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Developing a marketing strategy

marketing branding

This months blog post was written by Thomas Emmerson from Vanguard86.  It shares some great information on developing your marketing strategy for your business.

A good marketing strategy is essential to creating a business that can grow. Understanding who your customers are, where they go to find products like yours, and the competition you’re up against are basic pillars of running a successful business.

Yet the reality is that few businesses focus enough time on a proper marketing strategy. Instead businesses take one of two stances on marketing:

1 – Build it and they will come

This philosophy relies on your mere presence attracting enough word of mouth that people are falling over themselves to buy from you.

2 – Don’t rock the boat

This one is adopted by a lot of established businesses and involves simply doing nothing. Change is bad and new-fangled marketing methods simply don’t work in your market.

The mere fact that you’re reading a blog entitled ‘Developing a marketing strategy’ is a sign that you clearly don’t believe either of those approaches. Good on you!

What is a marketing strategy?

A marketing strategy is like any strategy. It’s a long-term look ahead at your future but with a specific focus on your market, customers and offering. You’ll be identifying the competitors in your industry, the likely threats to you and your industry, and how you can stay ahead of the competition.

You can do a high-level strategy or go into real granular detail using predictive modelling and well-established analysis tools. The more questions you answer, and the more problems you throw at it the better it is likely to be.

Who needs a marketing strategy?

Everyone needs a strategy but the depth you go into varies depending on your business and its size. An instagram star needs a marketing strategy, but they probably don’t need to study Porter’s 5 forces.

Likewise a massive business is likely to already know the theory of a marketing strategy but what they need is a shake-up. They’ll need to understand how new technology is changing, how their customers seek out information, and as people’s habits change so should their marketing strategy.
What’s the difference between a marketing plan and a marketing strategy?
A marketing strategy is a high-level direction, whereas a marketing plan is how to make that strategy a reality. The plan puts the strategy under the microscope and really tests the viability of the strategic direction.

The reason why you haven’t found a marketing strategy that you can download and use effectively is because your marketing strategy is unique to you. And if the strategy is unique, then the plan will be too.

The reason a marketing strategy is a unique entity to your business is that your offering, your resources, your competitors, and your customers, are going to be completely different to one of your competitors developing their own plan to target the same people in the same market.

How to create a marketing strategy

Different marketers have a different take on this so you won’t find a solid answer from anyone. Some marketers focus on products, some on markets, some on people, and depending on their focus they’ll tell you to start in their place of interest.

I used to work for a large Japanese manufacturer selling products into Europe, and was part of the team that had to market those products to European customers. The company was an engineering firm with a global view, of which Europe was a small part of their view. So we had to take a product-first approach, which meant we were handed a product and had to find a market and a customer that the product suited. Sometimes this meant creating markets that had never existed before.

Another business I worked in was market focused. They looked at the competition and aimed to be the faster version of X product, or the sportier version of Y. They looked at the gaps in the market then developed products to fill them, and because of the platform they had it was relatively easy to do this.

The other avenue is to be a customer-centric company. This is what we’ve tried to build Vanguard 86 as and there’s a good reason for it. Most companies say they’re customer-centric, but in reality they are product or competitor-centric. They say they are customer focused because no person wants to give their money to a business where they’re not the focus.
What does it mean to have a customer-centric marketing strategy?

“If I’d of asked the people what they’d wanted they would have said ‘faster horses'” – Henry Ford

In order to be customer-centric you must start your strategy with the customer. Who are they, who are you looking to target, where do the most profitable customers lie? What are their pain points and what needs do they have that need filling?

Some companies do this naturally. Apple for example (under Steve Jobs) was very customer-centric, he knew what customers wanted before they did! Henry Ford was the same.

In our opinion, a good marketing strategy starts by asking ‘who’ – who are you looking to sell to? Then you ask ‘what’ – what are their frustrations? Followed by asking ‘where’ – where do they go for answers/help? And of course you ask ‘why’ – why are you a good fit to fix these frustrations?

Who

As well as identifying groups of people that you see opportunity in, you need to look at their demographic, their behaviours, their locations, and where they go for information.

What

What keeps them up at night, what might they consider as an alternative solution to their problems if they don’t find you. What does their day look like, and what kind of budget might they have to spend on you a solution?

Where

Where do your ideal customers go for solutions and answers? Do they go online, to friends and family, do they go to the newspaper? Do they have influencers, do they go on YouTube or LinkedIn?

Why

Once you’ve answered all of the above (and more), you have to understand why you might be a good fit solution for them. This includes the solutions you offer, how they’re presented to the prospect and possible investments you might have to make to fill their needs.

Answering all of these questions helps you to go on to the next stage, which is developing a marketing plan for creating assets (like a blog, website, social media posts) that help connect your products/services to your customers.

Thanks to Thomas Emmerson from Vanguard86  for this months blog post.