Individuals and businesses think about strategy in different ways and will use one of several different 'frameworks' to capture this strategic thinking. Which can make defining what a strategy is difficult. In its simplest form, a strategy is a series of objectives and areas of focus to meet these objectives. These then inform a plan of action designed to achieve these objectives.
To learn more about marketing strategy, and our preferred marketing strategy framework, the Customer Engagement Framework, download our strategy white paper.
Most businesses work from some version of a periodic strategy and plan, or hierarchical company plans. For example; a business strategy document, sales plan, brand plan, or business plan. A marketing strategy may complement these existing business strategy documents. Or, as is often the case in businesses, be the sole document to capture the whole business strategy.
Additionally, you may find that your business needs both a short- and long-term marketing strategy and plan in place. Typically, a 12-month or financial-year strategy and a longer three-to-five-year future horizon strategy. Each may have its own set of objectives and areas of focus to be defined over their respective time frame.
Defining your objectives
What does success for your business look like, and how do you measure it? And more specifically, how do you define marketing success? Is it the number of new customers, the spend per customer, your market share?
When looking at objectives, it can help to think of them as belonging to one of two camps: hard objectives and soft objectives. Hard objectives are measurable [e.g. increase market share by X%], while soft objectives have less clear-cut criteria [e.g. get to know your customer better]. Most strategies will contain a mix of the two. But it is critical to ensure you have hard objectives to track back to your business performance.
If you're unable to correlate your marketing efforts to the objectives you've identified, this can mean one of two things:
That you may need to reassess where you're focusing your efforts, or,
That there is a need to increase your level of sophistication around tracking and reporting on objectives.
These are the main areas of focus for your business that are important to meet your objectives.
Businesses will often be vague here, but, assuming you're a business with limited resources, you should try to narrow down on where and how you're going to focus your efforts. It's just as important to know where you're not going to focus your efforts, as it is to know where you are going to focus your efforts.
Try to capture four or five areas that are going to concentrate your efforts. A few of these points may be obvious business as usual objectives, e.g. reduce the cost of sourcing and facilitating goods sold. While others may be more aspirational, e.g. get your product into a major reseller.
You don't have to reinvent the wheel here either, review what has worked for your business in the past, and how you can use these learnings and improve slightly on them.
Below are a few ballpark ideas for areas of focus that you may be able to apply to your business.
Identify and acquire b2b clients in x industry.
Increase brand recognition.
Build and work with an influencer network.
Establish our brand as the 'mum/family' preferred option.
Automate our marketing systems and processes.
Reduce the cost of goods sold.
Rebrand our legacy products.
Secure distribution through x reseller.
Develop a product for 'x' market opportunity.
Develop a subscription model for our service.
Drive down the cost of customer acquisition.
To learn more about marketing strategy, download our strategy white paper.