The focus of any organisation should be to develop a relationship with its customers in order to understand their needs. It is then possible to develop goods or services that meet these needs. A marketing strategy will set out a strategic method of meeting these needs and achieving overall organisation objectives, preventing the company from making impulsive, uninformed decisions that could cost them time and money.
This is because a marketing strategy will specify costs, time frame and customer-related targets. As such, your strategy enables you to evaluate what is working and what is not: what is worth investing funds and resources in, and what activity is redundant and therefore should be discontinued, thus helping the organisation reach its goals.
Marketing goals will vary depending on the nature and size of the organisation but, in general, may include a desire to increase sales; increase share of the market; gain new customers; introduce a new product or service; or launch a promotion campaign. In these instances, knowing who your target market is and how to reach them is imperative for effective use of resources.
Formulating a successful marketing strategy will involve, first and foremost, research to review the situation: market research, competitor analysis and research into your intended buyer.
Consideration of the skills and assets already possessed by your organisation may also increase the success of your marketing activities (Wienclaw, 2015) as you can harness these instead of accruing more costs for external support.
Using this information, you can evaluate exactly what your customers want/need, how much they are willing to pay for it and how you can differentiate yourself from the competition. Without conducting such research, the business will be effectively be ‘shooting in the dark’ and your product or service will likely fail to be ‘on target’.
Putting aside marketing for one moment, a good strategy will also affect and co-ordinate the activity of your entire business. Think of it as a road map to your brand; a map that not only determines who your target market is and how to convey good brand image, but one that also directs employees at every level towards making decisions that best accomplish company aims and objectives.
The strategy should be referred back to at every big decision or meeting, to effectively achieve brand consistency and direction. For example, if your organisation’s overall marketing strategy is targeted towards aims such as ‘gain new customers’ or ‘achieve greater brand recognition and awareness’ and crucially, if every team member is aware of this, then the whole business can be active in working towards these goals. Where a team has excellent communication and coordinated direction, success often follows.
The marketing plan
It is important to note that marketing strategy is different to the marketing plan. Strategic marketing is a planning process that seeks to establish a clear direction and unified purpose for all marketing efforts. Its conclusions are documented in a marketing plan that is regularly updated (Chron, 2017).
Put simply, a successful strategy should outline a mission statement and direction based on research, forming the foundation of a marketing plan. The plan then actively fulfils and delivers what is stated in the strategy.
For example, research conducted in the strategy may reveal that potential customers are frequently using social media for recommendations before purchasing a product or service that your business can provide them. Yet your presence on social media is limited and does not allow existing customers to leave feedback following a purchase. A marketing plan would then include the action “develop social media platform by adding a measurable rate of recommendation such as a star rating”.
Good strategic marketing will highlight necessary improvements that can be translated into achievable actions. A good marketing plan will successfully implement these actions, resulting in excellent business return on investment (ROI).
The process of strategic marketing
You should think of your marketing strategy as a process of developing and aligning marketing efforts with business goals. The strategy need not be lengthy, providing it contains all the essential information to kick start an actionable plan.
The process may include:
Understanding your customer
Develop a clear picture of your target customer, their needs and budget. Discover their pain points and identify how you can solve them.
Analysing the market
Basic market research will reveal growth, trends and the available market that is on offer.
Analysing the competition
Be aware of competitors and their strengths and weaknesses- what can you offer that they cannot?
Researching distribution methods and routes to market
What is the best way to deliver your product or service to the intended customer?
Defining your marketing mix – The 7 P’s
Place, Product, Price, Promotion, People, Process and Physical Evidence
Analysis of your financial situation
Put together your marketing budget and evaluate cost effectiveness.
Reviewing and revising
Continuously evaluate the relevance of your strategy and update, revise and extend your plan accordingly.
Many of these steps may repeat themselves in the later stage of your marketing plan, such as considering competitor advantage, routes to market and addressing the effectiveness of your marketing mix. Nevertheless, it is essential to cover the basic outline of your mission statement and objectives if you are to create a successful and achievable marketing plan.
What are the benefits?
As earlier discussed, a marketing strategy provides a detailed and focused road map to the marketing objectives to pursue and the threats to avoid. Strategic marketing is an integral part of any business plan, because:
There is never enough time to accomplish everything in your marketing plan. A strategy helps you prioritise what is most important to both your target market and your business.
Marketing problems are the same as they always have been; finding prospects and turning them into customers. A strategy helps you achieve this.
Strategy demands you constantly improve what you offer both in terms of product and the service you provide alongside.
Speed of change is the greatest impact on many business’ marketing attempts. A strategy ensures you are up to date and fresh eg. new digital distribution methods.
A strategy ensures you are realistic and feasible with your company aims. It encourages you to work with the skills and assets already available to you.
A strategy will act as a platform for all communication channels: its conclusions can be easily translated for both traditional and digital marketing efforts.
Employees at all levels within the business can stay on track working towards company goals by referring back to the marketing strategy.
A strategy will help you distinguish your ‘edge’ or USP, differentiating you from the competition.
Business decisions should be made logically based on the research and fact covered in a marketing strategy.
A strategy can assist in allocating a fixed marketing budget and meaningful targets.
By incorporating strategic marketing into your business plan, you are creating a coordinated team who are actively working towards the same result. With the next step of creating a marketing plan, which should list the specific steps required, you are ensuring that all marketing activities remain aligned with business goals, thus maximising the return received from marketing efforts.
The digitalisation of all aspects of business is just one change that businesses have had to adapt to and thus conduct their marketing activity accordingly. It is now far easier for customers to ‘shop around’, do their research and make informed decisions before committing to one purchase or one business. Diminishing attention spans in an ever-digital world also demands businesses use every platform possible in order to capture customer recognition. As such, strategic marketing has become an essential process for any business who wishes to reach these customers and meet company objectives.
Want to learn more?
Magnificent Marketing is an online step by step course that helps you build your marketing plan. Based on Purpol’s Review, Acquire, Promote, Retain model, the course combines video-based learning with unique practical exercises and worked examples to develop your understanding of marketing. This is accompanied by our Magnificent Marketing Plan template which is populated in stages as the course progresses.
As well as the marketing plan template, we also provide two fully completed example marketing plans showing a B2B Manufacturing Business and B2C Fitness Coach business to act as a reference. As a bonus, you also get a marketing strategy eBook full of helpful hints on practical application.
Our Short video provides an overview of how the course works - https://youtu.be/3xkGtdWbFxo