Six steps to a winning marketing strategy
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Six steps to a winning marketing strategy

‘Strategy’ is a widely misused word, not only in marketing, but also in business – even in everyday life. There are many people who will talk freely about strategy and its importance, but few who truly understand what it is or how to devise one that works.

‘Strategy’ is a widely misused word, not only in marketing, but also in business – even in everyday life. There are many people who will talk freely about strategy and its importance, but few who truly understand what it is or how to devise one that works.

Susan Poole, head of planning at creative agency ZAK, offers a clear explanation of what it is and why it matters: “Marketing strategy is all about defining what it is important, what you want to achieve, and how you are going to get there,” she says. “Without a marketing strategy you have no way of measuring which activity is helping you achieve your goal. You will end up with a department of ‘busy fools’. To paraphrase Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire Cat: ‘If you don’t know where you want to get to, then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.’”

Here, then, are six practical pointers to help you work out where you want to get to:

1. Don’t start with marketing

According to Poole, the fundamental element of a marketing strategy is to look beyond marketing towards the broader business. She explains: “You should always start with the business objective rather than jumping straight to the marketing objective. Marketing will never deliver value for the business unless it is aligned with the business as a whole.”

2. Understand context

Sophie Morris, strategic marketing consultant at Millharbour Marketing, says: “Marketing strategy starts with analysing the environment you’re in, identifying who the most attractive customers are and what they want, then who your competitors are and what they’re doing. Such market analysis can highlight opportunities you and your competitors didn’t know existed and can identify threats. It allows you to identify the most valuable market and your company’s ability to meet the needs of that market and find your position in it. It is that positioning that feeds down into everything else you do in marketing planning.”

3. Know your customers

A key aspect of strategy is gaining a clear understanding of who your customers are and what they want. Howard Williams, marketing director of business automation company Parker Software, suggests using data to understand this.

“The best marketing strategies are data-driven because knowing the audience well enables marketers to cater the experience to them,” he explains. “Of course it matters where the data comes from — there’s little room for assumptions in a well-founded marketing strategy.”

4. Strategy, not analysis

While this type of data-based analysis is important, marketers should beware of conflating it with strategy. Nir Wegryzn, CEO at branding consultancy Brand Opus, says: “Analysis is often best done from afar. However, it’s simply impossible to strategise from a distance. It’s necessary for anyone in control of developing a strategy to be deeply immersed in the business itself. Immersion allows for a full insight into where the challenges and opportunities lie.”

5. Know your budget early

In many regards, strategy is about deciding how to use scarce resources – budget allocation by any other name. Poole advocates gaining clarity on budget early in the process: “Once you have defined and quantified the business objective, then you need work out where you are going to find the money,” she says. “This often involves looking at segments and their current behaviours to identify which groups of people need to change behaviour and by how much. From there, it is about working out which tasks are the most achievable and the best use of limited funds.”

6. Advance step by step

Finally, strategies need to be mapped out and implemented on a step-by-step basis. John Ozimek, director at Big Ideas Machine, a marketing agency that works with technology, games and apps companies, says: “All too often companies have a very vague target to ‘increase sales’, which is simply too broad. We always urge our clients to break down the desired outcome into measurable goals, so that it is possible to record the progress towards attaining the strategic goals.”

Alex Blyth Freelance Journalist CPL
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