A Guide for Developing a Comprehensive Marketing Strategy

Even though most business owners recognize the importance of developing a business plan outlining their company’s strategies and course for success, the marketing strategy component, because it is sometimes buried in the overall business model, may not be given the attention, time, and research it deserves. This may be because business owners feel they know their client base as well as how they can reach them. Nevertheless, an in-depth and detailed marketing plan can provide new opportunities, open up the business to a new group of potential prospects, uncover pitfalls in pricing strategies, and expose vulnerabilities in the competition that you can capitalize on to your business advantage. Consider this: in terms of marketing, there are strategies and tactics. Marketing tactics include the variety of operational executions that you have in place such as print advertising, building and maintaining a website, sending emails, monitoring social media sites like Facebook, tweeting, blogging, and so on. However, businesses sometimes get so caught up with such daily marketing tactics, that they neglect working out a strategic approach to decision-making that will optimize and improve the performance of their marketing tactics.
In order to maximize the effectiveness of your marketing tactics, you need to have a very clear idea of what you want to accomplish. A marketing strategy outlines what needs to be done, while the rest of your marketing plan provides details on how you will do it. So, you first have to have a good understanding of what you want to accomplish with your marketing, and then you will be in a better position to know how you will achieve it. This is the reason for developing a comprehensive marketing strategy, and it should be directly related to your business goals and objectives. While there are many things to consider when crafting a successful marketing strategy, the following five key categories provide a foundation for your marketing efforts.

Marketing Mission Statement
The goal of a business mission statement is to articulate the essence of what the company is all about. Ideally it should answer questions such as: Why does the business exist? What are its fundamental functions? What are its business goals? What services does it provide? What is it trying to accomplish? Who are its primary customers? In what geographical areas does it operate? A marketing mission statement is guided by the company’s mission statement. It is the foundation for everything that comes next.

Target Marketing
The first question to ask is: What groups and individuals are you trying to reach with your marketing tactics, and why it is they that you are trying to reach? There are numerous potential prospect and clients in most markets and you may be tempted to try and reach them all. However, experience has shown that businesses that spend time and money on marketing, without it resulting in driving enough sales, usually find that the problem is that they haven’t defined and narrowed their target market enough to be effective. The narrower you define your market so you can focus on those that you can best serve and who could benefit from your business the most, the more effective your entire business will be. To accomplish this successfully you and your management team needs to spend the time to really study your market, do the required research, and determine as many characteristics as you can about the clients you are targeting. Who are they? Where can you find them? What are their needs? How can you provide the services that can satisfy their needs? Marketing experts recommend creating a fictional business or individual, something like the ideal client, and then sketch out as many specific attributes as you can about them. Not only can this help you identify specifics about your target market, but it can also help you personalize your marketing messaging.

Competitive Analysis
Let’s face it, no matter how original your services or products may be, there is always competitors in your market area thinking the same thing, and who are always in competition for your target customer’s dollars. Again, it is best to do the needed research in order to identify your competitors. Who are you up against? Where do you rank? Small businesses seldom take the time to study their competitors in depth, or identify competition that may be outside their industry but nevertheless are just as capable of luring the customer away. Preparing to know who you key competitors are, what their core competitive advantage is, and how they will respond to your offering (price cuts, increased communication, etc.) will help you figure out tactics to combat their seeming advantages. You should know who is out there selling something similar to what you are selling, especially if they are selling it to consumers that fit your ideal customer profile. Take a hard look at what they are doing right, and what they may be doing wrong.
Conducting a thorough analysis of your competition will help you identify areas where you can beat the competition, fine-tune your target market, and make sure you are prepared to address the challenges posed by your competition. Remember, when prospects are looking for a business to solve their problems, they will quickly look at all the businesses out there and start comparing and contrasting, and this includes you and your competition. However, if you have specifically defined who your real competition is and, in the process, have created marketing messages that create a clear differentiation from them, you are more in a place to position yourself to stand out. This leads directly to the next point, having a clear sense of what makes your business unique.

Business Uniqueness
Once you’ve completed your analysis of the competition and know what you’re up against in the market, you need to then identify key characteristics of your business that sets you apart from everyone else. What makes your business, products and services unique and desirable to your target market? Savvy business owners accomplish this by articulating what marketers call a unique selling proposition (USP). A USP is a statement that outlines how your business, products and services are different from your competition. It identifies what makes your business the better choice, and why your target clients should choose you over the competition. In coming up with a USP, however, some businesses make the mistake of attempting to stand for everything. They want to do everything well, and they want to be all things to all people. They want to have the best industrial services and the cheapest prices. They want to be known for the most high-tech equipment and the best technicians and the best customer service. The old adage, jack of all trades but master of none captures the essence of this problem. That is, when you attempt to be known for everything, you all too often end up not being known for anything.
All of this is directly relevant to your competitive analysis. Once you have defined your competition, make a list of all the things you do differently and better. Then rank each of them by how important these factors are to your target customer. The ideal situation would be if you could identify one key service, product, price, approach, etc. that none of your competitors offers. It could be anything but the key is that it has to be unique to your business alone. Pick one and master every aspect of it. For example, it could be your superior customer service, or the best equipment, or…. You get the idea. Your USP should then be included in every component of your marketing tactics. It is important to be consistent across your entire marketing activities. With all of this said, it also isn’t the case that you could eventually master other aspects of your business. It is a matter of pacing and focusing on one at a time.

Budgeting and Pricing
If you have already developed a comprehensive business model, then you have no doubt spent a great deal of time researching the best price point for your products and services. Now it’s time to incorporate that pricing information into your marketing tactics. In most cases, you want to be able to support the price points you have chosen by providing your customers with a clear idea of the value and benefits they will get in return.
Once you have developed a comprehensive marketing strategy, then it is time to develop the best marketing tactics that can most effectively implement everything relative to your marketing strategy. Look to next month’s issue for how to develop an array of effective marketing tactics that can be immediately implemented.

Story by Mark Joseph Manion

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