Posters, press advertising, LinkedIn, Google Adwords, PR, e-shots, newsletters which are the best marketing tools and which should I choose to market my business? The answer will depend on what market you are in, your target audience, your objectives, your brand values and of course your budget! Ultimately any business will need to implement an integrated approach if it is to gain maximum benefit from a marketing budget and meet the objectives of the business.
Where to Start?
No matter how big or small, all businesses should have a marketing strategy and plan which support the Business Plan. Taking a structured approach will ensure marketing activity delivers results. Your marketing strategy is the way you make sure you’re getting the maximum impact from your limited marketing budget and time. It is the set of high-level rules that direct your marketing activities.
Creating a Marketing Strategy?
The first step in developing a marketing strategy is to make sure you fully understand your market by doing some research and analysis. There are various strategy tools that can be used to assist in the development of the Marketing Strategy – SWOT, Porters 5 forces model, BCG Matrix / Segmentation analysis and many more!
SWOT – A simple model that challenges you to consider your business’ Strengths, Weaknesses, future opportunities and any threats that could impact the business’ future.
Porters 5 Forces – Porter identified five factors that act together to determine the nature of competition within a market. By considering these five forces a firm is able to fully identify likely competition and plan for it.
- Threat of new entrants to a market
- Bargaining power of suppliers – forcing prices up and margins down
- Bargaining power of customers – forcing prices down and margins down
- Threat of substitute products
- Degree of competitive rivalry
BCG Matrix / Segmentation analysis – A tool that assists a business to consider the future profitability of its products and services. It helps businesses to prioritise investment and marketing spend by product/service/ market segment.
Whatever tools you utilise it is important that you do not simply do the analysis. Use the analysis to develop you marketing strategy and create an action plan; which then needs to be implemented.
Which Marketing Tools to use.
The range of tools available is getting bigger all the time. The appropriate mix of tools will depend on the business, its objectives, target audience and marketing strategy. When selecting appropriate tools it is important that a business understands what the different tools can achieve in their market and the timeframes involved. At a basic level the tool kit for a b2b service firm will be very different from the tool kit applied by a manufacturer. The diagram below illustrates the differing relationship that these two types of businesses have with their client/customer. Employees of a manufacturer have limited direct contact with their customers. Perceptions of the brand are driven by advertising, social media, CSR and ultimately the products physical delivery against the promised values.
Conversely the majority of employees in a b2b services based business do come into contact with clients on a regular basis. Employees are to a certain extent the brand ambassadors and their actions will directly influence the brand’s values and the reputation of the firm; their actions will directly impact sales and repeat business.
The Marketing Plan
A marketing plan is needed to deploy the tools. It is delivered through 7 mechanisms:
Product/service, Price, Place, Promotion
People, Process, Physical Evidence – these are service excellence variables for a b2b service based firm and can have a major impact on the perception of an organisation.
It goes without saying that innovative thinking is a central component of marketing. This principle not only applies to engaging advertising campaigns but also to product and service design. For manufacturers research and development is an essential component for survival, but many service based businesses do not recognise this and suffer as a result.
Marketing strategy formulation and planning can appear to be a daunting prospect. It need not be. With practise and perhaps some guidance the tools can be utilised to good affect and in doing so the business can deliver to its wider objectives.