A marketing strategy is a long-term vision outlining a business’s value proposition to its customers. Rather than describing the concrete actions required in specific advertising campaigns, marketing strategies are a compass used to guide marketing efforts.
While it may be tempting to hash out a marketing plan right away, thinking about the marketing strategy first can improve your product's success and give you a competitive advantage. Learn what marketing strategy is, why it matters, different types, and steps to create your own.
A marketing strategy is an overview of how a business or organization will articulate its value proposition to its customers. Generally, a marketing strategy outlines business goals, target market, buyer personas, competitors, and value for customers. It provides a long-term vision for overall marketing efforts, often looking many years ahead.
Marketing strategies can have a measurable impact on success.
In 2022, CoSchedule surveyed 3,599 marketers and bloggers to identify their most successful marketing practices. They found that marketers who documented their marketing strategy were 331 percent more likely to report success than those who didn’t. Furthermore, marketers who were the most organized were found to be a whopping 674 percent more likely to report success .
Taking the time to create a marketing strategy can benefit your company's brand and bottom line. Watch this video to learn more about how to develop a winning marketing strategy:
People often use the terms “marketing strategy” and “marketing plan” interchangeably, but in reality, they are two different processes.
A marketing plan describes the concrete actions and marketing tactics undertaken to complete a marketing campaign. Meanwhile, a marketing strategy outlines the big picture of a marketing effort, such as the business's target customers. The strategy describes what the marketing objectives are, while the plan describes how those objectives are going to be achieved.
For example, imagine an e-commerce business that is trying to grow its customer base. They start a referral program to encourage word of mouth but it has little success. If they had created a strategy, they might have realized they needed to tap into new potential customers instead. A digital marketing strategy focused on targeted blog posts and search engine optimization (SEO) would have yielded better results.
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There are many different approaches to marketing – such as social media marketing or content marketing – but strategies for market growth can be found in Ansoff’s matrix. These four strategies are:
H. Igor Ansoff is a mathematician and business manager who created the matrix to help businesses define their strategies by varying what product is being sold and who the product is being sold to .
Ansoff’s matrix encourages markets to consider the four Ps, or the “marketing mix":
Product: What is being sold
Place: Where it is being sold
Price: What the product costs
Promotion: How the product is marketed to the target audience
The exact way that a marketer defines the four Ps for their marketing efforts will depend on the growth strategy they are using and the political and economic outlook of their market.
Let’s take a closer look at each strategy from Ansoff’s matrix.
Market penetration strategy is a growth strategy that involves selling existing products to existing markets. It is considered the least risky of all the strategies in Ansoff’s matrix. The strategy is typically considered most beneficial if the market is either growing or the marketer alters its promotional efforts through existing marketing channels .
An example of a market penetration strategy can be found in McDonald’s “I’m Lovin’ It” campaign from 2003.
In the early 2000s, McDonald's faced flagging sales and plummeting stock prices. Rather than creating a new product (product development strategy), McDonald's instead focused on attracting existing customers in an existing market with a catchy ad campaign. The result was their wildly successful “I’m Lovin’ it” campaign, which featured a catchy new jingle sung by Justin Timberlake .
“I’m Lovin It” has since become McDonald’s longest-running marketing campaign since its founding in 1940 .
A product development strategy involves the development of a new product for an already existing market. Typically, it is considered riskier than a market penetration strategy because it requires the creation of a totally new product. In order to be successful, product development strategies typically require innovation and further research into the existing market, including the profiles and needs of the target audience .
An example of a successful (and surprisingly interesting) product development strategy can be seen in the Uni Kuru Toga mechanical pencil.
As odd as it may seem, in the mechanical pencil world the Uni Kuru Toga is something of a star. “[T]he Uni Kuru Toga is the best mechanical pencil for every day writing,” opined the New York Time’s Wirecutter in a 2018 article . Wired, meanwhile, called it “the ultimate geek tool” .
What makes the pencil so unique? A specially designed internal gear mechanism that rotates the lead so it stays sharp as you write and diamond infused lead that doesn’t easily break under pressure. In effect, as a 2009 commercial for the pencil demonstrated, it was meant for people concerned with even handwriting and durable lead .
While the market for mechanical pencils was already well-established, the Uni Kuru Toga was able to find success through a product development strategy that offered consumers something new and useful.
A market development strategy takes an existing product into new markets. Much like a product development strategy, a market development strategy is considered riskier than a market penetration strategy because it involves introducing a familiar product into an unfamiliar marketplace. While the product remains the same, the new place it is sold requires possibly new pricing and promotional efforts .
An example of a market development strategy is when Microsoft introduced its Hololens technology to an additional 29 markets in Europe in November of 2017 . The augmented reality headset provides a unique user experience that allows professionals to work in a “mixed reality” environment. To promote their efforts, Microsoft released a YouTube video showcasing the unique use cases of the product in the workplace, such as through interactive employee training programs in industrial environments .
A diversification strategy involves the development of a new product for a new market. The novelty required of a diversification strategy means that it is also the riskiest of the Ansoff matrix’s four strategies. Diversification strategies require full attention on all of the four Ps – product, price, place, and promotion—but the biggest risks can also lead to the biggest rewards .
An example of a diversification strategy is when Apple introduced the first iPhone on June 9, 2007 at the MacWorld Expo. At the time, Apple was new to the mobile phone market, but they innovated in the space by adding a music player and web browser to their new touchscreen phone .
“Today Apple is going to reinvent the phone,” CEO Steve Jobs declared before an audience of reporters . Through much of the presentation, Jobs outlined the phone’s unique value proposition to customers.
It worked. As of June 2022, there were an estimated 1.8 billion active iPhone users .
A marketing strategy can set you up for marketing success. As you are creating your own marketing strategy, consider the following steps to help guide your process.
The first step in creating an effective marketing strategy is to clarify your business objectives and marketing goals. What are you trying to achieve with your market growth strategy?
The answer to this question will inevitably depend on your particular place in the market and your own comfortability with different risk levels.
Some examples of business and marketing goals include:
Grow customer base
Increase brand awareness
Whatever your objectives, the purpose is simply to consider what you want to actually accomplish by expanding your marketing efforts. These goals will guide the development of your marketing strategy.
Strategic marketing requires a comprehensive understanding of the marketplace, its economic and political context, and your product or service's place within it.
As you are conducting market research, you'll want to consider these factors:
Competitors, particularly their value proposition and market share
Market size, including the realistic number of customers that would be interested in your products
Market gaps where you can provide value
Possible economic and political realities that could impact the market in the long-term
As you gain a better understanding of the market, you will also better understand how you fit into it and where you can grow in it.
Read more: What Is Competitor Analysis? Definition + Step-by-Step Guide
The purpose of every marketing campaign is to connect with potential customers. Your marketing strategy needs to include a comprehensive profile of your target audience.
Consider your target audience in relation to the four P's. Think through the following:
Based on what you know about the market, who is your target audience? What are their key demographics?
What is your product’s value proposition to your customer? (Product)
How much is your target audience willing to pay for your product or service? (Price)
Where does your target audience shop? (Place)
What marketing tactics are most persuasive to your target audience? (Promotion)
As you research and consider these questions, your customer should come more clearly into view, so you can create a strategy with maximum impact.
Finally, take the goals you have outlined, research you have conducted, and profiles you have created to construct a marketing strategy. The critical question you will want to answer is: how will you align with your target market to meet your overall objectives?
Your answer to this question will be your strategy.
Ultimately, your marketing strategy should cover the following:
Business and marketing objectives
Market overview, including key facts and figures
General statement of strategy highlighting the product’s value proposition to customers
You might consider whether a social media strategy makes sense for your product or service. If so, your strategy could include user-generated content. Go a step further to consider which social media channels fits best with your target audience.
While you may have collected much information as you were conducting research, your marketing strategy doesn’t need to be too long. In fact, a strong marketing strategy can be as short as one page. Remember, this is meant to act as long-term guide for directing specific marketing tactics, not an action plan of how a marketing campaign will be done.
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CoSchedule. “The Marketing Management + Strategy Statistics You Need to Know in 2019, https://coschedule.com/marketing-statistics.” Accessed February 6, 2023.
Oxford College of Marketing. “Using the Ansoff Matrix to Develop Marketing Strategy, https://blog.oxfordcollegeofmarketing.com/2016/08/01/using-ansoff-matrix-develop-marketing-strategy/.” Accessed February 6, 2023.
The Take Out. “TIL McDonald’s ‘I’m Lovin’ It’ jingle was born out of desperation, https://thetakeout.com/history-of-mcdonald-s-i-m-lovin-it-jingle-1846400888.” AccessedFebruary 6, 2023.
Chicago Magazine. “Five Things You Never Knew About ‘I’m Lovin’ It’, https://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/November-2014/McDonalds-Im-Lovin-It-Campaign/.” Accessed February 6, 2023.
NYT Wirecutter. “The Best Mechanical Pencils, https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/best-mechanical-pencils/.” Accessed February 6, 2023.
Wired. “Kura Toga: The Ultimate Geek Tool, https://www.wired.com/2011/11/kuru-toga-the-ultimate-geek-tool/.” Accessed February 6, 2023.
YouTube (Uni Ball UK). “Uni Kuru Togat from Mutsibishi Pencil Company, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=80k7Jl1o8Lc&t=22s.” Accessed February 6, 2023.
Tech Crunch. “Microsoft expands HoloLens headsets to 29 new markets, now up to 39, https://techcrunch.com/2017/11/01/microsoft-expands-hololens-headsets-to-29-new-european-markets/.” Accessed February 6, 2023.
YouTube (Microsoft HoloLens). “Microsoft HoloLens: Mixed Reality in the Modern Workspace, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EIJM9xNg9xs.” Accessed February 6, 2023.
Computer World. “Update: Jobs touts iPhone, Apple TV, https://www.computerworld.com/article/2549128/update--jobs-touts-iphone---appletv-.html.” Accessed February 6, 2023.
Earthweb. “How many people use iPhones in 2022?, https://earthweb.com/how-many-people-use-iphones/.” Accessed February 6, 2023.
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