A successful marketing strategy can mean the difference between business success and failure, but what is marketing exactly? How should you best approach it in today’s digital world?
Many business people consider marketing to be the same thing as advertising and lump it in with sales. However, while sales and marketing are closely related, they consist of very different activities.
Advertising can certainly be a part of marketing but your marketing strategy should cover more than just simple promotion – it’s about fully understanding your customers and their needs and feeding back into every other aspect of your business.
- At a fundamental level, marketing is the process of understanding your customers, and building and maintaining relationships with them.
- Marketing is the key to an organization’s success, regardless of its size.
- There are several types and sub-types of marketing, digital and offline. You should determine and pursue the ones that work best for you.
- Marketing and Sales teams need to have a unified approach. Automation helps them work towards the same goals.
What Is Marketing? – Types of Marketing
For those who think that marketing is the same thing as advertising, nothing could be further from the truth. Advertising can certainly be one small part of a marketing plan but it’s only one piece of the puzzle. Indeed, it’s possible to work from a marketing strategy that doesn’t utilize advertising at all.
Marketing can roughly be split into offline and online or digital methods. Offline marketing consists of “traditional” advertising in print, radio, and television marketing, as well as attending events like tradeshows, fairs and conferences. It can also include word-of-mouth marketing.
Most businesses will use a combination of online and offline marketing methods. However, these days the balance is shifting more towards online marketing. This is because consumers are increasingly spending more time online and digital marketing offers various advantages in terms of speed, efficiency, and ROI.
So let’s look at some of the different types of online marketing that are available to today’s businesses:
- Content marketing – Publishing content in different forms to build brand awareness and nurture relationships with customers. Content marketing is usually thought of as a type of digital marketing but it can also take place offline. Examples of content marketing include blogs, posts on social media, infographics, and video.
- Search engine optimization – Commonly known as SEO, this is the process of optimizing the content on your website to make it more visible to search engines and attract more traffic from searches.
- Search engine marketing – Also known as pay-per-click or PPC, with this type of marketing businesses pay to have a link to their site placed in a prominent position on search engine result pages
- Social media marketing – Using social networks like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to build relationships with existing customers and reach a wider audience through digital word-of-mouth.
- Email marketing – Sending regular email communications to users who have signed up to your list to build relationships and drive sales.
- Retargeting – Contacting existing or potential customers after they have already had an interaction with your brand to get them to come back or convert into a sale. For example, placing an advert on their Facebook feed of a particular product they’ve looked at on your site.
- Influencer marketing – Using individuals with a high profile and many followers on social network channels to promote your product or service.
These are just a few examples of the most popular types of digital marketing in play today. Each of these methods can be broken down into several other types of marketing and there are indeed hundreds or thousands of different types of marketing covering both online and offline channels.
No business relies on just one form of marketing. On the other hand, unless you’re a multinational corporation with a practically unlimited budget and resources, it’s not possible to tackle all different forms of marketing either.
To form an effective marketing strategy for your individual business, you must select the types of marketing that will be most effective for you, and form a plan in which they are integrated into a master strategy.
The Difference Between Marketing and Sales
Sales and marketing are closely linked but they cover very distinct activities in your business.
The sales team doesn’t have any say in what the product is or who buys it – they simply take leads and convince them to buy. Employees working in sales must build close relationships with your customers and they need intelligence from marketing in order to do this.
The marketing team provides these leads by informing potential customers about your brand and product. They also use customer feedback and intelligence to decide what products to produce in the future or how to change existing products so they meet the customer needs better.
You won’t be effective at selling unless the people you are selling to already have some awareness about your brand or product – this is what marketing can do for you.
For a successful strategy, marketing and sales teams need to work closely together and have a unified approach. This ensures that only good-quality leads are passed to the sales team.
You can use a marketing automation platform to align your marketing and sales teams to ensure they’re working more efficiently towards a common goal.
Understanding Your Customer
In marketing, knowing your customer is key. In fact, some marketers go so far as saying that marketing is essentially the process of understanding your customers.
Marketing should start right at the beginning of your business journey, before your brand even takes form. This initial marketing involves research and learning more about your customers in order to develop a product or service that meets their wants and needs.
This in-depth customer research isn’t a one-off marketing task, but one that is continuous. Focus groups, customer surveys, and collecting user data online are all ways that can help you to learn more about your evolving customer base and ensure that your brand is communicating with them in the right ways.
After a particular product or service has been introduced to the market, its success must be evaluated to see if it’s meeting customer needs. Marketing also plays a part in customer service and nurturing customer relationships. It’s not just about attaining new customers, but also making sure you get the most out of your existing customers and that they stick around for as long as possible.
Digital marketing has opened up a new world of possibilities when it comes to understanding your customers better and building relationships with them.
We now have the ability to collect a vast amount of data about individuals including their demographics, location, shopping habits, previous brand interactions, likes and dislikes, and more.
This data can be used to build a picture of your customers in a way that’s much more accurate and meaningful than the traditional “customer avatar” exercise.
Some of the other ways that today’s modern marketing technology enables us to learn more about and grow better relationships with customers include:
- Using hyper-personalized messages to speak to each customer on an individual level
- Predicting future behavior with artificial intelligence
- Publishing content that’s more relevant to your audience
- Seeing what other content they’re engaging with online
- Analyzing brand interactions and optimizing your marketing campaigns
- Automatically staying in touch and nurturing customer relationships after the initial sale
- “Listening in” and talking about your brand on social media – and using it to improve your products and customer service
- Conducting customer surveys easily, cheaply, and with instantly analyzed results
The Marketing Mix in the Digital Age
The “marketing mix”, also known as “the 4 Ps” of marketing are considered to be the foundation of your marketing plan. They represent the main decisions you will have to make when marketing your products or services:
- Product – what will your product or service actually be and how does it meet the needs of your customer?
- Pricing – what price will you set your product at? This is not always a monetary figure as customers may exchange their time or information for a “free” product.
- Place – how do you deliver the product to the customer? Do they come into a physical store or do you sell online? Are you targeting a particular geographic region?
- Promotion – what marketing methods will you use to tell the world about your product?
Getting the marketing mix right means you’ll be able to align with your customers’ wants and needs, strengthen your brand presence, and maximize your ROI.
The concept of the 4Ps marketing mix was thought up well before the internet became a part of normal everyday life, but it can be adapted pretty easily to form the basis for developing a marketing strategy in today’s digital world.
In the digital marketing mix, the 4 Ps are the same, but the approach is different.
- Product – The internet means that you can have a business with no physical inventory. Instead, you can sell digital products such as e-books and courses. Even if you do sell tangible products, the process of product development has been forever changed. It’s now possible to order and create products on-demand to test out the market first, and the ability to survey your customers quickly and easily means you’re less likely to make mistakes when it comes to product development.
- Price – Digital marketing technology means that you don’t have to decide on a single price for your product or service – you can dynamically adjust the price depending on who’s viewing it. There’s also more flexibility when it comes to pricing models, with subscriptions and recurring payments made more accessible to businesses and customers of all kinds.
- Place – Clearly the main difference here is you’re selling online instead of in a bricks-and-mortar store. But there are also many different channels to explore when it comes to selling online. Your own website, online market places, email, and social media are all avenues to consider.
- Promotion – Again, you’ll still promote your product but the methods are different than what you would have used 30 years ago. Instead of direct mail and print advertising, your strategy might include email marketing and social media marketing instead.
Does Your Business Need a Marketing Strategy?
It’s common for small businesses in particular to underplay the importance of marketing. However, it’s arguably the case that every business needs marketing to succeed. After all, how will you sell your products and services if nobody knows about them?
This misunderstanding of the importance of marketing most likely stems from the confusion around “marketing” as a term in the first place. If you’re asking yourself “what is marketing anyway?” or thinking it’s the same thing as advertising, it’s understandable that you may be reluctant to devote budget and resources towards a marketing strategy.
It’s true that some businesses have become very successful without using advertising.
Krispy Kreme is one example of a global brand that was built on word-of-mouth marketing rather than television advertising and other forms of promotion. They also invest heavily in employee engagement, meaning that each employee is a marketer for the brand and is trained in creating the product and customer service.
Camera company GoPro was also launched without advertising. Instead, they relied on the power of social media marketing and understanding their customer motivations to produce a product that customers actively wanted to promote. The GoPro Instagram account is still primarily made up of user-generated content today.
As discussed previously, marketing is not just promotion. But rather, it’s about learning and understanding more about your customer. Your marketing strategy will help you to figure out exactly who you’re serving and how you can align your business plans with your customer needs. This will not only result in happier customers but also drive revenue, and ensure you’re heading in the right strategic direction for both short-term and long-term growth.
How to Develop a Marketing Strategy
Developing an effective marketing strategy is no quick and easy task, but the basics can be broken down into a few key steps:
- Identify your goals – what do you want your business to achieve in the short and long-term? This may include specific sales figures but also consider factors such as raising brand awareness and your presence on social media.
- Market research and identifying your customers – learn as much as you can about your target customers. Who are they and what do they want and need?
- Competitor analysis – what are your competitors doing in terms of marketing? What products are they selling and how are they interacting with their customers?
- Identify your unique selling proposition (USP) – what are you doing that makes you a better choice than your competitors? How will your marketing reinforce your brand message?
- Choose your marketing channels – most businesses opt for a blend of online and offline strategies. Again this comes down to understanding your audience – where do they spend their time? What platforms are they likely to trust more?
While your marketing strategy lays out the overall aims and direction of your marketing activities in the coming months and years, your marketing plan will provide the details of the actual activities you’ll be carrying out to achieve these goals.
Both your marketing strategy and your marketing plan are keys to your long-term success, whether your business is a small startup or a global organization.
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