Marketing strategy - to have or not to have - that is the question. Particularly when company budgets are under pressure and the CEO believes he can make do without advertising for a while or a while longer. Perhaps he even delegates the advertising role to his secretary to ensure that an existing print ad appears from time to time to keep some of the sales force happy. She has expressed an interest in designing the new company business cards, after all.
A business without a marketing strategy is like a ship without a compass or a mapped out travel destination at sea. The ship is definitely moving but exactly where and why and by when it will arrive at its destination, is in the laps of the gods. But not to worry. A friend of the MD's son is in IT and he knows about Facebook and computers because he works on one the whole day, so let him put some advertising stuff on the web - he even knows Photoshop - and that should ensure that we get some new leads and it won't cost us that much. At least we are communicating... Any of this sound familiar?
Every business, irrespective of its size, has to have a business plan to enable all involved management and parties to agree to the same business objectives and set tangible, measurable targets for the company - for this year and three to five years ahead, depending on the company business ethos and business philosophy.
This business plan is then handed over by the business owner/manager to the company's marketing specialist/manager/incumbent advertising agency to ensure that a marketing strategy is created which would determine what needs to be done to ensure that the company objectives are realised.
Marketing strategies require the following thinking: thorough understanding of the business or brands - gained from business history, experience or consumer/customer feedback; an honest analysis of the good and the bad as well as opportunities within the business. SWOT analysis fits in here; who are the direct and indirect competitors; and exactly who is the target market - by age, by sex, by lifestyle choices and what is currently happening within this target market's choices and lifestyle options? How can the current business model/manufacturing, etc. be adapted to ensure that the marketing strategy can be realised in the allocated time? Absolutely vital thought processing required ensuring an alignment further down the line to deliver the required results.
And here is where things get a bit muddled, which leads to an ultimate waste of money. Because instead of business management being very clear upfront on what needs to be done (in the absence of experienced knowledgeable marketing input), business management skips the WHAT phase - and jumps right into the IMPLEMENTATION or TACTICS phase - and depending on the amount of marketing budget allocated, will select someone internally or externally to 'just do it', without any master marketing strategy as a guide. These people then get embroiled in the very subjective discussions about what the creative visuals and messages and communication channels options should be.
A marketing strategy is the strategic thinking outcome required by marketing to realise WHAT needs to be achieved and done by whom internally and externally of the business to achieve said business objectives. The marketing plan, which follows the marketing strategy, will determine HOW it will be done and, once the marketing plan has been approved by management, IMPLEMENTATION should only commence then.
Be safe with a marketing strategy rather than sorry. Now more than ever, customer and consumer relationships require a marketing strategy to maximise available communication investment - make every cent work for your business.
360eight is a creative agency with offices in Cape Town and Johannesburg. We built the agency from the ground up with an offering that is truly integrated and we employ the very best talent to manage each service.
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Always nervous when it's recommended that an Ad Agency should put a 'Marketing Plan' together. Ad agencies are merely tacticians to plan the tactical 'Communication Strategy and Activation' as a mere part of the overall 'Marketing Plan' (which also includes; Positioning, Product/Services Solution Mix; New Product Devel; New Business/Market Development; Pricing Strategy; Customer Research; Target Marketing; Distribution Strategy; etc. Ad Agency people are not marketing strategists. Marketing Planning should be led by business strategists with a strong marketing management background.