A marketing strategy is a business' overall game plan for reaching people and turning them into customers of the product or service that the business provides. The marketing strategy of a company contains the company’s value proposition, key marketing messages, information on the target customer, and other high level elements. The marketing strategy informs the marketing plan, which is a document that lays out the types and timing of marketing activities. A company’s marketing strategy should have a longer lifespan than any individual marketing plan as the strategy is where the value proposition and the key elements of a company’s brand reside. These things ideally do not shift very much over time.
Marketing strategy is a section of your business plan that outlines your overall game plan for how you'll find and attract clients or customers to your business. Sometimes marketing strategy is confused with a marketing plan, but they are different. Your marketing strategy focuses on what you want to achieve for your business and marketing efforts. A marketing plan details how you'll achieve those goals.
BREAKING DOWN 'Marketing Strategy'
People frequently confuse marketing strategies and marketing plans. It is not unusual to find the marketing strategy and the marketing plan baked together into a single document as they feed off one another. Although the transition between the two is blurry, a marketing strategy covers the big picture of what the business offers - the value proposition and related brand messaging. The marketing plan is how the business will get across those key message - the platforms, the creative, the timing, and so on. The marketing strategy may also be absorbed upwards into the corporate value statements and other strategy documents.
The Creation of a Marketing Strategy.
A marketing strategy grows out of a company’s value proposition. The value proposition summarizes the competitive advantage a company has in its market. The value proposition usually provides the key message for all marketing. Walmart, for example, is a discount retailer with “everyday low prices” and its business operations and marketing revolves around that. So a company is never creating a marketing strategy from scratch. They start with the value proposition and distill the key marketing message(s) from that.
Once the value proposition is succinctly stated, the hard work is done. Any marketing asset, from a print ad design to a social media campaign, can be judged by how well it communicates the value proposition. To further the efficiency of marketing efforts, market research can be added to the marketing strategy for the purpose of identifying untapped audiences or refining the target consumer. Finally, an overall goal for the marketing strategy can be set, with all the subsequent marketing plans inheriting the responsibility for delivering on it. These can be concrete, bottom line goals like increasing sales or something less direct like climbing the ranking of trusted providers within the industry.
Marketing plans are operational documents that get more attention because they are the day-to-day work that a company does to sell itself to the world. That said, a marketing plan would be meaningless without a message, a target market, and a goal - the core of every marketing strategy.
When is a Marketing Strategy Developed?
The marketing strategy is created before you start your business. You can't effectively market without understanding how your business fits into the marketplace, your competition, how you'll compete, and what you need to achieve (i.e. sales numbers) to reach your financial goals. Then, you use what you've learned to create your marketing plan, and start your business.
Like a business plan, marketing strategies can be fluid, changing as needed to improve your results. Once your business is operational, you'll need to assess and adjust your marketing strategy from time to time to account for changing market conditions, shifts in demand, and other factors that impact your sales, as a result of your market research activities and performance of your business.
How to Create a Marketing Strategy.
Before writing your marketing strategy, you need to know how your product or service benefits others and how it's unique (unique selling proposition) to other businesses in the marketplace. Further you need to do market researchto understand your competition, your target market, and other factors that will impact your ability to reach and entice people to your business.
A good marketing strategy incorporates what you know about how your business fits into the market and the 5 Ps of marketing to develop techniques and tactics that will achieve your marketing objectives.
Once you have your research, you can write your marketing strategy incorporating the 5 Ps of your marketing mix.
Product: What you selling? What are the physical attributes of your product or uniqueness of your service? How is what you offer different from your competitors and what benefits does it provide your customer?
Price: What will it cost to get your product or service? How does it compare to your competition? What will your profit margin be by selling at that price?
Place: Where will your products and services be available for purchase? This is beyond having a home office, and instead should be where consumers are able buy. If you're in multiple places, you should work to calculate the percentage of sales from each place. For example, what will your Internet marketing strategy be? What is your sales strategy? How will the transaction take place, what is the cost of getting the product or service to the consumer/client, and what will be your refund/return policy?
Promotion: How are you going to let the market know about your product or services? How will you tell them about the features and benefits you provide to entice them to check out what you offer? What marketing tactics will you use and what do you anticipate will be the results of each method?
Include information about any incentives or coupons you'll use to attract business.
People: This in a newly added "P" to the marketing mix, and is important if other people are involved in helping you create or deliver your product or service. Who are these people (i.e. sales people, virtual assistants) and what do they do (i.e. sales calls, customer service)? What is there level of training and/or experience in providing help to your business?
When writing your plan, be specific, using detailed steps, visuals, and budget projections. Keep your brand(your promise to the customer) in mind so that your marketing strategy fits with what you want the customer to experience when doing business with you. Be sure to refer to your marketing strategy as you develop, assess, or change your marketing plan.
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