There have never been so many ways to market your business. Offline and online, social media, email, blogs, influencers, collaborations, SEO, ad retargeting… the list goes on. It is easy to feel like you need to be everywhere and do everything to keep up with your customers and competitors.
But the truth is that many small business owners are doing themselves a disservice by jumping straight into their marketing tactics, spreading themselves too thinly and not making strategic decisions about where to best invest their marketing dollars.
The result is that many businesses are wasting money, not seeing the results they expect, losing customers to their competitors and getting caught up in a spiral of flash sales and discounts.
The solution? You need to ”down the tools”, step back and engage in strategic marketing.
Strategy vs Plan vs Tactics
Like any area of business, marketing involves making decisions at multiple levels. Some are big picture, vision level. Others are day-to-day, operational level. The key to effective marketing is to ensure decisions being made at all these levels are well-aligned to the overall goals of the business.
The best way to ensure your marketing efforts are aligned is to take a top-down approach – develop your marketing strategy first to set the course and let that guide your other decisions.
Let’s break down the three core elements of effective strategic marketing:
- Marketing strategy
Outlines your marketing goals and the key components involved in achieving them, including target markets, marketing channels, competitors, opportunities and risks. Typically has a 2-5 year timeframe.
- Marketing plan
Outlines how you will implement your marketing strategy across the seven P’s of marketing; product, price, promotion, place, people, process, and physical evidence. Typically has a 12-month timeframe.
- Marketing tactics
The specific actions you will take or campaigns you will launch as part of your marketing plan. Timeframes are generally less than 12 months.
For example, let’s say you have a business goal to increase your revenue by 20% over the next two years.
Your marketing strategy might outline an approach to achieve this goal by expanding into new markets with your existing products/services. It would look at which markets offer the most potential, the profile of your ideal customer, your unique selling proposition in these markets, what risks need to be mitigated – just to name a few!
Your marketing plan will then dive into the different ways you will go about expanding into the new markets. This could involve:
- opening new stores in different locations
- launching an online channel
- repositioning your product to appeal to new markets
- social media campaigns to build brand awareness
- promotional campaigns to increase conversions
- reassessing the pricing and packaging.
Lastly, your marketing tactics involve putting your plan into action by designing, implementing, measuring and adjusting the various campaigns you launch.
The common mistake many small business owners make is to jump straight into the tactics. They get caught up in boosting their social media following, or offering discounts to increase sales, or overextending their product line (adding too many products). They catch ‘shiny object’ syndrome and go chasing after the latest marketing fad without understanding if it is aligned to their business or having a long-term plan for its development.
Without the foundation of a strong strategy and plan, you risk your marketing efforts falling flat or taking you way off course from your goals.
What needs to be in a marketing strategy?
To get you started on the right foot, a marketing strategy should include the following components:
- Business Goals
- Marketing Goals
- Market Profile
- Customer Profile
- Competitor Analysis
- SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, Threats)
- Unique Selling Proposition
Many of these components are also pulled into your marketing plan to make sure you are staying true to your strategy. But your plan will shift down to another level of detail across things like team roles and structure, budget and metrics to measure the success of your marketing efforts.
Case Study: Bunnings Warehouse
The Australian hardware giant Bunnings is an excellent case study of effective strategic marketing in action. They consistently rank as one of Australia’s most trusted brands. Their market position was strong enough to hold off the entry of Masters as a major competitor. And their brand equity has played a huge role in pulling them through the COVID storm and retaining their status as a trusted brand.
From humble beginnings as a sawmill in Western Australia, Bunnings was bought by Wesfarmers in 1994 and began its domination of the retail hardware market. Wesfarmers saw an opportunity to capitalise on Australia’s booming housing market, increasing expenditure on home improvement, a desire for DIY and a fragmented competitor landscape.
Bunnings’ mission is to be “the leading retailer of home and lifestyle products for consumer and commercial customers in Australia and New Zealand”. So the main marketing strategy for Bunnings is to capture as much market share as possible across their two key markets: DIY home improvement customers and Tradies.
Their positioning for both markets is tied back to their unique selling proposition: low prices across the widest range with expert advice. These are the pillars of their marketing strategy and flow through all aspects of their marketing mix.
They brand themselves as a warehouse to align with the idea of lower costs being passed onto customers through lower prices. The fit out of their buildings reinforces this with wide aisles, exposed ceilings, tall shelves and bulk box packaging. They tell us in their advertising campaigns that they don’t do sales because they always offer the lowest price. Their DIY market trusts that when they go to Bunnings they can ask questions without feeling silly. Their staff are approachable and friendly. Their weekend sausage sizzle fundraisers are iconic. Their trade customers know they can get what they need with a low price guarantee.
Bunnings are active on Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest, because these channels align with where their DIY customers are looking for content. And they have not abandoned tried and tested channels like TV advertising and print media.
One of the other key features of their marketing strategy is geographic spread. They have over 370 stores across Australia and New Zealand, employing over 48,000 people. And across those stores there is consistent execution across the marketing mix. The layout of the stores, the staff uniforms, the cafe and playground, the green and red branding, all combine to create a familiar and trusted customer experience.
Sometimes marketing your business can feel like throwing paint at a wall and seeing what sticks. But it shouldn’t be that way. Taking a top-down approach to strategic marketing is the answer. It will give your business the direction it needs to focus marketing efforts in the places where you have a better chance of achieving significant ROI.
If you’re actively marketing but aren’t seeing the ROI you had hoped for, get in touch today for a free 30-min phone consultation to see how we can help you with a strategy-first approach to your marketing efforts.