Now more than ever your business needs a clear marketing strategy. In a post Covid-19 world it will be important to understand where your opportunities are and who your customers will be.
Marketing a business isn't just a process to make more sales, it covers quite a bit more than just that. But making more sales is a fundamental part of marketing and marketing your business can get quite tricky without clear direction and purpose.
TIME IS MONEY
Creating a marketing strategy takes time. Something we all need more of in today's busy world. But we could be wasting valuable time if we just take a random approach to the marketing of our businesses. So by investing time upfront to get a detailed strategy locked down could save us lots of time in the future by only doing what's right.
However, a good marketing strategy also develops over time as some of the process we have taken time to write down might need to be changed, adapted or tweaked to get it spot on. There is no such thing as a perfect marketing strategy and that's because your market can change, your customers can change and your business can change. Three vitally important areas to consider for any marketing strategy.
ONE PAGE PROCESS
Lots of business owners think the marketing strategy process is a difficult one to navigate. Something that in the end produces a document that's pages and pages of stuff. But it doesn't have to be War and Peace! Taking a "One Page" approach will help to hone your focus to what's really important here. After all this is a document you need to keep handy and review to ensure you are on track to meet your goals and objectives.
Using one of the more widely used strategy processes, The Four "P"'s here are the main things to consider when drafting your marketing strategy:
PRODUCT (Brand, Services, Packaging)
You have an idea for a product or service but that's just the start. Wrapping a brand around it to bring it to life and make it engaging and unique all need careful thought. If it's a physical product packaging needs consideration. But these days customers think about sustainability issues and their impact on the environment. Having a product that meets the demands of conscious consumption savvy customers could be a way of putting distance between you and your nearest competitor. So lots to consider to get the branding, packaging and product detail right.
PRICE (Product Price, Discounts, Offers, Terms)
One of the hardest things to get right is the price you charge for your products or services. As a start-up I agree it can be tricky to determine how you price what you sell without selling yourself short. Price is often determined by quality, your service and the benefits your product offers. Initially you will need to do some research to understand competitor pricing models and then identify where you fit in. One of the biggest commodities any business has is the price it offers and that's because its the most obvious thing to change, reduce or discount to make yourself more competitive. Remember the biggest consideration to think about when determining price is the margin you make. The better the margin the more competitive you can be when it's needed.
Trading on price is often a slippery slope so think about the depth to your proposition which I talk about later.
PLACE (Market, Channel, Distribution)
These days and since the four P's model came in to being, the number of "places" you can sell through have gone off the scale. Bricks and Mortar is not the only option in 2019. Aside from your own ecommerce website you can use third party sites like Ebay, Amazon, Etsy and sites like Shopify that help you set up your business right through to taking care of your shipping and distribution.
Choosing the right ways to be visible to your potential customers is important for one very simple reason. Cost! Set-up costs can be considerable. Websites when done well can cost thousands but can be done effectively on Wix or Squarespace or WordPress for a set fee. So it's worth researching this further.
PROMOTION (Advertising, Promotion, Publicity)
Have a think about how you intend to reach your customers. How will you get them interested in what you are selling? Using the right channels to engage your prospects has to be your biggest consideration as you take the plunge and launch your business.
You will have lots of examples of competitors current activity so have a look at what they are doing. The obvious things like Google Adwords may not be entirely right and can prove costly. TV advertising is far from dead. In fact it's growing, but depending on who you are it could be bottom or top of your list.
For B2B businesses look at ways to get your business noticed like Google My Business (don't forget Bing), social channels depending on what you sell, content marketing to create thought leadership in your sector and perhaps local sponsorship. In the early days of any business launch Adwords may help drive initial traffic to your site but as I mentioned earlier limits need to be set and it needs to be monitored.
BEFORE YOU START ON THE 4 P'S
Looking at the detail behind the 4 P's I've listed the following which should be the very first things to look at. Without these things being in place, tied down and firmly agreed its going to be quite difficult to pin down the detail for each P.
Who is Your Customer: Knowing your audience in terms of who they are, how many of them there are to target geographically and how this group buy are all things that need thorough research. Age, social and economic groups and gender are also things to consider as they play an important part in how you talk to your audience and target them.
Identify Your Unique Advantage: Propositions are generally never given enough time and effort and yet propositions are the one thing that can really put distance between you and your competitors. The more alike you are the less there is to differentiate you from everyone else. And when that happens it usually comes down to price. And when your proposition isn't strong enough you have to accept margin erosion as a given. Look at electrical retailers. Consumer electronics are notoriously low margin products so how often do you see Curry's talk about customer service, aftersales care, knowledgeable sales staff and depth of range to add value to what they are doing.
Know Your Market: Competitors will be looking at you so look at them. Know them and what they do inside out. By understanding all your competitors thoroughly you can really nail the detail behind each and every one of the 4 P's. A good old fashioned SWAT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) is a good way to create the detail around each competitor. It will help you decide what the differences are between each one of them. But it is time consuming if it is done well. So plan your time.
How Should I Engage Prospects?: How do your potential new customers like to be approached. Talking in their terms will help you get noticed. So if you are selling something technology based or a support service you may need to adopt a "plain English" approach and drop the jargon. Then again if you are talking to tech heads the jargon will be the very thing they are looking for.
Once you have this detail you can start planning your strategy and bring it to life.
CREATING YOUR TACTICAL ACTIVITY
Once you have an agreed marketing strategy your next mission is to bring it to life in the form of a tactical marketing plan. This is the plan that identifies what you are going to do, where you will do it and when and detail what return this activity will give you.
What Should Be in Your Tactical Plan - As no marketing process stops at the strategy, having a good tactical plan will allow you to plan the next 6-12 months and beyond depending on your type of business and allow you to have everything planned out in advance. The big consideration here is the word "tactical". It's all well and good having a good tactical plan of your marketing activity agreed for budgeting and resource planning but daily/weekly revue will help to keep it "tactical" and not out of date!
Measurement and Return - Making time to measure how successful your strategy and activity are is vital. A clear focus on the ROI (Return on Investment) is important to ensure what you are doing is producing the required result. Don't fall in to the trap of continuing to do activity when its not producing the return. Have set targets agreed and track each activities ROI.
Whilst there are many ways to "skin a cat" as they say, marketing strategy is quite straightforward. You are identifying how to succeed and how you will make that success happen. Don't over think it.
It takes time and research to get it right. Defining a strategy is not a five minute process, but the upfront investment in time and effort by you and your fellow decision makers will save lots more of your time and effort in the future. No business has bottomless pockets, so not having a marketing strategy should really not be an option unless you have.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I'm Stephen Moore FCIM, a Strategic Marketing Consultant and part-time Marketing Director living in beautiful Suffolk. I support businesses large and small in Suffolk, Norfolk, Essex, Cambridgeshire and London. I have been writing about marketing developments for 20 years with articles in The Metro, City AM, Fresh Business Thinking, AllWork, The Marketer and Marketing Week.