Let’s talk about marketing strategy. If you don’t have one, don’t be surprised if you don’t get anywhere.
Marketing is the engine that drives your company’s expansion. So if you are ambitious, you need to understand what a strategy is, and how to create one.
Then you have a chance to develop and get done a strategy that makes your dreams come true.
WHAT IS A MARKETING STRATEGY?
A marketing strategy is simply a strategy for your marketing. It isn’t a special kind of strategy. A strategy is the overall, big picture plan for getting where you are trying to go. So to do a strategy, you need to set goals. Otherwise you are going – nowhere.
One of the big misses is to be vague or unreal about your goals. A goal should be “to increase sales 50% monthly by year-end.” Not “to achieve phenomenal growth” or “to beat out Apple this year.” That’s as bad as having no goal at all.
In developing a strategy, you are working out what you are actually going to do. How can you plan to accomplish a nebulous or impossible goal? You can’t.
A strategy is “big picture.” Without getting into small details, it is specific and comprehensive. My strategies are typically 2 to 4 pages long, though this isn’t a firm rule.
DEVELOPING A STRATEGY
Strategies aren’t developed in a vacuum. They exist in the real world that includes customers, competition, your own capabilities, and much more. Strategies run on data. It isn’t just the goals that have to be realistic, but the strategy has to match the real world too. Otherwise, you are climbing a mountain over unpassable gorges or running your railroad tracks underwater.
There’s a widely used formula for developing a strategy, “SWOT,” which stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. If you know each of these well, you are in a good position to develop a strategy. Missing data in any of these four areas can lead to a failed strategy. A SWOT analysis is the first line of defense against an unrealistic strategy.
We’ll examine each of these, but first, what do you do once you have gathered the information? The next thing you really have to do is understand why you aren’t already there.
I mean, you’ve been wanting to achieve that stated goal for a long time. You’ve been working at it, right?
Apparently just continuing to work hard, putting your shoulder to the wheel, isn’t going to get you there, as evidenced by the fact that you haven’t done it yet. So there must be something you don’t understand. Be a little humble and look at all that data you gathered and what you’ve been trying to do to get there.
Chances are that a light will dawn.
Maybe the way you’ve been going at it will never work because you don’t have the funds to make it work. Maybe you’re targeting too small a customer base. Maybe you’re depending on someone who doesn’t actually have the skill needed for what he has to do. There could be an infinite number of possibilities.
Don’t let go of this until you have that “Aha!” moment. That is a Must if you want this to work.
STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
S is for Strengths, W is for Weaknesses. When you examine them, make sure you look from every angle of your business. Here are some things which can fall into one or the other of these two categories:
- Current and past customers.
- Contact lists.
- Websites and other marketing material.
- Financial resources.
- Product and services offerings.
- Known successful marketing and sales techniques.
- Testimonials, case studies, and reviews.
So, for example, under marketing and sales techniques, maybe you don’t HAVE successful techniques, methods, or systems. That would be a serious weakness. If you have a vast number of current and past customers who are happy with you – that is a major strength.
There could be many more. These are just examples.
OPPORTUNITIES AND THREATS
If there are no opportunities, you’re dead in the water, and that’s for sure. The opportunities you have been exploiting aren’t paying for your new yacht.
But as you examine your situation, you start to see where you could possibly make something happen. These can be of several sorts.
Perhaps an existing client knows everyone in the industry and could be a phenomenal referral source. Or you realize your customers respond, in your sales pitches, to stories about similar companies’ successes with your products or services – something you’ve never systematically made use of.
At the same time, it would be unwise to ignore threats and to neglect dealing with them. Again, these can be of several sorts. If you have unsettled legal issues, that is a potential threat. So is a competitor coming on strong.
ADD IT UP, GET IT DONE
Put all this information together in the form of a written document. A typical format would lay out the goal, then give the SWOT data, give the explanation for your lack of success to date, then give the plan that you worked out based on all that information and analysis.
Now you have to get the plan done.
It’s said that no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy. Well, no strategy survives contact with reality: Be prepared to modify, as you run into things you didn’t know or couldn’t anticipate.
But keep that plan in front of you.
If you’re like most of us, your routine day-to-day activities keep you plenty busy. But make time to work on your plan bit by bit. You just have to work on it regularly despite anything and everything.
You just might be surprised by what you accomplish.