Marketing Strategy: Definition, Types, And Examples

A marketing strategy can be defined as the “what” a company needs to do and the actions to take to deliver a value proposition that resonates with its target audience.

Indeed, a marketing strategy to be effective will need to build a sustainable value chain and as a result a sustainable business model.

Marketing has changed over the years, and it has undergone a profound change in the last two decades due to forces that have changed the business world. Some of those forces can be summarized as:

  • Digitalization: digital businesses have become critical players in the marketplace, that has also, in part, changed the logic of business itself. Where in the past, a good marketing strategy might have meant developing a good product or service. Nowadays, with the rise of customer-centric platforms has made it critical for marketers to have a deep understanding of customers.
  • Globalization: this isn’t a new phenomenon, but it has quickly grown in the last two decades as well. A marketing strategy that doesn’t take into account globalization might be short-sighted. For instance, on the web, a message might travel across it at the speed of light and be delivered anywhere in the world. At the same time even if you’re small e-commerce, you might be competing with platforms like Amazon. Being able to differentiate from those platforms can mean life or death, and often that is a choice that comes from the understanding of your audience, which is all about marketing strategy.
  • Technological disruption and consumer behavior: technologies change our behaviors. We like to think we’re in control, but the reality is we adapt to technologies that are available by time to time. And in an era where consumer tech has become the rule, every few years we assist in the change in behaviors of millions if not billions of people adopting those new technologies. Monitor, assess and understand how these scenarios change it’s critical to build a solid marketing strategy.
  • The increasing rate of change: where change seemed more “stable” in the past decades. It has become way faster in our era. We are adapting, creating or reading that change makes a massive difference.
  • The rise of business model innovation: with the growth of the web and of digital businesses, there has been the rise of business model innovation. This means companies using new technologies, no longer compete at technological level anymore, but they compete by creating unique business models, able to create a long-lasting competitive advantage.

While a marketing strategy is useful to build a solid marketing plan, those are often used as synonyms when in reality a marketing plan and a marketing strategy are two separate concepts. It is essential to have clear in mind this distinction.

Marketing strategy vs. marketing plan

From a marketing strategy, a marketing plan can be derived. However, where the marketing strategy might be defined as the “what” of an organization, a marketing plan is the “how to” get that marketing strategy into action.

Thus, a marketing plan takes the form of a document laying to the activities to undertake in the short, medium term to implement and execute a marketing strategy.

Therefore, a marketing strategy will have a broader understanding and a long-term view compared to a marketing plan. The marketing strategy allows the creation of a value proposition and all the elements that characterize a brand, which by nature have a longer life span.

Indeed, while a company might change its essential elements and value proposition to adapt to market changes, those market changes depending on the industry might happen every few years to a decade.

Therefore, the primary difference between the marketing strategy and the marketing plan can be generalized to the broader difference between a strategy and a plan. The strategy informs the “what” and investigates the “why.” A plan is all about the “how to” get there.

From the “what” and “how” the implementation and execution phase takes traction. Indeed, if you had the proper strategy and derived from it an adequate plan, this should make it way easier to take action.

For that matter, a marketing strategy and a marketing plan might dissolve to the same primary functions. In my opinion, a good strategy and plan should have three key elements:

  • Focused: in many cases the failure of a strategy might be due to lack of focus. A marketing strategy informs a marketing plan that narrows down its focus to a target that can be hit with the maximum precision. Rather than boil the ocean, a good marketing strategy will allow you to identify the small pond where you can be a big fish. Once you’ve dominated that small pond, you can move to a bigger one
  • Specific: a marketing plan, derived from a focused marketing strategy should have specific goals and actions. While flexibility is essential, as actions identified might not work out in the real world it still needs to be specific. That is also why often marketing plans include situation analyses (like SWOT). Also, you want to be very specific in identifying a target market. And you want to make sure to set up clear objectives.
  • Measurable: metrics are helpful to assess whether a strategy is working or not. However, it’s important not to fall into measuring vanity metrics (metrics that don’t have any impact on the business) or misleading metrics. Indeed, each time you’re using a new metric you need to make sure it impacts the business. For that matter, two or three key metrics might do the job, rather than having dozens of useless metrics.

If those three key elements are in place, you’re on a good path to having a good marketing strategy and plan.

Types of marketing strategies

There are as many types of marketing strategies as businesses out there. However, we’ll focus here on a primary marketing strategy: digital marketing.

Digital marketing consists of taking actions and crafting a value proposition that gets delivered via digital devices (smartphones, computers, and any other digital device).

Within digital marketing there are many other types of marketing strategies and channels, listed below:

  • Search marketing: connect and attract with the desired audience via the primary search engines
  • Social media marketing: connect and attract the desired audience via the primary social media platforms
  • Email marketing: connect and draw with the desired audience via newsletter or email
  • Content marketing: connect and attract with the desired audience through relevant content

Those are just some of the types of marketing existing. The whole point is all about delivering your value proposition in a way that gets through your desired audience.

Each of these types of marketing requires a specific consequence. However, it is important not to get bogged down in details and focus on the types of marketing that can connect your business to its customers, quickly.

Marketing strategy examples

On this blog, we discussed several business models. For instance, TOMS one-for-one business model is also a marketing strategy. As its value proposition is delivered through its business model.

Also, Brunello Cucinelli Humanistic Enterprise isn’t only a business model but a marketing strategy. That shouldn’t surprise you, as among the critical elements of a business model there is its value proposition and how it gets delivered.

Also Amazon cash machine business model made it possible for the company to offer a wide variety of goods at a lower price, while still generating cash to sustain and quickly grow its operations.

And Apple reversed razor and blade allowed it to make its beautifully crafted devices, like the iPhone, not only perceived as luxury items but also extremely useful, with its iTunes and App Store.

Other companies, like Google hidden revenue generation, has made it possible to deliver a free search engine to billion of users while monetizing via advertising.

Marketing strategy plan

A marketing strategy plan should allow a company to take actions, and test its assumptions, quickly so that it can iterate and learn from the market it’s trying to dominate.

While larger companies might find useful to have marketing plans with dozens if not hundreds, of pages, for startups or smaller companies a few pagers, or a one-page plan would do the job, as soon as it allows to take actions, learn and iterate.

Key takeaway

Marketing is changing and it’s is getting shaped by forces such as digitalization, globalization and business model innovation. That also implies an understanding of the current landscape to anticipate how the business world might be changing as well.

For that matter, a proper marketing strategy has to be able to inform a marketing plan that helps a company to focus on a target market and conquer it, quickly.

When that happens, the marketing strategy will be used as a continuous tool to read the present and anticipate the future.


Published by

Gennaro Cuofano

Gennaro is the creator of FourWeekMBA which he brought to reach over half a million business students, professionals, and entrepreneurs in the last year | Gennaro is also Head of Business Development at a tech startup, he helped grow at double-digit rate and become profitable | Gennaro is an International MBA with emphasis on Corporate Finance | Subscribe to the FourWeekMBA Newsletter | Or Get in touch with Gennaro here

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