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What marketing strategy is not

There’s a lot of confusion out there at the moment among clients who are being mistakenly sold marketing strategy when, what they are really being offered is tactical implementation.  Email marketing, SEO, blogging and social media are not strategic but rather marketing communications tactics.

The problem relates to a lack of understanding of what strategy is both by clients and more worryingly by marketing practitioners who have been siloed off at the start of their careers into digital implementation.  Strategy is also a fashionable buzzword that agencies like to bandy around as it sounds good and you can charge more, right?

So, what is marketing strategy?

Marketing strategy is a vision for your company e.g. Google’s original mission statement was “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Amazon’s vision “is to be earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”

Strategy should start with where you are now and where you want to get to.  It looks at the macro and micro environment, target market feasibility, customer segments, your products and services portfolio, your competitors, your brand positioning, value proposition, pricing and service operations.  A strategy will help you make decisions on whether to launch a product at all, and if so which market segments to target and how to position yourselves against your competitors.  It will also help you make decisions regarding your product portfolio: perhaps you have a cash cow but the market is in decline, which will mean you need to consider new product development or other diversification strategies.

Strategy should lead to marketing objectives, which ultimately should reflect the business objectives.  They should be measurable, it’s no point saying ‘we want to raise awareness’; raise it from what to where? A business objective may be to increase total market share to 12% in 3 years and strategy will determine how to get there.

What are marketing tactics then?

Once you have done all this, then you can craft the communications plan.  This sets out how you reach your target market and what messages to communicate.  It covers the gamut of promotional tactics from PR, personal selling, events, TV advertising, radio, blogger outreach, email marketing, SEO, pay-per-click advertising on search engines to social media.

I do get annoyed when I hear clients tell me they’ve paid £1000s for marketing strategy when in fact what they’ve got is a communications plan (let me state that I’m annoyed for the client not with them).  Ultimately, it’s a bit like paying for the carpets, when you’ve yet to build the house.

About the author

Blog post by Christine Babington Smith, an expert in marketing strategy and marketing communications.  She is the founder of Torehill, a marketing strategy agency which works with SMEs and high-growth tech startups. Torehill’s team includes CIM & MBA trained marketers with between 10–20 years’ experience.  Our backgrounds cover London’s premier advertising agencies, PLCs and high-profile start-ups.  By focusing on understanding the market, customer pain points and competitive environment our consultants help promote growth.  Our consultancy services encompass marketing strategy, branding, marketing communications, campaign planning, website development, digital marketing, PR and content.

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