Marketing Strategy defines how you approach customers/prospects to become interested and ultimately engaged in your products or services. In base terms it lays out what your objectives are and how you’re going to execute them. But that definition is typically very broad and at the top end of the funnel. Marketing strategies can in fact cover anything from a five-year vision for marketing your business, to how to shift sales on one product over the next month.
As such, this discussion is intended to guide you towards a base strategic platform from which a more expansive approach is developed, leading to both short and longterm strategies.
The Top of the funnel
So, what should a marketing strategy achieve?
- Your strategy will depend on where you want your business to go – and what you want to achieve over a given timeframe.
- The following are examples of what your overall business goals might be, and marketing strategies that you could use to achieve it:
- Increase sales (overall and by sub-segments)
- Develop new customers (organically and through current contact referrals)
- Get existing customers to buy more
- Introduce new products or services
- Increase market share (need to understand the current market landscape and “players”)
- Better establish your brand (and how it matches up against your competitors)
- Improve customer loyalty (why should they continue to buy from you)
- Launch a comprehensive advertising/digital campaign strategy
- Launch a PR campaign (including social media (i.e. LinkedIn)
- Increase market share based upon realistic goals and competitive landscape
- Retain existing profitable customers while growing lower tier accounts
- Engage existing customers to feel more valued
- Ensure your business approach stays fresh and new
- Make everything easy to understand, realistic, and with a clear path of action.
- Create a short term strategy that will become part of your longer and more detailed marketing plan
- Be flexible with your marketing strategy when necessary as there are infinite factors that could require a strategy change
How to develop a marketing strategy
- Market analysis: the size of your market(s) –by product segment and growth potential).
- Competitive analysis: monitor both direct and indirect competition and how they compare with you on every aspect of sales and marketing that you can research (i.e. -their customer profile, their brand, price points, sales channels, loyalty, etc..).
- Your Company analysis: your overall business objectives; how you are planning to achieve them; your strengths and weaknesses matched against your competitors
- Customers. Next you need to identify your target customers, using the information you’ve gathered from your research and, if needed, more detailed customer research.
- Segment themby existing and target customers, and then according to what they need from your business (breadth of product offerings, service, price, etc..). Also need to address how you interact with these customers (direct contact, e-mails, website/PR/direct mail etc..?), and do you have updated contacts for each Company and names/titles within these Companies?
- Positioning: how you compare to your competitors for each of your customer segments and what are your USPs.
…On USPs, Communications, Marketing Mix…and the 4 P’s
- Benefits to the customer: From your USPs, draw out what benefits your product/service offers to the customer. These may vary between your various customer segments so creating a grid outline is recommended. You need to look very closely at what the customer actually “sees”, for example while Starbucks sells coffee, the benefit to the customer is a place to relax and have a chat with a friend or a place to sit with a laptop. Your USP may be that you have an expertise or service attribute that is head and shoulders above your competitors, but the benefit to the customer is that they don’t have to shop around and can understand the benefits right away. The way you define the benefits will shape your marketing message.
- Communication. How you are going to communicate these benefits of buying your product/service in a way that is consice, memorable, and a positive reflection on you/your Company.
- Marketing mix: the combination of all the marketing tools you have at your disposal to use to communicate your benefits to your customers. For example: advertising in all forms, PR, word of mouth/referrals, distribution channels, pricing, promotion, which products you’ll sell to them, service contracts/follow-up, website, etc…
- Though referenced predominately in a retail environment, Remembering four P’s can be useful when you’re putting your marketing mix together: Product, Placing, Pricing and Promotion.
- Products. Now you need to review your products/services with the aim of determining how you’re going to strategically market using the aforementioned Research and Customer Profiles input.
The Marketing Plan
Having developed your strategy, you can now write it into a marketing plan.
- The plan goes into the logistical details of executing your strategy, such as responsibilities, tactics, budgets, more detailed time scales.
- Your marketing plan is typically a more live document than your strategy (meaning you will tweak and update it more regularly). As costings, market conditions, economic conditions, product/service strategy shifts, and other factors change, you’ll need to adjust your plan to accommodate them – whereas your strategy could well remain the same.
- For both your strategy and your plan to be useful, you need to closely monitor the results of marketing activity, and be ready to adapt both as necessary.
What is a Business Strategy and how does it differ from a Strategic Plan?
A business strategy is what will take you from a Company with a great idea into the reality of a true success story.
What is a business strategy?
You may think that creating a business plan is enough to develop customers and ultiomately sales, but a business strategy is equally important. While your business plan focuses on business objectives and targets, the business strategy is more about how to execute the business plan and what comes next. The best business strategy examples are the ones that include who and what the Company, and the individuals responsible for the marketing/sales efforts need to know to turn their ideas into reality.
What needs to be in a business strategy?
Deciding what goes into a business strategy can be the hardest part of writing one. Every business strategy is different, but here’s our list of essentials to make sure you know how you’re business is going to grow.
- Elevator pitch of where your business is today Write a concise explanation of what your business offers right now and how much revenue is generated anmd where. Don’t exaggerate or overstate anything. Keep it simple and honest.
- Elevator pitch for where it might be in five years
Now’s the time to dream. Work out what you want your business to offer in five years and how much revenue you want it to be generating. Don’t completely leave the realms of possibility, but do set yourself a target to strive for.
- Your marketing strategy
You need to know how you’re going to go from a to b. Write down how much manpower is required, and how many sales you need to make to hit your goals.
Be specific and detailed. If it helps, even set targets for the number of clicks, LinkedIn flowers, etc.. you’ll have, or the number of business events you need to attend. Everything you write here is an objective that will drive you forward towards your five year projections.
- What your competitors might do in that time
Have an eye on the competition too. You should already know who your biggest challengers are, so think about how they will spend the next five years. It’s going to be almost impossible to get this spot on, but putting some thought into what their goals are will help you know what to expect on your own journey.
- Who do you need to know
Create a definitive list of people who can help you and the Company reach your targets. Be ambitious and think of people who are not only directly related to your business model (current customers), but people outside that sphere of influence who may know someone..who knows someone related to your field .
Look around for mentors, partners and anyone who will unlock the hidden potential of your business idea. These people should form the bulk of your hit list, and then you can start to use any means necessary to connect with them.
- What do you need to know
Similar to the other list, make sure you know the skills and information you need to reach your goal. From any industry knowledge to an understanding of influencers who touch upon your industry, it takes a lot to grow a successful business and your business strategy needs to include it all.
Here are some other things to think about when writing your business strategy. The answers will vary hugely for each business, but you do need to know them.
Will you expand your business in a completely new way?
Will you need a bigger team?
How will you be funded?