How to Create a Killer Marketing Strategy
A guide to helping you promote your business and deliver on the promises you make to customers
The terms ‘marketing’ and ‘advertising’ are often conflated, but they are in fact very different – the latter coming under the umbrella of the former.
Marketing means delivering on the promises you make to customers – so getting your offering right, and delivering it in accordance to your customer’s needs.
The objective of any piece of marketing – whether that be pricing, selling, promotion, distribution, market research, or customer care – is to establish and deliver upon the needs of the customer. Successful marketing is no easy thing to achieve, but getting it right should be a core priority for any business hoping to have any kind of success.
This guide will not only help you obtain a better understanding of marketing but also help you to plan a marketing strategy while avoiding acommon pitfalls.
What factors should play a part in my marketing?
Unless your customers clearly understand the benefits of your product/service, you won’t have a business.
Price is also of paramount significance to your marketing – it will determine who buys your offering.
Think about your target market. You need to know who your customers are, and which ones are the most profitable to you. Concentrate the majority of your efforts selling to these customers.
Who are your competition? Every business will face some sort of competition, either directly or indirectly (e.g. a curry house might face competition from other curry houses, or simply other eating establishments).
How should I deal with competition?
Develop your USP. This is the factor that will distinguish you from your competitors in the minds of customers – ‘I buy from X because they offer me Y’.
The aim of your all marketing should be to communicate this to consumers.
Acknowledge your weaknesses as there is no point being unrealistic about the disadvantages you face, and with a little creative thinking you can turn them to your advantage. For example, small businesses might compensate for their stature by offering a better quality of service than their larger competitors.
How do I create a marketing plan?
Your tactics and strategies for marketing your business should be drawn up and codified in a marketing plan. It should be a core component of your business plan as a whole – establishing how you will sell your offering and promote your business to your customers.
You should build your marketing strategy in these simple steps.
Firstly, decide which market segments/customers to target. Don’t move into new segments unless your position in your existing ones is secure.
Once you know who you’re targeting, decide how you’re going to adjust your product range. Most products have a life cycle, and must be updated to remain profitable. Consider what aspects you can change – the size, the packaging, the promoted usages – to keep existing products selling. Consider what new products you could introduce.
Determine the price of each product. Consider revising your prices as part of any competitive analysis you undertake, though make sure it follows a thorough and considered decision-making process – you could end up slashing your prices unnecessarily.
Once your products and prices are sorted, think about how you’re going to distribute them. Establish the most suitable method for your product or service. If you are selling indirectly, use retailers, agents or wholesalers; if you are speaking directly, personal selling, direct mail or e-commerce routes are the best options.
Doing promotion will also be key. Consider every available option – PR, e-advertising, direct mail, etc. Strong marketing can offset the pressure exhibited by competitive pricing.
Finally, look at how to improve your customer service. Your existing customers tend to be much more valuable to potential new ones you hope to acquire, and quality of service has a huge impact on customer retention.
What common pitfalls should I avoid?
First off, be clear when naming your business – and avoid confusion. Your company name should describe what you do. Avoid calling it simply ‘X’ – instead, plump for ‘X Delivery Services’, for example.
Be realistic and don’t set over-ambitious targets for yourself. Instead, set realisable goals and try to exceed them.
As the market is always in a state of flux, don’t get complacent. Update your research and market analysis regularly to stay abreast of developments.
Don’t second-guess your customers either. Your research should identify a tangible need for your offering, and a gap in the market for it to fill.
Don’t sell your customers what you don’t know they want.
Finally, don’t aim for unsuitable customers. If you are a small business, you are unlikely to sell office supplies to, say, a multinational corporation. Set your sights on those you are likely to reach.
What everyday steps can I take to market my business?
Not every piece of marketing you undertake will require a detailed plan and budget – they are measures you can take in the everyday running of your business that can help with your marketing.
Talk to anyone and everyone about your business and ‘self market’. The more people you talk to, the more interest you will drum up.
Make sure to constantly keep up appearances. How you and your employees interact with customers will determine how they see your business, so make sure everyone in your organisation is briefed and trained to act in a way that projects the image that you want.
In the same vein, all your promotional material should have a consistent theme and quality.
Simply asking your customers how they heard about you can determine what marketing activity is working, and what isn’t.
How can I give my small business the edge?
Smaller and less established business may find it difficult to market themselves to the same level of effectiveness as larger and more entrenched ones, but they can also make use of marketing opportunities barred to multinationals.
As small businesses naturally have fewer people in their organisation, they can be more flexible and reactive. This can hopefully mean less bureaucracy and barriers to decision-making, making it easier for a small business to react to changes in the market.
Similarly, small businesses can enter niche areas. Large businesses have greater difficulty making a profit in new, niche areas. Explore what new avenues are available to you as the market changes.