Marketing: so much more than your website
I want to dedicate this blog to marketing – understanding what it is and how our digital capabilities affect and alter our perception of its function. Over the years, marketing has come to mean ‘communication’ activity – the content and the channels (predominantly digital).
As a business adviser and frequent interim Director (and manager), I regard ‘marketing’ as so much more than your website. Marketing should define the way you run your entire business: it’s a strategic function.
A ‘marketing enthusiast’, writing for a well-known news site, stated recently that the digital age has meant companies “have to tailor their strategies to reach their customers”. My first reaction was to mutter that this has always been a vital objective for any business. But I guess the real point is that the digital age is making this truth difficult to ignore if you want to survive – let alone blossom – as a business. Digital is making us more strategic.
The marketing strategy
As I said at the top of this blog, a good marketing strategy defines the way you run your entire business – not just your communication activity. It’s a wide-reaching and comprehensive strategic planning tool that:
• Establishes your goals and vision for the business ( see developing strategic plan blog)
• Describes your business – what you do, how and why (your brand in other words)
• Explains the position and role of your products in the market, including price
• Identifies the tactics you will use to grow your business
• Profiles your customers and your competition
• Allows you to build a marketing communication plan and measure its effectiveness.
The marketing strategy must be practical (eg data-driven), measurable, and revised when your objectives have been met. It should look forward, say 5 years, be reviewed and amended as appropriate if, for example, your external market changes (due to a new competitor or technology) or if your products substantially evolve.
Examples of marketing objectives include:
• Increased market penetration (selling more of existing products into existing segments)
• Market development (selling existing products to new related target segments)
• Product development (selling new products into existing segments)
Such objectives could be long-term and might take a few years to achieve with a degree of success. However, they should be clear and measurable and have time frames for achievement. For example:
• Secure 5 new customers from market segment x by Q3 (see sales leads blog)
• Develop 3 new products for market segment x by Q4 (see product development blog)
• Increase market share of product x from a to b by end of year x
Finally, you must ensure that the whole company ‘owns’ the marketing strategy so it does indeed define the way the business is run.
The marketing plan
If the marketing strategy sets the overall direction and goals for your business, the marketing plan outlines the specific actions you will take to implement your strategy. This means it underpins the success of your lead generation activity (see lead generation). Your marketing strategy could be developed to cover the next few years while your marketing plan usually describes tactics to be achieved in the current year:
• Specific goals to be met in terms of market share and segment
• The precise product and service focus in terms of structure and price
• What the ‘qualified lead’ looks like and how to manage the sales funnel (eg your customer relationship marketing – CRM)
• Resources required – people and investment
• The communication plan, including brand messages
Your marketing plan is typically a dynamic document. It should be tweaked and updated more regularly as costings, market conditions, the economy and other factors change.
Both your marketing strategy and plan need the support of reliable data. This is where digital plays a major role – in terms of gathering the date, analysing, monitoring and using it to drive your CRM. You need information about your market – size, growth, trends and demographics For example, your customer is the lynchpin – understanding what matters to them allows you to create the value that differentiates you from the competition thereby influencing your products and resources:
Profile your potential customers
Use your market research to develop a profile of the customers you are targeting and identify their needs. The profile must reveal their buying patterns: how, where what they buy and what influences them in their decisions.
Profile your competitors
Profiling your competitors (eg identifying their products, supply chains, pricing and general marketing tactics) will allow you identify unmet needs – the value that you alone can deliver to your customers. What sets your business apart from your competitors, in other words. If you compare the strengths and weaknesses of your own company with those of your competitors, you’ll identify exactly where to focus attention. Continually benchmarking using price v performance matrix and voice of the customer (VOC) process will help you decide your unique selling point (USP) and exact position of your products.
Monitoring your data is vital so you are aware of any changes that might give you cause to review your marketing plan – or indeed the marketing strategy.
The communication plan
Having a coherent and joined up communication plan is a vital part of the marketing plan otherwise how do you create and then develop the qualified leads? All that carefully gathered data mentioned above will help you understand what to communicate and how:
Your brand is the company itself: what it values, achieves, how and why. However, the data driving your marketing plan may well make you review its relevance. Does the brand continue to reflect what your customer values and how well you compete with the next company? If not, time for a brand refresh. Then be sure to communicate the brand in everything you say and show – from corporate identity (eg logo), to web content and social media posts, presentations, customer-facing conversations, signage, etc. Make your brand consistent, make it recognisable.
Content – clear relevant messages
As I’ve said above, you need to demonstrate your value-led customer-focused brand: offering value, saving the customer time, ensuring perfect service every time. Your content should be a mix of sales and promotion messages as well as carefully structured communication pieces that illustrate your understanding of a customer’s challenges and situation. Then you need to maximise the nature of the channels you use…
Digital is bound to be in the mix but at the end of the day digital is a channel and, like any other, must take its cue from the marketing plan which in turn follows the marketing strategy. Your choice of channels must be made in the full knowledge of what will reach your customers (and their influencers) successfully. Website, email campaigns, online advertising selected social media platforms, conferences, seminars/events, printed materials – it’s got to be a mix of channel, each one achieving something different but all working together to meet the needs of the marketing plan.
The benefits of having a clearly developed Marketing Strategy
These are my top 10 benefits of having a clearly developed marketing strategy:
1. Focuses your mind on where your growth is really going to come from
2. Creates the first step to winning profitable business from your competitors
3. Re-defines how important your ‘brand’ is
4. Pushes you to create products to suit your customers
5. Allows you to think seriously about why your customers buy from you
6. Helps you to identify and evaluate new opportunities
7. Challenges you to give the marketing team the resources it needs
8. Makes you set a realistic goal for what you are expecting as a return on this investment
9. Encourages your confident in your business and its prospects for the future
10. Increases engagement and commitment from employees, customers and suppliers/partners
So that’s my definition of marketing: one strategy to define how you run your business, leading to one plan giving rise to different activities and tactics (including communication) none of which should have a life of its own.
About Author Rakesh Shah RVR Management has over 20 years’ experience of growing sales in large corporate companies as well as SME companies, in UK/Europe USA and Asia. He is technically, MBA and CIM qualified with a background of delivering growth within engineering/manufacturing sectors and offer a range of business tools and support services that deliver results.
Contact Rakesh Shah : 0778 555 8344