What exactly is a marketing strategy? It can be confusing, I know. I've heard it used to describe a whole host of things that aren't actually a marketing strategy. I will amend your confusion and help you gain an understanding of why a marketing strategy is THE single most important thing you can do to create a rock-solid marketing plan. I'll quickly make this clear to you and then you can dive into the rest of the article for further clarification.
Without a strategy in place, your marketing plan doesn't really have legs to stand on. The marketing plan gets its strength from the strategy. You create marketing activities and objectives that are measurable based on the strategy you choose to pursue.
Common descriptions of marketing strategies include some variation of the following:
1. Many people think the marketing plan is the marketing strategy.
2. Marketing strategy is commonly confused with marketing goals and objectives.
3. Marketing strategy is mistakenly seen as the action plan or the steps to get to where you want your organization or business to be.
If you think any of these three describe a marketing strategy, then I'm sorry to say that you are mistaken. However, I will define, describe, and explain how you can create one for your organization...
Let's look at the word strategy itself. Strategy originally comes to us from war strategy. War generals were great strategists when they were able to see the entire landscape in which they would be battling and then set up appropriate strategies to overtake and beat the opponent.
Strategy is just that. You arrive at good strategies by examining the entire landscape in which you operate. You then develop several scenarios on how to navigate this landscape in order to attain the best results. The landscape includes competitors. The "best results" means doing better than your competition. You look at the various scenarios and choose one or two top scenarios as your strategies for attaining the best results.
With marketing strategy, the market is your landscape. There are competitors in that market vying for a spot in the minds and hearts of people or potential customers. If you want to be the leader in your market, then you have come up with one or two marketing strategies that will help you beat the competition and position you as the leader. Your marketing strategies then are the ways in which you position yourself as the leader in your market.
Once your marketing strategies are determined, you can develop a marketing plan containing goals, objectives, and a detailed action plan for obtaining results.
Now, let's go back and look at how you arrive at a strong strategy, as seen in, "Good Strategy Bad Strategy," by Richard Rumelt. I highly recommend this book. It lays out the three steps for arriving at a good strategy. Rumelt has excellent case studies and examples throughout the book.
The first thing you MUST do to determine your strategy...clearly define the problem to be solved. Let's use the example of raising prices or rates. The problem at hand is the lack of revenue coming into the organization and monthly sales goals are not being met. For a non-profit, just change this to grant monies and donor contributions. So, we have clearly defined the problem as, "not meeting monthly sales goals."
Second, brainstorm and research to determine the best solutions to these problems. The research looks at what our competitors are doing. After thorough brainstorming, you might conclude that in order to bring in more money you would need to raise your prices. Hypothetically speaking, you might learn that your competitors are charging much higher prices than you and that's how they have developed a stronghold in the affluent market.
Now that you know your strategy, you can begin developing the appropriate action plan. If you raise your rates, you have to get in front of a new target market that can afford your new price and you'll have to adjust your messaging to effectively communicate to the new target market. For example, advertising in luxury magazines or hosting private VIP events targeting the affluent customer. These strategies would go into your marketing plan. Once the plan is in place, you'll establish goals and create an implementation plan outlining deadlines and responsibilities. Finally, create a budget that shows exactly what you need to spend in order to implement the plan.
I know how confusing this topic is due to years of collaboration with businesses and non-profits in designing and implementing marketing strategies. I hope I've shed some light on it for you and made it more clear. How did you arrive at your current marketing plans and strategies? Share in the comments below.
As always, to your illumination!