Written By Lisa Wood.
Theory or practice?
Experience tells me when you start talking ‘strategy’ in a business you enter a theoretical domain where people love the debate, but when you dig down, they’re cynical about the translation into the everyday. What people get really fired up about and drive passionately, is day-to-day performance, not strategy. That’s because performance is visible and tangible, it gets you excited (or uneasy), whereas strategy sits behind the scenes, the silent partner.
If things aren’t going well, it’s easy for human nature to drive us into tactical mode with scatter-gun activity to fix the problem – instinctively we act, rather than think. Better to be seen to be doing something rather than nothing, right? But sometimes it is better to take a breath, ask some fundamental questions and be confident that what you’re doing is the right thing. Having a marketing strategy sets the scene, answers those fundamental questions and points you in the right direction.
Where businesses can go wrong is talking the good talk around ‘strategy’, but not translating it through into their everyday plans.
If you know what your business goals are, then your marketing strategy, translated into a plan of action, serves as your roadmap to help get you there. It makes execution easier, saving you time and money. A good marketing strategy will accelerate your business growth and set clear direction for all your marketing activities. Strategy and performance are not separate to one another – a well thought through and validated marketing strategy is the fuel that feeds strong performance.
The building blocks
A core part of any marketing strategy is delivering a clear articulation of what makes you different and how you stand-out in the market you’re serving. You need to understand what customers want and where best to engage them to get your business on their radar.
Remember that whilst your business is the centre of your attention for many hours of the day, for a customer you’re a passing thought in a sea of many. You may think your proposition is the best thing since sliced bread, but your target audience has yet to be convinced! You need to build familiarity and hammer home your USP if you’re going to win their business.
Know what you want to say, keep saying it at every touchpoint and create consistent visual branding to help build brand recognition. Your marketing strategy sets this framework and defines who your customers are and where to find them.
You also need to out-smart your competitors. Know them well – what they offer, how they’re priced, what marketing tactics they’re using and why customers are buying from them. Understand their strengths and weaknesses and identify gaps that can be exploited. Your marketing strategy uses this insight to help you differentiate yourself and stand-out from the pack.
The trick to strong execution of your marketing strategy is measuring performance. The strategy aligns marketing activity to your business goals and defines the right marketing metrics to track, so you know you’re delivering what’s needed to drive the success of the business. Performance data does the talking, it’s the life-blood of your strategy – going back to my first paragraph in this blog – business performance is the visible bit that people get passionate about. Strategy has to be tied back to data or it dies!
Big or small, it matters
So what if you’re a start-up business operating on a tight budget with small marketing budgets – does strategy matter? Yes, big time! You’re at the start of your journey and one of the most important things you can do from a marketing perspective is make sure you’re presenting what you do in the right way and creating a brand that grabs attention. It’s not all about marketing budget – your own channels, content you’re creating and any PR or ‘earned’ coverage is all a showcase of your brand.
If you are spending, then you want to know you’re doing activity in the best place to get a return on ad spend. Your marketing strategy makes sure you are well targeted and in the channels that are most likely to engage your audience, and importantly, ensure it’s being measured. You can also pull on the competitor analysis – where does it look like they’re having the most success and try it for yourself.
To wrap things up, there’s a very real commercial rationale why having a marketing strategy in place in any business is essential:
Saves time & money – you’ll maximise efficiency in your marketing activities if you know who you should be targeting, where to find them and what messages are most likely to resonate.
Creates stand-out & memorability – knowing why you’re better than competitors and articulating that well through your messaging and brand identity, makes you stick in people’s minds.
Supports faster decision-making – with the right Key Performance Indicators and metrics in place, you’ll know what’s working, how well you’re delivering against business goals and be able to take swift action.
Think about the most successful companies you know and I can guarantee they’ll have a clear strategy – they’re on a mission, they know why they exist, who they’re for and they are absolutely consistent in the way they present themselves. There’s focus and clear intent played out across all of their touchpoints.
Whilst it may appear on the surface that a marketing strategy is a little academic and time could be better spent doing marketing, rather than thinking about it, hopefully I’ve convinced you that it’s part of your fundamental business roadmap. It creates a fly-wheel effect – a small win for your business that builds over time to create real momentum and growth.
Don’t undervalue the benefit of having a well defined marketing strategy – in a recent Marketing Week article, more than half of the marketers taking part in their annual survey said businesses are undervaluing marketing strategy, with those in the B2B space most likely to be underplaying its value. Given this context, Marketing strategy could be a very real competitive advantage for you.
Looking to define your marketing strategy with the help of an experienced partner, we’re ready and waiting!
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