Why strategy matters
Whether you’re a start-up, SME or established blue-chip, if you don’t have a clear marketing strategy, then you simply don’t have a plan.
It’s the piece of the marketing puzzle that is often side-stepped or ignored: strategy. It’s become synonymous with expensive, time-intensive and unnecessary. Business owners or marketing managers just want to get to the action and start generating leads and sales. And they want to see ROI, yesterday.
Unfortunately it’s not that simple as without having a solid, well-considered plan in place that has carefully looked at opportunities and threats, strengths and weaknesses, competitors and trends, you’re really just shooting in the dark hoping that something will stick.
Some of it might. But the reality is, without knowing who your audience is and why they should use or buy from you, most will be aimed at the wrong buyer, or worse, the right buyer but in the wrong tone. Either way that’s a lot of wasted effort (read: your money).
Rather do the groundwork from the get-go and create a brand and message that resonates with your audience. After all, marketing – be it digital, PR, above the line or social – is about engaging your buyer with a message that is relevant to them.
It’s not about you
Too often this is hard to grasp. It’s your company after all and you want people to buy your products or service. But to influence them to do that, you need to really understand them, what motivates them, why they would hand-over their hard-earned cash to you. And you can’t assume either; you need data, lots of data, that paints a picture of what your ideal customer does and what they think.
You also need to know what you do – and do better than anyone else. It’s not called a Unique Selling Point (USP) for nothing; it’s your DNA, your signature, your market differentiator. Because chances are, your industry doesn’t consist exclusively of you; there are hundreds of others just like you, selling what you sell to the people you want to sell to too.
So you need to create a reason for them to buy from you. And that reason must be different from everyone else in your industry. Otherwise you’ll simply become a “me-too” without a clear message or brand identity and your customers won’t know why they should use you instead of your competitor.
What’s your “reason”?
Unsure what that reason is? Enter strategy. Analysing your Strengths, Weaknesses, Threats and Opportunities (SWOT) first is essential. But you also need to research what the next guy is doing because he may already own your “reason” and you don’t want to look like a copycat. So study your competitors. Look at their website. Stalk them on social media. Run a Google search. Visit their shops if they have one….. Whatever you need to do to understand who you’re up against. And to understand what’s going on in your market – preferably locally and internationally.
Knowledge is power and understanding what the big influences are that will impact your industry isn’t a nice to have, it’s mission critical. Sign up to industry newsletters, follow influencers on Twitter and attend talks or webinars on your topic; arm yourself with information to stay ahead of the curve. Only then, when you know, for a substantiated fact, who you’re talking to, about what, as well as what sets you apart, can you move forward to the exciting stuff, the action.
Ignoring this – which too many sadly do – will bite you. You’ll create some noise, that’s not the problem – it’s easy enough to buy space or create some airplay – but you’ll likely not engage the right person and your message can too easily look just like everybody else’s.
Listen to Oscar Wilde. He said, “Be yourself; everyone else is taken”. Golden advice for every business, organisation or individual trying to influence someone to buy from them or buy into them. It’s about finding your uniqueness, your “reason” and your well-researched market position.
So build in the time (read: your money) and do the strategy first. Otherwise risk putting all that time (read: your money) into elaborate PR campaigns and fancy creative that will look great but which your target audience may not even notice.
Where’s the ROI in that?