What in the World is Marketing Strategy?

By Carmen Sutherland, Friday, September 27, 2013
Marketing Strategy Image
Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash

I’ve had my share of blank stares when asked what I do. This is usually followed up by another question, ‘so what do you DO?’, implying that because it’s a vague title, I must ‘do’ very little.  So here I state my manifesto, speaking for marketing strategists everywhere. To begin, let’s turn to our friend, Wikipedia, and see what he has to say:

Marketing strategy is a process that can allow an organization to concentrate its resources on the optimal opportunities with the goals of increasing sales and achieving a sustainable competitive advantage.

Not bad. The short version of that is: I’m a planner. Winston Wolf, from Pulp Fiction, “solves problems.” I, a marketing strategist, “make plans.” It’s probably less sexy and I generally don’t speed to my client’s offices in a sports car. Sometimes this plan needs to solve certain problems or challenges, but generally, I help people develop or articulate key components for their business which I then formulate into a plan to drive sales.  Here are a few key questions I ask to help people formulate/re-formulate as a basis for the plan:

What’s so great about you?

If you own a business and can’t answer this question in 30 seconds or less, stop and think about it. Why do your customers do business with you? Why would someone who doesn’t already? What sets you apart from the others doing what you do, or something close enough that your desired customers could go elsewhere? This should be the basis of your marketing message. Sometimes people need help in this area and competitive analysis can help define this.

Are you talk’n to me?

You’ve articulated what makes you ‘all that’, now who are you talking to? Who is your Target Customer? Many small businesses don’t want to limit who they are talking to because they’re so hungry for revenue, they’ll take it wherever they can get it. However, if you don’t have a specific target market in mind, it’s hard to know HOW to tell people what’s so great about you. You may highlight features and/or say something different to a 55-year-old than you would a 25-year-old (though not all segmentations are based on demographics). You may have several segments of customers, but at least in the beginning, you need to put a stake in the ground and decide who your core target is. Then learn as much about them as you can. You’ll make better decisions about your plan with your target customer at your side.

Now that you’ve established who you are and to whom, we can make a marketing plan. Just like the definition says, I choose an optimal plan to reach these target customers with the budget you’ve got. We choose different channels and develop messaging and campaigns for each. The plan ensures consistency – although it may be said many times, in many ways, you still want the same primary messages to get across.

Will the nerd in this crowd of marketing folks please stand up?

What?! A marketing person who lives in spreadsheets and analytics? It’s true. That would be me because I am a geeky numbers type. Numbers and analysis – because plans need to be tracked, measured, and tweaked. This is otherwise known as Marketing Effectiveness and it is the piece people generally like the least. Without it, however, you are a lost ship at sea, a hiker without a compass, an urbanite without their cell phone. You can’t create the “optimal plan” if you aren’t optimizing the money spent into measurable results. And I find this fun.

OK, maybe I really need to start driving that sports car.

Carmen Sutherland is in charge of Marketing Strategy at ThreeDefined, a marketing boutique offering strategy, web and design. They specialize in a powerful 3-hour strategy session called The Triple Threat.

Posted in: Marketing, WWW Learning Center

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