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Marketing Strategy for the year we live in - Roadmap or Survival Kit

Posted by: Anderson Lima

Most of us in business management will agree that a company’s marketing strategy has to derive from intelligence gathered from the market the business or organisation finds itself in, and also from the wider environment and a set of forces operating in society, both locally as well as globally. It is also paramount to have an unbiased view of the internal state of the business and its operations, supply chain, HR, finance, etc... basically its internal capabilities. Competitors, suppliers, internal departments, the immediate community, stakeholders, shareholders, global events, local news, new product developments, technology and innovation etc... they will all play its part when it comes to devising a firm’s marketing strategy. However none of them plays the role of the immediate customer, a clear consumer insight is the Nirvana of data intelligence.

Top management guru Peter Drucker has said that “There is only one valid definition of business purpose: to create a customer... Because it is its purpose to create a customer, any business enterprise has two—and only these two—basic functions: marketing and innovation.” They are the entrepreneurial functions. And again “Marketing is the distinguishing, the unique function of the business.”

And yet most organisations do not seize the opportunity to build successful strategy and use the best tactical tools at their disposal. Sun Tzu in his classic “Art of War” said that “...opportunities multiply as they are seized”. Every organisation needs specific and clear defined business objectives as well as marketing ones which eventually will lead to business growth and success. According to Kotter, another management professor, “only 29% of employees can correctly identify their company’s strategy [when given] six choices”.

However, it is not enough to develop strategies and communicate them across the organisation, it is pivotal to develop marketing strategies that are relevant and will fulfil the business needs for the year and age we are in. It has to be relevant, customer-led, all engaging, entertaining, flexible, dynamic and ever evolving to attend to the new demands and environmental changes in order to build and maintain a clear competitive advantage and differentiation. So the key question here is – “How can my business develop a marketing strategy that will be in line with our business goals, will encapsulate our principles and ethos, will contemplate where we are today and our current capabilities and lead us to where we want to be?” How to achieve that?!?

There will be many choices a business owner or manager can make in combination with several approaches and tools but the sequence of events is pretty much the same when starting to build the strategy and marketing plan. One always starts with the auditing of the environment and internal capabilities. The Second step, the “Formulation”, is where you need to build your objectives and determine your segmentation, targeting and positioning strategies, build personas, determine your online value proposition (OVP), etc. You are now ready to step into tactical choices and evaluate possible routes to take in order to achieve your objectives. The implementation part is vital as it will determine the resources needed. PR Smith speaks of “3Ms” – men, money, minute – Who is going to do what, when, and how much it is going to cost us? Finally but not final! “Monitoring” is where you have the opportunity to screen the whole strategy and make changes as you find fit and appropriate to improve business performance and competitive advantage.

Without a clear strategy or “roadmap”, it is harder to remain competitive, to know where a business is heading, if it is adding value to their customers, outperforming their competitors and so on. Eventually to be in business for the long run by achieving sustainability, that’s also the case, the marketing strategy is a survival kit.

Marketing strategy will live or die by the understanding of who the customer truly is. It has to be customer-centric. It learns from customer insight data seeking to connect to people across all the channels, naturally engaging without forcing sales down their throats. The biggest challenge SMEs face today is how to grow their leads leading to customer acquisition, retention and eventually advocacy. By using the right channels at the right time to ensure the conversation is personalised and responsive.

Today’s Marketing Strategy should aim to develop a cross-channel marketing approach. With 100+ channels at our disposal, how do we choose and combine them? How do we measure its effectiveness? When asked, senior marketing leaders reported that online branding and story-telling were the main challenges they faced followed by standing out against competitors (49%). The key aspect is to bring your approach from a single-channel optimisation to a cross-channel optimisation and marketing automation but without a clear road map it becomes impossible.

According to Experian’s “the 2015 digital marketing” report, there are five clear steps towards achieving this – Data management, Insights and targeting, Strategy and planning, Execution and Measurement.

Add real value bringing the customer to the centre of the business operations; that is where the company can guarantee success and growth. Why should they bother with our products and services? Using the Growth Hacking perspective of “Product Market Fit” (PMF) it is possible to understand that a product is barely ready when we think it is.

It has to go for as many interaction as possible until the business can achieve that ideal fit (Airbnb and Instagram are good examples) – the end goal is to have your product in perfect sync with your customers. Eric Ries, author of “The Lean Startup” advocates starting with a “minimum viable product” and improving it based on feedback. Most of the traditional way would take it to a public launch with what we think is the final product.

When you build your strategy you should ask yourself – How do we get, maintain, and multiply attention in a scalable and efficient way? Everything in our marketing strategy should be testable, trackable and scalable and above all nothing is “final” or set-in-stone. How can your strategy help you to build your brand? So think in terms of brand architecture, conversations instead of cold selling. Social selling is the ability companies acquire to speak and sell to and through their prospects or main target audience. The clear view of where your customers are heading, their preferences, what is important to them, above all what is native to them? Your strategy is indeed your roadmap and yet at the same time your survival kit in an age of burgeoning customer expectations and killing competitive environment.

Your marketing strategy can help you to improve competitive advantage; Increase market share, operational excellence; product leadership; Fine tune offers of product and services; customer loyalty, etc. Do you have one?

Anderson Lima, Leeds Business School Entrepreneur in Residence, Business Coach for the Independent Food and Drink Academy and Business Growth Solution.

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