GUEST BLOG: By Tim Manning
We labeled this blog with a moderately provocative title because we’re passionate that business strategy equals marketing strategy and vice versa. We’re committed to shifting conventional thinking around marketing. Business strategy is not tactical; nor is marketing tactical, when properly defined. Peter Drucker felt the same when he stated: “The purpose of business is to create a customer… and the enterprise has two basic functions; marketing and innovation.”
With that introduction, let’s jump in. We’ve discussed some baseline stuff for business and marketing in our posts on branding and story. It’s time to take a step back. Look at the big picture. Discover if your business or marketing strategy is operating at its peak.
Great business strategies give companies an overview of where they are in the market and who they are relative to customers. (Not a coincidence that marketing is derived from “market.”) To do this, leadership and marketers must look at the entire industry at once and understand their position. If you start from this understanding, then you can more easily ensure your actions follow and support strategy.
So, business strategy sets the stage and marketing allows you to make this case to your customers and leads. That’s why we’re specifically calling out strategy versus tactics for how you should approach your marketing foundation.
Business strategy: strategic versus tactical
Much of the business strategy conversation today is tactical: How do I reach people tomorrow? What will I share on social? Should I send out this newsletter now or Thursday?
You’ve got to rise above that level of thinking — beyond just the hunt for a client and revenue – to get a holistic/macro view of your business strategy (because this is your marketing strategy too) and have it truly work for you. Being strategic and targeting the big picture that works today and the next five years, is always much more than the How of strategy and marketing.
At GrowthShift, we always recommend that you start with a business strategy. Strategic thinking is setting the aim and goals of your marketing and company. Tactics are the steps you take to get there. So, if you don’t have a clear foundation and aim, your tactics (like posting on LinkedIn) will be disjointed and may end up working against you. For example, consistent, compelling messaging across all of your marketing channels builds trust… the reverse erodes trust.
To help you understand if your efforts are strategic or tactical and how you can get to the strategy level you need, we wanted to share what we believe are the five most important questions to help you define a great strategy for your company.
1. What is my product?
It feels simple, but your answer should be detailed and specific. Clearly define your product or service and how it is used. For our software audience out there, be specific about the use cases for your product. What situations does it work in, and when won’t it work? What does it require? How do you provide it? How much interaction and support will a client need from you to keep it running correctly? You want to be able to define it so clearly that it can be understood by someone who needs exactly what you offer and by someone who has no idea what you offer. And remember, clear = simple.
2. Does it solve a known issue, or is it a solution looking for a problem?
People don’t care about your product when it’s still your product. They care about it when it becomes the solution to their problem.
Great business strategists understand that customers buy solutions for a problem/pain they know they have. Their pain positions your product as a compelling answer — it’s how you market to them. To position yourself and market properly, you need to know what issue it solves for a customer. If you’ve got sales already, circle back with your existing customers and ask why they bought the product, and what was important in their buying process. Show customers how you understand their issue, and how you would solve it. Then position your product as that solution.
And don’t forget to differentiate! The best way to do this is to try to and build trust — check out our blog here on it — because if you decide to distinguish yourself by throwing your competitor under the bus, it won’t work out well for you.
Unfortunately, if you realize that you don’t know the problem or aren’t sure, you could be facing a solution looking for a problem. In the tech world, this is relatively common, but not everyone survives this challenge. If you can’t quite articulate your business at this stage, it’s time to do more customer and market analysis. You might also consider contacting us for a discussion where we can share some ideas for your business or at least get you on the right path to solving an issue directly.
3. Who is the ideal customer?
Every business can have many types of clients, but only some are ideal. Your mission is to define the perfect customer and target them directly with your offering. Focus on your best fit so that you don’t end up failing by training to be everything to everyone. And it’s not just about finding them out in the wild or hoping they stumble upon you via search. You need to create your best prospects.
Ideal customers understand the value that you provide. You’re solving their problems and addressing needs directly and more effectively than your competitors. These clients know that and believe it — and, hopefully, you’ve been able to prove it in ways that translate to recommendations. Marketing’s mission is to understand what would make someone ideal, from their needs and personality to habits and requirements.
Boil down the Why behind it. This gives you your messaging goals for marketing. It sets your strategy on building trust, emphasizing customer satisfaction, comparing yourself to the competition, or highlighting other strategic advantages. After you have the strategy, tactics will then be how you deliver that education to potential targets so that they become your ideal customer.
4. Who are my competitors and where do i fit?
Competitors teach us a lot, especially when it comes to our companies. How they position themselves against you may show how customers see you. Their messaging can highlight customer demands you miss or help you realize that you’re not asking the right questions to define your ideal customer.
Learn the entire landscape of your products and offers. This includes non-direct competitors. For instance, if your platform allows people to train online instead of in-person, you’ll need to look at companies that host training as well as video hosting and development services whose products could be used to create in-house training content.
Identifying your competitors and reviewing their messaging and marketing can help you understand their goals too. You might discover that they’re declaring leadership in a related space — not your category — creating an opportunity for you. Or, perhaps no one is asserting category leadership or first-mover rights, which is gold in business and marketing strategy.
Once you learn who they are and how customers feel about them, you can compare that to your business, offering, and delivery model. This gives you a strategic view of the total market and can help you determine the “path through the noise” to meet your growth goals.
5. What do I want my brand to be?
What are the first three things you think of when you think about your brand? What are the first three things that customers think of when they think about you — or if you’re in the startup phase, what they think about your name?
Ask your customers and then define your brand attributes – the words that will decide the personality and tone of your messaging and marketing communication. Marketing or building your brand is strategic. Setting the right trajectory for your brand can ensure you maintain your market position and achieve long-term growth. Establishing what you want your brand to be helps the tactical marketing execution that follows be consistent and powerful.
If you look at Apple’s iMac through the years, for instance, you’ll see common design patterns and layout elements that all harken back to the Apple brand. From there, you’ll also notice how early iPods and the latest Apple mouse all have similar components that feel like the iMac and the overall brand. It takes years to get there, but Apple’s best marketing (not just advertising) for years has been creating the image that its products give us.
Strategy defines who you are and what your products are, while tactics just share that message. For marketing to be effective in both the short- and long-term, your strategy must be in place and used by each tactic. If you’re not sure how to achieve that or if your current marketing is doing it, contact us, and we’ll give you an honest assessment of where you stand.
About GrowthShift | Innovative Growth Strategy For B2B Tech
GrowthShift is a B2B tech marketing and strategy company specializing in positioning & launching growth-phase companies. We help technology companies differentiate, compete and grow by delivering unique strategy, and messaging – essential to positioning companies for long-term growth. What makes us different is our B2B technology focus, strategy & positioning expertise, and superior execution. We understand the challenge of breaking through the noise, differentiating, and defining a unique value proposition. We care about companies growing and making a difference. We care about helping leaders change industry, and deliver value. Led by 25 year technology marketing veteran, Tim Manning, GrowthShift provides marketing strategy & positioning strategy for tech startups, B2B tech marketing, B2B marketing consulting, branding, competitive analysis and customer segmentation. Visit http://growthshift.com to improve your company’s long-term strategy and positioning.
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