Potential clients constantly ask me to develop a marketing plan for them that will really work and deliver more customers. So, I ask them to describe their marketing strategy. Mostly they cannot do this. They just want more of any type of customers. Just bring them in. So I ask them what is unique about what they sell/do or unique about the way they do it? After some discussion, they can usually tell me. Often though, it is not very compelling. So finally, I ask them who their customers are now? Are they middle income or affluent? Where do they live, why are they their customers?
Marketing is going to be ineffective until it is possible to describe a target set of customers, understand what they need and can delivery it in the way they want. In short, that is what a marketing strategy is.
A marketing strategy is the framework by which a company increases sales and achieves a sustainable competitive advantage. It is based on a company’s Unique Selling Proposition (USP) which requires a review of customer needs, competitors, opportunities, consideration of all of the internal and external environmental factors, identification of constraints (resource and other) and the evaluation of other factors including technological, economic, legal or political.
When you figure out what you are really selling, (e.g. convenience?), have a unique twist to doing it, and know who your target customer is, you have the outline of a marketing strategy. Your special sauce, if you will, is best if it is difficult to imitate or it won’t work for long. This is where the evaluation of your competitors and potential competitors come in. It is also the place to understand what you do really well so you are building on your strengths not your aspirations. This is where something like a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis comes in. This helps you figure this out.
In any case, taking the time to develop a well thought out marketing strategy is time and money well spent, because without one, you will be wasting your money on developing and executing a marketing plan that just won’t work.