When Sarah and I decided to merge, our main driver was the gap we saw in the market for strategy-led alignment. We had both worked with businesses that “did” marketing and/or business development. But often, business development and strategic marketing are far removed from each other. Sarah found that her job was harder without a strong marketing strategy in place. As a strategic marketer, I particularly feel the frustration of people not knowing what “strategic marketing” is, talk less of how it can help their business.
Inside large corporate organisations, strategic marketers often wake up in a cold sweat. I should know, I was one of them. If they are really unlucky, they lay awake most nights. In an ideal world, everyone would understand and embrace strategic marketing. I’m hoping this blog will move the needle a little on this.
What is Strategic Marketing?
The words “strategy” and strategic” have some negative connotations in small circles. I’ve heard “strategist” or “strategic” used to describe a person’s job when no one really knows what they do. First of all, what is strategic marketing all about?
According to Strategic Marketing vs Tactical Marketing, Oxford College of Marketing define strategy as:
“The art of a commander-in-chief; the art of projecting and directing … Usually distinguished from tactics, which is the art of handling forces in battle…”
Strategists sit at the top of the command chain. They determine overall what needs to be achieved and then direct teams, who have to make it happen through a series of actions.
Strategy is about thinking and planning, tactics are about taking action to make the plan happen.
How we achieve the strategy is tactics.
The Importance of Strategic Marketing
Marketing means different things to different people so it’s worth clearing this up, right? When I say “Marketing”, these activities come to mind:
- Event management
- Graphic Design
and whatever else you think marketing is.
But the above is not what Strategic Marketing is. These activities are the tactics for implementing a strategy.
Strategic marketing should answer the following questions:
- Why should they buy from us?
- Where should we sell our stuff?
- How do we sell our stuff?
- Which problems can we solve for our customers?
- What are we best at selling?
- Do we have the capability to sell the “right” stuff?
- If we don’t have the internal capabilities, how can we get it?
- Who do we need to be building relationships with for long-term sustainability?
So, while strategic marketers work closely with communications and PR to get the message out as clearly as possible, and work with an events team to put on the relevant events that support the strategy, Strategic Marketing looks after the future (usually a 3 to 5-year timeframe). They don’t focus primarily on tactics. Although some tactical actions might result from strategic analysis.
3 Mistakes that Limit Strategic Marketing
To enable successful strategic marketing within a firm, it is important that there is a clear understanding of the outcomes of strategic marketing. This is why the following situations will give strategic marketing a bad name.
No data, crap data
To make plausible decisions, you need data. You need to understand not just how your firm has been performing in the market, but also how your competitors are performing. You need to know what their strengths and weaknesses are. Your team should consistently scan the market landscape for opportunities and threats and find ways to leverage these. For this, you need lots of reliable data. Multiple poorly completed CRM entries aren’t sufficient. You can start with assumptions/guesses but, over time, you should be aiming to prove or disprove this with data.
Ignoring external factors
You also need to make reasonable market forecasts. How else will you know which markets to invest in and where to cut your losses? You cannot only consider your firm’s own view of the market. It is important to raise your eyes and look outside the firm. Talk to your customers and suppliers. Consider getting 3rd party data from companies conducting regular/periodic market research in your industry. Use this as part of your business case building to gather support for pushing your ideas forward.
“To be successful and grow your business and revenues, you must match the way you market your products with the way your prospects learn about and shop for your products.”
Mistaking Tactics for Strategy
The quickest way to irritate a strategic marketer is to ask them if they have “any brochures left” or to assume they will organise the office Christmas party.
There is a definite place for this in an organisation, but this is not the role of a strategic marketer. A strategy marketer is best utilised for:
- Market research
- Customer segmentation studies
- Content strategies
- Social media strategies
- Case study creation
- Competitor Intelligence
- Pricing strategies
- Technology gap analysis
- M&A due diligence work
- Product brand strategies
Strategic marketers should work closely across business development, sales, commercial, R&D and communications teams to get the best results for the firm. Lone strategic marketers might end up living in a fantasy world, parallel to the actual operations on the ground. It will be impossible to make a significant impact then.
Now that’s a real nightmare.
A modified version of this article was published on LinkedIn on 09/09/2015