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Marketing Strategy and Planning: The Road Map
Many small and medium-sized businesses face a common struggle; balancing plans, strategies, departments and decisions. All the elements are there, all the gears are in working order, but the business is not booming at the pace he had expected or predicted. What exactly does this growth and sustainability require? In a turbulent economy teeming with congested airwaves and aggressive business practices, it’s standing out from the crowd. And surprisingly, your marketing strategy has a lot more to do with it than you might think.
Conflicted business owners can cut through the crowds and attract the right customers to their product by implementing a great marketing strategy, not shouting louder than the competition or using neon banners on your storefront (or banner ads on your website). My point is that you don’t have to throw yourself out with noise all the time. You need to create a vision for your company, your employees and your customers. Make promises that no one but you can keep, and then blow them up with your admirable business practices and superhuman skills.
Take a moment and consider this: Marketing strategy is the single most important factor in determining whether a business prospers or declines. That’s a pretty strong claim, and I’m willing to prove its legitimacy. Marketing strategy permeates all facets of a business, whether or not it was intended by its creator. This is possible because strategy is created and defined by the overall goals of a particular company and integrates those goals with the company’s unique vision and mission. Simply put, every business level should have a marketing strategy. Really!
Does this seem far-fetched? We examine the relationship between marketing strategy and four key aspects of any business: market research, marketing plan, corporate identity, and economics. First, we strip away the formalities and provide a definitive explanation of what marketing strategy really is. After searching several websites for the official definition, I settled on a less formal but more effective description of marketing strategy:
A strategy that integrates an organization’s marketing objectives into a cohesive whole. Ideally based on market research, it focuses on the ideal product mix to achieve maximum profit potential. The marketing strategy is set out in the marketing plan.
Although your marketing strategy is essentially a document; it aims for a much higher carrying capacity. The strategy should include your mission and business goals, an exhaustive list of your products and services, a characterization or description of your target customers, and a clear definition of how you will fit into the competitive landscape of your industry.
Marketing strategy v. Market research
This relationship establishes an order of operations: The first step in any marketing or branding initiative is research. (See our white paper on this topic: SME Market Research). Regardless of the scope of your research, whether it’s a broad survey of your current customer list or uncovering specific, detailed findings about your target market, the result will directly impact your marketing strategy. Be sure to find out who you are trying to reach. What generation are they in? How big are their families? Where do they live, eat and hang out? How do they spend their free time and money? All of this information will influence and change your marketing strategy.
Research alone will not benefit your business without a solid marketing strategy. Often, business owners narrowly define market research as the collection and organization of data for business purposes. And while this is technically an accurate definition, the emphasis is not on the research process itself, but on its impact on future decisions at all levels of the company. Every business decision presents different, unique information needs, and that information then shapes an appropriate and actionable marketing strategy.
Research can be an exhausting, confusing and tedious process. From building or cleaning a database to creating surveys and conducting interviews, you can learn a lot about your customers and prospects and ask what to do next. Before starting to formulate a strategy, the collected information and data must be organized, processed, analyzed and stored. You can be sure that with a little creativity and a lot of effort, it will all be shaped into a structured, effective and easily adaptable marketing strategy. In addition, continuous and updated research ensures that your strategy is a current and relevant reflection of your target market, marketing objectives and future business activities.
Marketing strategy v. Marketing plan
In this regard, a marketing strategy is essentially a guide for evaluating the performance and effectiveness of a particular marketing plan. Simply put, your marketing strategy is a summary of what you offer and how you’re positioned in the market (relative to your competitors’ products and services), and your marketing plan is an organized list of activities you’ll implement to achieve your goal. goals set in the strategy. The plan includes steps to actually implement a marketing strategy that brings your mission and vision to life. It’s time to showcase and sell your products and services so your target market can experience them in the place you truly envisioned.
Often, companies lack a balance between the creative personality and the logical personality. While a business owner may have the creativity to dream up a great product, business model, and brand, they may lack the entrepreneurship and discipline to make it all happen through research, planning, and execution.
Marketing strategy v. corporate identity
It’s no surprise that some of the world’s most successful and recognizable companies are those that create outstanding, unique cultures that cut across all channels of the business and reach customers on a human level. A company’s culture, its psychology, attitude, business approaches, values and beliefs create the basis for a unique and compelling corporate identity. There is a powerful and undeniable connection between the health of these companies and the identity that their culture provides.
These companies have discovered the delicate balance between brand and strategy and how this symbiotic relationship fosters visibility and growth. The relationship is simple: marketing strategy represents where a company wants to go, and culture determines how (and sometimes if) it gets there. Think of your corporate identity—the style, words, images, and colors—as the personification of your marketing strategy. Corporate identity is expanded and implemented in every phase of the marketing strategy and plays a stylistic role in its implementation.
Let’s look at an example. Starbucks didn’t really have a marketing or advertising budget until recently. Starbucks began advertising in the New York Times and on television in 2009, and very cautiously at that. Full-page advertisements were printed in the Times once a week, and short, light-hearted advertisements were broadcast on certain channels. In the past, the company was very successful in promoting itself and its products through word of mouth and with a 25-year-old logo on every cup baristas churned out, proving that even something as simple as a logo can resonate deeply with consumers. . But that was the identity of Starbucks, with millions of customers happily waiting in line for fifteen minutes. The infamous Starbucks cup quickly became associated with affluence, leisure, high standards and city dwellers. From college freshmen to corporate CEOs, people couldn’t get enough of it.
Starbucks implemented its marketing strategy through smart, memorable campaigns, a genuine and human “frontline” at the store level, and mostly by admitting any mistakes or shortcomings it might have run into. All of these actions are signs of a deep-rooted culture that oozes from the top of the Starbucks hierarchy down. And love them or hate them, there’s no denying their great success, even in a tight economy.
Marketing strategy versus economics
The economy is an incredibly sensitive topic around the world. We’ve also noticed that many companies and business owners are using the recession as a reason (and in some cases, an excuse) for the shortcomings in their business.
For example, layoffs have been a big trend lately. Larger companies use a weak economy as a reason to purge their workforce and cut positions, even though they know just as well that this is the exact opposite of what needs to happen. Or does it? It’s hard to say. Is surviving a “depression” really as simple as, say, reevaluating your marketing strategy? While an unstable economy is worrisome, risky and unpredictable, it is also a great test of the flexibility of your marketing strategy. Your strategy is not set in stone…strategy planning is primarily about navigating smoothly through any situation, good or bad. Unfortunately, many CEOs and CFOs target their marketing departments first during lean times, when the reality is that they should be investing in these areas so that CMOs can adjust their strategy to survive—perhaps even thrive—in tough times. An excerpt from the blog of R. Bruer, owner and manager of a strategic communications firm in Portland, Oregon, lays it all out:
“Most businesses treat marketing as an optional expense, making it an easy target for budget-cutters. It’s as if marketing is a luxury that’s only afforded when times are rosy. The less customer demand, the less marketing we can afford, or so the conventional thinking goes.
But can we ever afford not to market?
It’s natural to want to conserve cash during an economic downturn. I was an employer for almost 14 years, so I’m sympathetic. But the tendency is to make big cuts in marketing when sales go south. Companies often start by reducing or eliminating external costs such as advertising, events, sponsorships, research. And if that’s not enough, they lay off marketing staff, sometimes the entire department.
The net effect of marketing blowout is to stifle the generation of customer awareness, demand and retention just when those things are most needed. It’s a smart and stupid decision.”
Your marketing strategy
Although the marketing strategy is not tangible, its role in business is as formidable as the product or service offered. Its input is important at every stage of the business plan from conception to execution and beyond these four aspects of research, planning, identity and economics.
A marketing strategy will continue to feed into business plans as long as it is properly designed and executed. Researching your industry and your competitors will allow you to develop and formulate the right, flexible strategy. From there, your marketing plan acts as a guide to execute your strategy, achieving and exceeding your goals while creating your company’s culture and identity. Remember that the culture piece works two ways. Your culture helps shape your strategy, and following that strategy strengthens your culture. Finally, your strategy must be both robust and flexible enough to withstand the most difficult or unpredictable circumstances, such as economic depression, new trends or competitors in your industry.
Strategy is a small part of a much bigger picture. Sure, it can all be overwhelming at times, but that’s part of the adventure. With dedication, organization, and a masterful marketing team (ahem! B&A), the pieces can easily come together, allowing your business’s truly awesome personality to shine and turn a profit soon after.
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