Why do you need a marketing strategy? December 2012

Every so often, when I ask a new business owner what their marketing strategy is, they struggle for an answer. Invariably they may have a vague plan to ‘sell more goods/services to customers’, but little in the way of substance to actually stand a realistic chance of achieving an objective.

Ok, so let’s get back to basics:
The key to business success is in making the required level of sales. In order to make those sales you need to understand your target customers – what are their wants and needs? How will you entice them to buy from you?

Successful marketing campaigns are invariably focused on the needs of the target customer, with an emphasis on continuously communicating the benefits of your services or products over those available from the competition.

This approach to your marketing strategy should also assist you with ‘positioning’ your business in your industry or sector. Or to put it another way, your strategy is to seek to influence both existing and prospective customers that your business offers something unique or special – differentiating you from the crowd. If you fail to persuade people that your service or product is unique or offers ‘additional value’ , then your customers’ buying decision may simply come down to price alone.

A focused marketing strategy depends on your continually explaining and emphasising how and why your business is not only reliable and represents good value, but is also different (better) from the competition in subtle and genuine ways.

Quite possibly, you may be at the start up stage or in the early weeks/months of trading, and as such you may not have established a market position yet, so here are the main steps to follow which could form the ‘spine’ in most marketing strategies:

* Identify a gap that you can realistically fill – assuming your research reasonably confirms that there is a market in the gap! Look at this from your customers view.
* Take time and care in analysing your target audience. Exactly what are their wants and needs?
* What are the competition offering? How do they position themselves? What are their marketing methods?
* Ensure that what you are offering is crystal clear to your target audience – particularly the benefits. Are they getting the message?
* Avoid distractions. Focus on that particular gap in the market only. This approach should help begin establishing a foothold for your market position.
* Regularly review and monitor your strategy. What’s working well? What is not working? Are you effectively delivering on your promises? Do you need to make changes or adjustments?