The Strategic Marketing Process: A Complete Guide
A well defined and feasible marketing strategy makes meeting customer needs a likely and attainable goal. And while most companies do great marketing, only a few have created brand attachment and customer loyalty through their marketing practices and tactics.
In this article, we explore, 1) the definition and purpose of strategic marketing, 2) the three phases of the strategic marketing process, 3) guidelines for effective strategic marketing process, 4) problems to expect in the strategic marketing process, 5) p.e.s.t: trends to consider when implementing marketing strategy, 6) strategic marketing process simplified, and 7) why Apple’s strategic marketing process is genius.
DEFINITION AND PURPOSE OF STRATEGIC MARKETING
Strategic Marketing is a process of planning, developing and implementing maneuvers to obtain a competitive edge in your chosen niche. This process is necessary to outline and simplify a direct map of the company’s objectives and how to achieve them. A company wanting to secure a certain share of the market, should ensure they clearly identify their mission, survey the industry situation, define specific objectives and develop, implement and evaluate a plan to guarantee they can provide their customers with the products they need, when they need them. Of course, the central objective of any company will be customer satisfaction so they may dominate the market and become leaders in their industry and thus providing substantial business satisfaction. In order to do that, three phases of marketing strategy must be perfected to create delight in their customers and beat out the competition.
THREE PHASES OF STRATEGIC MARKETING PROCESS
1. Planning Phase
The planning phase is the most important as it analyzes internal strengths and weaknesses, external competition, changes in technology, industry culture shifts and provides an overall picture of the state of the organization. This phase has four key components that will provide a clear diagram of where your company is and what it is doing.
- SWOT Analysis – Defines the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of your business and reveal your company’s position in respect to the market. To maximizes strengths and minimize weaknesses an organization must perform the following:
- Analyze competitors
- Research company’s current and prospective customers
- Assess company
- Identifying trends in the company’s industry
Once this analysis is complete the results should be used as a basis for developing the company’s marketing plan, which should be measurable and attainable.
- Marketing program – Once the needs of the customers have been determined, and the decisions have been made about which products will satisfy those needs, a marketing program or mix must be developed. This marketing program is the how aspect of the planning phase, which focuses on the 4Ps and the budget needed for each element of the mix.
- Set marketing and product goals
- Once the customer needs are understood, goals can be set to meet them, thus increasing the chances of success with new products.
- Find points of difference: like your company’s unique selling point, each product should also have a certain set of traits or characteristics that makes it superior to the competitive substitute. For example, your product could be longer lasting, more accessible, more reliable or very user-friendly so the buyers will choose it over the competition each time.
- Position the product: market so that in people’s minds your product is the “go to” for their problem. Through emotional and mental marketing customers will associate your brand with their solution and eliminate choice. For example, many mothers use “Pampers,” when referring to diapers, as this brand has been positioned as the go to in baby diapering needs.
- Select target markets: based on the research and their commonalities, that way needs and goals are both met.
- Market-Product focus and Goal Setting – Once the questions of where the company stands and what it wants to achieve are answered, the next step in the planning process is determining where the resources will be allocated, and how to turn plans into focused action. To do this, customers should be divided into segments to determine what specific marketing technique will reach each targeted group and what each group needs. Next measurable goals should be set to get the needed products to the various groups, thus fulfilling the marketing objectives. For example, if customers are divided into groups of common needs it’s easier to market them and provide what they have proven to need at the time. And as well, if customers are grouped by their common response to marketing, then the cooperation will know the right decisions to make to reach that specific market segment.
- Price strategy: focuses on the list price, price allowances (reductions), discounts, payment periods, and credit contracts.
- Place (Distribution) Strategy: the final ‘P’ in the marketing mix should focus on distribution channels, outlets and transportation to get the product to the customer when they need it.
- Promotion Strategy: this element of the program should focus on direct marketing, advertising, public relations and sales promotions that create brand awareness.
- Product Strategy: this element focuses on the features, packaging, branding and warranty of the product.
2. Implementation Phase
The implementation phase is the action portion of the process. If the firm cannot carry out the plan that was determined in the early stages, then the hours spent planning were wasted. However, if the planning was adequately and competently structured, then the program can be put into effect through a sales forecast and a budget, using the following four components.
- Obtaining Resources – sums of cash to develop and market new products.
- Designing marketing organization – there should be put in place a marketing hierarchy to properly see the plans to fruition.
- Developing planning schedules – time needs to be allocated to specific tasks so they can be accomplished.
- Executing the marketing plan – effectively executing the marketing plan will take attention to detail, and focus on the strategy and tactics defined in your marketing plan.
3. Evaluation or Control Phase
The evaluation phase is the checking phase. This process involves ensuring that the results of the program are in line with the goals set. The marketing team, especially the manager will need to observe any deviations in the plan and quickly correct negative deviations to get back on course; for example fluctuations of the dollar creates a lesser need for the product than in the past, then the production of said product should be repurposed for a new more desired item. And they should exploit the positive divergences as well, for example if sales are better than predicted for certain products then there could be more resources allocated to greater production or distribution of the same item.
A few ways to evaluate the effectiveness of your marketing strategy include paying attention to:
- Strategy versus tactic – strategy defines goals and tactic defines actions to achieve goals.
- Measurable versus vague – have milestones that define when you’ve achieved your goals.
- Actionable versus Contingent – According to Inc.com: “A strategic goal should be achievable through the tactics that support it, rather than dependent upon uncontrollable outside forces.”
- Marketing strategy should be backed by a business plan with tactical moves to accomplish goals, or it is useless.
GUIDELINES FOR EFFECTIVE STRATEGIC MARKETING PROCESS
A well thought out plan for offering value and solutions to your target market allows the company to discover the needs of the targeted customers and fulfill those needs in a cost effective and timely fashion. This in turn allows for the marketing team to be able to measure a company’s value based on your ideal customer’s response to your product and strategy. Some guidelines to ensure this strategy is effective are:
- Set measurable, achievable goals by ensuring they are clear, structured and measurable it will be easier to accomplish your purpose.
- Base plans on facts and validated assumptions through market research.
- Use simple, clear and precise plans to detail what benefits you will offer your clients and how. Customers are driven by needs and desires so a clear plan will target those to gain customer loyalty.
- Have a feasible plan by using research to decide the best way to connect with and engage your ideal customers and then implement a plan your company can afford and carry to fulfillment to do so.
- Ensure control and flexibility by customizing your business plans and goals to match the needs of the customers, as they determine the success or failure of your company.
PROBLEMS TO EXPECT IN THE STRATEGIC MARKETING PROCESS
While creating the perfect marketing plan for your company, there are certain issues that could arise to deter the process. Here are a few possible issues to be prepared to face:
- Organizational Issues such as Poor Assumptions: – assuming customer needs without validation, lack of skilled workforce to implement the plans once they are arrived at, loss of sight of customer needs during the planning phase and changing demographic of consumers.
- Issues in the Marketing Department such as: inflexibility, performance assessment problems, coordination problems, poor information management and human relations issues.
- General problems such as: trouble obtaining marketing feedback, issues related to cost of marketing and problems integrating collected information into plans.
P.E.S.T: TRENDS TO CONSIDER WHEN IMPLEMENTING MARKETING STRATEGIES
According to Business news daily, while industry related factors could affect a company’s performance, outside factors can also play a major role in the outcome of a business’s plans. To determine the role of the external factors, it is recommended that companies perform a PEST analysis. Below is a break-down of what the four factors analyze.
- Political – this analyzes how legal issues and government regulations affect profit and consumer behavior. The major considerations of the political aspect are tax guidelines, political stability, trade regulations and embargos, employment laws and safety regulations. An example of this analysis and how it works is looking at the effects of political instability in a foreign market and how it affects your company’s plans.
- Economic – this factor looks at the outside economic issues that affect a firm’s success. Companies should pay attention to economic growth, inflation rates, exchange, interest rates and local business cycles. Changes in interest rate could improve or decrease the company’s bottom line.
- Social – demographic and cultural aspects affect whether a company can compete in the market or not. The social factor helps businesses to examine why customers purchase and what exactly their needs are. Issues to consider include lifestyle changes, health consciousness, environmental responsibility awareness, and attitudes toward work, education levels, population growth rates and country demographics. A certain shift in educational requirements may result in career changes that could reflect in changing needs of the customers.
- Technical – this aspect considers how technology impacts product placement and marketing. Technology can bring advantages and challenges that will increase or decrease production level. Specific areas to consider are new technological advancements, the use of technology in marketing, the role of the Internet and the impact of the information technology changes. The introduction of the Internet has created an expectation of instant gratification in today’s consumer; so social media marketing has to be considered an option.
STRATEGIC MARKETING PROCESS SIMPLIFIED
According to Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, “Any strategic planning process involves digesting information and some fairly difficult analysis. Good strategic planning should be simplified, not simplistic.” And it should also answer the questions: what are we selling, to whom and how do we beat the competition? The first two questions will determine the focus of your overall business while the third will help you specify your strategies to market. The following five steps are essential to accomplishing a simple, effective strategic plan.
- Identify objectives and determine mission
- Do business environmental scan-including trends and competition
- Devise strategy including SWOT, budget, marketing, price and distribution
- Implement strategy-put your plan into action
- Evaluate and modify- measure how close or far you are from objectives, track what works and change what doesn’t.
WHY APPLE’S STRATEGIC MARKETING PROCESS IS GENIUS
Apple has a significant competitive advantage over it’s rival because of it’s strategic marketing process. This company was voted overall winner of the 2012 CMO Survey Award for Marketing Excellence and before that it was listed in the top marketers group for five years in a row, as reported in Forbes.com. This competitive advantage is due to a thirty-five year old, 3-point philosophy employed by the Apple brand. The three points that constitute this philosophy include
- empathy-authentic understanding of customer need,
- focus-eliminate all unimportant opportunities and
- impute– ensuring creative, professional presentation of products.
Listed below are some of the main strategies used by Apple to ensure they beat the competition in marketing, placement and brand awareness and loyalty.
- Identify and respond to trends – though an innovative visionary, (the Apple Tablets ignited a market and were an industry leader) Apple’s team saw the digital trend shifting and responded with the iPad mini, despite Steve Jobs showing his disdain for smaller tablets in the past.
- Analyze competition and adjust – Though Apple and Microsoft have always been in competition, the two technology giants have not passed up opportunities to collaborate. And while Apple worked with Microsoft to accumulate a very big share of the market, the company went ahead and added Intel chips into their computers to ensure they were a step ahead of the competition including Microsoft.
- Innovation – Apple is usually first to market with products and visions customers love, and though it does not strive to be an innovator, usually focusing on specific strategy and enthusiasm, Apple is usually a leader in the market segment they occupy.
- Emotional branding – Companies like Apple tend to have very specific strategic aims and work hard to ensure they are met. One such strategy can be seen as forming an emotional attachment to the products sold to ideal customers. By effectively integrating emotions into the marketing strategy, the brand recognizes positive results, such as customers spending nights lined up to be the first to own the newest product.
- Enhanced distribution systems – Apple opened international retail stores and improved sales drastically. Now Apple representatives can be found in local malls and plazas to help solve customers’ issues and offer upsells and upgrades. This accessibility helps to build customer trust and helps make the decision process much easier when choosing a brand.
- Excellent customer service – Apple brand is synonymous with excellence customer service, friendly environments, and great customer experiences. The secret lies in the acronym APPLE, which, according to Social media today spells out:
“Approach customers with a personalized warm welcome
Probe politely to understand all the customer’s needs
Present a solution for the customer to take home today
Listen for and resolve any issues or concerns
End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return”
- Product placement – The Apple App store and iTunes compliment and extend the customer experience and the personality and reputation of the brand lead to loyalty and evangelism.
By incorporating these practices into your company’s marketing program and ensuring to follow through consistently, your company will be rewarded and recognized for its efforts.