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Before marketing comes strategy

Before marketing comes strategy

I’ve written before about how marketing isn’t hard. But I’ll admit, this is a bit of an over simplification. But what I mean is, the act of marketing is simple. It’s simply the pragmatic implementation of a defined strategy. But that’s the tricky part, developing the strategy - and yes, strategy is hard.

Marketing is a science

Marketing techniques are well documented and widely available to everyone with a quick search online. Hundreds of books are written each year on marketing strategies. And weaved throughout each is science. Behavioral science, neuroscience, and psychology all come into play. As well as statistics, economics, and in today’s world, computer science. If you read all the books and articles online, you’ll discover they all boil down to similar stuff; common marketing generalities: determine your unique offer, identify your market or niche, discover what motivates your prospect, target them, be bold, be remarkable, capture the power of the tribe, and then market, market, market.

But here’s the thing... what they leave out is how you determine what is right. Why you should choose one approach over another. What you should do and when. It’s the strategy part that they gloss over.

Marketing isn’t hard; strategy is

Therein lies the rub. Marketing isn’t hard, but marketing strategy is, and that’s the secret sauce that successful marketers offer. They’re able to look at the battleground, analyze the enemy (competitors), and determine how to attack while simultaneously winning the hearts and minds of the people. And this is the crucial component that ALL marketing books leave out - because they can’t possibly identify YOUR unique challenges and foes without being in YOUR situation.

And that’s the magic. The act of marketing is pragmatic, but only AFTER you identify and settle on a strategy. Then it’s about implementation, review, and adaptation. But strategy has to come first. And it’s my experience that determining your strategy and focusing on it is the hardest part for most business owners.

First, you have to able to separate yourself from your business and look at it from an outside perspective. And when you personally believe what you offer is the best, it’s almost impossible to be unbiased.

Second, you have to be able to strip down your offering (product or service) to its core benefit, and determine how to present this so it appeals to your target audience. When you believe in and love everything you’ve worked to create, distilling it down to one thing can drive you insane.

Third, you have to identify the best prospects and focus on them. Which can be tough to do when you want or need all the sales (from everyone). Abandoning the “sell to everyone” mentality can be excruciating for many self-funded business owners.

Finally, you have to be able to let go. This may mean forgetting sunk costs, such as money spent on failed marketing tactics, or bad packaging, or a bad website. You need to be able to acknowledge that something isn’t working, have the willingness to change it, and to move on to what’s next. But when you’ve invested everything you have into an effort it can require herculean strength to admit it’s not working and abandon it.

Determining strategy

Because most business owners can’t separate themselves from their “creation” and become objective, the identification and application of the best marketing strategy is generally the marketing failure point. They may see themselves better positioned in the market then they actually are. They may want to believe they have the best product (and they may) but refuse to acknowledge that the best product doesn’t always win. And they may be unable to adopt an underdog or “little guy” strategy because they see themselves as the leader or innovator.

Take the time to get your market position and strategy right

Before you leap into marketing your business and devising a marketing plan, make sure you spend considerable time and effort on your marketing strategy. Determine what position you hold in your market and then devise a strategy that will help you win market share and from where. You might attack the market leader directly or you may go after smaller competitors to steal away their market share, or you may focus on an underserved niche. But each strategy is unique and requires different tactics.

The strategy has to come first. Which means you need to do your research. You need to find out what your competitors are doing. You need to talk with you customers. You need to gather opinions from industry professionals - and listen to them. You have to be able to set aside your own preconceived notions and enact a strategy that will increase share and gain sales.

And sometimes, you’ll have to put yourself in another’s hands. You have to hire a marketing professional to provide valuable external feedback and to use their experience to guide you. Even if it’s just to establish the strategy.

So what are some strategies?

Well I could write a general guide to various marketing strategies - but I don’t have to - my mentor, Edward P. DiMingo has already done it - http://www.artofpositioning.com/white-papers/win-market-share/ - and it’s filled with strategies for all approaches and niches. Of course, I still haven’t answered the question as to which strategy is best for your business - but for that, you’ll have to hire us.

May 01, 2013
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