How To Create a Marketing Strategy
In the marketing world, there are a number of phrases that sound quite similar: marketing strategy, marketing plan, marketing campaign, and marketing tactics are just a few that come to mind. Each of these is important, but without a unified and well-planned marketing strategy, the rest of the marketing jargon is likely to amount to a haphazard collection of activities that don’t drive your business growth.
Defining marketing strategy
In this section, we’ll cover what a marketing strategy is, the various types of marketing strategies you could employ for your business, and how to create your own marketing strategy.
What is a marketing strategy?
We’ll start with a simple marketing strategy definition. According to Wikipedia, a marketing strategy is “a long-term, forward-looking approach and an overall game plan of any organization or any business with the fundamental goal of achieving a sustainable competitive advantage by understanding the needs and wants of customers.” A company’s marketing strategy is its overall approach to gaining an advantage over competitors in the field, including the content, channels, campaigns, and marketing tools required to get there.
Why do you need a marketing strategy?
As previously mentioned, without a marketing strategy, a company is likely to work on disparate marketing activities with no unifying approach to gaining a competitive advantage. These strategies are critical for companies as they outline the avenues and ways their marketing department will reach, attract and retain customers.
In fact, the act of creating a marketing strategy gives a company a considerable competitive advantage if that strategy is cohesive, responds creatively and effectively to market needs, and is backed by appropriate resources.
It’s important to note how marketing strategy differs from the marketing plan. The marketing strategy contains the company’s approach for gaining a competitive advantage, whereas the marketing plan will contain the activities needed to carry out each approach.
Different types of marketing strategies
Marketing strategies also differ depending on whether a company sells services or products business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C). In the case of B2B marketing strategies, they typically focus more on process-driven decisions, whereas B2C marketing strategies focus more heavily on more personal and emotional purchasing decisions.
Different types of marketing promotion methods
There is no one single right marketing strategy. Instead, there could be several combinations of approaches you choose in order to edge out the competition. Most marketing strategy types can be broken down into two categories: outbound marketing strategies and inbound marketing strategies.
Outbound marketing strategies consist of those that reach out to prospective customers, often in large swathes. Outbound marketing involves pushing information about your product out to various audiences and typically includes contacting large numbers of people in a less-targeted manner. These are a few examples of outbound marketing strategies:
- Television, radio, print, and billboard advertising
- Cold calling
- Email marketing
- Event marketing
- Content syndication
- Digital advertising
- Display, social media, email, and video advertising
- Search engine marketing
- Native advertising
- OTT advertising
Inbound marketing strategies use an alternative tactic: attempting to draw potential customers in by offering them content, solutions, or products they are already actively searching for themselves. Inbound marketing strategies often presume that the intended target takes the first step in the interaction by searching online for a product or googling a topic or service. Here is a selection of examples of inbound marketing strategies:
- Social media marketing
- SEO marketing
- Content marketing
- Event marketing
There are pros and cons to both inbound and outbound marketing strategies. Inbound marketing strategies can typically cost less but reach a smaller, more targeted audience. Outbound marketing strategies often use more financial resources and reach a wider audience. In many cases, a combination of inbound and outbound strategies will be the best option to bring in and retain customers.
How to create a marketing strategy
The list above might make it seem like you can pick and choose from a list of marketing strategies, but creating a successful marketing strategy for your company involves a much more complex process that drills down into the core of your business. Creating a marketing strategy plan requires a deep understanding of the target market, as well as the service or product’s value proposition and unique selling proposition.
- Determine value proposition and unique selling proposition: Many companies choose to employ a simple SWOT analysis to determine their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. This will allow you to get a better understanding of the ways your product is unique and how it offers more to potential customers. You’ll need a clear picture of what value your product or service brings to customers and the key differentiators you can capitalize on in your marketing campaigns.
- Outline specific marketing strategy objectives: Outlining objectives at the beginning of the process will allow you to design a results-driven marketing strategy. The objectives you choose should be measurable and should be given a specific timeline for completion.
- Understand the target audience and competitors: Having a deep understanding of your target audience is critical to determining how you will find, attract and retain customers. Creating buyer personas can further help understand which channels will be most successful at reaching your target audience. Furthermore, researching what your competitors are doing to reach customers, which channels they are using, and what seems to be working well for them can help you find a way to stand out from the crowd.
- Examine the 4 Ps of the marketing mix: Product, place, price, and promotion all need to be clearly outlined in order to have a clear understanding of what your company offers, who it offers it to, where customers can purchase it, and how it will be promoted to them.
- Define preferred marketing promotion strategies: Choosing a selection of promotion methods to reach the target audience and highlight your USP in creative ways is another important component in creating a marketing strategy.
- Set measurable benchmarks and milestones: Setting measurable benchmarks and milestones is a critical component of a marketing strategy. Re-evaluating the marketing strategy on a regular basis is the most effective way to understand whether the marketing strategy objectives are being achieved. It also allows companies to ensure they are allocating resources to the most promising and successful channels.
Marketing strategy examples
To further understand how a marketing strategy sets out a company’s strategic vision, let’s look at a few examples of marketing strategies from well-known companies.
- RedBull: Even those who don’t imbibe in the energy drink regularly can instantly recognize the brand for its commitment to adventure and its use of event marketing to showcase its brand values. Whether they are sponsoring sporting events or headlining a supersonic skydive, their global marketing strategy focused on event marketing has been a resounding success.
- Spotify: Spotify has undertaken a marketing strategy that focuses on personalization and exploration of new genres of music. One such marketing initiative, called Spotify Wrapped, allows users to find out the songs and artists they listened to most over the course of a year, notifying them if they’re the top 1% of listeners for specific artists. The initiative went viral and solidified their image as a brand that creates a personal experience for its users.
- TOMS: TOMS burst onto the footwear scene in 2006, leading with a unique one-for-one proposal: with every purchase of a pair of shoes, they’d give one away to a child in need. What was a bold marketing strategy at the time has since become fairly normal and has even been replicated by countless companies.
Documenting a marketing strategy
Documenting a marketing strategy serves several purposes. First, it allows the marketing department to critically evaluate the success of the marketing strategy on a regular basis. It also serves as a blueprint for creating future successful marketing plans.
A detailed, documented marketing strategy helps both executives at the C-level who might need to access the information while pitching to investors and those reaching for the strategy’s goals on a daily basis.
Here’s what you should include in your marketing strategy document:
- Executive summary
- Company mission statement
- Value proposition and unique selling proposition
- Market research and competitive analysis
- Detailed description of the company’s specific marketing mix
- Outline of marketing strategy objectives and goals
- Explanation of preferred marketing promotional strategy
- List of measurable benchmarks and timeline for re-evaluation
How to implement a marketing strategy
Creating a marketing strategy is a considerable undertaking that will set your company on a specific path toward reaching customers who are most likely to purchase your products or services. But the marketing strategy is only half the battle. In order to implement a marketing strategy, you’ll need a solid marketing plan that delineates the specific routes your company will be taking to achieve the objectives in your marketing strategy document.
A marketing implementation plan, along with marketing project management software, will help you outline each of the campaigns or processes involved in reaching your larger marketing goals. It will get into the nuts and bolts of which team members will carry out various pieces of the marketing plan puzzle. We’ll tackle what’s involved in creating a marketing plan in the next section.