Strategic marketing is one of those ‘marketing terms’ that seems to get used a lot in conversation and marketing materials. However my guess is that the term itself is not as widely understood as it is quoted. The key question really is ‘what is strategic marketing’ and how is it relevant to everyday businesses? To unlock some of the mysteries around this term, let’s start with a definition.
A definition you say, sounds easy right? Generally a quick check of Wikipedia solves that, but on this occasion it seems to be where the problem starts. There is no definition of strategic marketing in Wikipedia. So I turn to the Oxford dictionary and have better luck. Oxford describes the term as “the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.” This for me is really the definition of marketing not strategic marketing.
Based on the Oxford definition, there may be a case to argue that all marketing is in fact strategic. However, in my opinion, that is not the case. There is a big difference between strategic marketing (thinking) and tactical marketing (doing). Here are some examples to demonstrate.
This is strategic marketing.
Strategic marketing is a ‘thinking process’ rather than a series of tactical ‘doing activities’. The thinking comes first and the actions (tactics) result from that. The strategic marketing thinking process poses questions such as:
- What problems do my customers have?
- How can our product/service lead to improvements in our customers’ lives?
- What are the core customer motivations that lead to sales?
- What other things are happening in our customers’ lives that may effect our sales?
- What will the customers be expecting from the market and us next?
The answers to these questions form the strategy around your marketing activity, or better still can be described as the strategic marketing process.
These steps help to define your target market, what products and services are going to deliver sales (profit) and how to position your marketing communication materials. The tactics came now. Heaven!
Is strategic marketing really that important?
Now that we know what strategic marketing is, the key question is, does strategic marketing matter and is it important? The short answer is ‘yes’.
The fact is that all the best marketing is done with the customer in mind and ‘thinking before acting’ is a proven way to get better results.
Is strategic marketing always relevant?
In my experience, very new businesses may in fact benefit from a more tactical plan at first to put their feet in the water and get a feel for how consumers respond to their product. Creating a long-term strategic plan could wind up being a waste of time on their part at the very start. Later down the track though, when the business has a better idea of how things work, a strategic plan is then required.
In summary, strategic marketing:
- Comes first, that is before the tactics
- Focuses on big picture customer needs
- Attempts to marry customer needs with the overall company direction.