The Importance of Using Marketing Strategies

Whether you are in a small, medium or large business, you’d do well with a marketing strategy. Companies that want to excel in today’s competitive economy require not just any marketing strategy but the best they can find, whether in-house, customized or out-sourced.

There are many types of strategies to promote your company products or services. There are simple or sophisticated strategies which have been proven, and can be easily applied to most organizations.

Campaigns are different from strategies; a marketing strategy is an approach to market or promote the business products or services to confirm transactions that will keep the company viable. It can also be called a plan which is used to give the company an added advantage or project a more attractive image to its intended buyers of its products or services.

Purpose of Marketing Strategy
A strategy must bring in the sales when implemented; otherwise, it is a failed strategy. Time, effort and money are wasted which are considered losses to the company. Different strategies are employed not only for the different products and services of the company, but also target at different market segment or users. Hence, it is important to identify what the focus of your strategy is.

Marketing strategies Media
Some marketing strategies include print campaigns like advertisements in the newspaper or billboards. These are meant to instill awareness of the company’s products and services to a larger audience. Nowadays, the Internet provides a most conducive platform as part of the company’s strategies. Some companies may choose the television or radio media to execute their strategies if they are focusing on certain types of audience for their goods and services. For example, companies which manufacture household products may choose to market their products through the television medium as a commercial which targets housewives.

Factors involved in Marketing Strategies
Whichever strategy you may choose for your company’s products or services, you will need to consider the item to be promoted, the targeted audience or buyer, the duration of the strategy, the budget and the expected results. At times the company may be able to use a strategy for several of its products and services while at other times, not.

There must be a specific audience identified to that chosen item to be promoted so that, that specific category of buyers will be tuned in on the promotion. A marketing strategy cannot go on and on as the target audience may feel bored with it or develop negative feelings or opinions about the company’s status.

There must be a budget to work on a specific strategy for a specific product or service identified for promotion as there may be other products and services which will demand the same attention and priority for good sales. A specific budget is also necessary to ensure that the strategy does not exceed the expected expenses to promote the identified product as the bottom line is to recoup these expenses and more.

Hence, the most important aspect of a marketing strategy is the expected results. The strategy employed should bring in more revenue to the company which covers the expenses expended on that particular product or service.

Farming Your Web Market

You’re going to get your hands dirty
A good farmer scoops up the soil in their hand and smells the earth, perhaps even taste the earth. The thing is that as a farmer you will be getting intimate with your market.

If the crop you plan to raise is made up of web users then your web page is the soil that they will grow strong on. The nutrients you add to your web page have a fragrance, maybe even a certain taste. And the richest addition you can add to your web page is your own personality.

Now, don’t get fearful
Perhaps professional marketers have told you not to get personal with your marketing, but that type of aggressive marketing is not what we are talking about here. To cultivate your market you need to talk to them in ways that nurture, and this means that you care enough to be yourself.

If you wanted to get to know someone based on a feeling of attraction would you analyze how to do this? If you overheard a conversation and the opinions expressed attracted you would you choose to get demographics and contact information before you introduce yourself?

The whole purpose of cultivating a market lends itself to casual and intimate conversations. And ‘intimate’ does not mean private and secretive, it means:

  1. Marked by close acquaintance, association, or familiarity
  2. Relating to or indicative of one’s deepest nature

Most web marketing is done at arm’s length because the marketing people are not clear on the market being targeted. And the word ‘targeted’ is rather cold and disconnected emotionally. Targeting is an odd way to build relationships, but building relationships is exactly what we want to do.

Cultivating the market
The bigger portion of our market that we wish to cultivate is at earlier stages of the buying cycle and we are able to help them and build a relationship in the process. In this way we cultivate a much bigger market than trying to capture the smaller numbers that are ready to purchase.

Those members of our market that are ready to purchase have already been influenced. We cannot reach many of them now. On the other hand, the greater numbers that are early in their search can be cultivated, influenced and helped to make a smart choice and buy from us.

We need to design a web site that will allow us to be helpful and generous in sharing our information. Far too many small business web owners do not know what to share with their market. We are going to be different.

What do we feed our market?
We want our undecided market to choose our solution as their purchase. To do that we need to help them along, and this is where our web design comes into play.

Our page is jammed full of really good information but it doesn’t show everything at once. And then there are other pages doing the same thing. We are using HTML which stands for Hyper Text Markup Language. It is the hyper text that allows us to provide a selection and then deliver a choice.

We are no longer using limited space on paper, nor are we using limited time on TV. Web marketing needs to use HTML in its marketing to get the most out of the medium and yet the HTML in contemporary business designs is relegated to basic navigation and placeholders for content. Instead, we need to put HTML into our marketing methods and provide choices for all members of our market.

Talking all the way through
We will spend time talking to that portion of our market that doesn’t even recognize yet that they have a problem. We are going to help educate them so that they do recognize that their life could be better with our solutions.

We will spend time talking with those that are researching possible solutions and we will help them see all of their possibilities from all sides. We’ll look at the upside and the downside of various features. We’ll bring these people along our path of understanding so that they are ready to look at comparisons.

We will not be afraid to compare our solution with others available on the market. We want to nurture this stage of the buying cycle fearlessly and give them all of the choices available while building a relationship they can trust. We want to keep this stage engaged or they will leave our site looking for comparable products and solutions.

If we don’t feed them right now and right here their next stage of development is to make a decision to purchase and we could lose them at a crucial moment in the cycle.

Farmer or hunter
A hunter fears that the prey will get away. They target and shoot early when they can and short term goals are everything to a hunter. On the other hand a farmer has long term goals and works with the seasons. Six months can go by from planting to harvesting and a farmer knows that nurturing cannot be superficial or provided with impatience.

Our harvest will arrive and it will be our own if we provide the helpful nutrients. Spending time to create the best content is essential and the easiest way for our market to find the right content on our site is also essential. But it can all be for naught if we choke up at the end and impatiently push for the sale.

We need to honor our market and validate their choice even when the choice goes to our competitor. Most choices will come our way because we nurtured that market along and we have build up a relationship. All the rest will take care of itself. It does so because everything about the marketing process is as natural as sunlight and rain.

Pull Marketing
And when we market naturally we are attracting the best interest from search engines. We are providing volumes of our unique and original information that search engines and our market are attracted to. We are sharing information that creates growth while building relationships with our market. We are cultivating our market by solving problems and providing insight for our market. And the bulk of our information is work that does not have to be repeated over and over.

Our web pages may need some tweaking from time to time but our main effort is going to last for a long time to come. And perhaps one of the most valuable assets we develop with pull marketing is that nothing we ever do is lost. All of our marketing stays in place for years and as we build we grow stronger and stronger.

Unlike push marketing that requires constant feeding of cash for advertising, our pull marketing is more like putting money in the bank and building our reserves instead of spending them.

Farming our web market is a very different concept from that of an opportunist feeding off of the market. By farming we control our own market and build a richer relationship rather than rely on just the good seasons or good years to get us through.

7 Ways a Marketing Strategy Will Grow Your Business

“What is the best money I can spend in marketing to grow my business?” Without a doubt, this is the question I’m most frequently asked by small business owners. It may seem like a question that is promptly followed by an “it depends” type of answer, however, it’s actually quite easy to pinpoint one tool that is relatively inexpensive, delivers a high ROI and, sadly, is not commonly found in a small businesses’ toolbox. It’s a marketing strategy.

Why is a marketing strategy the most powerful tool for growing business? The straight-forward answer is that a solid marketing strategy will address current challenges and map out paths by which a business can grow in the future. It will audit a business’s brand and message, but isn’t limited to branding alone. Rather, a marketing strategy is a combination of big picture and detail analysis that incorporates a wide range of marketing channels tailored for that business’s industry, market, and budget. The majority of marketing strategies I write for small businesses include a high number of items that can be performed for free by current in-house staff, resulting in a plan that won’t lead to a fortune spent. In fact, a good marketing strategy is an investment in saving money because it targets a business’s efforts and helps avoid waste.

At this point I need to qualify my earlier statement; the best money spent in marketing is a smart marketing strategy written by an experienced marketer on behalf of a specific business, not something sketched out by a rep at a service shop (think printer or web firm) or from a generic, ‘small business strategy’ check list. For a marketing strategy to be truly effective, it needs to be a customized effort involving research, analysis and a careful matching of opportunities with the business’s resources and budget. This can never be a quick or off the shelf effort – a smart marketing strategy takes some time to develop properly. My own typically take less than a month and are generally under $2,000.

It’s important to keep in mind that while a smart marketing strategy won’t force a business beyond its means, it will present a mix of opportunities that meet immediate goals and show paths for growth. A marketing strategy’s advantage is that it paints a picture of a business, highlights who that business is targeting, focuses its marketing budget, and develops a schedule for reaching out to buyers. It accomplishes this in 7 key ways:

1. Develops Brand & Message

A brand is simply a business’s public look and message. Businesses all have the beginning of a brand – an official name – and some have taken steps to identify a logo, tagline, and possibly a general color scheme or style guide. In small businesses, these are often a reflection of the owner’s personal taste rather than an evaluation of the market and targeted buyers (years ago I had a client who chose her corporation’s color scheme from her kitchen wall’s paint chip). They may be a result of a family brainstorming effort or an owner’s flash of inspiration. Sometimes they are geographically influenced or an attempt at gimmickry. The point is that while it’s rare to find a small business that developed its name, logo, and message as the result of true market research, it’s a universal rule that, for good or bad, small businesses will refer to these items as their business’s brand.

And this is where a marketing strategy steps in. A smart marketing strategy will thoroughly evaluate a business’s brand through experienced and unbiased eyes. The marketer is not (hopefully) a member of the family and most likely hasn’t seen the kitchen’s walls. Instead, an experienced marketer will audit the brand as both a buyer and a marketer, and evaluate its ability to quickly convey the business’s story, whether or not it targets the appropriate buyer, and if it is unique enough within the marketplace to set the business apart from the competition. The marketing strategy will highlight any brand challenges, inconsistencies, or weaknesses before suggesting modifications and improvements.

Unfortunately, ‘brand’ seems to be a point at which many small businesses abandon their strategic efforts. A business’s brand is essential and well worth a hefty effort, but ‘branding’ isn’t enough of an action item to grow a business and isn’t where a smart strategy ends…

2. Audits Current Program

Which segues nicely into the next stage of a strategy: auditing the current marketing program. This stage goes beyond branding to review all of the business’s marketing efforts and is an essential component to any smart strategy. It’s at this stage that wasted money or effort is discovered, missed opportunities highlighted, or where I find that a client had started down a positive path in the past but either abandoned it too early or was off in its message. Has the business’s marketing program been well thought out or has it been a shotgun approach through a series of one-off efforts spread over time? This is where we find out.
My audits look for strengths as well as holes and weaknesses in a business’s marketing program by dissecting the marketing channel mix, promotional locations (both online and traditional), frequency, and more, then matching the entire program to the targeted buyer profile. I spend quite a bit of time looking through the business’s marketing tools such as its web site, brochures, newsletters, and social media and evaluate the business’s staff resources, factoring any strengths into the final evaluation.

3. Profiles Buyers & Marketplace

It may be hard to fathom but there are small businesses that face each year without knowing much about their own marketplace and the very buyers upon which their livelihoods depend. As a marketer, it baffles me how any business can hang its shingle without taking the time to first evaluate who it will sell to and from whom it will grab market share. Questions such as, “how many buyers are out there?”, “how do they like to be reached?” and, “who am I competing against?” are all fundamental to business success because it’s only through this knowledge that a company can adapt and grow. The only way to create this profile is through research!

I start by pulling information directly from my clients through a combination of interviews and surveys filled with carefully crafted questions. I’ll ask then re-ask until I’ve developed a complete profile from my client’s perspective. My work then turns to generating a buyer profile from a marketing perspective that stems from my client’s high level buyer description. I’ll dig and research until my profile is complete, then compare my profile with that of my client’s. Hopefully we’re in synch, but if not, I’ll point out where we differ and evaluate where my client can hone his or her efforts.

At this point I’ll also want to look at the marketplace from my buyer profile’s point of view, and will “shop” the competition. I’ll look at the business’s geographic reach and investigate both demographic data and local economic growth plans. All of this data will play into the final evaluation of whether my client should continue in its current market or branch out into an area that’s buyer-rich.

4. Evaluates Competition

“Who is my competition and how do we differ?” That’s a question every business owner should be able to answer at any given time! Business owners should be aware of who is snagging market share from them and how each competitor compares in services, quality, customer service, messaging, and overall marketing efforts. It’s wonderful to be the best service provider available, but that won’t mean anything if the competition is signing more buyers!

For this stage of a marketing strategy, I like to shop the competition from a buyer’s perspective before comparing my findings to my own “client shop”. Since I’m an outside consultant, it’s fairly easy for me to assume an unbiased buyer’s approach to most shopping efforts, be it B to B or B to C, and I look for easy shopping situations, who could satisfy my buyer needs, would entice me to make a purchase or conversely would turn me off as a buyer. I use these results to suggest ways my client could improve his or own business’s message and to…

5. Determine Marketing Mix

This stage of a marketing strategy is a game of, ‘find the buyers’. After all, what is marketing if it isn’t an effort to communicate with buyers and lure them to a business? To me, this is the truly strategic stage of a strategy, but one that could not exist without all the previous steps. It is at this point that the strategy should answer questions such as, “should a business adopt the latest trends or stick to more traditional methods?” or, “what will provide the biggest bang for a limited budget?”

It’s also the stage where experience really pays off as there are many, many ways to spend money in marketing and only so many options that will reach the right buyers. I enjoy this stage the most and spend time looking under rocks to discover new options and find cost effective solutions. No two strategies should be ever be the same at this stage, making this the most custom portion of the entire process. A good strategy will look beyond paid search and Facebook ads and find new ways to present the business – within budget.

This is also the most flexible portion of a smart marketing strategy. I like to include a variety of options that range from ‘incorporate immediately’ to more longer term efforts that make sense once the business has grown or has put other marketing tools in place. A good mix will pull in multiple marketing channels and allow a business to reach buyers on many levels.

6. Finds Internal & Low Cost Options

Many businesses have low cost and free marketing options already at their disposal and may not realize it. A good marketing strategy reviews a business’s internal options, evaluates the business as a whole, and discover resources that can be used in the marketing plan. I like to empower my clients and give them the chance to save their budget for bigger ticket items down the road.

7. Designs 1 – 5 Years Marketing Plan

I wrap up every marketing strategy with a 1 year, month by month, marketing plan. This marketing plan lists carefully selected marketing efforts determined in the strategy and provide a schedule for when they should be launched and evaluated. For smaller businesses, I try to stick to the low cost options that can be maintained internally with optional efforts that may cost more money or should happen after an early goal has been achieved. More expensive or involved opportunities are generally reserved for a 2-5 year plan and are contingent upon achieving goals.

By incorporating the above 7 stages into a thoroughly researched and carefully crafted strategy, a small business will have a map by which it can achieve its goals and grow its business. It’s money well spent and something a business really shouldn’t exist without!