Sky is not the limit - because you set that limit | Daily News
From crisis to sustenance – Part 37:

Sky is not the limit - because you set that limit

Effective marketing starts with a well-considered, well-informed marketing strategy. A good marketing strategy helps you define your vision, mission and business goals, and outlines the steps you need to take to achieve these goals.

The ultimate goal of any marketing strategy is to help you grow your business and increase your brand awareness; cementing trust with current clients is a nice by-product as well. How does it work? Developing awareness of your brand - who you are, what you do and why you are uniquely qualified - should in turn help you generate leads which, through education and dripping on prospects, will lead to more clients.

Your marketing strategy affects the way you run your entire business, so it should be planned and developed in consultation with your team. It is a wide-reaching and comprehensive strategic planning tool that: (1) describes your business and its products and services

explains the position and role of your products and services in the market, (2) profiles your customers and your competition, (3) identifies the marketing tactics you will use and (4) allows you to build a marketing plan and measure its effectiveness.

A marketing strategy sets the overall direction and goals for your marketing, and is therefore different from a marketing plan, which outlines the specific actions you will take to implement your marketing strategy. Your marketing strategy could be developed for the next 3 to 5 years, while your marketing plan usually describes tactics to be achieved in the current year.

If your marketing strategy is well-developed, it will help you realise your business’s goals and build a strong reputation for your products. It will help you target your products and services to the people most likely to buy them. It usually involves you creating one or two powerful ideas to raise awareness and sell your products.

Developing a marketing strategy that includes the components listed below will help you make the most of your marketing investment, keep your marketing focused, and measure and improve your sales results.

Clarify your business objectives

These will focus on how you increase sales by getting and keeping customers. To explain how to do this, experts talk about how best to package your products and services, how much to charge for them and how to take them to market.

A marketing strategy will help you tailor your messages and put the right mix of marketing approaches in place so that you bring your sales and marketing activities together effectively in an effective marketing plan.

Unfortunately, there is a tendency for marketers to try to create a “one size fits all” approach for a portfolio of brands or, alternatively, to want to create complicated models to formulate marketing objectives. However, most businesses can be adequately captured by evaluating just three metrics: awareness, sales and advocacy (i.e. customer referral). Some brands are not widely known, others are have trouble converting awareness to sales and still others need to encourage consumer advocacy. While every business needs all three, it is important to focus on one primary objective or your strategy will degrade into a muddled hodgepodge.

Know your customers well

A successful marketing strategy depends on understanding your customers, what they need and how you can persuade them to buy from you. There’s no substitute for knowledge.

Experience and regular two-way communication will tell you a lot about your customers. But targeted market research will build a more detailed picture of customer segments with similar needs. It will help you understand how to target these people so you’re not wasting time on people who aren’t interested in your offer.

But you’ll also need to understand how your market works - where do your customers find out about your offer, for example? Your strategy should even tell you how you measure up against the competition and what new trends to expect in your market.

Make a good marketing plan

Your marketing plan – the written description of your market strategy – should (1) detail specific activities you intend to undertake; (2) Identify the audience each activity is targeted to; (3) Specify how you’re going to measure success; (4) Be flexible enough to allow adjustments as necessary; and (5) Stipulate who on your team is responsible for each activity. There are couple of other components, too.

State your marketing goals

Define a set of specific marketing goals based on the business goals you listed the plan. These goals will motivate you and your team and help you benchmark your success.

Examples of marketing goals include increased market penetration (selling more existing products to existing customers) or market development (selling existing products to new target markets). These marketing goals could be long-term and might take a few years to successfully achieve. However, they should be clear and measurable and have time frames for achievement.

Make sure your overall strategies are also practical and measurable. A good marketing strategy will not be changed every year, but revised when your strategies have been achieved or your marketing goals have been met. Also, you may need to amend your strategy if your external market changes due to a new competitor or new technology, or if your products substantially change.

Research your market

Research is an essential part of your marketing strategy. You need to gather information about your market, such as its size, growth, social trends and demographics (population statistics such as age, gender and family type). It is important to keep an eye on your market so you are aware of any changes over time, so your strategy remains relevant and targete.

Use the ‘7 Ps of marketing’

Identify your tactical marketing mix using the 7 Ps of marketing. If you can choose the right combination of marketing across product, price, promotion, place, people, process and physical evidence, your marketing strategy is more likely to be a success.

Test your ideas

In deciding your tactics, do some online research, test some ideas and approaches on your customers and your staff, and review what works. You will need to choose a number of tactics in order to meet your customers’ needs, reach the customers within your target market and improve your sales results.

Emerging opportunities

Marketing executives are busy people. They need to actively monitor the marketplace, identify business opportunities, collaborate with product people and run promotional campaigns. It is unreasonable to expect them to keep up with the vast array of emerging technology and tactics, especially since most of it won’t pan out anyway.

Therefore, it is essential to have a team dedicated to identifying emerging opportunities, meeting with start-ups and running test-and-learn programs to evaluate their true potential. Of course, most of these will fail, but the few winners will more than make up for the losers.

Once an emerging opportunity has performed successfully in a pilot program, it can then be scaled up and become integrated into the normal strategic process as a viable tactic to achieve an awareness, sales or advocacy objective.

Decouple strategy and innovation

Unfortunately, in many organizations, strategy and innovation are often grouped together because they are both perceived as things that “smart people” do. Consequently, when firms approach innovation, they tend to put their best people on it, those who have shown a knack for getting results.

That’s why, all too often, innovation teams are populated by senior executives. Because innovation is considered crucial to the future of the enterprise, they also tend to have ample resources at their disposal. They are set up to succeed. Failure, all too often, isn’t an option.

However, strategy is fundamentally different from innovation. A good strategy is one that achieves specific objectives. Innovation, however, focuses on creating something completely new and new things, unfortunately, tend to not work as well as standard solutions (at least at first). The truth is that innovation is a messy business.

So failure must be an option, which is why technologically focused venture capital firms expect the vast majority of their investments to fail. However, failure must be done cheaply, in order to keep the resources to a minimum.

Modern skills

Companies need to take advantage of the modern way in which people learn and shop. And that means being online where increasingly people search for information and services. However, it’s more than simply having a website. You must have compelling content that you share and get as many people talking about it as possible.

One type of content that more firms are using is online video. It’s a great way to communicate what you offer, as well as what it’s like to work with you. But if you don’t do it well, it can have a detrimental effect. A poorly crafted video can actually reduce your perceived value and leadership status, putting downward pressure on profits and deal-flow.

Equally important as creating remarkable content is determining your target market. When you have a solid specialty and a defined target market, you have a unique niche-a position in the marketplace that allows you to become the go-to expert. In addition, your marketing efforts are more effective and you avoid the labour-intensive work of attending dozens of networking events or cold calling.

Your engagement with prospects and clients can also be improved via cloud computing services such as Google Apps. By employing such technology, companies can spend less attention on IT and more attention on clients and growing the company. Such applications also allow companies to engage with clients, consultants, and the broader community using next-generation sales and marketing techniques.

Not all of these new techniques and technologies are for everyone or every company. Each has its pros and cons, and your customers and prospects may respond better to certain tactics over others. But there’s no denying that companies must innovate and try new tactics if they want to survive.

(Lionel Wijesiri is a retired company director with over 30 years’ experience in senior business management. Presently he is a freelance newspaper writer.)


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