Creating a Marketing Strategy is one of the most important aspects of promoting your services and products to your target market audience. This is true both for start-ups and established companies. I’m going to focus on the processes of creating a B2B strategy here, but much of this is equally applicable if you are a B2C organisation.
It is perhaps surprising that given the well-documented benefits of having a carefully crafted marketing strategy, that so many companies that I have dealt with over the years don’t actually do this. But without doubt, all have enthusiastically embraced the process of creating and refining their marketing strategy once they have understood the benefits. In many cases, the strategy has become a fundamental and measurable driver of business performance.
In case you’re left in any doubt, here are a few figures which speak for themselves:
> Only 37% of B2B organisations have a documented marketing strategy
> However, 89% of the most successful B2B businesses follow a planned marketing strategy
> Significantly, 81% of B2B organisations using a documented strategy achieve their business goals
What Is a Marketing Strategy?
First let’s start with what it’s not:
> It’s not tactics – your marketing tactics are the ‘tools’ that you use to deliver the marketing strategy. So, examples of a tactic could be a technical delivery solution such as email or a pay-per-click medium (Google Ads, LinkedIn Ads etc.,), an activity such as a webinar series, an annual conference, or even a rebranding exercise.
> it’s not a plan – your plan details what tactics you are going to use to support the strategy and when. A plan also details the marketing costs and projected revenue.
Many marketers confuse these terms and even use them interchangeably, so it’s worth just taking a minute to understand how strategy, tactics, and plans relate to one another. I’ve seen many ‘marketing strategies’ produced that are actually just plans!
Now I know that many of you will be thinking ‘so how does a digital marketing strategy fit into this’? The answer of course is that it’s fine to have a digital marketing strategy or content marketing strategy (or any other strategy) as long as they support the objectives of the overall marketing strategy that you are working to.
Fundamentally, a marketing strategy enables you to clarify your unique business proposition and plan for all your marketing activities around it. A ‘go to market strategy’ if you like, or a ‘market penetration strategy’.
As a marketing strategy example, let’s consider how to develop a marketing strategy for a software product. As a starting point, it goes without saying that you’ll know your competitors very well and therefore you’ll know how they market their product.
Many software products exist in an extremely competitive commercial environment, so one of the first things to research is what is clearly working for them and what isn’t. Where do you always see their company name appearing? If you see a large proportion of your competitors advertising in a print magazine or obtaining similar backlinks to their website from leading industry influencers, then you’ll know that in order to compete, you’ll need to market your company similarly.
But the real art of creating a top-performing marketing strategy in this example is to make sure that you make your print ads better (more relevant) and create better content for the industry influencers to link to. This could be your marketing strategy – just understanding what works best for your industry and do it better than your competitors.
However, it may well be that your competitors have a bigger marketing budget than you. So, in the above marketing strategy example, your strategy may need to be more creative than those well-funded competitors. For example, many software vendors may find that they need to get their product reviewed by a global IT research and consultancy company, but this can be eye-wateringly expensive, even for established companies.
A client of mine faced this very issue. Even though they are a comparatively large organisation (200+ employees) and have offices globally, they did not have the budget to partner with some of these well-known research organisations. Instead, they identified an emerging company that offered a very relevant, highly-focused niche research and consultancy service that suited their available budget and strategy. It worked extremely well for them and illustrates that one of the components that can significantly affect your marketing strategy is your marketing budget!!
Components of a Marketing Strategy Template
At this point, most articles about marketing strategy will promote the usual time-honoured actions of defining your Vision, Objectives, and Goals for your company. Whilst this is a natural and very important process to go through, don’t lose sight of what you are actually striving to achieve here. You are looking to present your company as a clear choice for your given product or service. Your marketing strategy should reflect that.
You will want to be seen as providing something that is better than your competitors (or at the very least is worthy of serious consideration), that has more value, and promises (and delivers) benefits that can be easily understood by your prospects and that they see as being a great fit for their requirements. This approach is often referred-to as a customer value-driven marketing strategy.
You may also wish to be seen as a thought-leader in your field, be a great innovator, and be more authoritative and reliable than the competition for example. The important thing to remember at this stage is that these values must also be reflected in everything that your brand stands for, including how it operates, how your products/services ‘feel’ to your clients, and how your employees interact with your customer base.
So, the components of your marketing strategy template will not stop at your Vision, Objectives and Goals for your company. The components of a good marketing strategy will include an in-depth understanding of items such as:
> Your own business culture and how you convey this to prospects and customers
> Precisely how good your product or service is in relation to your competition
> An evaluation of where you excel, where you could improve, and why you are in business
> How do your clients buy from you, what is the sales process, what are your typical sales cycle timescales, what information do your prospects expect and how do they consume them?
> What is the range of buyer personas that you typically encounter?
> Your available budget!
Building out your marketing strategy around this research will provide you with an in-depth appreciation of how you need to tailor your brand vision. As a consequence, marketing suddenly becomes less of a gut feeling and more of a well-defined process that can be measured, refined, and constantly improved.
The Benefits of a Documented Marketing Strategy
Business owners can often feel that they or their team simply doesn’t have the time to create a well-considered marketing strategy. This can also be the case in a well-established large company, where the sheer workload required from a marketing team can lead to ‘silos’ of marketing activities becoming the focus, rather than the actual strategic marketing objectives. In both scenarios, marketing often can quickly become un-focused and non-productive.
As counter-intuitive as it may initially seem in cases such as those noted above, the really beneficial outcomes of having a documented marketing strategy are:
> Focus and intent are maintained in all marketing streams
> Marketing effectiveness is increased
> Marketing productivity increases
> A well-crafted marketing strategy will provide you with stock phrases and content which can be used throughout your marketing tactics with less work
> Using strategic marketing goals, all marketing can be effectively measured and evaluated
> Your marketing strategy can be reviewed and enhanced at regular intervals with less work
> You will understand precisely how to integrate your various marketing tactics in order to deliver your overall strategy. This is a key and very important component of a modern integrated inbound marketing strategy
> Your marketing won’t run out of steam at a critical time, leaving a yawning marketing gap that needs firefighting in order to compete with your better-prepared competitors
> Your available budget will be spent wisely
Even the smallest of companies can benefit from this approach. A little work and thought at an early stage can save you an awful lot of time and expense in the log-run.
The concept of a well-designed and thoughtful marketing strategy may at first seem to require a lot of work. In actuality, the amount of work that you put into this is down to the time that you have available – but MAKE THAT TIME. While it is no doubt true that the more research and diligence that you put into this process the more that you will get out of it, do not underestimate the value that it will provide even if you only have a limited amount of time and resource to put into it.
Mike Flarry is a brand and digital marketer with a career spanning 30 years. He has helped large and small companies alike to generate more income from their marketing activities and has launched large new brands onto the UK market. He specialises in the marketing of B2B Tech and Software organisations. Follow Mike on LinkedIn