It happens in the movies. A hard-working guy slogs through the days failing to win customers. A chance meeting turns into the moment that becomes his breakthrough, and customers begin to multiply, turning him into a success. This may only happen for a very few of us – enough that we still believe it’s possible – but lacking a marketing process is a risky strategy to rely on. A reliable marketing process builds from one step to the next with time and work.

In fact, it’s much like baseball. To score a home run you first have to go through three bases. In order. No skipping from first base straight to home plate. Chaos would ensue. You can’t just make a move when you feel like it either. You need a strategy for timing.

Here’s a 4-step marketing process to guide you through the bases for a thrilling slide into home plate.

First base: Clarity

Clear messaging is the foundation of the marketing process. Without clarity, you cannot progress further. People pigeonhole products and services. They need to know straight away what it is and how it can be useful to them. If people are confused, they turn their attention elsewhere. Consider a lack of clarity equal to striking out – instead of getting to the next base it’s back to sitting on the bench.

Apple’s iPod was released with the tagline “1000 songs in your pocket.” That’s clarity. No one could be confused about what the device did, and it easily brings to mind an image of yourself using the product.

Clarity clicks. It communicates that you are a solid brand that knows who you are and where you’re going. It demonstrates your values, and consistent messaging across touchpoints demonstrates that your team is aligned with those values. It shows you communicate in an authentic way, which naturally leads us to…

Second base: Trust

Once your message has penetrated, you have to take the time to build trust. Show that you ‘get’ your customer, you understand their pain points, and you can take them from where they are to where they want to be.

Storytelling has a great place here. Stories engage and build trust. They allow people to relate to your brand and establish your credibility.

IKEA did a great job of this with their Make Small Spaces Big campaign. One advert shows a single mother and her son living in a tiny high-rise apartment. The ad tells the story of the mother and son’s happy life together while showing how they have maximized their space (they even play ping pong and get a dog). IKEA showed that they understood the challenges faced by the many people living in smaller homes and established themselves as experts with a solution by telling an authentic story.

Once trust has been established, the risk of doing business with you seems small. You’ve rounded second base and are on your way to the next critical step in the process.

Third base: Emotional connection

So, you’ve established clarity and gained trust. The third step in our marketing process is making the emotional connection. The emotional connection makes people feel the need to work with you. It gives them the “wow” factor they have been searching for.

People connect emotionally with brands either because of shared values, a sensory connection for particularly unique brands, or because it makes them feel good.

Take TOMS Shoes. TOMS operates on the one-for-one model, giving a pair of shoes to someone in need for every pair sold. That warm feel-good factor of helping someone else just by buying a pair of shoes touches hearts, makes the emotional connection, and stays in people’s minds. They may not immediately run out and buy a pair, but the next time they are in the market for shoes you know where they are likely to look.

Because that’s the other thing with emotional connection – it’s about timing. The customer may not need what you’re offering right now, but you will be top of mind when the time is right for them. And you can’t try to rush it, or you undo all the hard work you did at second base – you come across as pushy and violate their trust, and you’re out.

But how do you make an emotional connection? Using narrative and storytelling to engage. There is science behind how storytelling affects our emotions so tell stories that stick in your customers’ hearts. (Gatorade has a great example of this, using Usain Bolt’s life story and relationship with his mother in their animated short film “The Boy Who Learned To Fly.” Have a look and tell me it won’t stick with you.)

Home Base: Making the sale

You’ve put in the work, gone through the bases, now its time for that slide into home plate. This is the reward – they pay you the money for what you’re offering.

A few lucky ones may find themselves in circumstances where they skip some bases and have instant success. But for most of us, a solid plan is going to take us further faster than waiting around for our lucky hit. So give our marketing process a try and see if you can score.