All businesses want their marketing efforts to be more strategic. The problem is that, for many of them, the day-to-day demands take over. Taking the time to think about what they want to achieve and why is pushed to the side. At most, they do it once a year, when they write the marketing plan for the following 12 months.
But in a heavily saturated market, being strategic and having a clear marketing strategy can turn out to be the single best thing you can do for your business. It will give you focus, direct your marketing efforts and help you understand if you are on the right path.
So, how can we be more strategic in our marketing?
First, put aside some time for it. Having a yearly plan is ok, but you want to make sure you review it at least once a quarter to keep it fresh and relevant. Next, it’s time to do some research.
Understand your organisation
To be strategic, you first need to learn everything you can about the three fundamental factors driving your business: your organisation, your market and your customers.
Whether you are the CEO of a company employing 10,000 people or a freelancer, becoming aware of what your business is good at and where it fails is essential for success.
To help you, carry out a full SWOT analysis to identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for your business, and use the results for a TOWS analysis, which will help you guide your actions. You will find more information on SWOT and TOWS analysis here.
Understand your market
To be truly strategic, your business can’t operate independently from the market.
First of all, you need to know your competitors. How are they positioning themselves? Is there a flurry of mergers and acquisitions, indicating significant consolidation? Are there any market gaps or the areas no competitors are covering just yet?
You also need to look forward. Most industries have seen increased competition in the last decade. The internet has radically transformed how businesses work, and in many cases disrupted established industries. Are there any big question marks on the horizon, such as the impact of automation, artificial intelligence and robots?
Understand your customers
Consider the individuals you are targeting. Do you understand their needs? If you are not entirely sure, make it your marketing priority. The more rounded your knowledge of your customers, the better you will be able to serve them. Remember what marketing legend Peter Drucker said: “the aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.”
So, what do you need to do to really understand your customers? Look at the data you have, do some research on your ideal clients but most importantly, speak to them. Ask them what motivates them, what their problems are, what keeps them up at night. Note the words they use.
With the information you gather, build your buyer personas and use them guide your marketing. So, if you have what you think is a great marketing idea, test it first with people who represent your personas. At the end of the day, your opinion is irrelevant. What really matters is whether they like it or not.
Understand the triggers
There are three types of customers out there.
First of all, there are those who already buy the product or service that you offer. They may be your customers or your competitors’ customers, but the bottom line is that they need the sort of product or service you offer and are actively engaged with a supplier (which may or may not be you).
Then there’s those who realise they have a problem and are researching what options there may be available to them. Evaluators haven’t quite bought yet but are pretty much ready, they just need some information and gentle nudging.
Finally, there’s the rest of individuals or organisations that you know would benefit enormously from your product or service. The only issue is that they don’t realise. It’s tempting to waste your time trying to convince them. Don’t. Instead, make the effort to understand the typical triggers that turn them into evaluators.
Typical triggers are changes in management, a bad year in terms of performance, new legislation coming into place, competitive moves and market disruptions, and economic changes. Make sure you understand if the triggers are internal or external, whether there are any hidden motivations and how urgent the decision is.