A marketing strategy is not a list of tactics designed to market a company, tied together by a schedule and limited by a budget.  It’s not even a document, though it is often preserved and communicated that way. It is a captain’s mission, eyeglass, map and compass. It clearly defines the destination, sets a course to get there, and helps ensure the ship stays on course. Navigating an ocean without a purpose and proper tools is deadly, and venturing out into the brutal red waters or calm blue waters of a marketplace is no different.

Too often people mistake tactics for strategy. Which is much the same as a novice sailor making a list of items and tools needed to cross the ocean without any real purpose or direction. He’s acquired a ship, rations, an anchor, maybe a crew, but how will our aimless seafarer employ those tools to arrive at the intended destination. Does he even have a defined destination?

Strategy defines how to employ those tools and to what aim. To be prepared, a captain must determine her destination, where she is launching from, how she will employ the tools available to reach that destination, and whether she is maintaining the right course. In other words: the business’ goals, its current state, the coordinated plan to accomplish those goals, and the measurable objectives of each component of the strategy.

At William Joseph, any marketing initiative we undertake is guided by a strategy. Your marketing initiatives should be as well. Even when designing a single tactical piece, such as a lone print advertisement not tied to a grand campaign, ask where you are, where you are going, whether you can get there, and how the tactic aligns with others to help you get there. Ideally, this is an extensive planning process that produces a comprehensive document with clear goals, strategies, tactics, objectives, responsibilities, and risk mitigation plans.

Our process is intensive, but here are 4 key questions to answer about your business that many fail to ask.

1) How is my business positioned relative to competition?

Your answer should consider the following factors:

  • Your unique features, benefits or target
  • Relative strengths and weaknesses
  • Product/service features of each competitor
  • Target audiences or niches of each competitor
  • Fit within industry context

Positioning is key. It is important that a business understand its unique position relative to competitors, in terms of product, service, or image. It must figure out what makes it special.

2) How does its offering connect with customers?

Consider the following:

  • Target customers
  • How the features and benefits of the product or service connect with the emotional wants and needs of those customers
  • What messaging will appeal to them

This question focuses on how a business creates value for its customers and how to communicate that value.

3) Which strategies and tactics will accomplish my goals?

Consider the following:

  • Desired outcome
  • Conditions for success (Must you become recognized as experts in your field; strengthen the top of your sales funnel; speed up your sales process; or ensure everyone in your target industries is aware of your brand? It might be all four)
  • The tactics that will together produce those conditions

4) How do my marketing tactics fit together and align?

Consider the following:

  • The objective of each tactic
  • How the tactics support one another
  • Indicators of success and failure for each

Before you set out, make sure you have plotted a course. Answer the above questions and you’ll be on your way to having a more complete marketing strategy.