Your marketing strategy is a list of goals you want to achieve with your marketing efforts. Before you embark on a marketing plan, I strongly recommend spending time on your marketing strategy. It will give you an excellent foundation on where you need to invest your marketing efforts in the succeeding years and eliminate the risk of wasting money in areas that don’t need investment.
Your marketing strategy should be realistic and completely indicative of what you can achieve and afford. As with any strategy, you need to think long term so ideally your strategy should envision the company in the next 5 years. If things don’t work out like you thought, you can always tweak it accordingly.
First, you need to think about what you want your customers to do. Easy! Buy your products and services. If only it was that easy. Set more realistic goals that essentially lead to more awareness of your products and services and the end goal – sales.
Some examples of what your marketing goals may include;
• Develop an online marketing strategy where your customers engage in your website, social media, online advertising etc.
• Invest in your R&D to release a new product or service every 18 months
• Focus your marketing in a new market eg USA instead of Europe
Your marketing strategy should identify and communicate the benefits of your product or service offering to your target market. However to do this correctly, you must evaluate your situation thoroughly and see where you can improve. Asking yourself the following questions will give you food for thought to help you develop your marketing strategy.
What does your customer really want and need?
Cease the guessing. You must understand your customer. What do they need (but perhaps just don’t know yet)? What do they want? What do they value? What matters to them? Open the channels of communication and listen. Unless you know what makes your customers tick, it’s impossible to optimise a strong marketing strategy.
• Customer surveys are a great way for your customers/prospects to tell you exactly what they want
• Ensure your sales team are constantly bringing back nuggets of information such as customers challenges and issues to your engineering or R&D team
• Keep an eye out at tradeshows or conferences to see where the industry is going, what new areas of technology are emerging that could benefit your customers
• Host a road show. Get you team together and visit your customer onsite for a technical road show where you can understand their applications and identify where you can help
Compile all this information in a shared file where your Engineering team can access to help them develop products and services your customers want, not what you think they want.
Do you understand the market you are operating in?
Do you know your market size? Are you up to date on the latest trends or developments? How do you compare to your competitors in the market?
If you have 5% market share of a market worth 600 million, you know then it’s worth investing sales people, R&D, marketing campaigns and so forth, compare to perhaps a market where you have 80% market share. Once you know your position in the market, keep up to date on trends, new technologies and opportunities that may exist so you are one step ahead of competition all the time.
Have you analysed your competition?
A SWOT analysis is a great way to analyse your competition but don’t stop there. Analyse your competitors consistently by regularly reviewing their website for news, career and product updates. Check out their activity at tradeshows; are they launching a product? What tradeshows are they attending? Are you reviewing trade media for industry updates? How is the competition interacting using social media? Gathering every snippet of information like this will give you a great guideline on what direction your competitors are going and make it easier to guide your marketing strategy to sustain that competitive advantage.
Peas be with you. Have you evaluated your marketing mix?
The 4 P’s (or 7P’s in services) as they are known allow you to evaluate how the elements of the marketing mix, Product, Price, Promotion and Place interact together. Your product for instance, will need a price, it will also need a channel of distribution and how are you going to promote its features and benefits? Finding the right balance in your marketing mix takes time to put together so here are some questions you can ask yourself to help you evaluate a bit better. These are by no means an exhaustive list but it will get you started.
Product (can also apply to your service)
• What products are you going to design or develop?
• What are the product features that uniquely target your market?
• What will the product be called? Will it be branded?
• How is it differentiated from your competitors?
• Which channel is best to deliver your product and its benefits to the selected market? Do you need a distributor or can you go direct?
• What is the value of the product or service to the buyer?
• How will your price compare with your competitor?
• What will you charge for and How much?
• What is the message of your product?
• How will people be informed about your product and its benefits?
• What is the Call to Actions in each of your Marketing promotions?
• When is the best time to promote? Do you need to pick a relevant tradeshow or coincide with an industry event that is happening near you?
• How do your competitors do their promotions?
Determine your marketing position
What does your market think of you? How do your customers rate you compared to your competitors? What sets you apart? If you don’t know then you need to find out. Knowing how you are perceived in the market is an essential element of your strategy. If you are seen as a low cost commodity supplier, you will never compete for high value products or services without actively changing your market position. To find out more about this read my previous article on how to find your marketing position. http://www.imsmarketing.ie/news/market-position-whats-yours/
What’s your marketing budget?
The most common form of developing a marketing budget is to use a % of Sales. 2% is a figure that regularly comes up but not everyone has this much to lend to marketing. The point is to identify what you can work with and work from that. Often, what we do at IMS is develop a comprehensive marketing plan and budget that identifies all areas that require marketing investment. If it’s too much, just cherry pick the important items and bring it to a level you can afford. With the growing investment in online marketing, measurement is much more sophisticated and shows you your return on your investment much more than traditional marketing methods such as brochures and advertising.
Fail to plan, plan to fail
Evaluating your customers, your competitors, your products and the market you operate in, will give you a strong marketing strategy. It will help you identify where you need to invest your marketing and resources to grow your company in the long term.
Once you have agreed your strategy, you need to develop a marketing plan that will help you achieve your goals. Once you have your strategy in place, the plan will be much easier to develop as you will have the knowledge and confidence to invest in the right areas. The information gathered in your strategy will ensure your plan is accurate and ready to deliver real results.