How to develop a marketing strategy

Marketing Strategy

Your marketing strategy is very simply. It defines how you are going to market your products, services or business to customers. It lays out what your objectives are and how you're going to execute them. But that definition is very broad, and a marketing strategy can in fact cover anything from a ten-year vision for marketing your business to how to shift sales on one product over the next three weeks.

As such, the advice here is intended to guide you towards the skeleton of your marketing strategy - you can flesh it out with the help of other guides on Smarta.

What should a marketing strategy achieve?

  • Your strategy will depend on where you want your business to go - it forms part of your overall business aims.
  • The following are examples of what your overall business aim might be, and marketing strategies that you could use to achieve it:
    • Increase sales
    • Bring in new customers
    • Get existing customers to buy more
    • Introduce a new product or service
    • Increase market share
    • Better establish your brand
    • Improve customer loyalty
    • Launch an advertising campaign
    • Launch a PR campaign
    • Encourage word of mouth
    • Increase market share
    • Retain existing profitable customers
    • Make customers feel more valued
    • Offer existing customers exclusive offers
    • Ensure business stays fresh and new
  • Whatever your marketing strategy covers, you should definitely put it down in writing.
  • Make everything simple to understand, realistic, and with a clear path of action.
  • It will then become part of your longer and more detailed marketing plan, which is the document that deals with a more overarching and long-term view of your business (and so makes up a section of your business plan).
  • Be ready to adapt your marketing strategy as and when necessary - there are an infinite number of factors that could require a change. It's flexibility that'll keep you ahead of the competition.

How to develop a marketing strategy, step-by-step

  • Research. You need to carry out detailed analyses of these three areas:
    • Market analysis: the size of your market, how quickly its growing, your customers and their spending and lifestyle habits.
    • Competitor analysis: monitor both direct and indirect competition and how they compare with you on every aspect of sales and marketing (their customers, their brand, price, convenience of location, sales channels, and so on).
    • Company analysis: your overall business objectives, how you are going to achieve them, your strengths and weaknesses and those of your products or services.
    • Read more about how to carry out this research in our guide on market research.
  • Customers. Next you need to identify your target customers, using the information you've gathered from your research and, if needed, more detailed customer research. Then you have to:
    • Segment them: split your existing and target customers into groups, according to what they need from your business - which will differ. Some will want cost-effectiveness, some quality, some great customer service, and so on.
    • Positioning: how you compare to your competitors for each of your customer segments - are you the fastest, do you have the best customer service, are you the third most popular, and so on.
  • Product. Now you need to examine your product or service with the aim of working out how you're going to market it and outdo competitors, according to these:
    • USPs: what it can offer that no other product or business can. (Read more in our guide on USPs.)
    • Benefits to the customer: From your USPs, draw out what benefits your product or service offers to the customer. These may well vary between your various customer segments. You need to look very closely at what the customer actually sees: while Starbucks sells coffee, the benefit to the customer is a place to relax and have a chat with a friend or a place to sit with a laptop. Your USP may be that you deliver pizza faster than competitors to people in your area, but the benefit to the customer is that they don't have to cook and can receive a ready-made meal quickly. The way you define the benefits will shape your marketing message.
  • Communication. How you are now going to communicate the benefits of buying your product or service or using your business to your target customers (again, this may well vary between your various customer segments).
    • Marketing mix: the combination of all the marketing tools you are going to use to communicate your benefits to your customers. For example: advertising, PR, word of mouth, distribution channels, pricing, promotion, which products you'll sell to them, display in a shop, website, and so on.
  • Remembering four P's can be useful when you're putting your marketing mix together: Product, Placing, Pricing and Promotion.

The marketing plan

  • Having developed your strategy, you can now write it into a marketing plan.
  • The plan goes into the logistical details of executing your strategy, such as budgets, more detailed timescales, who within your company will manage the various points of the strategy, the logistics of various distribution channels and their incumbent costs and so on.
  • As such, it is of course a longer and more detailed document.
  • Your marketing plan is typically a more live document than your strategy (meaning you will tweak and update it more regularly). As costings, market conditions, economic conditions and other factors change, you'll need to adjust your plan to accommodate them - whereas your strategy could well remain the same.
  • For both your strategy and your plan to be useful, you need to closely monitor the results of marketing activity, and be ready to adapt both as necessary.

Jargon buster

Marketing mix: the combination of all the marketing tools you are going to use to communicate your benefits to your customers, including and for example: advertising, PR, word of mouth, distribution channels, pricing, promotion, which products you'll sell to them, display in a shop, website, and so on. In a nutshell: product, placing, pricing and promotion.

Now, find out what needs to be in your business strategy here.

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