Effective marketing starts with a considered, well-informed marketing strategy. A good marketing strategy helps you define clear, realistic and measurable marketing objectives for your business.
Your marketing strategy affects the way you run your business, so it should be planned and developed in consultation with your team. It is a wide-reaching and comprehensive strategic planning tool that:
- describes your business and its products and services
- explains the position and role of your products and services in the market
- profiles your customers and your competition
- identifies the marketing tactics you will use
- allows you to build a marketing plan (the tactics to deliver) and measure its effectiveness.
A marketing strategy sets the overall direction and goals for your marketing and is therefore different from a marketing plan, which outlines the specific actions you will take to implement your marketing strategy. Your marketing strategy could be developed for the next few years, while your marketing plan usually describes tactics to be achieved in the current year.
Write a successful marketing strategy
Your well-developed marketing strategy will help you realize your business’s goals and focus on the actions required to reach the right customers.
Developing a marketing strategy that includes the components listed below will help you make the most of your marketing investment, keep your marketing focused, and measure and improve your sales results.
Identify your business goals
Align your marketing strategy to the business goals outlined in your business plan; you can then define a set of marketing goals to support them. Your business goals might include:
- increasing awareness of your products and services
- selling more products from a certain supplier
- reaching a new customer segment.
When setting goals it’s critical to be as targeted as possible so you can effectively measure the outcomes against what you set out to achieve. A simple criterion for goal-setting is the SMART method:
- Specific – state clearly what you want to achieve
- Measurable – set tangible measures so you can measure your results
- Achievable – set objectives that are within your capacity and budget
- Relevant – set objectives that will help you improve particular aspects of your business
- Time-bound – set objectives you can achieve within the time you need them.
State your marketing goals
Define a set of specific marketing goals based on the business goals. These goals will motivate you and your team and enable you to track your success.
Examples of marketing goals include increased market penetration (selling more existing products to existing customers) or market development (selling existing products to new target markets). These marketing goals could be long-term and might take a few years to successfully achieve. However, they should be clear and measurable and have time frames for achievement.
Make sure your overall strategies are also practical and measurable. A good marketing strategy will not be changed every year but revised when your strategies have been achieved or your marketing goals have been met. You may need to amend your strategy if your external market changes due to a new competitor or new technology, or if your products substantially change.
Research your market
Research is an essential part of your marketing strategy. You need to gather information about your market, such as its size, growth, social trends, and demographics (population statistics such as age, gender and family type). It is important to keep an eye on your market so you are aware of any changes over time, so your strategy remains relevant and targeted.
Profile your potential customers
Use your market research to develop a profile of the customers you are targeting and identify their needs.
The profile will reveal their buying patterns, including how they buy, where they buy and what they buy. Again, regularly review trends so you don’t miss out on new opportunities or become irrelevant with your marketing message.
While you try to find new customers, make sure your marketing strategy also allows you to maintain relationships with your existing customers.
Profile your competitors
Similarly, as part of your marketing strategy, you should develop a profile of your competitors by identifying their products, supply chains, pricing, and marketing tactics.
Use this to identify your competitive advantage – what sets your business apart from your competitors. You may also want to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your own internal processes to help improve your performance compared with your competition.
Develop strategies to support your marketing goals
List your target markets and devise a set of strategies to attract and retain them. An example goal could be to increase young people’s awareness of your products. Your corresponding strategies could be to increase your online social media presence by posting regular updates about your product on Instagram or Facebook; advertising in local magazines targeted to young people; or offering discounts for students.
Use the ‘7 Ps of marketing
Reach your selected market by utilizing the 7 Ps of the marketing mix. If you can choose the right combination of marketing across product, price, promotion, place, people, process, and physical evidence, your marketing strategy is more likely to be a success. You can choose any combination of these to achieve your marketing strategy.
Test your ideas
In deciding your tactics, do some online research, test some ideas and approaches on your customers and your staff, and review what works. You will need to choose a number of tactics in order to meet your customers’ needs, reach the customers within your target market and improve your sales results.