Building a Robust Marketing Strategy
A marketing strategy is the overall forward planning approach for attracting and retaining business, shaped by your wider business strategy. It’s the big picture that feeds into a business’ marketing plan to ensure the business is sustainable and primed for growth.
The marketing strategy shouldn’t be confused with the marketing plan which is the execution roadmap used to deliver your strategy. The marketing plan is the ‘what you will do, how and where will you implement it, and how you will track success’. Only when you have developed your strategy will you be able to develop and execute your marketing plan.
It might seem obvious that a company needs a marketing strategy, but there are many businesses that live in the here and now, going along with what works currently and expecting to move out of that plateau they’ve been seeing. Without a marketing strategy you may be wasting valuable resource and money on the wrong activities and be missing opportunities to grow your business.
In this short guide we discuss 5 key focus areas and some tips and hints to help you build the ultimate marketing strategy.
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1. Carry out a SWOT analysis
Taking some time to step back and analyse your current situation will be the basis of any marketing strategy. A SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis is a well-known method of assessing your company’s current position both internally and within the marketplace. It is a framework used to evaluate the competitive advantage of your business and should underpin any marketing strategy.
A SWOT analysis provides a great tool for analysing your current situation and should be reviewed regularly as your business moves through stages of growth and development. Most will have heard of a SWOT analysis, but it’s surprising how many businesses forget the importance of analysing their situation frequently to inform the direction of their business.
Identify what your organisation excels at, both from an internal and external perspective. For example, your company might be known for being a great place to work, which means you are likely to retain skilled staff resulting in a reduction in recruitment and training costs. In addition, this employee brand strength can make your business attractive for the recruitment of the best people which ultimately then enables you to offer the best service and products to customers. Think about what separates you from the competition. It can also be useful to think about what your competitors think your strengths are from an outside perspective.
Be honest! There is no harm in pointing out what your organisation needs to improve on. Weaknesses refer to anything that is preventing your business from performing at its best; from a lack in employee skills to poor IT infrastructure. Are there tangible assets that are required to grow your business such as a piece of key equipment? Could you do with recruiting an expert in one area of your business? Or maybe your current location is poor for expansion of business?
Opportunities tend to be external factors that can contribute to your business’ success if identified and acted upon at the right time. Is the market moving in a certain direction that provides you with a competitive advantage?
Examples of opportunities could include:
Could you be moving towards using more sustainable suppliers and materials in recognition of current environmental issues?
Does the current economic climate mean that outsourcing areas of your business makes more commercial sense than recruiting in-house?
Identifying any potential threats to your business is vital to ensure your marketing strategy is sustainable, and to make sure you can put in place contingency plans for dealing with threats if they occur. Examples of threats could be:
New competitors entering the market.
New technologies driving the market and influencing how it operates.
Changes in the direction of the market as a result of economic, social or environmental development.
Ensure you have the right stakeholders involved when carrying out your SWOT analysis. It’s important to involve those involved in the day-to-day running of the business and those out in the field that have regular interaction with your customers. Don’t just rely on senior executives and marketing professionals to understand everything that is going on.
Carry out the analysis regularly - at least once a year. Markets move rapidly in this digital age so it is important to ensure you are aware of where your business stands and how you might need to adapt.
2. Identify your value proposition
Having a clear idea of your value proposition may sound obvious, but it is surprising how many businesses are not clear on their main value proposition, or rather don’t communicate it effectively either internally or outside their organisation. It’s especially true of companies that have expanded their offering rapidly into multiple markets.
To develop a great marketing strategy, there must be a clear value proposition that epitomises the strengths of the business and identifies the company amongst competitors.
Keep the message clear! A value proposition needs to be clear and concise so that customers can quickly and easily understand what it is you have to offer them and why they should choose you above the rest. It can often be the case that businesses use technical and complicated messaging to try and highlight them as the experts. Using highly technical terms can eliminate engagement with other audiences that could become potential customers, such as purchasers, budget holders, and those with English as a second language. It’s important to remember that keeping it simple and clear will ensure the message is attractive and engaging to all potential customers.
3. Understand your customers
Understanding the requirements of your customers before rolling out any business activity is crucial and developing buyer personas is a great way to approach this. A buyer persona is a representation of your ideal customer and can be used to group different audiences so that you are able to attract and engage them with the correct message and via the right channels.
Say your business offers window replacement and repair services for the commercial market but you also would like to target homeowners. In addition, within this domestic service offering you may be looking to reach an even narrower audience, such as those that own listed properties. By defining the personas for each of these types of customer you’ll be able to identify whether your content and messaging needs refining, whether your website needs updating to ensure navigation is clear for both markets, and that your digital advertising is bringing in the right audience to the appropriate area of your website.
Regularly review the methods used to attract your audience. Industries change rapidly with new generations moving into more senior positions and disruptive technologies altering the way people do business.
4. Establish the right marketing channels
Once you’ve developed your personas it is much easier to establish the right channels to reach each audience. If you understand who you are going to target, the message to use, and the annels that will work best to attract and engage, it’ll put you in good stead to maximise your resource and budget, ensuring good return on investment.
Use as many channels as you can to build your personas. This can be achieved through website analytics, social media, customer reviews and of course, and perhaps most significant within this industry, feedback from conversations with actual customers and prospects.
Consider splitting your personas down even further. For example, you have established Architects as a persona but have you considered how the age of the architects might influence how you approach them? The younger generation within this persona type may look to digital methods to research potential businesses, compared to those that have been in the industry for longer and may rely more on word of mouth, recommendation and their own contacts.
5. Be dynamic and prepare
You just have to look at the British high street over the last 10 years to understand how brands that fail to adopt in a rapidly changing marketplace can quickly move from booming to bust.
Take the notorious example of Blockbuster; once a well-known household name with a huge customer base, the company were primed to lead the way in digital innovation in the film and gaming industry. But failure to do so, combined with costly overheads and high rents, meant the company rapidly began to lose market share to DVD postal service Love Film. Compounding this further, the company had the opportunity to purchase the (at the time) fledgling business Netflix for 49% share, but made the decision not to. Their inability to envisage innovation in technology, act on opportunities within the market, and to recognise changes in their customers’ behaviour meant the ultimate crash of the company.
And it’s no different within the construction or manufacturing industry which is also in the midst of a digital transformation. Technology such as drones, robots and BIM (building information modelling) is changing the way the industry works from design to build. Businesses failing to invest in digital innovation and adapt their strategies will struggle to hold their place within the market behind those that are embracing it.
Carry out a thorough analysis of your business including strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities. Get the right people involved from within your business.
Keep the value proposition at the heart of all messaging and approach to any business. Make sure it is clear and concise and your internal stakeholders are clear and on-board.
Develop buyer personas to ensure your marketing is attracting and engaging the right people in the right place, and not falling on deaf ears!
Analyse and review the marketing channels you use - see what is working and alter your marketing plan accordingly to maximise your budget and ROI.
Revisit and review! Keep an eye on what’s going on in your industry and in the wider economic, social and environmental market as things change, quickly! Revisit your strategy; does it still apply? does it needed tweaking to account for any new threats or opportunities?
At SWW Marketing we have worked with a number of our clients to help them build their marketing strategy and from this develop their marketing plans. Chat to us about how we can support you in building your marketing strategy or just help you review your current plans.