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Why preparing a marketing strategy is a lot like making a 40th birthday cake

15 MAY 2018

Lately, I seem to have hit a point in my life with numerous ‘significant’ birthdays. For someone who loves cake as much as I do, this is Good News. Because let’s face it, the best way of getting over the bump of a birthday that takes you into a brand new decade, is with a large slice of something with a Mary Berry-worthy “good crumb structure” and lashings of buttery icing. As I contemplated another piece of birthday cake (Star Wars themed), it dawned on me that planning a birthday cake is a lot like planning a marketing strategy.


Let me set the scene. Your friend has an upcoming big birthday celebration and she’s asked you to make her 40th Birthday Cake. In the parallel world of marketing, let’s pretend that making this 40th Birthday Cake is equivalent to your Brand New Product. If you don’t work in the world of products, this could quite easily be an event or a service that you want to promote.


Back to the 40th Birthday Cake. What’s the first thing that you do? Get out the eggs, butter and sugar? Turn the oven on? Jump on Amazon to order a cake stand? Stop! Before you dive in and do any of those things, you need to do some planning. I accept that sitting down and doing some planning is nowhere near as exciting as baking or shopping, but if you dive straight in with these activities – in the world of marketing, we’d describe these activities as ‘tactical’ – you are not going to be successful. In order to make the best possible 40th Birthday Cake, you need to make sure you know the answers to the following questions:


1. Who are you making the cake for?
You’ve got the birthday girl’s own tastes to consider, but remember that you also need to try to cater for everyone else who will be eating the cake. Understanding your demographics is important. Think about what motivates and inspires them. Your cake needs to appeal to your target audience – your customer and other stakeholders.


2. What are you trying to achieve?
What’s your overall aim and what would success look like? In the world of the 40th Birthday Cake, success would perhaps mean that a good proportion of the cake is devoured by the birthday girl and her nearest and dearest. Whilst you, the cake-maker receive unbounded praise and requests to make more cakes. In the world of marketing, this might mean a certain number of enquiries, sales, bookings or leads.


3. Why should party guests choose a slice of your cake?
Faced with a choice of delicious party snacks, savouries and treats, how are you going to persuade the guests to take a slice of your cake? Presentation will be a strong factor here, but don’t forget that as the cake-maker, you have the opportunity to influence the guests by telling your story. Every cake, just like every product, event or service, has a Unique Selling Point – something to set it apart from everything else. If you can help your guests to see this, and it resonates with them – you can influence their choice.


4. Where are your potential cake-eaters?
If you cake is being presented at a party, this is an easy one – they’re in the room, so all you need to do is communicate with them, and make sure they see the cake! In our parallel world of marketing, your cake-eaters, or customers or clients as they’re more likely to be known, will be located in a variety of physical and online locations. Make a note of where they can be found.


5. How can you reach your cake-eaters?
Now that you’ve identified where you can find your cake-eaters or customers/clients, you need to consider all the different ways you can reach them. The marketing mix usually includes a range of face-to-face methods (networking, meetings, and industry events), offline methods (direct mail, phone) and online methods (online advertising, email newsletters, websites, social media).

Now that you’ve answered all of these questions, you are ready to put together your strategy. Once the strategy has been set, then you can start to put together the tactical activities – that’s those shopping and baking activities that I mentioned at the start.


Here’s my marketing strategy for the 40th Birthday Cake.



In short, my strategy is: Bake a large, beautiful vanilla sponge cake, place it in a prominent position at the birthday party and spend time networking with the other party guests, in order to achieve the target of 50% of the cake being eaten.


So that’s it – the marketing strategy is set.


Here at Keystone we often get approached and asked to help with a tactical piece of marketing like creating a new email newsletter, writing a press release, or updating a sales brochure. The trouble is, without having a view of the big picture – the WHO, WHAT, WHY, WHERE and HOW -  we don’t have all the information. We can’t measure success. We don’t know how you set yourselves apart from your competition. We don’t have a complete view of your audience – where to find them and how to speak to them. In other words, we’re jumping in, feet first, without a strategy.


If you’d like to talk to us about how Keystone can help you create a strategy, we’d love to hear from you. Often, as the client it can be difficult to get some perspective on the who, what, why, where and how. That’s where our brainstorming approach can help. Get in touch to find out more!

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