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Is marketing strategy really important for SMEs?

Posted on. 09/12/2021

A business that tries to be everything to everyone will lose direction - and momentum. Not only are budgets and time resources poorly used, but potential customers go elsewhere. Fortunately, marketing strategy addresses this.

Whether you work alone, employ a small team or run a large organisation, a marketing strategy provides you with clarity. With it you focus on the right potential customers, know what to say to them, and also how best to reach them. Marketing strategy itself does need work, but it delivers, and is worth it.


Social media makes it very easy to see the tactics that other businesses are using to reach their customers, whether that’s sponsoring events, networking or making TikTok videos. So it’s very easy to react by panicking and telling yourself your business needs to be doing that too.

Equally, so many businesses believe that by having a website (tick), being on social media (tick) and optimising their SEO (tick), that’s all their marketing needs neatly ticked off their ‘how to run a successful business’ to-do list. But, to truly succeed, going back to strategy – the thinking – rather than leaping in with the doing, is the fastest way to success.

A relatively small amount of time spent early on understanding your customers, your competitors, you as a business, and what you stand for, is crucial. It also requires honesty and soul searching. This is why it is best done by someone who isn’t close to the business.

Once you have a clear marketing strategy, it supports everything your organisation does. It will provide you and your team with purpose and clarity and gives much better use of resources. It will even make decision-making easier.


What makes a good marketing strategy?

A good marketing strategy should be straightforward, structured and clearly show the relationship between the ‘strategy’ – the thinking, the analysis, the ‘what we do and don’t do’ decisions – and the ‘tactics’, things like marketing communications, distribution channels and pricing decisions.

It is also based on data and insight, rather than ‘gut instinct’ or a ‘feeling’. You are not your customer, so talk to your customers, get data from your systems, and feed that insight in to inform your strategy.

A strategy covers four core areas: segmentation, targeting, proposition and objectives.

In reality, very few organisations have a true marketing strategy. So this is a great opportunity for your business to stand out.


The important first steps

Gathering valuable insight at the start pays off massively later. Believe me, I’ve done this and you get eureka moments every time.

Data fundamentally helps you identify and map out your target markets. It doesn’t have to be expensive or onerous; there is a lot of information out there which is easily accessible – like ONS data – and readily available. Carrying out research with people in your network, clients and non-clients, is also incredibly important to give you those soft insight, things that figures just can’t measure.

You’ll use this information to segment or map out your market, so you can identify the best target markets to go after. It will take courage to drill down to just the one or two segments that are most important to you.  Why? Because you’ll need to pretty much ignore everything else.

This feels very unnatural, but it’s important to be brave. Doing so will enable you to focus on the right people, develop a strong identity and clear message just for them, and select marketing communications just for them. Used together, they will see you as most relevant to them, and this sets you apart from your competitors.

Whether you decide to target women in their 30s, ethical businesses or pet owners, you’re now doing this based on knowledge and insight. But it doesn’t mean you won’t appeal to other audiences too.

Clarity and direction

A vital part of developing a marketing strategy is the objectives that you put in place to measure your performance. This should be based on all the insight you have gathered and the target audiences you have identified.

Your marketing objectives will give you a clear direction which you can use to make decisions, monitor performance, learn and adjust for next year, and give you something to celebrate when you achieve them!


The big picture

It’s hard to step back in business but when you do it with your marketing and look at the strategy behind it, it will bring huge benefits, both day-to-day and for developing your future vision.

A marketing strategy provides immense clarity for your business and provides you and your team with a shared vision and purpose.

It clearly sets out who you are targeting, what you stand for, how you want your potential customers to perceive you, and, finally, what objectives you have set to measure your performance.

With a good strategy in place, you’ll make better choices about the tactics you use so that you don’t waste precious time and budget. It will also enable you to stand out from your competitors – you stand for something, be it simplicity, customer service, experience, honesty or punctuality – not just a whole host of messages that everyone is giving out. And it will give you the ability to set and measure your performance.

It isn’t just your business it will benefit either. Your customers will believe that you’re the most relevant and perfect fit for them which will aid their decision making and buy in. They will also have much greater confidence in their decision to work with you.

Marketing strategy is part of a journey. It should work alongside your business strategy to get you to where you want to be. Once you have this, then you can move on to your tactics and the doing!