An effective marketing strategy underlines business growth, and often its very existence. From meeting the target audience’s needs and helping you build brand loyalty to determining the right prices for your products and services, the right strategy maximizes your chances of making it in the business world.
Marketing Strategy Definition
A marketing strategy is a company’s long-term plan of action that aims to promote its products and services, gain a competitive advantage, and meet their business goals.
Don’t confuse marketing strategy with a marketing plan, though. The main goal of a marketing plan is to attract new customers and turn them into loyal buyers. As your marketing plan should be firmly rooted in your company’s value proposition, it helps you to market your products or services to consumers in a more compelling way.
Marketing Strategies vs. Marketing Plans: What’s the Difference?
While marketing strategies and marketing plans both play a crucial part in your business’s success, there are several important distinctions between them to keep in mind.
The main difference between the two concepts is that a marketing strategy is a long-term idea, while a marketing plan typically deals with short-term issues.
Marketing strategies tend to encompass a company’s mission as a whole, including what they stand for and what they hope to achieve in the future. Meanwhile, marketing plans normally cover the various logistics of marketing campaigns, such as specific types of data and market research.
Your company’s overall strategy will help inform your marketing plan, which means it’s crucial to make your strategy as comprehensive as possible.
Understanding Marketing Goals and Planning
Now that you understand the basics of a marketing strategy, you need to start mapping out your business’s marketing goals.
First, take the time to define the following core aspects of your company:
Your company's main purpose or mission
Think of Google. The brand has always been pretty transparent in communicating the key company mission—“to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.” They do this through a powerful search engine, and this global idea underpins every innovation and addition across the company’s products and services.
The way your company operates
This aspect can be tied to your company mission. For instance, Volvo Cars has always been known as a car brand that cares about the environment and safety. Hence, their overall business operations (think of their recent move into direct-to-consumer carsharing) are underlined by the principle of building a circular economy.
Why customers should choose your products or services
If you’ve set your mission and company operation right, you’ll be able to better define your target market and understand why people should choose your product over others. They may want to buy Apple products because they like to be viewed as “thinking differently”, or they might choose a Cos dress because they are environmentally conscious.
Customers today have no shortage of options when they decide to make a purchase, so businesses need to make an effort to set themselves apart from the rest of the crowd. Defining their specific market is key.
Once you’ve defined all of the above aspects of your business, you’ll know what makes your company unique. Your goal now is to communicate that uniqueness to your customers so that they think of your business first.
How to Create an Effective Marketing Strategy
Once you are able to define what is understood by a marketing strategy, it’s time to begin forming a powerful strategy for your business.
The beginning of the strategy-building process can be daunting for many business owners. To help take some of the guesswork out of the process, we've divided the standard marketing strategy into three different components.
Under each, we provide some marketing strategy examples which should help you build an efficient strategy one step at a time. To gather data for these examples, we’ll use Semrush .Trends.
1. Competitive Strategies
The main purpose of a marketing approach is to gain an advantage over your competitors.
As you form your company marketing strategy, be sure to think about how your business can create a competitive advantage in order to succeed.
To gain a deep understanding of your rivals, run a simple 4Ps analysis for competing products. The 4Ps framework is typically used for internal marketing strategy purposes, but you can use it to outline the key features of your competitors: product, price, place, and promotion.
Initially, you have to define:
- The features of the competing product
- Its pricing and, thus, customer segment
- Placement (locations—online and offline—where the product is marketed)
- Promotional tactics (marketing and advertising)
Using the Traffic Analytics Top Pages report, you can dig up a bunch of useful information about competitors’ top products and services. Here’s a look at the top pages report for Adidas.com.
Here, we can uncover some useful information about competitor products. For example:
- At the top of the report, we can view growing, declining, or newly detected pages. Here, we discover that Adidas has partnered with Bad Bunny on a line of shoes.
- We can filter the list of top pages to dig up the most useful information. Here, we entered “shoes” to bring all pages with the keyword in their URL.
- The Adidas line known as “Forum Shoes” is seeing a major uptick in traffic. Continuing with the link, we can look at the page and compare prices.
Once you’ve run this kind of analysis, you’ll have a ton of useful information regarding your market. This will help you set marketing goals, define what types of marketing efforts to use, determine your pricing structure, and more.
Then, see how you stack up against the competition with a quick SWOT analysis. The SWOT analysis is a straightforward process for gaining an understanding of your businesses strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
If you want to evaluate your product’s market stance against the competition, the SWOT framework should do, as you will analyze both the internal factors (strengths and weaknesses) and external ones (opportunities and threats).
- Strengths are those features of your business that give you a competitive edge
- Weaknesses define which aspects of your business weaken your market position
- Opportunities outline data-driven insights that show how you can boost sales, maximize profitability, and grow your market share
- Threats show which elements can potentially hinder your business performance—from the presence of innovative game-changers to slowing economic conditions
Competitive Landscape Analysis
Competitive landscape analysis is the process of examining your market to identify your competitors and figure out where they stand with regard to other players, including you.
You can use the process to analyze and understand a variety of different metrics, such as:
- Market share
- Product offerings and pricing
- Website traffic data
- Positioning and messaging
- Company growth and trajectory
Competitive landscapes change over time, and they may look different depending on what metrics you’re analyzing. Because of this, competitive landscape analysis is usually considered an ongoing process.
In our article about Competitive Landscape Analysis, you can learn about a bunch of tools for landscape analysis. For a quick overview of a market, however, you can begin with the Market Summary in the Market Explorer Overview Report. Here’s a glance at the market for Adidas.
From the Market Summary, we can gather some key information about the condition of the market landscape. For example:
- This market has a low level of Market Consolidation, meaning the market share is divided among a wide range of market players.
- The top three Key Players in the market are Nike, Dicks Sporting Goods, and StockX. Nike owns 33.74% of the market, while Dick’s and StockX own around 8% each.
- The Market Size is large and has room to grow. Total Addressable Market is 1.5B, and the Serviceable Available Market is 817.5M.
Across the Growth Quadrant, we discover competitors and place them in one of four categories based on their traffic growth. This can help you see which players lead the market and which may be changing the game. You can then dive deeper into your competitors’ strategies and formulate your own to take the lead.
2. Growth Strategies
A successful marketing plan will enable you to expand your business in various ways and begin increasing revenue. To directly support this growth, you need to determine how you want your company to grow in the long run. This is where growth strategies come in.
Growth strategies, also known as product-market strategies, aim to increase your market share and persuade more customers to invest in your products or services.
A common example is the Ansoff Matrix, a tool used by many companies to plan and develop their marketing strategies for growth.
The matrix itself takes the form of a grid where you place each market strategy and start your assessment:
- Market Penetration is the least risky move, and involves expanding sales of existing products across existing markets. In this case, think of lowering prices to appeal to a larger audience base, boost your promotion and distribution tactics, or acquire one of your competitors operating within the same niche.
- Product Development comes with the introduction of a new product to an existing market. This approach typically requires an increase in your R&D investment or the purchase of a new technology or brand that can trigger new product development.
- Market Development triggers you to enter new markets with an existing product base. This approach involves either regional or international expansion, or entrance to a new customer segment.
- Diversification, the riskiest approach, focuses on introducing a new product to a brand-new market. Diversification can be related (think of Apple producing laptops and then starting smartphone production) or unrelated (think of global conglomerates like P&G that have both food and personal hygiene products).
Because market development and diversification are riskier and often involve entering new markets, it’s important to do plenty of research before making any investments. As a starting place, the Market Geo Distribution widget and Market Explorer can help.
Selecting the “Top Changes” tab reveals markets that have seen the highest traffic growth rates. For example, in Adidas’s market Kuwait, Turkey, and Mexico might be good locations for deeper research when considering expansion.
STP Marketing Model
Another helpful tool you can use to reinforce your growth strategies is Segmenting, Targeting, and Positioning (STP).
This audience-focused model helps you prioritize propositions and deliver marketing messages that are relevant to your target audience.
The basics of the STP model:
- Segmentation: identify the key audience characteristics that will split your audience into separate segments. This post will uncover how to go about market segmentation.
- Targeting: based on demand analysis, define which customer segments would potentially bring in higher profits, have a longer life cycle, and be more compelled by your product.
- Positioning: identify how to position your product in front of different customer segments. This value/brand proposition will inform your marketing mix, messaging, and brand development. Navigate to this post to learn how to define and implement value-based brand positioning.
Think of shoe brands. Each company has a unique selling point, yet they all have different offers for different audiences. Adidas, with their partnership with artists like Bad Bunny or Kanye West, is generally appealing to a younger audience.
Meanwhile, New Balance, with their focus on comfort over style, typically appeals to an older audience. So, this is how essentially one product can be positioned and perceived as completely different based on the STP Marketing Model.
The Demographics report in Market Explorer is a good place to gather data to complete your STP Marketing Model. Here’s a look at the Demographics report for Adidas.com’s market.
Not only does the report show a breakdown of the market audience’s age and sex, it also shows what social networks they prefer. This additional data around social media can help you later when it’s time to get more specific in your marketing plan.
To further accelerate your business’s growth, consider using the BCG Matrix also. By helping you determine when to invest in products and when to discontinue them, the BCG Matrix lets you optimize your products so that you can retain existing customers and attract new ones.
In the process of building a BCG matrix, you’ll organize your product or business portfolio into four categories:
- Pets—items with both a low growth rate and low market share
- Question marks—items with a small market share but with high growth rates
- Stars—items with high market share and a fast rate of growth
- Cash cows—items with high market shares, but lower growth expectations
With your portfolio properly separated, you can make informed decisions about where to place investments and marketing efforts to maximize your success.
This post on building a marketing strategy reveals all the ins and outs of the BCG Matrix, as well as revealing where you can unearth all the necessary data.
3. Attitude Strategies
It isn't enough to simply plan for your company’s growth. The most successful businesses also identify the method of growth, which is determined by attitude strategies.
When determining your company’s method of growth, you have two main options: Growth Method Acquisition and Organic Growth.
Growth Method Acquisition
involves the acquisition of one business by another business. Think of the time when Facebook acquired MSQRD. This app that had advanced visual tech for video was supposed to supercharge Facebook’s other acquisition, Snapchat. This is what Growth Method Acquisition looks like in practice.
on the other hand, does not include any acquisitions. Instead, this growth method refers to an increase in sales that occurs through the company’s own resources. You can trigger this kind of growth by:
- expanding your market and audience share by efficient marketing techniques;
- entering new markets (geo expansion, for instance); or
- adding new products either through horizontal line extension (diversification or expansion to other markets and/or product categories) or vertical line extension (introducing new products within the same category but with other price or quality points).
One great way to expand your market is through an understanding of your competitors’ marketing strategies. The Traffic Analytics tool provides a variety of reports for exploring your rivals’ techniques. For example, the Traffic Journey report reveals how audiences reach your competitors’ websites and what other sites they visit before and after arriving at your rival’s sites.
With data provided by Traffic Analytics, you can make informed decisions about where to place your marketing dollars to best attract your target audience.
Grow Your Business with a Powerful Marketing Strategy
There are numerous ways to help your business grow, but one of the most powerful tools that you can use is an effective marketing strategy. These steps can help you get started on forming a strategy that brings out the best in your company.
And if you’re interested in going deeper and gaining some hands-on experience with the tools demonstrated in this post, be sure to visit the Semrush Academy and check out our new course: “Marketing Analysis: When Theory Meets Practice.”
This free course explores all of the strategies we discussed in this article, and you’ll receive free access to Semrush .Trends so you can gather real data for your market. Through the process of the course and using the strategies outlined in this article, you can expand your customer base, boost your revenue, and steer your business toward lasting success.