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Marketing Strategy and Planning: The Road Map
Many small to medium sized businesses face a common struggle; Act balancing plans, strategies, departments and decisions. All the elements are present, all the gears are in working order, but business is not booming at the pace it was expected or predicted. What exactly is required for this growth and sustainability? In a turbulent economy filled with crowded airwaves and aggressive business practices, it’s about standing out from the crowd. And surprisingly, there’s a lot more to your marketing strategy than you realize.
Contradictory business owners can beat the crowd and attract the right customers to their product by shouting louder than their competitors or using neon banners on their storefronts (or banner ads on your website), implementing a great marketing strategy. My point is, you don’t need to be constantly thrown out by the noise. Picture what you need to do for your business, your employees, and your customers. Make promises that no one but you can keep, and then blow them away with your admirable business practices and genius skills.
Take a moment to think about this: Marketing strategy is the single most important factor in determining the boom or bust of a business. This is a very solid claim and I am ready to prove its validity. Marketing strategy distributes itself in all aspects of business, whether its creator intended it or not. This is possible because strategy is formulated and defined by the overall goals of a particular business and integrates these goals with the company’s unique vision and mission. Simply put, marketing strategy should be stimulating at every level of the business. Indeed!
Does that sound far-fetched? Examine the relationship between marketing strategy and four key aspects of any business: market research, marketing planning, corporate identity, and the economy. First, let’s get the formalities out of the way and give a definitive explanation of what a marketing strategy actually is. After searching several websites for an official definition, I settled on a less-official but more effective description of marketing strategy:
A strategy that integrates an organization’s marketing objectives together. Ideally derived from market research, it focuses on the ideal product mix to achieve maximum profit potential. A marketing strategy is set out in a marketing plan.
Your marketing strategy is essentially a document; Its purpose is to withstand heavy loads. The strategy should include a clear definition of your mission statement and business objectives, a complete list of your products and services, a description or description of your target clients, and how you integrate into your industry’s competitive landscape.
Marketing Strategy Vs. Market research
This relationship establishes the order of operations: The first step in any marketing or branding initiative is research. (See our white paper on this topic: Market Research for SMBs). Regardless of the scope of your research, whether it’s a broad promotion of your existing client list or the unveiling of specific, detailed findings about your target market, the results will have a direct impact on your marketing strategy. It is imperative to find out everything about the people you are trying to reach. What generation are they from? 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 a technically accurate definition, the emphasis is not on the research process itself, but on its impact on future decisions at all levels of the company. Each business decision presents different, unique needs for information, and this information then shapes an appropriate and applicable marketing strategy.
Research can be a tedious, confusing and frustrating process. From setting up or cleaning up databases to creating surveys and conducting interviews, you can gain a lot of information about your clients and potential clients and wonder what to do next. Before starting policy formulation, collected information and data must be organized, processed, analyzed and stored. Rest assured, with a little creativity and a lot of effort, it will all be built into a structured, effective and easily adaptable marketing strategy. Furthermore, continuous and up-to-date research will ensure that your strategy is a current and relevant reflection of your target market, marketing objectives and future business endeavors.
Marketing strategy v. Marketing plan
In this regard, a marketing strategy is essentially a guide to check the performance and effectiveness of a particular marketing plan. Simply put, a marketing strategy is a summary of what you offer and how you’re positioned in the market (relative to competitors’ products and services), and your marketing plan is an organized list of actions you’ll implement to achieve that. Goals are outlined in your strategy. This plan will include steps to apply the marketing strategy in real life, bringing your mission and vision to life. This is your time to showcase and sell your products and services so that your target market can experience them in the presence of your imagination.
Often, businesses lack a balance between the creative personality and the logical personality. A business owner may have the creativity to dream up a great product, business model and brand, but lack the entrepreneurship and discipline to bring it all to life through research, planning and execution.
Marketing Strategy Vs. Corporate identity
It’s no surprise that some of the world’s most successful and recognizable companies are those that establish distinctive, one-of-a-kind cultures that permeate every channel of business and reach customers on a human level. A corporation’s culture, its psychology, attitudes, approach to business, values and beliefs, lay the foundation for a unique and compelling corporate identity. There is a powerful and undeniable connection between the health of these companies and the identities provided by their culture.
These companies have explored the delicate balance between brand and strategy and how this symbiotic connection promotes visibility and growth. The relationship is simple: marketing strategy shows where a company wants to go, and culture determines how (and sometimes if) it will get there. Consider the corporate identity – style, words, images and colors – the form of your marketing strategy. Corporate identity is elaborated and applied in every phase of marketing strategy and plays a stylistic role in its implementation.
Let’s see an example. Starbucks, until recently, didn’t really have a marketing or advertising budget. Starbucks began advertising in the New York Times and on TV in 2009, and at the time, quite seriously. Once a week it would print full-page ads in The Times and air short, light-hearted ads on select channels. Previously, the company was able to successfully advertise itself and its products through word of mouth and slapping the 25-year-old logo on every cup cranked by its baristas, proving that even something as simple as a logo resonates deeply with consumers. . But Starbucks was known for its millions of customers happily standing in line for fifteen minutes. The infamous Starbucks cup quickly became associated with wealth, leisure, high status and the urbane. From college freshmen to corporate CEOs, people couldn’t get enough.
Starbucks implemented its marketing strategy through clever, engaging campaigns, an authentic and human “front line” at the store level, and, for the most part, acknowledging its mistakes or shortcomings. All of these actions are typical, depicting a deeply rooted culture that extends from the top to the bottom of the Starbucks hierarchy. And, love them or hate them, there’s no denying their massive success even in a stressed economy.
Marketing Strategy Vs. The Economy
Economy is a very sensitive topic all over the world. We’ve also noticed that many companies and business owners are using depressed financial conditions as a reason (and in some cases, an excuse) for their business shortcomings.
For example, a big trend lately has been layoffs. Big corporations are using the weak economy as a reason to purge employees and cut positions, when they know that’s the exact opposite of what needs to happen. Or does it? It’s been hard to tell. Is it really so easy to live with “disappointment” as to re-evaluate your marketing strategy? While a volatile economy is troubling, dangerous, and unpredictable, it’s also a great test of your marketing strategy’s flexibility. Your strategy is not set in stone…the whole purpose of creating a strategy in the first place is smooth navigation in any situation, good or bad. Unfortunately, many CEOs and CFOs target their marketing departments in the short term, when the reality is that they should be investing in these areas so that their marketing managers can adjust their strategies to survive the tough times—perhaps prosper. R., owner and principal of a strategic communications firm in Portland, Oregon. An excerpt from Brewer’s blog lays it all out:
“Most businesses treat marketing as a discretionary expense, which makes them an easy target for budget cutters. It’s that marketing is a luxury when time is flush. The less customer demand, the less we can market, or so the conventional thinking goes.
But really, can we afford not to market?
It is natural to want to conserve cash during a recession. I was an employer for almost 14 years, so I empathize. But marketing tends to make deep cuts when sales go south. Companies often start by reducing or eliminating external expenses such as advertising, events, sponsorships, research, etc. And when that’s not enough, they fire marketing staff, sometimes entire departments.
The net effect of gutting marketing is to prevent the creation of customer awareness, demand and retention when these things are most needed. It’s a penny-wise, pound-foolish decision.”
Your marketing strategy
Although marketing strategy is not tangible, its role in business is as formidable as the product or service being offered. This contribution is important in every phase of the business plan, from concept to execution and beyond the four aspects of research, planning, identification and finance.
Business plans will continue to add themselves as long as the marketing strategy is formulated and executed properly. Research on your industry and competitors will enable you to develop and formulate a sound, flexible strategy. From here, your marketing plan will serve as a guide that will bring your strategy to life, achieving and exceeding goals while establishing your corporate culture and identity. Remember, a piece of culture works in two ways. Your culture helps shape strategy, and following that strategy will strengthen your culture. Finally, your strategy must be both robust and flexible to withstand the most difficult or unpredictable situations, such as an economic downturn, new trends, or competitors in your industry.
Strategy is a small piece of a bigger picture. It can all be overwhelming at times, sure, but that’s part of the adventure. With dedication, organization, and a champion marketing team (ahem! B&A), the pieces will come together effortlessly, allowing your business’s truly awesome personality to shine through, followed by profits soon after.
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