The term strategy is one of the most abused words in the business dictionary.
A strategy is not a goal. It is not a forecast. It is not a list of things.
It is also not about being the best or the cheapest.
Many businesses I meet may have a long list of actions which are not assigned to anyone; or a fluffy document outlining where they roughly want to be in the next five years.
But this is not strategy.
It’s great to have a vision for where you want to be and having defined business goals is one of the first parts of a great strategy. But in isolation, they are not enough.
Your marketing strategy needs to outline how you are going to achieve those goals.
Strategy is the foundation for everything, it articulates the approach we take towards our markets and provides both clarity and purpose around what we do and more importantly what we don’t do. You need to make choices, because you do not have the resources to do it all.
So how will you determine your competitive advantage? And in which markets?
There are only two ways:
- to lower your costs
- to differentiate.
If you lower your costs and don’t differentiate, you’ll find yourself in the ‘red ocean’. Lots of businesses that all look the same, fishing from the same water and using the same tackle to catch the same fish. The red ocean is a race to the bottom. It isn’t scalable and it isn’t a strategy as discussed here.
If on the other hand you spend time on your differentiation and what makes your business special you can fish in the ‘blue ocean’.
It’s open and clear and there are plenty of opportunities to catch your particular type of fish. You become better at attracting that kind of fish and the likelihood is you can charge more for your specialist services.
So clearly, having a marketing strategy is a huge competitive advantage. Here is a quick six step structure to help you develop yours.
1. Define your business objectives
In order to do this you really need to understand what your mission, vision and values are. What does your business stand for? Where is your business going? You also need to understand what success looks like to you.
2. Researching the landscape
Understand your landscape by carrying out market research using PESTEL and SWOT analysis and understand who your competition are, so you can identify what makes you different.
3. Understand your audience
Once you understand the landscape you need to have a thorough understanding of your audience. This means having documented, detailed personas that outline the most important people in your buying team. Your buyer personas should outline stresses and challenges, common objections, needs, buying triggers, channel usage etc.
4. Understand what makes you different
Once you fully understand the landscape and you know your audience inside out, then you can start to create a differentiation. That differentiation should be woven into every stage of your marketing strategy. If you’re not different, you have no choice but to compete on price.
5. Identify the challenges
Once you have laid the foundation for a successful strategy you should know what challenges you might come up against that might prevent you from meeting your business objectives. You need to list these obstacles, challenges and threats.
6. Create a guiding policy and define a set of actions for each challenge
This is an overall approach, not tactics chosen to cope with or overcome the challenges. Your actions should be designed to carry out the guiding policy and be assigned to individuals who are in a position to implement that change.
So, there you have it, a whistle-stop tour of marketing strategy. I hope you found it useful.