Imagine trying to walk from one side of the country to the other without a map. You know where you want to end up but don’t know how you’ll get there, when, or what resources you’ll need to make it happen. You'll likely get confused, frustrated, and lost if you don’t have a solid strategy before you start out. So why do many teams start with tactics and skip the strategic planning process? Let’s break down marketing strategy so you can reach your business objectives with clarity, confidence, and ease.
Elements of an effective strategy
The terms "marketing strategy," "marketing tactics," and "marketing plan" are often used interchangeably and incorrectly. Before attempting to develop your strategy, make sure you understand the difference.
Marketing Strategy: Before defining your strategy, you must know your ideal customer and have clear business objectives in place. Your marketing strategy will conceptualize and identify how you will reach, engage, and activate your target audience to achieve your objectives.
Marketing Tactics: While marketing strategy looks at the company's objectives, tactical marketing looks at the specific actions you will take to execute the strategy. Examples include social media posts, SEO optimization tasks, email marketing campaigns, trade show exhibits, etc. Typically a creative team is involved in executing your tactics.
Marketing Plan: This is your game plan. It outlines what you will do, where you will do it, when you implement it and how you will track success. The plan document guides the direction and clarifies all the teams and business stakeholders involved.
A common mistake we see is that businesses dive into tactical marketing without clearly defining the strategy or documenting it in a plan. This will lead to problems like:
- Sending out emails that result in low engagement and high unsubscribes.
- Increasing ad spend without experiencing an increase in sales or other critical conversions.
- Publishing regular blog content that fails to generate website traffic, social sharing, or even brand awareness.
Without a solid strategy, marketing results can be mediocre, or efforts can lead to a direction far from your business goals or needs.
Start with the “four Ps”:
Commonly referred to as the marketing mix, the four Ps (product, price, place, and promotion) can be used as a tool when developing your strategy. Let's take this concept and use the example of the Australian wine producer, Barokes - pioneers of the canned wine movement.
Product - Start with an understanding of the product itself. Who needs it, and why? Barokes success is derived from its product innovation strategy. They solved the problem of wine in a can and patented the product and a process, appealing to consumers who want fresh, ready-to-drink, easily portable, and sustainable products.
Price - The amount that consumers are willing to pay for a product. Consider the product’s perceived value plus production costs. Barokes is coherent with its marketing mix, representing a wine of its category with a value of less than $5. It satisfies a new generation of consumers craving budget wines in convenient, small-format packaging.
Place - Understands where the product should be available—in brick-and-mortar stores and online—in what markets—and how it will be presented. Barokes focused on Asian markets due to their familiarity with premium beverages in aluminum cans, such as coffee.
Promotion - The goal of promotion is to communicate to consumers why they need this product. Barokes capitalized on its new packaging technology, initially focusing on Asian markets where canned wine products were embraced due to their lack of preconceived ideas on how wine should be packaged.
The company has won over 400 medals. The technology is patented worldwide and is strategically positioned through this marketing mix.
Advanced strategic planning
While there are many different approaches to defining your marketing strategy, Ansoff’s matrix is a tool you can use to grow your business after establishing your place in the market. We consider these strategies more advanced but work well for businesses wanting to expand their reach.
Market penetration: This involves selling existing products to existing markets. The strategy is considered most beneficial if the market is growing. It is typically considered the least risky.
Product development: This involves the development of a new product for an existing market. It is considered riskier than market penetration because it involves a new product.
Market development: This strategy takes an existing product into a new market. Considered riskier than a market penetration strategy because it involves introducing a familiar product into an unfamiliar marketplace.
Diversification: This strategy involves the development of a new product for a new market. Diversification strategies require full attention on all four Ps, but the biggest risks can also lead to the biggest rewards.
How to get started
Step 1 - Establish goals and objectives. Before you dive into any strategic thinking, you must clarify your overall business goals and objectives. A few examples of business goals could be:
- Expand distribution in the Eastern States
- Launch a new low-alcohol product range
- Improve customer retention in our top-tier wine range
Once you have these business goals, you'll want to break them down into clear individual objectives. Learn more in this article here, setting goals and objectives that fuel your business.
Step 2 - Market Research.Only once you have defined your objectives can you think about how you will achieve them. You'll want to have a comprehensive understanding of:
- The current marketplace
- Your target customers/segments
- The competition
As you deepen your research, you will better understand how you fit in and where you can grow. Learn more in these articles here, know your customers, beat the competition, and why does your business exist.
Step 3 - Synthesize and strategize. Take your goals, objectives, and research and determine your marketing strategies. Answer this question: how will you align with your target market to meet your overall objectives in the current climate? Each objective will likely align with multiple strategies. Let’s look at some examples from the goals listed above:
Goal: Expand distribution in the Eastern States
Objective: Sell $200,000 through our Northeastern distribution channels in the next six months
- Adjust pricing for the market to open up other opportunities
- Conduct a regional marketing tour
- Targeted social media and digital advertisements
Goal: Launch our new low-alcohol product range
Objective: Increase brand awareness by 50% on our three new low-alcohol cocktails over the next 12 months
- Engage the target audience using a multichannel digital campaign
- Attend events and tradeshows where you can introduce your new product to the trade and distribution partners.
- Creative promotions at the point-of-purchase or in retail stores.
Goal: Improve customer retention in our top-tier wine range
Objective: Increase VIP wine club membership retention from 18 months to 24 months by the end of the year.
- Create an incentive program that kicks in after 12 months.
- Re-define the wine club's positioning, and allow full package customization
- Provide dedicated training for your staff, so they accurately promote the benefits of the club
Once you have your strategies in place, you can dive into the specific marketing tactics you'll employ to execute the strategy. Stay tuned for our next article, which will explore this topic.
Your marketing strategy is your game plan; it conceptualizes how your business and marketing goals could be achieved. It is the approach you will take to engage your ideal customer while considering the threats and opportunities posed by the industry and should be used (but not confused) with your marketing plan and tactics. Consider the four Ps and the Ansoff Model when doing your thinking, then follow the three steps for determining your strategy. Oh, and don't walk across the country without a map. Use a proven strategy and take a plane!