What is a strategy?
A strategy is the game plan for an organisation to reach its desired goals. It determines the direction and the focus – the ‘why’ we’re doing this and ‘what’ purpose it serves. A marketing strategy helps an organisation to concentrate its resources on the best possible opportunities for growth. It’s all about finding ways to work smarter, and not necessarily harder.
Asana’s global survey ‘The Anatomy of Work Global Index’ found that knowledge workers spend 58% of their time on ‘work about work’ things like meetings and emails, and only spent 9% on strategy.
Why strategy comes first
There’s a real urge in organisations to dive straight into the tactics – the ‘fun’ bit of marketing. But marketing without a solid strategy in place has been described as the noise before failure. Mark Ritson, a brand consultant and former marketing professor, said:
“Marketing strategy is where we play and how we win at the market. Tactics are how we then deliver on the strategy and execute for success.”
It’s fair to say we all get distracted from time to time with ‘shiny object syndrome’ – the tendency to chase new trends, opportunities and ideas without evaluating their benefit to your organisation first. Think of strategy like a game of chess. You wouldn’t want to start moving your pieces before you knew the rules of the game.
Marketing strategy is all about harnessing your logic and creativity to solve a problem – but sometimes that problem isn’t obvious. For us, strategic thinking is all about questioning, challenging and being a critical friend to our clients. It’s finding out what’s really going on – the things business owners may not have even realised themselves.
There are four different components of strategic thinking:
- Systems thinking: understanding how all the elements of a system work with each other and identifying patterns.
- Critical thinking: finding the meaning, identifying assumptions, reflecting on the biases, language, culture etc.
- Divergent thinking: using your imagination to inspire creative approaches.
- Synthetic thinking: connecting the unconnected.
What does a marketing strategist do?
Marketing strategists thinking about the big picture, looking for parallels with other industries and cultures. They act with empathy, questioning what drives people and organisations to do x, y, and z, and understanding what it is that they need. Using both logic and imagination is crucial, as well as weighing up what action needs to be driven in the short term vs the long term.
In short, a marketing strategist enacts the overarching vision for an organisation and connects the dots to get there.
As purpose-driven marketing strategists, here’s the process we follow at Eleven:
- Gathering insight: This stage is all about understanding our clients’ businesses, audiences, markets, challenges and objectives. We’ll lead focus groups and audience testing sessions to discover more about who we’re talking to first-hand, and we’ll research and gather insights to develop strategic plans.
- Proposing strategic solutions: We’ll present our findings from the above back to our clients and have a collaborative discussion on our approach. From this, we’ll propose strategic solutions to our clients’ marketing challenges, developing positioning statements, personas, customer journeys and messaging frameworks.
- Evaluating effectiveness: We’ll then hold regular debriefs and discussions with our clients to pool our knowledge and capture learnings to inform future activity. We’ll always make sure that we’re really evaluating the effectiveness of our strategic solutions and making tweaks wherever necessary.
The 7 'P's of marketing
A strategic approach to marketing focuses on all areas of the marketing mix, also known as the 7 ‘P’s of marketing. These are:
Product – It almost goes without saying that the product (or service) you’re selling should be at the centre of your strategy.
Price – The strategy behind your product or service needs to be based on what your audience is prepared to pay for it.
Place – Where are how your product is displayed and sold should be informed by your audience.
Promotion – How you tell your audience about your product or service; through tactics like advertising, direct marketing and social media.
People – The importance of how you interact with your audience and providing excellent customer service.
Process – How you deliver your product or service to your audience and the importance of making this as efficient and reliable as possible. This might also involve things like being environmentally responsible in how you operate.
Physical evidence – All of the ways your audience sees or hears references to your organisation’s brand. This is everything from packaging and branding to your digital presence.
Let’s have a look at how this works in the real world…
Take Nespresso. If they’d placed their project next to instant coffee, and sold it in jars, the equivalent cost would have been over £30 a jar. But because they sell their coffee in cup-sized pods, the perceived competition isn’t the likes of Nescafe. It’s Starbucks. So when you compare a 40p coffee pod with a Starbucks coffee that would cost you the best part of £3, you’re made to feel that the Nespresso machine is practically making you money. This is a good example of price and place.
Or take a look at Morphy Richards. Things weren’t going well for the brand as they were faced with stiff competition. This prompted a repositioning of the brand as an innovator of products designed to make home life easiest and happier. This simple proposition, based on the history of the business and its founder, enabled the brand to find a sweet spot in the contradiction between form and function. A great example of promotion.
Hopefully now you’ll believe us when we say that strategy isn’t optional – it’s essential. If you’re now eager to build a truly effective strategy to help grow your organisation, get in touch and we’ll support you on the path towards success.
August 3, 2022
December 20, 2023