The Fundamental Guide to Marketing Strategy
What is a marketing strategy?
A marketing strategy is a “big picture” plan of action that outlines a business's long-term goals and objectives for promoting and selling its products or services. The focus of a marketing strategy is on the brand’s value proposition, how they intend to communicate it, the target market demographics, and all the necessary channels they need to use to reach their intended target audience.
A marketing strategy is designed to inform various shorter-term marketing plans, and must thus be comprehensive, while also being fluid in response to the market. An effective marketing strategy not only considers making sales, but it also looks at capturing market data to avoid being out of touch with the target market.
In this post, we will be examining marketing strategy in relation to field marketing, but the concepts apply to other areas in the marketing industry. We are going to explore the reasons why a marketing strategy is valuable, the core elements of a marketing strategy, the differences between a marketing strategy and a marketing plan, and how you can improve your marketing strategy with field marketing.
Are marketing strategies different from marketing plans?
These two terms actually refer to different things despite the frequency with which they are used interchangeably. A marketing strategy can be thought of as what you intend to achieve, where a marketing plan is how it will be achieved.
A marketing strategy is the reason or purpose for your marketing efforts. It is informed by the business strategy and primarily focuses on the value proposition and how it will be delivered to the consumer. An effective marketing strategy keeps the team aligned with the goals and objectives of the strategy. A clearly defined marketing structure is vital to the growth of any business.
A marketing plan is more tactical and focuses on the specifics of how the strategy will be implemented. An effective marketing plan is informed by a good marketing strategy. It outlines the plan of execution for the objectives laid out in the marketing strategy and details the methods to be used for measuring and tracking success.
This difference can be more clearly illustrated with an example. In the case of a smartphone brand that wants to grow its annual revenue by 30% as one of its business goals for the year, one of the objectives in their marketing strategy might be to make a smartphone purchase a more social activity to capitalize on network effects. The plan would then execute that objective by having a field marketing campaign that offers discount coupons for couples buying matching devices in physical stores over Valentine’s day.
What is in a Marketing Strategy?
Executive Summary – A brief summary or outline of the whole marketing strategy
Background – A breakdown of your business goals, marketing goals, and challenges
Market Analysis – A description of the opportunities in the market, the size of the market, its various segments, and external forces/influences that could affect your market such as trends and economic changes
Target Audience – A detailed cross-sectional view of your market segments and their traits (demographic and psychographic information, buying patterns, pain points, positioning of benefits, and value proposition)
Competitive Analysis – A breakdown of all existing competitors and their traits (threats, market share comparison, differentiation, barriers to entry)
Offering – An outline of all the services and products you offer to the market, what the market’s needs are, the features and benefits directed at each market segment, and the proposed means of delivering these services and products.
Brand Message – An overview of how the brand is perceived by the market, how you intend to be perceived by each market segment, substantiation of that desired perception, and where relevant, testimonials from happy consumers.
Sales Analysis – A breakdown of all the sales channels, determining whether your products and services are planned or impulse purchases, the buyer journey and consumers’ purchasing criteria ie
Pricing – Determine whether or not pricing is an important factor in your consumers’ purchasing choices and if so, how.
Communication and promotion – What are your brand touchpoints with the various target segments? Can these be enhanced or supported with marketing activities? Are there any channels currently being used that are not particularly relevant to the target audience?
How do you create a field marketing strategy?
A well-designed field market strategy is the bedrock of any successful and competitive brand. To create an effective marketing strategy, there are a few key activities and components needed, namely a SWOT analysis; a clear value proposition; objectives for the strategy; buyer personas; human and financial resources; and a method for measuring outputs. With these six pieces in place, you will be ready to draft an effective marketing strategy.
Conduct a SWOT analysis
Like any other strategy, marketing strategies are hinged on the quality of intelligence available at the time they are designed. A SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) allows a business to get a clear picture of where they stand in the market. The information gathered in a SWOT analysis informs all the other decisions made by the marketing team. With the knowledge of what your brand excels at, where it needs to improve, external factors that may promote your growth, and external factors that may pose a risk to your operations, you will be adequately equipped to make informed long-term decisions.
Define your value proposition
A value proposition is the set of benefits a consumer can expect to derive from your products, in other words, the reason why they buy your products and/or services. An important part of marketing is having a very clear and cohesive understanding of exactly what you are marketing in the first place. It seems almost too obvious but failing to clearly define your brand’s value proposition and come to a consensus about it with everyone in your business can lead to marketing campaigns that do not communicate anything specific to the consumer.
The benefits your products and/or services offered to your existing and potential consumers need to be clear, free from technical or feature specifications, and focused on either solving customer problems or satisfying their desires. It is important to make sure it can be explained clearly and concisely then ensuring every member of your marketing team is intimately familiar with the value proposition.
Outline the objectives for the marketing strategy
Objectives and goals function as concrete points of completion and are useful for both striving towards and measuring success. Good marketing objectives map out measurable results to be achieved within a specific time frame, such as selling a specific number of product units over a particular period of time.
Objectives help in the evaluation of a marketing strategy’s success and effectiveness. They also serve to assist marketers in aligning their expectations and plans, coordinate efforts and keep teams accountable. Ideally, the objectives of an effective marketing strategy are dynamic, fluidly evolving as more market data is gathered from the various marketing campaigns. They should be evaluated twice annually and if necessary, adjusted.
Define your buyer personas
Simply put, buyer personas are fictional stand-ins for the perfect customer. They are amalgamations of all the fundamental characteristics of your core audience. They help humanize the nebulous concept of the “market”.
Defining buyer personas enables the marketers to think of a specific person and what they would respond to. This entails collecting information about your target audience through methods such as surveys, focus groups, and conversations with customers.
The information needed to build a buyer persona would be details such as their socio-economic background, demographic details, and even opinions on current affairs. Field marketers spend a great deal of time interacting with the actual consumers and are invaluable resources for gathering information about your target market.
Once buyer personas are defined, it becomes significantly easier to determine the best way to tailor the messaging for campaigns and to find the best channels on which to reach them.
Outline the necessary resources
The resources you will deploy in the execution of your marketing strategy can be the difference between success and failure. A well-designed marketing strategy will allocate the optimal amount of financial, technological, and human resources. Executing a poorly funded campaign, deferring to a sub-optimal campaign to save money or over-allocating funds to a campaign are all symptoms of poor planning and could be catastrophic to the campaign and the whole brand.
Hiring, training, and maintaining the right personnel for marketing campaigns ensures the execution is smooth from the onset. Keeping staff turnover at a minimum ensures continuity and lowers hiring and training costs in the long run. Measures to recruit a high-performance team and keep them on board are an essential part of a successful marketing strategy.
Define a method for measuring results
An effective marketing strategy needs to be adjusted and refined when new information is acquired. The most important information to which a strategy must change is the results of campaigns.
Each campaign executed is a step towards the overall objectives of the strategy. Measuring the results of each campaign in relation to the long-term objectives helps determine how successful a campaign was and adjust future campaigns to either consolidate noted strengths or compensate for any identified shortcomings.
Why is a marketing strategy important?
An effective marketing strategy is the lifeblood of a thriving business because it drives sales in the present while mapping out a long-term growth trajectory. Unfortunately, a lot of businesses are reactive, crafting a short-term marketing plan in response to a drop in sales or haphazardly executing campaigns in response to a resolution made in a meeting. Marketing without an effective long-term strategy not only has the obvious drawback of being expensive without any sustainable returns, but it also signals to the market that your brand is inconsistent, unreliable and therefore purchasing your products is a risk.
Marketing strategies help reinforce the brand
A brand can be defined as the promise your products or services make to consumers and the perception that the market has of your products and services in response to that promise. It serves no purpose if consumers either forget it exists or they do not know about it at all. An effective marketing strategy seeks to not only drive sales but also keep your brand and value propositions fresh in the market’s collective consciousness. The result is a consumer base that will defer to your products and services based purely on the warmth of familiarity, and evangelize your value propositions to their respective communities.
Marketing strategies are the path to achieving goals and objectives
Successful organizations create goals and objectives in their long-term strategic planning, such as achieving a certain percentage of market dominance or opening branches in new locations. These then act as an internal measure of business success. Effective marketing plans are designed as the map to achieving these goals and objectives. Marketing strategies keep businesses mindful of the market’s response to their products and services while defining ways to consolidate and grow their revenue streams, all of which are key considerations in any long-term business growth plan. Beyond that, marketing strategies also align operations with the goals and objectives, ensuring real and measurable success is always achieved.
Marketing strategies ensure optimal resource allocation
The long-term nature of a well-designed marketing strategy allows a business to determine the financial and human resources required for each campaign and allocate them accordingly. This ensures all of a brand’s touchpoints are given maximum utility. Occasionally, people will inadvertently throw their weight behind a single marketing channel at the expense of the rest, which leads to the creation of repetitive marketing plans that are constantly skewed towards one brand touchpoint. This leads to a loss of potential customers from all the other touchpoints. For example, a strong marketing strategy would not only consider using social media as a marketing channel because it is presently in vogue, but it would also use social media to support product launches, merchandising, and mystery shopping to ensure both digital and physical touchpoints are engaged to the fullest capacity.
Marketing strategies create competitive advantages
A brand that is supported with an effective marketing strategy will be able to grow its existing consumer base while keeping prospective consumers aware of its existence. This is achieved through being able to carefully outline how campaigns are to be executed, where they need to be directed, and how the mix of different media will be used to guide consumers to eventually make a purchase.
That level of foresight protects a brand from losing market share to existing and new competitors. It also keeps the brand aware of opportunities for better targeting and optimization. The result will be optimal execution of individual marketing plans and their respective campaigns. If a brand is constantly in the consciousness of the consumer on all the touchpoints it can reach, it leaves very few, if any, gaps for competitors to leverage to their advantage.
A marketing strategy is a fundamental part of any business’s operations. It helps guide marketing plans and their execution aligns marketing operations with business goals and consolidates a brand’s market position. Brands that make use of effective marketing strategies not only see real and sustained growth in their revenue, they also grow their market share, experience an improvement in brand perception and tend to retain more of their customers as they acquire new ones. As a long-term document, it is important to invest intensively in developing a marketing strategy prior to carrying out any marketing efforts.
At Samplex Africa, we execute highly successful campaigns. If you are developing a marketing strategy, get in touch with us for a consultation so we can discuss how you can include field marketing to get the most exposure and growth for your brand.