Do you have a marketing strategy for your business? A marketing strategy is designed to support the fulfilment of your business objectives and create a long-term sustainable competitive advantage. But it’s a large and challenging piece of work and not every company has the stomach for it. I’ve identified some common marketing mistakes and bad habits businesses make when it comes to marketing strategy development. Don’t fall foul to these.
1. Not Having a Marketing Strategy
This is the obvious one. Developing a marketing strategy does take a lot of time and skills that many SMEs and larger companies may lack within their team. SMEs may also struggle to come up with the financial resources required to hire an external consultant. However, this does not mean you’re ‘off the hook’. Every business, large and small needs to work on its marketing strategy. Here in Northern Ireland, many of our local councils offer business support programmes which provide free or low-cost access to a marketing consultant who can help you to improve your marketing strategy. Contact the Economic Development team in your local authority or your local enterprise centre, as well as bodies such as Invest NI or InterTrade Ireland to find out what support is available to help you to grow.
2. The Unfinished Marketing Strategy
There are many challenges to overcome to develop a fit-for-purpose marketing strategy. Marketing strategy models like SOSTAC by P.R. Smith are great as they guide you through the key stages of strategy development step by step. But all too often companies skip the SOS sections (Situation Analysis, Objectives and Strategy Development) and jump straight into doing things (Tactics and Action plans). Other common mistakes include failing to develop SMART marketing objectives i.e. objectives that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound and failing to complete the final step – Contol – i.e. planning and measuring performance.
Developing a marketing strategy is an investment, however some companies give up half-way through because ‘it’s costing me money, not making me money’. The return on investment comes later once the marketing strategy is complete and delivery commences. Accept it – you have to put in the ground work – ‘there are no short-cuts to success!’
Do you ever adopt the ‘we’re busy enough right now’ attitude to put your strategy development on the back burner? Whilst the latter allows a bit of breathing space and scope to reduce your marketing efforts somewhat, dropping your focus on marketing completely for a prolonged period is a huge mistake. When your business growth or economic circumstances change, it’s a long and winding road to travel to get back to where you were and remind potential customers that you still exist! This lull in marketing has the potential to cripple your business.
3. The ‘Box Ticking’ Marketing Strategy
Are you ‘box-ticking’ when it comes to your marketing? e.g. we’ll be happy with a few posts per week on our social media channels, an occasional article on the website and an e-newsletter every few months. Whilst it’s true that doing something is better than nothing, too often this approach is often negatively weighted towards quantity and frequency of content, rather than creating quality content capable of converting prospects to customers (less is more!). It’s a reactive approach to content planning, rather than outputs of a well-thought out marketing strategy with clear marketing and content goals.
4. The ‘Passing the Buck’ Marketing Strategy
Many Marketing Consultants will recognise this one. You are hired to assist a company to create and support delivery of the company marketing strategy and now the in-house team think that it’s off their to-do list and someone else’s problem or responsibility.
Whilst hiring marketing professionals does mean that a lot of the pressure will be taken off the in-house team as this person or team will assume a lot of the marketing strategy development and delivery functions, significant input is still required from the Directors or other members of the senior management team.
They know the business best and need to ensure that any company information required is provided and requests for feedback are responded to, and in a timely manner to allow progress to be made. It’s also the responsibility of senior management to lead by example and create a visible, top-down commitment to supporting marketing delivery. After all, if senior managers aren’t visibly supporting the company’s marketing efforts, why should staff members at lower levels make time for it?
5. The ‘This is How We Do Things’ Marketing Strategy
Have you ever been guilty of disregarding the advice of the marketing consultant you pay to advise you on marketing? Perhaps you’ve said things like ‘this is how we’ve always done it round here’ or ‘this is how we want to do things’. Such statements often highlight resistance to change and a fear of stepping out of their comfort zone to try new things or do something a different way. More worrying, it can be a sign that the company is not focusing their marketing strategy on the key people that their strategy should be built around – their customers!
A company which adopts a customer focused approach to developing and delivering their marketing strategy will instead ask questions like ‘how will this benefit my customers and make their experience of our company better’? and ‘how will help us to achieve our marketing goals’?
Does Your Approach to Marketing Need to Change?
If you’re a Marketing Consultant yourself and have read this far, you’ll probably be nodding your head a lot and thinking ‘I could add a few more to this list’.
If you’re a business owner, director, marketing manager or another member of the senior marketing team, hopefully you will be challenged to review your marketing strategy. Is it time to start it, finish it, or make a commitment to provide the support and resources to make your marketing strategy fit for purpose? Will the implementation of your marketing action plans deliver the kind of return on investment your business needs? If not, there’s work to be done.
If you are committed to investing resources into developing and implementing a marketing strategy for your business, get in touch.