No matter how big or small your company, a solid marketing strategy focuses your efforts and helps your team make better decisions faster.
Without a robust marketing strategy, budget is wasted and growth opportunities missed. So how do you know if your strategy is solid? You can use our Marketing Strategy Checklist to be sure, but for a quick and dirty check-up, look for these four critical elements:
#1 Detailed profiles of each target customer
The proper term is “buyer personas”, but no matter what you call them, look for documented evidence that your company knows your target customers as people. It’s not sufficient to simply define the types of companies you’re targeting because companies don’t make purchasing decisions, people do.
Here’s what you’re looking for: buyer personas start with a different fictitious person to represent each of your customer groups or segments. How old are they? Are they male or female? Do they have a college degree? They also contain this person’s interests, motivations, fears, pain points, and influences, all of which impact how they make decisions.
Finally, they look at each stage of this buyer’s buying cycle relative to your product or service: what makes them realize they have a need? Where do they go for information and which sources do they trust? Who else is involved in this decision? Once they’re a customer, how do they experience your product or service? What keeps them loyal?
Only when you’ve documented answers to each of these questions for each type of customer you’re targeting should you spend dollar one on marketing.
#2 Clear value propositions for each buyer persona, product, and service
A value proposition is best described as the intersection between what your customers want and what only you can provide them (side note: if you don’t have detailed buyer personas, you don’t have good value propositions).
The first mistake many companies make is confusing their vision or mission with their value proposition (i.e. “Providing high quality products with the industry’s best customer service”) That’s all well and good, but unless it’s a statement none of your competitors can make, it’s not the reason your customers choose you over anyone else.
The second mistake companies make is thinking they need only one value proposition, when in fact, you should have at least three:
This is not a vanity exercise. Without a detailed understanding of what differentiates you, you’ll waste time and money sending messages to the market that simply don’t land, and more often than not, end up competing solely on price.
#3 Recently updated competitive positioning of each of your products and services
Competitive positioning is how customers view the value offered by your product or service relative to their other choices. To understand your products’ positioning you must know three things: what characteristics matter to your customers when it comes to this product, all of the alternative options your customers have to this product, and how customers view their options relative to what matters most.
Need help getting started? Download our free Guide to Competitor Positioning.
Here’s a simple example of the competitive positioning of Ralph Lauren clothing and its top competitors along style characteristics:
Unless you offer just one product or service, understanding your competitive positioning as a company is insufficient. This is because each product or service has its own set of alternatives from which your customers can choose.
Keep in mind that competitive positioning (and therefore value propositions) are relative: the strength of your competitive advantage and uniqueness of your offer depends on the alternative choices your customers have. When market dynamics change, so too does our value in the eyes of our customers. This is why a strong marketing strategy must also include a market intel and feedback plan.
#4 Market intel and feedback loops
An effective marketing strategy takes advantage of the unique value you offer the market. However, when the market changes (say, a competitor enters the market or introduces a new product), your positioning within the market also changes and your strategy must evolve. This is why it’s critical your marketing strategy include a formal process for gathering, interpreting, and utilizing market intelligence and customer feedback.
For most businesses, intel gathering happens organically. We conduct customer satisfaction surveys, read industry publications, and small talk with customers and vendors. The sheer volume of market information we encounter every day can be overwhelming. That’s why it’s crucial to have a plan to ensure you make the most of this information and stay one step ahead of your competition.
Are you using your customer satisfaction surveys to ask questions about your competitors’ performance? Are you compiling and vetting the competitive intelligence your sales teams hear every day? Do you monitor industry trends and their implications on the value your products offer?
Take the time to formalize your market intel and feedback loops and review your marketing strategy regularly, checking to be sure your assumptions still hold true.
My marketing strategy isn’t as strong as I’d like…now what?
If your company’s marketing strategy is missing any of these four components, you’re likely wasting marketing budget communicating messages that don’t resonate as well as they should. Experienced independent consultants like us can help you develop a thorough, actionable marketing strategy without the complexity and expense of a large firm. Just drop us a line.
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