Data analyst. Product marketer. Project manager. Digital marketer. It’s not uncommon for marketing strategists to keep a rotation of hats at the ready, donning new titles at a moment’s notice. But what abilities and knowledge are non-negotiables for marketers considering a career as a strategist?
In this guide, we’ll introduce you to the fundamentals of marketing strategy, clarify key terms, and arm you with the industry’s most valuable tips and tools to support your career as a strategist. Together, we’ll pave your way to a rewarding career in marketing strategy.
Marketing Strategy 101
A marketing strategy is a roadmap to guide a company’s marketing initiatives and achieve its overarching goals. At its core, strategy relies on a thorough understanding of a target audience’s needs and desires. Tailoring marketing approaches to complement these needs allows companies to gain a competitive advantage in the market.
A marketing strategist specializes in developing and implementing marketing strategies that align with the company’s objectives. Strategists typically conduct market and consumer research and competitor analysis before identifying appropriate tactics and creating a high-level marketing plan.
Key Components of Marketing Strategy
There are several vital elements to a successful marketing strategy:
1. Define your marketing objectives and goals
Before all else, it’s important to start with establishing clear, attainable objectives that align with the company’s overall business goals. These objectives will form the framework for all marketing initiatives and provide a benchmark for evaluating the success of your campaigns.
2. Conduct market and consumer research
Research is the foundation for marketing strategy. Thoroughly understanding your target audience and the context of your company within the market is critical for developing an effective strategy. Examine factors like demographics and behaviors to familiarize yourself with the target audience before translating this familiarity into messaging and positioning that resonates with your audience.
3. Analyze your competitors
Assessing the competitive landscape helps you identify opportunities, threats, and gaps in the market. Understanding your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses allows you to establish a strategy that capitalizes on what differentiates your brand from others.
4. Determine your unique selling proposition
A unique selling proposition (USP) communicates the specific benefits that a company’s products or services offer to its target audience. This is a critical component of the marketing strategy, as it provides a clear and compelling reason for customers to choose one brand over another. The USP should be based on insights from your research and focused on the customer’s needs and wants.
5. Develop your marketing mix
The marketing mix refers to the tactical elements of the marketing strategy, which include product, price, promotion, and place. The product element includes the features, design, and packaging of the product or service. Price refers to a pricing strategy that will maximize revenue while remaining competitive in the market. Promotion involves advertising, sales promotions, public relations, and personal selling. Place, also known as distribution, refers to the channels used to sell the product or service, making it accessible to the market.
6. Create a high-level marketing plan
Once you have developed your marketing mix, you need to align your tactics with individual tasks, timelines, resources, and budgets. This will serve as a guide to executing your marketing strategy.
7. Execute and optimize your strategy
Finally, it’s time to put the strategy into motion. During execution, monitoring and analyzing your results are vital aspects of optimizing strategy. This involves identifying key performance indicators (KPIs) and monitoring them regularly to track progress toward the objectives. Performance data provides insights into the effectiveness of the strategy and can be used to make real-time adjustments to optimize your marketing efforts.
Marketing strategy has seen significant transformations over the past century, transitioning from rudimentary beginnings to the complex industry we see today. In the earliest days of mass production, companies operated in an unsaturated market with modest competition and high demand. To meet this demand, companies focused their efforts on production and distribution rather than marketing and strategy. However, this period was short-lived.
The advent of mass production lowered the barrier to entry into large-scale markets. Faced with growing competition, businesses began to recognize the importance of differentiating their products to appeal to consumer’s desires. This marked the beginnings of modern marketing strategy, as companies sought to establish their unique selling propositions and distinguish themselves from the competition.
By the mid-1900s, the growth of mass media, such as radio and print, enabled businesses to reach larger audiences and promote their products on a staggering scale. Companies were quick to capitalize on these new advertising mediums, developing creative campaigns and implementing comprehensive marketing strategies as we know them today.
Terms to know
The practice of measuring your company’s success against that of your competitors. Benchmarking offers a relative comparison of your company’s performance and can reveal areas for improvement.
A measure of your target audience’s familiarity with your brand. Brand awareness is at the top of the marketing funnel and marks the beginning of the customer’s journey.
The process of analyzing your competitors’ strategy and performance. This information can be used to identify competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, which can be used to improve your company’s marketing initiatives.
The percentage of users or customers that take a desired action, such as making a purchase or completing registration. For example, a conversion rate can be calculated by dividing the number of users that complete a desired action, such as making a purchase, by the total number of people that engaged or visited your site.
The ways marketing materials can be delivered to a target audience. Email, social media, and paid ads are all examples of distribution channels.
The frequency in which users interact with a website, app, or advertisement. The engagement rate can be calculated by taking the number of people that have interacted with a particular piece of content and dividing it by the number of overall people that have seen the same piece of content.
The process of identifying prospective clients, with the goal of converting them into customers. This is achieved by acquiring prospects’ contact information and generating interest throughout a person’s customer journey.
Dividing a target audience into small, distinct categories based on specific traits. Segmentation allows companies to effectively tailor their marketing efforts to appeal to individual groups rather than trying to appeal to a generalized, broad audience.
A combination of marketing strategies and tactics used to promote a company’s products or services in the market. This traditionally involves the “4 P’s” – product, price, place, and promotion.
Return on investment (ROI)
A means of measuring the effectiveness of your marketing tactics in driving revenue. ROI is often used to make educated decisions to optimize marketing campaigns, such as allocating budget spend to concentrate efforts around high-impact channels.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Strategies related to boosting visibility and increasing rankings on search engine results pages (SERP). The higher your content is ranked, the more likely it is to garner traffic.
Unique Selling Point (USP)
Also known as a unique value proposition (UVP). The factors that differentiate or make a company’s products or services better than its competitors.
Tips for success
1. Develop a deep understanding of your target audience. One of the most critical things to understand about marketing strategy is the audience you’re trying to reach. To create effective marketing campaigns, you need to look beyond basic demographic information. Commit yourself to understanding your target audience – their wants, their needs, their pain points, and what motivates them. Conducting market research, developing buyer personas, and analyzing customer data can help you get a better sense of your audience and create messaging that resonates with them.
2. Embrace data-driven decision making. In the current digital landscape, there is a wealth of data at your disposal. It’s not just smart to incorporate data in your strategy – it’s common sense. When executing strategies, collect and record data early and often, as this will help you identify trends, patterns, and areas of opportunity. Analyzing customer data, tracking KPIs, and refining your marketing mix are important tools for incorporating data into your marketing strategies.
3. Be goal–oriented. A marketing strategy should always be focused on driving results. Set clear and attainable objectives, track relevant KPIs, and regularly assess your progress toward achieving your goals.
4. Test, optimize, repeat. Marketing is a highly dynamic industry. What worked for you yesterday may not work today. To stay ahead of the curve, you need to regularly monitor, test, and optimize your campaigns regularly. Use data and analytics to evaluate your campaign’s performance, identify areas for improvement, and make adjustments as necessary.
Tools and resources
Analytical tools help you understand how your marketing efforts are performing and allow you to make data-informed decisions. Google Analytics is among the most popular platforms for tracking website related data, while tools like SEMrush and Ahrefs offer additional features surrounding search engine performance and competitor analysis.
Project management tools
Project management tools like Asana, Trello, and Airtable help strategists with monitoring marketing activities such as tasks, timelines, and budgets. These platforms can be used to provide a comprehensive overview of marketing plans and track the execution of strategies across teams.
Feedback and market research tools
Platforms like SurveyMonkey and UserTesting are invaluable for gathering customer feedback and monitoring industry trends. Feedback and research tools can help you better understand a target audience and their needs, which can help fine-tune your strategy.
Marketing automation tools are an easy way to simplify your marketing activities. Platforms like HubSpot streamline your workflow by tracking and analyzing content performance across multiple channels, in addition to automating recurring tasks.
The fundamentals of marketing strategy are rooted in understanding a target audience – their needs, wants, and preferences – and tailoring marketing efforts to appeal to those desires. By internalizing these core principles and developing the necessary technical skills needed to execute this vision, you can elevate your abilities as a marketing strategist and achieve success.