An organization’s marketing strategy is its game plan to find and retain customers, promote products and services and ultimately generate revenues and profits. It clearly outlines the methodologies, processes, tools, channels and vehicles involved in understanding its industry, defining its markets and communicating value propositions.
The marketing strategy is often a key component of a comprehensive business plan, especially in smaller and entrepreneurial organizations. It integrates with other aspects of the business plan, including sources of capital, pricing and promotions. As a business plan component, a sound marketing strategy can attract potential investors.
Creating a winning marketing strategy is a matter of pursuing time-tested processes and methodologies. The following are some general practices to keep in mind and a brief description of what each encompasses:
SWOT analysis: This exercise identifies a business’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. It should be completed through internal dialogues and meetings, as well as surveys and external communications with customers and stakeholders. The strengths and weaknesses generally refer to internal resources or characteristics such as quality of personnel, access to capital and product differentiation from competitors. The opportunities and threats are external, such as the market and competitors.
Distill benefits to the value proposition: Otherwise known as a “unique selling proposition,” this practice sums up the products’ and services’ competitive strengths and differentiators, distilling them each into a single compelling benefit. Organizations should complete this exercise after the SWOT analysis and factor in all marketing claims and surveys to understand how consumers purchase products and services. Often, the reason people buy a product is not the same reason they continue to buy, and executives should note this when applicable. Companies should aim to alight the product’s single most compelling benefit with the main need of the intended audience.
Determine marketing strategy objectives: Objectives should coincide with business goals. They should be SMART (specific, measurable, realistic and achievable within a particular time frame). Leaders should communicate these objectives throughout the organization. This enables marketers to lead projects and plans, coordinate efforts and hold teams accountable for their contributions and results.
Know your customers and buyer journeys: Effective marketers know their target audiences as well as their own personnel, products and services. Study how consumers come to discover your company, how they initially engage, how they learn about your products and services, why they make their first purchases and how they make subsequent purchases. What is the maturation process of the customer’s relationship to your organization and what are the milestones and signals that a customer is getting ready to make a significant purchase? When there is customer attrition, why and how does it typically happen? Learning the answers to questions like these will make your marketing strategy more effective.
Create buyer personas: It’s much easier to sell or market to a real conception of an individual than an abstraction. Define your customer segments and develop their characteristics into an ideal customer. For instance, an ideal buyer for BLU smartphones would be Budgeting Barry, a young professional in his 20s, living in a metropolitan area, looking for a phone that can handle a wide variety of apps but at a price much lower than flagship phones.
Conduct competitive analyses: Learn what claims your competitors are making, the market segments they are targeting and how their products differ from yours. Include competitors’ advertisements in these analyses and be prepared to discuss what you think they do effectively, what claims require counterclaims, and the overall similarities and differences between your product and a competitor’s.
Determine the mix of marketing channels, vehicles and collateral: Useful digital tools and strategies include websites, search engine optimization, email marketing, paid search ads, mobile applications, social media channels, online content and earned online media coverage. Traditional channels include print, direct mail, radio and television advertising. Collateral includes posts with videos for social platforms, blogs as content for websites and radio and TV ads. Marketing experts should leverage these channels and collateral to achieve specific marketing objectives in support of overarching goals.
A marketing plan should include the annual marketing budget, marketing initiatives and methods to pursue those initiatives. The marketing plan integrates the business summary with the business plan to keep all company objectives aligned.
Creating the perfect marketing strategy today is possible when you educate yourself and optimize all proven methodologies and resources available to you. The Fitchburg State Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Marketing online program gives students broad-based exposure to all these practices so graduates are ready to hit the ground running as marketing leaders in their organizations.
Learn more about Fitchburg State’s online MBA in Marketing program.