A business has goals. Every year the business needs to maintain momentum, bring in revenue and cover costs all while making profit. There are threats all around us from Government regulation, increased competition, changing market conditions, technological advancement as well as needing to retain customers and the staff - the talent that drives the organisation.
A thorough marketing strategy should be intertwined with the business strategy; it is the roadmap to engaging with key stakeholders to make the business goals a reality. When those strategies are aligned, marketing actions are more targeted and the targets are more achievable.
However without a clear strategy a business will face the following problems:
When ideas flow they can become inconsistent, from one month to the next there will be a different product focus, a different target audience all of which is sending a multitude of messages to the market delivering confusion rather than clarity.
Staff end up being pulled from pillar to post, with their own targets constantly being moved, which can lead to disengagement. Customers will also lose connection with the company when they receive a barrage of different messages.
ADVICE - If your company sells a number of different products for different audiences, focus on the high volume or high profit making products and sell the rest through highly targeted campaigns or as upsell products to existing customers.
Perception can become terribly cloudy when you speak to different people about a brand, product or service and they all say different things. It can cause confusion and turn potential customers away, or delay their decision-making capability.
When all departments and communications are aligned to the same messaging and campaign, the company is considered focused, a specialist in the market and stable. Here the marketing strategy is less about the information you communicate externally but how your internal stakeholders understand the direction of the business and what it is trying to achieve through the focused campaigns. This makes all your internal stakeholders reliable ambassadors who carry the company message with clarity.
ADVICE: Provide clear company messages and focused campaigns to all staff, ensure they are all on the same campaign at the same time and no campaign dilutes the other.
Consistency and alignment doesn't carry unless your message is clear, this even comes down to the choice of words and terminology a business uses. Using buzzwords and acronyms may present you as a specialist but causes a divide between you and the customer; the customer may feel out of their depth.
ADVICE: It's important to communicate to all stakeholders on their level, and the first level is at the most simple - clear and easy to understand messages will allow people to talk about you with confidence.
It can be so easy to become distracted and curtailed, pulled in different directions when new opportunities arrive or threats attempt to thwart us. Therefore by setting a clear anchor through fixed values, beliefs and missions can give a business a strong position.
For businesses working closely with its industry sector and working to influence the market, having a strong identity that internal and external stakeholders can relate to makes the company more authentic and trustworthy. When in doubt the business can immediately return to its anchor and reset itself.
ADVICE: publish and share your values.
You step outside the house for a walk one day, you know you have to return in an hour, and you just walk - and you walk. You may stop along the way, you have not chosen your journey; this can lead to four consequences 1) you get lost 2) you arrive late 3) you arrive early with time still to kill, 4) you arrive back perfectly in an hour. The fourth scenario is simply luck, or that you know the local area well - but what if you had let someone else who had never been out in the local area take you on that walk?
Strategy is about developing a journey for the business, having a starting place and clear end goals that can be measured both in terms of time and achievement. It plots out the stopping points, the key landmarks to hit along the way with a clear explanation of what you are trying to achieve between each landmark.
This way, you can give this strategy to anyone, just as you would a route to someone trying to get to your office. It can be read, understood and undertaken and the user feels fully informed. Plus ensuring your team feels there is a direction gives them purpose.
ADVICE: share your marketing strategy with your team to show the purpose and give their actions purpose.
Nothing in life remains the same, and all companies go through stages from a new business start-up to many levels of maturity - depending on where you want to take the business. This goes the same for product, either you diversify the offering or enhance the product - it evolves to remain competitive.
A marketing strategy should show the evolution of the business across a number of years, this is no 12-month marketing plan, or quarterly product campaign - instead a document that communicates how the business will mature and how it is responding to the market.
ADVICE: know what the future holds for your business and write it down.
The pitfall for many businesses is being inward looking and self-reliant. Yet a company provides product or services to customers and therefore it is important to work together and collaboratively with both customers and the market.
Without having a common ground, and understanding the needs of your customer-base your business will lose its impact and relevance. Ensuring your marketing strategy has interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations and other agents will, together combined, lead to greater effect.
ADVICE: engage in customer feedback, involve customers and partners in review meetings, listen to their needs and changes in the industry
Is it easier to juggle with a few balls or many balls - that really depends how talented you are, but not everyone is a Richard Branson - and even he has dropped or passed on a few balls. But even when you look at the Virgin Empire - while each company is separate, the brand values match - the strategies are aligned. This makes it so much easier to control.
Let each division create its own strategy and you risk juggling many balls of different sizes, shapes and weights.
ADVICE: bring your team together, share your vision and involve them in making it a reality
Universities and schools are obsessed with outcomes, what you have done and what you have achieved to ensure you are meeting the objectives of the course. The same should be applied to all your marketing engagement:
Where are you today and what are the results - taking into account multiple performance indicators from sentiment, to leads, to sales and retention or revenue per client
Where do you want to be and what will the results look like - with indication along the way to benchmark to see if you are on the right track.
This is similar to having a route marked on a map, and actually looking at the map occasionally to see if you are still heading in the right direction.
But not many of us today can remember holding a compass and a paper map when we are using SatNavs, even to find the local Indian restaurant. Having said that - Marketing can be fully automated, but you still have to tell it where you want to go and what you want to achieve and with whom.
Ensure you don't suffer from these pain points in your business and work from a marketing strategy that can guide you and your team to success.
Find out more about our DiscoveryPLUS product that will delve into your company and provide the roadmap, plan and positioning you need to avoid the nine traps.