What is Strategy?
Strategy is the development of your company’s long-term, big picture vision. It examines and helps shape and define the fundamentals of your business. It provides the roadmap for where your business is headed. Marketing strategy takes into account your company, your competitors, and your customers to set goals and key performance indicators that your business will work toward achieving. In short, marketing strategy provides the foundation upon which your entire marketing plan is built.
A good forward-looking marketing strategy begins by examining the present. You need to take a good hard look at every facet of your business and make objective, honest evaluations. This can be a difficult, uncomfortable exercise for many companies. That’s okay. It should be a bit uncomfortable. Remember that you are working toward the goal of creating a marketing strategy that positions your business for bigger and better things. Experiencing a few bumps and bruises along the way will be well worth it in the end.
What does your company currently do well? In what areas could you improve? Answering these questions is an important early step in developing a sound marketing strategy. You’ll also want to think about other areas of your business that impact, and are impacted by, marketing including sales, operations, distribution, and customer service. It is important that your marketing strategy integrates with your entire organization.
The next step after analyzing your business is to analyze your competitors. Items to consider include each firm’s line of products and services, their market share, their level of brand awareness and brand equity, and their respective strengths and weaknesses. Brand positioning is an important component of this phase of marketing strategy development. How is your brand perceived in the marketplace versus your competition? Are you known for your high-quality products? Exemplary customer service? Affordable prices? Understanding where and how your brand fits in the overall marketplace will help guide your marketing strategy. There are many ways to approach this, including SWOT analysis, perceptual mapping, and market segmentation analysis. Regardless of which method or methods is utilized, the goal is to fully understand your industry, and where your company fits within it.
After analyzing your company and your competitors, you’ll also want to focus on your customers. Specifically, spend time analyzing your ideal customers, those who generate the most revenue and are the most loyal. What do they like about your products and services? How can your business acquire more new customers just like them? Truly understanding your customers, their wants and needs, their desires and pain points, is crucial to creating a visionary marketing strategy.
Once you’ve analyzed your company, your competitors, and your customers, another important component of a successful marketing strategy is establishing goals and key performance indicators (KPIs). These goals and KPIs should reflect the big-picture thinking involved in your marketing strategy. Your goals should make sense for your business, based on what you want your company to become. They should also be measurable and quantifiable in some way. You will also want to set goals that are attainable. This doesn’t mean that you can’t, or shouldn’t, dream big. But there should be a realistic opportunity to achieve the goals that are established.
Why is Strategy Important?
Strategy is important because it provides the roadmap for all tactical marketing decisions that your company makes. Your strategic marketing plan will provide direction about which advertising and promotional channels to use. Decisions about digital and traditional advertising, trade shows and industry partnerships, special promotions and customer loyalty programs should all be filtered through the lens of your marketing strategy. Your strategic marketing plan will also help your company determine appropriate pricing for your products and services, as well as identify any new opportunities or threats facing your industry and determine how best to navigate them.
A sound marketing strategy also helps bring focus to your overall business. Remember, strategy is forward-looking and long-term. Too often businesses make decisions based on short-term thinking that seeks immediate results. Continually referring back to your strategic marketing plan will help you determine if an opportunity makes sense and will help your business achieve its long-term overarching objectives or not. Competitive and market forces will sometimes dictate that certain business decisions are borne of short-term need. But in general, marketing strategy should remain focused on achieving your long-term business goals and objectives to set your company up for optimum success not only now, but for many years to come.