4 Most Important Strategic Marketing Steps

In this post, I will outline the most important steps in creating your marketing strategy. This checklist enables you to create a successful marketing plan.

In this post, I will outline the most important steps in creating your marketing strategy. If you start with this checklist, the rest of your marketing strategy will fall into place more easily.

Marketing Step 1: Who am I?

The first and foremost thing to do is to define your company. This includes the type of the company (a start up, a small local business, a medium-sized company, etc.) and the line of business you are in (banking, catering, consulting services, retail, etc.). Also, think about your branding strategy, i.e. how you want your customers to perceive you. You can use different brand-building models. One very well known model is brand identity prism. At this point, you do not have to worry about brand appearance (logos, colors, etc.). Instead, you can ask yourself the following questions:

  • What does my company (brand) do?
  • What impression do I want to make as a company (brand)?
  • What is the personality of my company (brand)?
  • What relationship does my company (brand) have to the customer?
  • What kind of people are my customers?
  • What are my company (brand) values and principles?

For example: Tuscolo is a small local chain of Italian restaurants that serves real Italian food in a friendly and familiar atmosphere. It incorporates tradition and creates authentic Italian experience through its interior, service and food presentation. It caters for families, couples and groups of friends and colleagues who want to enjoy good food in a relaxed setting.

Marketing Step 2: What is my offering?

Decide, what products and/or services you are going to offer. Do not think in terms of what you can possibly offer. This will produce difficulty in creating a well-defined product portfolio and diminish any marketing efforts.

So, how do you define your offering? On the one hand, there should be a market for it (do some market research or ask your current customers and business partners). On the other hand, this should be something you can do or produce really well (see Step 4). Additionally, think about what is feasible to offer at the current company state. Then, you will also need to define the key features and properties of your products or services.

Marketing Step 3: Who are my customers?

The next important element of your marketing strategy is customers. To make things easier for you, you can use the following plan. Firstly, think in terms of generic target group definition – such B2B or B2C customers and the geographical area you want to serve.

Add parameters such as the size of company and the line of business (for B2B) or age and gender (for B2C). Secondly, specify this by segmenting within your target group. E.g. large vs medium-sized companies, retail vs wholesale, etc. Third, dive deeper into the definition of each segment and develop customer personas. In case of B2B, that would be profiles of individual decision makers. Try to understand their motivation, their needs and wants, how they communicate and what they expect from a product or a service.

Marketing Step 4: What is my USP?

USP or Unique Selling Proposition is the cornerstone of every marketing strategy. It is what sets you apart from competition. Basically, it is the reason Why for your customers. You can develop a generic USP for the company or think in terms of USP’s for separate products or USP’s for different customer segments.

For example, you own a bookstore specializing in nonfiction literature located close to a university. The first customer segment is students. The USP for them is low prices/discount schemes and fast in-store delivery for the books they require for their courses. Another customer segment are university researchers and professors. The USP for them is different: a large range of specialized books in several languages available upon request and courier delivery services. You may have more segments and USP’s:  people living in the vicinity of your shop (you have a good coffee bar), hobby researchers (your employees take time to provide advice on a variety of subjects and make literature recommendations), etc.

Generally, you should not jump into doing anything or start spending marketing budget before you have made these four steps and created a solid foundation for your marketing strategy.

strategic marketing steps

Share this post

Why I became a Fan of Uncreative Marketing

In this post, I will talk about several cases when an uncreative approach to marketing is your way to go. For example, when crafting or executing a marketing strategy, you need to avoid creative chaos and work in a structured way. Also, nowadays marketing is based on data, so the analytical approach to marketing is often more important than creativity.

Marketers are creative people. This sounds like a general truth, right? However, my experience shows that sometimes the creative part of marketing (or an excess of it) can do more harm than good.

In this post I will talk about several cases when an UNcreative approach to marketing is your way to go.

Designing a marketing strategy

Unless you only want to invest into guerrilla marketing, designing a marketing strategy is a much less creative process that you expect. As I outlined in my previous posts, you need to be very structured and do a lot research to craft actionable marketing steps. Marketing strategy includes competition analysis, market research, working out your USP and product positioning. Let’s be honest, even guerrilla marketing is noways based on research, e.g. of human perception and behavior.

Executing the strategy

This is where creativity can really become disturbing. Imagine that you have just spent several weeks or months on creating your marketing strategy. You are now starting to implement it. At the same time, you are surrounded by a swarm of “creative ideas” on what else can be done or tried. For example, you could implement some new email marketing software or cooperate with a famous blogger or redesign your website with a better color scheme… Those ideas may come from your boss, your colleagues, or even yourself. Are they good ideas? Sure. Are they helpful? Definitely not.

One of my professors used to say that a strategy is basically selecting in which direction to go. However, if you decide to go to the left, this mostly implies that you cannot go to the right.

Having all those creative ideas while you have already started moving in the selected direction results in contradicting marketing messages. It also prevents you from executing the originally selected strategy. And, ultimately, from making any progress at all.

Working with data

Very often somebody “creative” is not really keen on crunching numbers or digging into the database on a daily basis. Well, the bad news is that analyzing and processing data is one of the cornerstone marketing activities. How do you know how your last campaign performed? How would you select a banner design? Which customer segment should you focus on? The answer to all these questions is data – from an analytics tool, A/B tests or a CRM database.

Creativity is fine – as long as it is based on data insights.

Everyday marketing

uncreative marketing grey wall
Marketing is often as boring as this grey wall…

Marketing a product is a long-term process that requires a lot of endurance. This means that the majority of your time as a marketer will be spent on rather tedious tasks. For example, preparing reports. Or re-writing the same marketing copy over and over. Or editing product specifications on the company website. Nothing super fancy or creative, as you see. If your creative spirit prevents you from concentrating on those kinds of tasks and doing them well, this can become problematic.

The role and the functions of a marketing manager have undergone significant changes in the past years. This most likely means that your marketing should become less creative but more data-driven and consistent. 

Share this post

Elements of a Marketing Strategy – Part 2

This is the second part of my post on important elements of a marketing strategy In these posts, I would like to share a more general view on marketing, without getting into detail on the tools and strategy implementation.

marketing strategy
Elements of a marketing strategy

Company

One of the most important steps in creating a marketing strategy, in addition to defining the products you offer and your target customers, is defining who you are. In other words, your company identity and how you want to communicate it.

Branding

Remember that your company is a solid part of your brand. Do not neglect corporate identity elements, such as logo, colors, fonts, etc. Once they are set, use them consistently in the marketing and sales materials, as well as internal documentation.

People

This is arguably the most important company asset and should be part of your marketing strategy. This aspect, is, of course, not just limited to PR efforts for senior management. A lot of tech companies employ “product evangelists” to personalize their marketing. Apart from this, sharing personal employee stories, e.g. on social media, may contribute to the positive image of your company and create more trust.

Mission and vision statements

Although they may seem unimportant at first, a well-formulated set of values and a common vision can become a driving force for company development. They can also be the “glue” that holds different people together.

Although it may sound ironical, it is equally important to define who you are not. Trying to serve more customer segments and flexibly adapting your company image accordingly will confuse your customers. In the worst case, they will start distrusting you.

Competitors

Someone once said that companies should stop concentrating on beating the competitors and instead focus on delivering value to their customers. Although I share the same view, this doesn’t mean that you must disregard the competition.

Learning from competitors

Learning from competitors has two sides to it. On the one hand, you can benchmark the strategy of your more experienced /successful competitors. On the other hand, you can also learn from their mistakes. Take a critical look at:

  • Structure and design of their websites
  • User journey on the website
  • Selection of social media channels and shared content
  • SEO strategy (backlinks opportunities, keywords, etc.)
  • Content types used for content marketing

Direct and indirect competition

In order to understand who your competitors are, you can think in terms of competition levels (e.g. a model by Lehman & Winter).

You probably concentrate on your direct competitors (product form competition), however, try to think of competition in a wider sense. Product category competition includes similar products that can differ in functionality or design. Generic competition is the next competition level that includes products that can be used as substitutes but do not offer the same features or benefits. Budget competition comes from products allocated to the same part of consumer budget (e.g. “entertainment”, “housing”, “education”).

competition levels marketing
Marketing Competition Levels (Lehman & Winter)

Marketing tools

I put marketing tools at the end of this list on purpose. If a company lacks experience in marketing, they tend to concentrate on the tools too much. It is not uncommon that they ask such questions as: “Shall we use Google AdWords?”, “What do we write in our blog?” before they defined who they are, what products they offer and who their target customers are. (I talked about this in one of my older blog posts on mistakes in marketing).

One well-known model for marketing decisions is 4 P’s by McCarthy (Product, Place, Price, Promotion). If we adjust this model to online marketing, the promotion will include:

  • Advertising (Google AdWords, display, etc.)
  • PR (Social Media, blogs, guest articles, etc.)
  • Direct selling (e-mail marketing)
  • Promotion (e-coupons, free trial, etc.)

You also need to make decisions on how to position your product, what pricing strategy you will choose and what your sales channels will be.

All in all, when crafting your marketing strategy, you need to go through several distinct steps and plan carefully. Also, remember that once the strategy is selected, you need to follow it consistently. Making too many changes and adjustments along the way will inevitably result in time and budgetary losses.

Share this post