What is Marketing Strategy?

Actionable Marketing 101

Yes you are doing marketing, but do you have a marketing strategy? Time and again, I see marketers in companies, agencies and forums, both online and in real life, rush to develop tactics without stopping to think about how these relate to their larger business goals. Regardless of what form of marketing is being considered, social media, mobile or old-fashioned print and direct mail, or how senior the marketers involved, there’s often an irresistible desire to go to straight to tactics. This is because tactics are concrete and therefore easier to wrap one’s mind around. The problem is that the best marketing requires an approach that’s integrated into an organization’s overall business objectives.

While grounded in the language of war, marketing is about driving profitable revenues not just about ”winning” campaigns. Marketers compete for consumers’ scarce resources:  attention and disposable income. To this end, it’s important to understand how the following five components are integrated.

  1. Business objectives. What is your organization trying to accomplish? This is the really big stuff. Among the options are build a brand, get new customers, introduce new products, expand into a new category and increase market share with current customers.
  2. Target audience. Who are your customers? Which market(s) do you serve? How do you describe them so that you can reach them with appropriate messages, generally through third party, owned  and/or social media.
  3. Marketing strategies. What marketing do you need to do to help achieve these business goals? These are relatively high-level plans often related to the four Ps: product, pricing, place and promotion. Bear in mind that social media has influenced how we view these four fundamental elements of marketing.
  4. Marketing tactics. What specific actions do you need to take for your strategy to succeed? Which elements are in your marketing mix and how to they relate to your marketing strategies? Here’s where the rubber meets the road. What specifically are you going to do and when are you going to do it? Here’s where you worry about things like how your website should look, what’s your Twitter strategy and should you test Groupon.
  5. Metrics. Which things do you need to measure to assess how well your tactics and strategies have accomplished their goals? The critical issue with metrics is to determine the specifics after you have processes in place as you roll-out your tactics. This way you can get rapid feedback as to the success of each tactic and quickly make adjustments if necessary. At a minimum, make sure that you’re measuring the number of people exposed to each of your marketing initiatives, time exposed, their actions, sentiment change, sales influenced and costs.

When you’re developing your marketing plans, at a minimum, include these five elements. This will help you to communicate where your organization is headed and how you propose to get there. It will also help show your senior management that you’ve a good handle on the return they’re getting for their valuable marketing dollars.

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen

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Photo credit: pshutterbug via Flickr

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3 Responses to What is Marketing Strategy?

  1. Lucille Arcedas says:

    Thanks, Ms. Cohen. This helps a lot. All the best!

  2. Steve G says:

    Heidi –

    Thanks for the read – I think you are right on when you stated “…there’s often an irresistible desire to go to straight to tactics.” (My belief: It’s probably the easiest and most enjoyable part of the process for some. I often state that we take days, weeks, years to pick the vehicle to promote our product/service, but hours to think about the strategy and message! This is cause for another post I am sure! It makes me think about Celebrity/Athlete endorsements – sometimes I shake my head when I see a specific endorsement and think, how does that fit the company’s strategy..again, I totally separate conversation!)

    You hit on some major points in your post – particular interesting to me is the METRICS. Some people truly don’t understand what they want to measure or what measurement is important to their company. Another of your points that struck home with me – the marketing strategy should involve EVERYONE in the company so there is a clear and concise goal in mind. (And what good is traffic, if their not buying!)

    I’ve also witnessed how the marketing strategy worked, but there was no thought on how to handle the success? What do we do when the people start coming to our site? Our door? How do we handle the traffic? (Now That We’re Successful, What Are We Going To Do?)

    Another point to consider when developing a company’s marketing strategy: how your company’s vision, value and mission relate to your marketing strategy? What is the impact and the value those points bring to the marketing table? Do you even promote that in your strategy?

    Great topic Heidi and good read. Sorry for the long comment. Thanks for getting my blood flowing…


    • Heidi Cohen says:


      I appreciate your taking your time to enter the conversation. LIke you, I find many marketers and business executives ready to leap straight to tactics. They’re ready to respond to the environment or competition without stopping to consider where they want their business to go and why. This goes to your point about a company’s vision, values and mission. Further they overlook the need to develop appropriate metrics until the campaign is over. As a result, many don’t know what to track.

      You make a good point in terms of planning for success. Marketers can ensure that their campaign has a process that gets prospects and customers to purchase. The challenge is ensuring that it’s integrated into your overall marketing mix as well as across your company. The bigger hurdle is what happens if we’re overly successful. Too many customers can be an issue. Early in my career, I worked for a company that consistently under-estimated inventory.This was good for our balance sheet but didn’t account for the customers we lost to our competitors for lack of product.

      Thank you for your time and contribution,
      Happy marketing,
      Heidi Cohen