One of the most important success factors in marketing is to have a good strategy. Even if you understand what marketing tactics work today, without analysis and strategic planning first, you’re wasting your time.
Marketing campaigns run when you don’t understand your customer, your advantage over the competition, or what’s going on in your industry, are bound to generate less-than-great results or downright failure!
When I work with clients to plan their marketing, my favorite tools help provide three must-have pieces of information: 1. Know thy customer; 2. Know thyself; and 3. Know thy industry. There are a lot of ways to analyze these areas, but some have bubbled up as the more effictive and popular for businesses and organizations that want to grow faster.
Here are three of my favorite tools and models for analyzing a client’s marketing strategy.
1. The Marketing Persona – Know Thy Customer
Today marketing personas are used to understand customers and communicate that understanding to employees and other stakeholders. A marketing persona is a story written about each customer segment your company serves. The persona in the story is given a person’s name, and the story describes the customer type’s attitudes, likes, dislikes and needs. Creating and sharing marketing personas makes it easier for everyone to understand, empathize with, and make better decisions about the customers you serve.
Why is the marketing persona efffective? As B2B marketers, we worked for a long time with demographics. We looked for people with certain titles, incomes, educations, age in a certain geography. As marketing and sales became more competitve, we got a little smarter. We started looking at psychographics. What motivates our prospect? Where do they go? What do they read? All these were clues on how to reach them.
But now that buyers have control over the purchasing cycle (we used to call it the sales cycle, because we marketers and sellers had control of the information), we need to intimately understand the buyer. We need to walk in their shoes. What is a day in their life like? What things can we talk about that will help them connect and engage with and like us? The marketing persona has been used by ad agencies for years. They knew that for creatives to “speak” to the right audiences, they had to get inside their heads.
And I’m not sure how to explain how the marketing persona works, but when you nail your personas, they can transform the way people in your organization think about your customers. All of a sudden, the customer isn’t someone on the other side of the table. It’s someone who is known to you. You know their story. You understand them and have empathy for them. For more about personas, read my previous post, Why Marketing Personas Rule.
I can’t tell you you many times I’ve presented personas to companies that have been in business 20, 30, even 40 years, and I have witnessed the lightbulb going on. People get excited. They gain clarity about customers. One man in one of my audiences saw himself in a persona presented and exclaimed, “Why, that’s ME!”
2. SWOT Analysis – Know Thyself
SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis is well known and easy to understand. But, it is extremely difficult to do this accurately. The main difficulty is in being brutally honest about the state of your business or organization and about the strengths of your competitors. It is human nature (and especially with business owners) to see and believe the best about your company.
The SWOT analysis I use incorporates action items with the analysis, making the tool more action-oriented. Having all the information on one page makes this analysis easy to digest and share with others. It also puts the emphasis on action, so that the SWOT analysis doesn’t get done and then no action is taken to improve weaknesses or leverage strengths.
The CEO at one of my client organizations included my SWOT analysis in her presentation to investors because it so well presented exactly where the company was and what it was doing to move forward. See my previous blog entry, 1-Page SWOT Analysis with Action Items, for more information about this tool.
3. Blue Ocean Strategy – Know Thy Industry
Blue Ocean Strategy originated as a book co-written in 2005 by Kim Chan and Renee Maubourne and published by Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation. It is an approach in which businesses create “blue oceans” of uncontested market opportunity rather than compete in the existing bloody “red ocean” market space. I like this model because it encourages breakthrough strategic thinking. What marketing opportunity hasn’t been tapped yet? What other audiences exist that we can sell to?Blue Ocean Strategy
A good example is Southwest Airlines recognizing regional, low-cost air travel as its blue ocean – an untapped market with growth potential. All the airlines were competing in the high price, high service quadrant in the chart above – the bloody red ocean of high competition. The blue ocean was where an airline could offer high performance for a much lower price. For more information read my previous blog entry about Blue Ocean Strategy, Why B2B Marketers Need Blue Ocean Strategy.
Don’t jump into marketing programs and activities without thinking strategically first. How well do you know your customer? Your company (and are you honest about it or are you in denial)? Your industry? I hope these three strategic planning tools will help you answer the critical questions before you start marketing.
If you need help in identifying the right strategy for your business or organization, contact New Incite today. We provide strategic analyisis, strategic marketing plans, and outsource marketing program execution.Blog entry excerpted from the Marketing chapter written by Jennifer Beever in The Book on Business from A to Z
I originally wrote about these three strategic planning models in my answer to one of ten top questions business owners have about marketing. It was published in the marketing chapter of The Book on Business from A to Z – “What’s the best strategy for marketing my product or service?” The book is available for purchase on Amazon.
Photo “Three” by Kyle May on Flickr. Some Rights Reserved.