Sales and Marketing
What is a Marketing Strategy?
For all organizations, big or small, profit-seeking or non-profit, the often complex, competitive environment in which they operate makes marketing strategy and planning essential. Hundreds of external and internal factors interact to affect the ability to make sales and we therefore need to plan these carefully where we can.
Many people think that marketing is essentially concerned with the advertising, promotion and the personal selling of goods and services. Advertising, promotion and selling, however, are just a part of the overall process and a good marketing strategy should take account of the wider view of what marketing is all about.
Here are several alternative definitions (drawn from a number of expert sources) which help to illustrate that marketing is about much more than advertising or simply selling activity:
What are marketing activities?
In general then, it can be said that the marketing activity involves everything that is associated with identifying the particular wants and needs of a target group of customers, and then going about satisfying those customer needs in a better way than the competitors. This generally involves the following six steps or stages:
- Researching and Identifying customer needs
- Designing products and/or services that meet those needs
- Pricing products/services appropriately (taking factors such as costs, competition and ability to pay into account)
- Communicating with the customer about the products/services
- Making products and services accessible and available (often called delivery or distribution)
- Providing after-sales support to ensure customer satisfaction (and repeat buying potentially)
Developing a marketing plan
Given the above, the initial step in evolving an overall marketing strategy (which encompasses all of the above) is to develop a plan which sets out goals and tactics to be followed and provides plans for communication, pricing and distribution. Once developed, more formalized market plans (as opposed to “let’s make it up as we go along” plans) help to reduce the complexity of market operations and delivering products and services to the customer by creating a fully formed and well-understood framework in which the organization can operate (and everyone knows the part he or she has to play).
In an organization that has a detailed marketing plan, the plan is likely to include:
- A mission or purpose statement which sets out the main reason for the existence of the organization, especially as it relates to the products and services it supplies to its target customers. All other planning should ideally be consistent with this.
- A summary of the company, department or unit’s past year’s performance in getting customers interested in and buying each product or service supplied, as a benchmark for the future.
- A summary of financial projections for the next three years (how much marketing money and selling effort/cost will be required and what is the expected return on this investment).
- A market overview description showing the nature of the market, its main segments, the other players, including competitors and customer groups.
- Organizational strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and Threats or “SWOT” analyses for the major products, services, markets, or segments.
- A product/service portfolio summary listing product/service types and groups.
- Major assumptions about the market and the organization.
- Particular Marketing objectives, strategies and tactics, ideally for the next three years at least.
- Detailed financial projections (ideally for the next three years) but at least for one year, with assumed pricing for each product or service.
- A detailed one year operational or execution plan, with forecasts and budgets (including costs of buying, distribution, providing customer support etc).
Although there is no particular order to the above parts of the marketing strategy or plan, they are often best considered in this order and the plan is developed in practical language to ensure that it can be easily understood and well-executed by all concerned.