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 don't want you to be confused anymore. In understanding what marketing strategy is, you will start to gain an understanding of why having a marketing strategy is important and why it is THE single most important thing you can do to create a rock solid marketing plan. I'll let you in early on why it is vital for you to have one. Then, you can dive into the rest of the article for examples and further clarification.
Without a strategy in place, your marketing plan doesn't really have legs. The plan gets its strength from strategy. You create marketing activities and objectives that are measurable based on the strategy you choose to pursue.
Common descriptions given about marketing strategy include some variation of the following:
1. Many people think the marketing plan is the marketing strategy. 2. Some people confuse marketing strategy with marketing goals and objectives. 3. Many others see marketing strategy 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 none of these are. But, I am going to define, describe and explain what one is so that you can create a strong marketing strategy for your organization....
Let's take a step and 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 and highest results. The landscape includes others that inhabit it and these are competitors. Highest and best results means doing better than your competition. You look at the various scenarios and choose 1 or 2 top scenarios as your strategies for attaining the highest and best results.
With marketing strategy, the market is your landscape. You have competitors in that marketing vying for a spot in the minds and hearts of people or potential customers. But, if YOU want to be the leader in your market you have come up with 1 or 2 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 you've determined your marketing strategies. You then develop a marketing plan that also contains marketing goals and objectives and a detailed action plan for obtaining results.
So, for example, growing your social media network by 30% is not a marketing strategy, it is a marketing goal. Make sales calls daily to 3 contacts is a marketing action. A marketing strategy is to raise your prices or rates to get in front of and penetrate an affluent target market.
Now let's go back and look at how you arrive at good strategies. By the way, one of the best books written on this is titled Good Strategy Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt. In it, Rumelt lays out the 3 steps at arriving at good strategy. I highly recommend this book if you want to gain an even greater understanding of strategy. Rumelt has excellent case studies and examples throughout the book.
The first thing you MUST do to determine your strategy is clearly define the problem that needs to be solved. Let's use the example I used earlier of raising prices or rates. The problem you are addressing might be that revenues or money coming into the organization or business is very slow and you are not hitting your sales goals each month. For a non profit just change these to grant monies and donor contributions. So, we have clearly defined the problem which is not hitting monthly sales and monetary goals.
Second, we brainstorm and conduct some research to determine the best ways to solve these problems. Research could looking at what our competitors in this proposed marketplace are doing. After a thorough examination and brainstorming you might conclude that in order to bring in more money you would need to raises your prices. You may, hypothetically speaking, learn that your competitors are charging much higher prices than you and that's how they have developed a strong hold with the affluent market.
Now that you know your strategy, you can begin developing the appropriate plan to activate your strategy. If you raise your rates, you have to get in front of a new target market that can afford your new price. You have to change your messaging to attract the new target market. You will have to advertise in magazines that the affluent market would read. Or, you may host private VIP events that target the affluent customer. These are all the kinds of things that would go into your marketing plan. Once the plan is in place, establish goals and create an implementation plan that has deadlines and responsibilities outlined in it. Finally, you create a budget that shows exactly what you need to spend in order to implement the plan.
I know how confusing this topic is from having worked with businesses and non profits in designing and implementing marketing strategy for the past 16+ years. How did you describe marketing strategy and what strategy will you put into place to create a strong marketing campaign for your business or organization. Share in the comments below.
As always, to your illumination!