How to develop a marketing strategy

How to develop a marketing strategy

Your marketing strategy is very simply. It defines how you are going to market your products, services or business to customers. It lays out what your objectives are and how youre going to execute them. But that definition is very broad, and a marketing strategy can in fact cover anything from a ten-year vision for marketing your business to how to shift sales on one product over the next three weeks.

As such, the advice here is intended to guide you towards the skeleton of your marketing strategy – you can flesh it out with the help of other guides on Smarta.

What should a marketing strategy achieve?

Your strategy will depend on where you want your business to go – it forms part of your overall business aims.

The following are examples of what your overall business aim might be, and marketing strategies that you could use to achieve it:

Retain existing profitable customers

Offer existing customers exclusive offers

Ensure business stays fresh and new

Whatever your marketing strategy covers, you should definitely put it down in writing.

Make everything simple to understand, realistic, and with a clear path of action.

It will then become part of your longer and more detailed marketing plan, which is the document that deals with a more overarching and long-term view of your business (and so makes up a section of your business plan).

Be ready to adapt your marketing strategy as and when necessary – there are an infinite number of factors that could require a change. Its flexibility thatll keep you ahead of the competition.

How to develop a marketing strategy, step-by-step

. You need to carry out detailed analyses of these three areas:

: the size of your market, how quickly its growing, your customers and their spending and lifestyle habits.

: monitor both direct and indirect competition and how they compare with you on every aspect of sales and marketing (their customers, their brand, price, convenience of location, sales channels, and so on).

: your overall business objectives, how you are going to achieve them, your strengths and weaknesses and those of your products or services.

Read more about how to carry out this research in our guide onmarket research.

. Next you need to identify your target customers, using the information youve gathered from your research and, if needed, more detailed customer research. Then you have to:

: split your existing and target customers into groups, according to what they need from your business – which will differ. Some will want cost-effectiveness, some quality, some great customer service, and so on.

: how you compare to your competitors for each of your customer segments – are you the fastest, do you have the best customer service, are you the third most popular, and so on.

. Now you need to examine your product or service with the aim of working out how youre going to market it and outdo competitors, according to these:

: what it can offer that no other product or business can. (Read more in our guide onUSPs.)

From your USPs, draw out what benefits your product or service offers to the customer. These may well vary between your various customer segments. You need to look very closely at what the customer actually sees: while Starbucks sells coffee, the benefit to the customer is a place to relax and have a chat with a friend or a place to sit with a laptop. Your USP may be that you deliver pizza faster than competitors to people in your area, but the benefit to the customer is that they dont have to cook and can receive a ready-made meal quickly. The way you define the benefits will shape your marketing message.

. How you are now going to communicate the benefits of buying your product or service or using your business to your target customers (again, this may well vary between your various customer segments).

: the combination of all the marketing tools you are going to use to communicate your benefits to your customers. For example: advertising, PR, word of mouth, distribution channels, pricing, promotion, which products youll sell to them, display in a shop, website, and so on.

can be useful when youre putting your marketing mix together: Product, Placing, Pricing and Promotion.

Having developed your strategy, you can now write it into a marketing plan.

The plan goes into the logistical details of executing your strategy, such as budgets, more detailed timescales, who within your company will manage the various points of the strategy, the logistics of various distribution channels and their incumbent costs and so on.

As such, it is of course a longer and more detailed document.

Your marketing plan is typically a more live document than your strategy (meaning you will tweak and update it more regularly). As costings, market conditions, economic conditions and other factors change, youll need to adjust your plan to accommodate them – whereas your strategy could well remain the same.

For both your strategy and your plan to be useful, you need to closely monitor the results of marketing activity, and be ready to adapt both as necessary.

Marketing mix: the combination of all the marketing tools you are going to use to communicate your benefits to your customers, including and for example: advertising, PR, word of mouth, distribution channels, pricing, promotion, which products youll sell to them, display in a shop, website, and so on. In a nutshell: product, placing, pricing and promotion.

Now,find out what needs to be in your business strategy here.

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Develop a marketing strategy

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Write and implement a marketing plan

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Effective marketing starts with a considered, well-informed marketing strategy. A good marketing strategy helps you define your vision, mission and business goals, and outlines the steps you need to take to achieve these goals.

Your marketing strategy affects the way you run your entire business, so it should be planned and developed in consultation with your team. It is a wide-reaching and comprehensive strategic planning tool that:

describes your business and its products and services

explains the position and role of your products and services in the market

profiles your customers and your competition

identifies the marketing tactics you will use

allows you to build a marketing plan and measure its effectiveness.

A marketing strategy sets the overall direction and goals for your marketing, and is therefore different from a marketing plan, which outlines the specific actions you will take to implement your marketing strategy. Your marketing strategy could be developed for the next few years, while your marketing plan usually describes tactics to be achieved in the current year.

Your well-developed marketing strategy will help you realise your businesss goals and build a strong reputation for your products. A good marketing strategy helps you target your products and services to the people most likely to buy them. It usually involves you creating one or two powerful ideas to raise awareness and sell your products.

Developing a marketing strategy that includes the components listed below will help you make the most of your marketing investment, keep your marketing focused, and measure and improve your sales results.

To develop your marketing strategy, identify your overarching business goals, so that you can then define a set of marketing goals to support them. Your business goals might include:

When setting goals its critical to be as targeted as possible so you can effectively measure the outcomes against what you set out to achieve. A simple criteria for goal-setting is the SMART method:

pecific – state clearly what you want to achieve

easurable – set tangible measures so you can measure your results

chievable – set objectives that are within your capacity and budget

elevant – set objectives that will help you improve particular aspects of your business

ime-bound – set objectives you can achieve within the time you need them.

Define a set of specific marketing goals based on the business goals you listed above. These goals will motivate you and your team and help youbenchmark your success.

Examples of marketing goals include increased market penetration (selling more existing products to existing customers) or market development (selling existing products to new target markets). These marketing goals could be long-term and might take a few years to successfully achieve. However, they should be clear and measurable and have time frames for achievement.

Make sure your overall strategies are also practical and measurable. A good marketing strategy will not be changed every year, but revised when your strategies have been achieved or your marketing goals have been met. Also, you may need to amend your strategy if your external market changes due to a new competitor or new technology, or if your products substantially change.

Research is an essential part of your marketing strategy. You need togather information about your market, such as its size, growth, social trends and demographics (population statistics such as age, gender and family type). It is important to keep an eye on your market so you are aware of any changes over time, so your strategy remains relevant and targeted.

Use your market research to develop a profile of the customers you are targeting andidentify their needs.

The profile will reveal their buying patterns, including how they buy, where they buy and what they buy. Again,regularly review trendsso you dont miss out on new opportunities or become irrelevant with your marketing message.

While you try tofind new customers, make sure your marketing strategy also allows you to maintain relationships with your existing customers.

Similarly, as part of your marketing strategy you should develop aprofile of your competitorsby identifying their products, supply chains, pricing and marketing tactics.

Use this to identify yourcompetitive advantage- what sets your business apart from your competitors. You may also want to identify thestrengths and weaknessesof your own internal processes to help improve your performance compared with your competition.

List your target markets and devise a set of strategies to attract and retain them. An example goal could be to increase young peoples awareness of your products. Your corresponding strategies could be to increase youronline social media presenceby posting regular updates about your product on Twitter and Facebook; advertising in local magazines targeted to young people; and offering discounts for students.

Identify your tactical marketing mix using the7 Ps of marketing. If you can choose the right combination of marketing across product, price, promotion, place, people, process and physical evidence, your marketing strategy is more likely to be a success.

In deciding your tactics, do some online research, test some ideas and approaches on your customers and your staff, and review what works. You will need to choose a number of tactics in order to meet your customers needs, reach the customers within your target market and improve your sales results.

Find out how towrite and implement your marketing plan.

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