Every business owner should make developing the Marketing strategy for the company and its brands a top priority. A proper process takes into account the overall business goals, internal strengths and weaknesses, the competition and customer profile, among other factors. A well-crafted strategy provides the clear path to success, and makes execution easy.
This article lists the most common elements that should be addressed in a strategic Marketing document. In future posts I will expand on each of the topics.
I always recommend including it in the strategic document because it provides focus, inspiration, and motivation. The vision is usually the owner’s most ambitious goal, almost a dream that seems impossible to achieve. It answers the question “Why are we here?” and ideally it should never change, unless major occurrences make it irrelevant.
This important paragraph includes the answers to the most fundamental business questions such as “What market are we in?”, “What need do we serve?”, “What is the core benefit we are providing to our customers?”, “Who are we serving?” Along with the vision, the mission provide shareholders, management and employees with a sense of direction, pride and purpose. It makes them work toward the common goals as a team rather than separate entities.
Target Market(s) And End-User Profile
Here it is important to be specific about the industry sectors, geographical areas, and the typical end user that the business chooses to serve. The strategic document should provide a clear segmentation of the market based on various criteria such as geographic, socio-economic, product-related etc. The factors that influence the end-user’s buying behavior (social,cultural, personal or psychological) will also have to be identified here. A good understanding of these aspects lead to the employees (the Sales force in particular) focusing on what is really important.
A close look at the competition is needed in order to establish an effective differentiation strategy. The analysis should include product offering, pricing strategy, distribution channels and promotional activities. The good news is that the explosion in communication channels and social media websites makes obtaining competitive information more accessible than ever.
An in-depth and honest look at the company strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats is the mandatory foundation on which any strategy is built. It is also one of the most difficult element to implement as team leaders tend to magnify the strengths and minimize the weaknesses. An effective analysis takes into account all departments including Manufacturing, Marketing, Sales, Finance, IT, and Administration.
Developing an effective Marketing strategy starts with clearly defined objectives. Once the SWOT analysis has been performed the team can establish the medium and long term marketing objectives that support the overall business strategic plan. These objectives can be separated into primary and secondary ones, and listed in the order of importance. Below is an example:
- grow overall sales by 10% yearly.
- increase brand awareness by 20% in 5 years
- expand to 2 international markets in the next 3 years.
The objectives have to be realistic, quantifiable, controllable and measurable.
This has to do with the company’s competitive advantage and what makes its offering different from its competitors. Without strong differentiation that is constantly communicated the only strategy left is to compete on price. Some of the most common differentiation strategies are based on product, service, personnel, emotional, country of origin or distribution channel.
Unique Selling Proposition
Also known as the slogan, or tagline, it represents the summary of the differentiation strategy. A well chosen USP is meaningful long term, easy to remember, and creates preference for your brand. You can read more about what makes a good slogan here.
Includes the desired perception the company wants to create in the mind of consumers. This is developed over time based on a theme that is consistently communicated through different Marketing initiatives.
Probably the most important chapter of the document, it provides the direction to be followed in order to accomplish the Marketing objectives.The company’s differentiation strategy also plays an important role here, as various elements of the marketing mix have to be adapted to support it. Choosing a particular strategy also depends on whether the business is a leader, challenger, follower or a niche player.
Let’s use the primary objective above (“Grow overall sales by 10% yearly”) and think of a few strategies that could accomplish it. Some of them could include:
-identify and introduce 5 new products per year that each contribute 2% to the overall yearly growth
-add the Internet as a new direct distribution channel
-introduce a new line of products for a target segment the company is not currently servicing
This chapter provides a clear picture of the company’s product offering divided (if applicable) into categories, sub-categories, classes, units, etc. It also describes the unique features of the product offering that separates them from competition. The product life cycle ( introduction, growth, maturity and decline) has a direct influence on the overall Marketing strategy.
No product or service, no matter how great it is, will be successful if it not easily available to the target audience. Choosing the right distribution channel depends on the type of product being offered and the end-user buying behavior. Properly implemented, distribution contributes to the overall customer experience and satisfaction with the brand.
Equally important in the overall Marketing mix, price greatly influences the purchase decision and helps create the proper associations with the brand, if executed correctly. The strategic document should include a clear definition of the pricing segment in which a particular brand competes, as well as the desired price positioning versus competition. For example, Hyundai Genesis competes in the premium price segment. As a new entrant to the category, the vehicle is priced 10% lower than the segment leader Mercedes-Benz.
This section contains the general guidelines for promoting the company’s offering thorough various communication tools. Decisions have to be made about using mainly a “push strategy”, “pull strategy”, or a combination of both (which is the case with most companies).
The “Push strategy” involves forcing the product through the distribution channel, which in turn is responsible for generating end user awareness and purchase. Personal selling and trade shows play a major role here.
A “pull strategy”’s goal is to generate end-user awareness by skipping the middle man, the distributor. In order to achieve this the company has to rely heavily on advertising, social media and end-user promotions.
Each strategy listed in the “Marketing Strategies” section is implemented through various marketing programs. They require budget allocation to different initiatives and properly combining the elements of the Marketing mix to achieve the desired outcome. The strategic documents should list the project managers responsible for coordination, as well as meeting the budgets and deadlines.
Feedback and Control
These elements are important in order to maintain the relevance of the strategy. Most macro-economic factors remain fairly constant over time. Others, such as competition, pricing, distribution channel can change yearly and even monthly. Te company has to put in place effective tools to monitor and track these changes in order to respond accordingly.
It’s worth mentioning that the structure above is based on my personal experience in developing the Marketing strategy for various companies. You should adapt it to your individual needs and specificity of each market segment.
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