Marketing is the only function of business administration that at its core, involves the commercial strategy of the business and how it connects to the market. Marketing strategy is the business's overall game plan for connecting to the market, reaching prospects, and turning them into customers of the product or service being offered. As Business Strategist Michael Porter describes it, the marketing strategy is "essentially, a formula for how a business is going to compete, what its goals should be and what policies will be needed to carry out these goals."
The marketing strategy of a company contains the business's value proposition, key marketing messages, information on the target customer, and other high-level elements. In short, it informs the marketing plan, which is a document that lays out the types and timing of marketing activities. A company's marketing strategy should have a longer lifespan than any individual marketing plan as this strategy is where the value proposition and the key elements of a company's brand reside. These elements ideally do not shift very much over time.
Grasping Marketing Strategy
Marketing strategies are often confused with marketing plans. Because the two feed off one another, it is not unusual to find them baked together into a single document. Although the transition between the two is blurry, a marketing strategy covers the big picture: the value proposition, primary target, pricing strategy, distribution outlets, and any related brand messaging. On the other hand, the marketing plan is how the business will get across the brand's key message: the platforms, creative elements, and implementation timing, among other tactical details. The marketing strategy may also be absorbed upwards into corporate value statements and other strategy documents.
Contrary to widespread practice, marketing strategy is not pulled out of thin air --at least, it shouldn't be. A marketing strategy should grow out of a company's core. The value proposition summarizes the competitive advantage a company has in its market, usually providing a vital message for all marketing. In the end, it is crucial to define the purpose and related imagery related to the company brand: "my brand = XX."
Companies should never create a marketing strategy from scratch. The strategy starts by identifying the company's value proposition. Walmart, for example, is a discount retailer with "everyday low prices," and its business operations and marketing revolve around that message, while its main competitor, Amazon, stands for the convenience of delivering almost everything directly to your home. Netflix has a wide range of productions to binge, while HBO concentrates on high-quality productions to feed the water cooler conversations every Monday. Though all options can be a correct recipe to compete in the market, each begins with stating the value proposition and distilling the key marketing strategies from that.
Once the value proposition is succinctly stated and validated by the market, the hard part is done. Any marketing asset, from ad design to a social media campaign, can be judged by how well it communicates the brand's value proposition. To increase the efficiency of marketing efforts, market research should be added to the marketing strategy to identify untapped audiences or refine the target consumer. Finally, an overall goal for the marketing strategy can be set, with all the subsequent marketing plans inheriting the responsibility of delivering it. These can be concrete, bottom-line goals such as increasing sales or something less direct, like climbing the ranking of trusted providers within the industry.
Marketing Strategy vs. Marketing Plans
Marketing plans are operational documents that get more attention as they are the day-to-day work that a company does to sell itself to the world. With that said, a marketing plan would be meaningless without a strong value proposition, key messages, a target market, and a goal — the core of every marketing strategy. Further, you can upgrade the marketing plan by identifying key enablers and strategic initiatives that can better prepare your company for business growth, all of which are linked to the foundation created by the marketing strategy.
Moreover, the motive of a marketing strategy is to define your business' marketing goals by asking yourself, what needs to happen for my product or service to reach the right customers and do well in the market? A strategy keeps your team aligned with those established goals by making clear who your target audience is, the value proposition, and how you will reach your ideal customer.
On the other hand, the purpose of a marketing plan is to describe and visualize for your team when and how you will accomplish these goals. A marketing plan establishes the timeline, campaigns, and programs necessary to actualize your strategy, making it clear how every venture connects to both the marketing goals and overall business goals.
CASE STUDY: A Good Marketing Strategy Goes a Long Way
We reengineered the value proposition of a loved brand to optimize its business growth. The company expanded its offerings into four new categories with positive reception. The customer-validated value proposition has served as the strategic foundation for the company during its first five years, nurturing five different marketing plans — the results: double-digit growth while surviving a challenging hurricane season.
Does your business have a well-established marketing strategy and plan to allow you optimized business growth so you can move forward boldly and with purpose? If you need help with better defining your strategy and plan, our advisors can guide you through the process.
DuartePino is a management advisory firm that combines in-depth customer knowledge with practical expertise in marketing to help clients create sustainable business growth. We can provide your organization with a fresh perspective, a proven process that invests in the outcome, and the tools for successful execution. From Fractional CMOs to business advisory services, contact us to learn how our team can help with growth strategies for your organization.