By Gary Beemer
At a recent conference, a room full of professional marketers where asked to define the term “Marketing Strategy.” Simple enough… right?
At first there was an awkward silence, which was followed by a variety of definitions that seemed to be parts of a larger answer – like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that when assembled reveal a clear picture – but as individual pieces are often inadequate and even frustrating.
So, how could a room full of marketers come up with piecemeal definitions of a core principle for success in marketing and business overall?
The answer may lie in the pace of our professional lives, the exponential growth of “new” marketing platforms, and the deluge of incoming information and resulting actions that we take in response to all three.
As marketing practitioners we are often focused on the demands of the day – and as a result – the line between tactics and strategy can begin to blur. Busy is good, but it can be prohibitive to strategic thought, and can provide a false sense of security that we are on track – even when we are about to take a wrong turn, or even derail.
That’s why it’s important to step back often, and remember three core principles of Marketing Strategy to help us stay relevant today – but more importantly assure our long-term success.
Companies use their resources to develop strengths – which include products, services and ideas – in an attempt to closely align with the wants and needs of consumers. Those who do this better than their rivals develop a competitive advantage – albeit a temporary one and why the B and C of Strategic Marketing should never be ignored. So start out by knowing your customer well and positioning yourself as their number one choice in your specific business segment.
Most consumers can be sold a product or service one time. What happens after that keeps them coming back for more, becoming indifferent, or running for the hills. Our job is to not only align our strengths and resources with customer wants and needs, but to become an integral part of their lives. A vendor /customer relationship is short lived in today’s competitive world, so our goals should be focused on building relationships as trusted partners and advisors to our customers so they see us as indispensable. This could manifest in our expert advice, the excellence of our product, outstanding customer service, overall value, and consistently delivering on our promises.
Innovation is the key to creating sustainable competitive advantage. Unless we can patent our products and stand above our competitors on this protective wall, we will have to earn our preferred positon on a daily basis. Innovating keeps us ahead of our competitors, and allows us to continually delight our customers and deepen their connection and loyalty to us.
Marketing Strategy is the foundation to our long-term success, but in our busy day-to-day lives we can unwittingly replace strategy with tactics that can make us reactive versus proactive. To stay on track, we should schedule time on a consistent basis to quickly run through the ABC’s of Strategic Marketing and ask the following questions:
A: Are we more closely aligned with our customers’ wants and needs than our competitors?
B: Have we developed a close relationship with our customers that makes us indispensable in providing for their wants and needs?
C: Is our pipeline consistently full of ideas that will help us delight our customers and stay ahead of competitors?
If the answer is NO to any of these questions then stop, analyze why, and make a strategic course correction to get back on track.
Gary Beemer is currently a member of the Marketing Faculty at the University of Tampa Sykes College of Business. Prior to this, he worked in various Sales and Marketing Management roles with Mars Inc. for 24 years. While at Mars, Gary was a Community Columnist for the Tampa Tribune and a Blogger for Tampa Bay Online (TBO). Prior to Mars Gary started, owned and operated a successful financial services business.