Technology has changed the way we think about marketing. However, I’m seeing more and more businesses get lost in the digital cloud and lose track of the fundamentals of marketing strategy. It’s time to get back to basics by making sure you have a simple marketing strategy in place.
While the digital sphere s constantly evolving and progressing and with so many dynamic digital channels out there, we are desperate to sign up to everything quickly just to keep up with the competition.
Call me a dinosaur if you like, but I firmly believe that before you set up your Facebook page or wrestle with SEO or sign up to MailChimp, you need a firm grasp on the fundamentals of marketing strategy. You need a plan. You need a strong foundation. You need to the 5 simple steps to marketing strategy:
- What is Marketing?
Every time I meet with a new client we talk about three things: where are we now, where do we want to be and how to we get there. It’s the ‘how do we get there’ bit where marketing really comes into play.
Marketing is about defining your brand and setting goals. It’s a journey for your customer, from brand awareness to point of sale, but it’s also a journey for the business. It’s easy to get caught up in the instant gratification of digital marketing, but the emphasis should be on progress and growth over time.
Only once you understand what marketing is in essence and what your business is aiming for can you begin to understand what a strong marketing strategy can do for your brand.
- The 4 Ps
So, how do you begin building a marketing strategy? Now that we’ve defined a direction and a target, how do we start to build a ladder to get there? Next, we consider the “4 Ps”, otherwise known as Product, Price, Place and Promotion.
Product: figure out your USPs, the features and benefits of your product, your branding and why customers should choose you as their personal preference.
Consider your smartphone. With so much competition out there, why did you choose the one you’re holding in your hand? Brand loyalty? Physical attributes? Performance and quality? Now ask why do your customers choose your product?
Price: this can be tricky because a product is not the value of its sum parts. Think of haggling in a market or flight prices that fluctuate up and down. You’re not paying the actual cost of the product, you’re paying somewhere in the grey area between what you are happy to pay and what the seller is happy to receive. Are you willing to pay more because of the reputation of the brand?
With pricing, you need to consider value, perception, competition and what your brand stands for. Take a look at this diagram and think about where your product fits in. Or, if you fill in this diagram with your competitors, can you identify a gap in the market that isn’t currently being filled?
Place: Next up is place; essentially, where you’re selling your product. Is it a service? Can you buy it online? Do you have a shop premises? Are you selling through distributors? What does all of this mean for your brand?
I’m sure you could buy some nice sparkly earrings at George at ASDA, but can you buy Goldsmiths brand earrings there too? No you can’t. Although Goldsmiths earrings could sell very well in your local ASDA, this kind of exclusivity defines the Goldsmiths brand and the perception of value as well.
Promotion: the final P to discuss is promotion. It can be tempting to blast every promotional channel available with your product, especially online, but stop before you do it. Think about your budget, the channels that are most appropriate for your business, the content of the promotion and – as always – how this affects your branding.
For instance, you can engage on Pinterest and Instagram with all the necessary bells, whistles and hashtags, but if you’re the local butcher then that global reach is reaching the wrong people. Joe Bloggs living in Hawaii may double-tap that picture of your roast dinner, but he won’t buy from your shop.
Similarly, if you’re an online shoe retailer that distributes worldwide, you don’t want your jingle played on local radio. In fact, if your shoes are chic and sophisticated, then you don’t want a jingle at all! You want visual impact and global brand awareness. Even then, you social posts may fall on deaf ears, so perhaps approach fashion blogging influencers to promote your products instead.
- Your Marketing Strategy
Now that we have all of that in place, we can start building up our marketing strategy – our ‘how do we get there’ plan. First, try and squeeze your target and rough plan into one ‘elevator pitch’ sentence:
Jet 2: Growth through flights from a growing number of UK airports, offering cheap flights to family-friendly, popular beach destinations.
Emirates: Growth from maintaining a high price and excellent service on long-haul flights to diverse and exotic locations.
Once you have that overarching marketing strategy summarised, then you can remind yourself of it daily and slowly flesh it out. Every time you work on your marketing, ask yourself if what you’re doing is contributing to that overall marketing strategy. If not, then get yourself back on track.
You need to do your groundwork. Why research? To gain information about products, competitors, existing customers, new customers, industry sectors… the list goes on. Start by setting objectives, deciding research questions and details to be found, execute the research, identify the highlights, report and then act.
Primary research: or ‘field research’. This is information that you gather yourself, be it through surveys, direct observations, interviews, focus groups and so forth. These methods are great for understanding brand values, brand awareness and customer satisfaction.
Secondary research: or ‘desk research’. This is information gathered from available resources gleaned from someone else. This can be through the Internet, existing market research, your customer database, information from industry bodies, government agencies, libraries and local councils. These are great ways of discovering new customers and better understanding sector information.
Balance your research between these two forms and think of all the insights you can gain from dedicating just a bit of your marketing time and budget to research. You can never do enough research.
- Marketing Communications
Finally, now we can talk about marketing communications! Once the goals of brand have been identified through strategic planning, the 4 Ps have been considered and the research has been done, now the best forms of marketing communication and promotional practice can be chosen.
Your two considerations are your budget and your target customers. Then, it’s recommended to choose at least 12 Pillars of Marketing Communication from the table above that are most appropriate for your both your budget and customers (note: not just what is trendy at the moment).
Imagine those 12 pillars holding up the roof of your marketing strategy and continue to strengthen them equally over time. Add many more and all the pillars will get weaker; have any less and the remaining pillars will struggle with the weight.
You’re probably using some of them already, so choose wisely. Then, devise a sub-strategy for each one of your 12 to ensure that all the pillars carry equal weight in terms of budget and your time. Return to them often to check progress or swap a pillar for another if it’s not working.
The 5 Simple Steps to Marketing Strategy
By following these five simple steps, you now you have a full marketing strategy catered precisely to your business needs.
So, there you have it. The bare-bones fundamentals of marketing strategy – the ultimate foundation to grow and build your business on. It may sound like the obvious, it may even sound old-fashioned, but it’s how our clients have achieved success and reached their targets time and time again.
Despite the digital hype, these five fundamentals of marketing strategy are classic – they never go out of style.