Do you really need a Marketing Strategy?

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.

Getting More Customers

Every business owner wants to get more customers.  The question is how to get them.  Assuming that you already have both a marketing strategy and a unique selling proposition (i.e. the reason someone should buy from you), then the next step is to have a solid marketing plan.  A marketing plan lays out the actions to be taken to get more customers and more sales.  Of course, every company today needs a web site so customers can find them online and most companies need a presence on social media.  Both should offer compelling reasons why a prospective customer should want to do business with you.  If you are a company selling to consumers, you need to get customers’ attention and drive them to action.  This can be accomplished by a combination of online and offline activities. For companies selling to other businesses, I will cover this topic in another post.

Online activities can include running paid ads, search engine optimization, social media campaigns, email campaigns, text messages, etc.  Paid ads are ads that come up when a consumer takes a specific action on the web such as searches for something.  Search engine optimization strives to get your company to come up on the first page of Google (and other search engines) in the organic listings.  Organic listings are listings that are not paid for when customers search.  Social media campaigns can range from efforts to keep your brand top of mind, to company pages, other paid advertising, the use of influencers, etc.

Offline activities can include paid print, television, and radio advertising, direct mail, networking, expos, the use of a direct sales force, etc.  You are no doubt familiar with these.

To be most effective, you will need to coordinate these and have a comprehensive marketing plan.  Unfortunately, each of these methods is complicated and most require specialized skills.  I have seen companies spend a small fortune on both online and offline marketing with little or no return.  So be smart and understand each method or if you don’t have enough time available, get some help.