based offers to capture email addresses (while keeping to privacy rules)
  • Countdown to your next event – Use social channels to highlight a trade show or radio appearance
  • Host online competitions – To find your next ‘poster star’ or artwork to feature in your new calendar

Test your knowledge

Answer this question by selecting one answer from the three possible choices.

That's not quite right!

Hint: Think about a channel that you can only access online.

That's right!

Email is a quick and easy way to reach your users online.

Chapter 4

Harness the power of social media

Read time:

4 mins

What social channels can do

As we saw in the earlier examples, social media plays a huge part in a successful marketing strategy. And with over 60 million users in the UK, you can see why it’s so popular with marketers.

If you decide to use social media in your campaigns, you need to know how to make the most of the different sites. Let’s look at their core features.


Direct communication

Social media is – well, it’s social! It prompts users to get in touch with you, and share their experience. This generates valuable word-of-mouth prospects. Having this kind of contact with users helps in so many ways. You can get to know your audience, offer better customer service, and learn how they prefer to connect with you.

It's a space where users can ask questions and raise concerns. And you can respond, encourage shares, and lay out your message.

Always reply

It's important to respond to feedback quickly and calmly. Show you’ve listened, then take steps to reduce any negative impact. This shows you care about giving good customer service.

Organic content

Social channels give you the chance to share strong content to keep your audience engaged. Posting content for free means you can constantly build brand loyalty and increase exposure. Use compelling content that tempts users to follow links, to drive traffic to your website.

Most social sites give you the chance to share text, image, and video content. It’s good to include all kinds of media, to appeal to your users. Keep your videos short, and use images that are clear and relevant.

We’ve got some great tips on how to create good content in our module on social media.

When posts go viral

It’s easy for posts to go viral. While this can be great for your image, it can harm it too. Think carefully about what you’re putting out there and ask: could people misunderstand it?

Paid ads

On top of the content you create, you can also tailor ads to appear in other people’s feeds. It’s another way to win new supporters and grow your brand. Make sure to pick feeds where you know your product or service may be relevant.


Influencer marketing

This is a specific and growing type of paid advertising – its value doubled in recent years. You pay for influencers (people with a large social media following) to promote your brand through their blogs and posts.

Pick someone whose values and interests truly match those of your organisation. This is key – users are more likely to trust your brand if they see a real connection between it and the person they’re following.

Influencers need to tell their audience if they are working with you. This includes whether you are paying them. There are clear rules on this on the website.


The pros:

  • Helps you reach the right people – If there’s a good match between you and the influencer, their followers are likely to be interested in you too
  • Builds trust in your brand – People trust the opinions of those they follow. So if an influencer talks positively about your brand, their followers listen
  • It can save time and money – The influencer spends time on creating content, not you. And some may work with you for free products or services


The cons:

  • If you pick the wrong influencer, it could damage your brand – Not all influencers send the right message. Followers could turn against you if they don’t like what they’re reading
  • You could be in trouble if your sponsorship is not clear – If the influencer doesn’t say that you’re paying them, then they – and you – are breaking the rules
  • Beware of fake influencers – These people use bots and fake accounts to make it look like they have many followers. So you won’t get the reach you were after

Find out more

The Advertising Standards Agency has a useful guide (PDF, 2024 KB) about Influencer marketing.


Social media platforms make it easy to measure your performance. If you launch an ad campaign, you’ll have key metrics for impressions, follow-ups, and conversions. Use this together with post tracking, to help you review and tweak your strategy.

Keeping it up

If you want to succeed with social media marketing, you’ll need frequent posts to connect regularly with your users. This can be hard for a small business. You may need a dedicated team member to look after day-to-day posting.

Top tips for social marketing:

  • Research your platforms – These sites all differ, so find the ones that work best for you. Our Social Media lesson is a good starting point
  • Create videos – This powerful format delivers strong brand recall and can drive better engagement
  • Consider chatbots – Use these to help users, take bookings, give shipping updates, and more
  • Use automated posting – These tools schedule your posts across different sites and keep your brand visible
  • Keep users’ attention with infographics – For example, write 5 Top Tips to help users, with links to add value or make an offer

Chapter 5

Track and measure your success

Read time:

1 min

What are analytics?

To see if your strategy’s working, you need to take some measurements. Analytics tools can help you do this. They give you an understanding of your market, your users, and your online performance. With their help, you can see if your marketing channels are helping to reach your goals.


With these tools, you can:

  • Save time and money – The tools take on data analysis tasks
  • See exactly what your users are looking for – View patterns of behaviour
  • Tailor your content
  • Target certain markets
  • Track user feedback – To give better customer service
  • Compare your performance with others in your sector

Check out our web analytics lesson to find out more about these tools.


Tracking offline data

Analytics tools are great for your online marketing initiatives. But what about your offline activities? How do you find out if they’re working? Can analytics tools capture this data?


Here’s a few ideas on how to see if your users come from your offline campaigns:

  • Discount codes – Use these on any printed assets. Then you can track your sales using that code
  • Custom landing pages – On your website, create a page that you advertise in a specific channel – for example,
  • Surveys – Free tools like Survey Monkey allow you to ask, ‘where did you hear about us?’

Chapter 6

Summary and next steps

Read time:

1 min

What we’ve covered

In this lesson, you’ve learned how to get started with your marketing strategy.


Let’s recap

  • What marketing looks like today – The range of channels out there
  • Steps to create your marketing strategy – From setting your goals to measuring success
  • The importance of research – Looking at your users, your market and the tools you select
  • How to find the right marketing channel for you
  • The strengths and weaknesses of online options – Including SEO, email and pay-per-click campaigns
  • Social media marketing – The unique features of these platforms
  • How analytics work – Using these tools to measure your marketing initiatives


Now you’ve seen a range of marketing channels, think about which ones might be the best for you. Review your user personas - focus on their online behaviour. Pick three channels you might use to reach that target audience. Jot down a few ideas for campaigns based on these channels. This will help when you start to design content that works for your users - and for your platform.

This is the start of your digital growth

This lesson has given you a deeper understanding of digital marketing and the tools and platforms that can help you engage users and drive business. Continue your learning with our other lessons.


Bank of Scotland Academy is committed to providing information in a way that is accessible and useful for our users. This information, however, is not in any way intended to amount to authority or advice on which reliance should be placed. You should seek professional advice as appropriate and required. Any sites, products or services named in this module are just examples of what's available. Bank of Scotland does not endorse the services they provide. The information in this module was last updated on 25th May 2023.