For many small businesses, getting their website up, their social media sorted out, some leaflets means you’re doing marketing. And I was no exception when I set up. It’s the easy tangible stuff to do. It looks pretty, it gives you a presence, it makes you feel good.
However, without a true understanding of who you’re targeting and the messages they need to hear to buy your product it doesn’t really do a lot. And this is why it’s really important to have a strategy in place before you commit any money to marketing and that includes your website.
The advantage of a marketing strategy is that it provides the foundations for you to then use to build your marketing and communications plans. It provides you with the knowledge of what will get a customer to buy your product. It will give you an understanding of where they look for your product and therefore how to market to them.
The truth is that it is unlikely that you are the only one providing the services and products you offer. It is very difficult to be unique, but what a strategy will do is give you the edge over your competitors. If you understand your customers, you can appeal to them in a more effective way by choosing the right tactics and by using more pertinent messaging. You'll be different through a more in-depth knowledge of the way they tick.
Not only that, it will allow you to spend your marketing budget much more effectively. As small business owners, we all know the time and effort it takes to do marketing. Let’s make sure that the time & effort we spend is spent well.
So what should a good strategy include?
An overview of the market as a whole which is then split out into different customer groups (Segmentation). Each of these groups should be unique. Not all the groups may use or be interested in your product or service currently but they are in the overall market for your product
This ‘segmentation’ should ideally include a value for each group, plus also show where there is influence from one group to another.
A suggestion of who, within your segmentation, to target for your product. This should be linked to your business objectives in order to make sure you are able to deliver on these through your marketing. This targeting can change year on year when you do your planning, but what doesn’t change is the fact that you are choosing who to target from your segmentation.
This stage is as much about who you don't target as who you do. Accepting that a particular customer type, whilst one who buys from you, is not right for your business can be hard but it can also be liberating!
A positioning for your target audience. This is the ‘Why should that audience buy the product’. It should fit in to your overall brand positioning if you have one. It should reflect what the audience want, what the competition offer instead, and what you can offer. And it should be deliverable – there is no point promising something that you can’t deliver, you will only fail!!
And there you go, a marketing strategy. Now the marketing plan needs to be put in place because as Sun Tzu, the first great strategist, in his work ‘The Art of War’ says: Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before the defeat.
You need to take what you have in your strategy and make sure your product, place, price are right for the audience, and then only then can you start to think about promotion. But that's another blog to look forward to!