marketing-strategy

The Ultimate Marketing Strategy Guide And Examples

A marketing strategy is the “what” and “how” to build a sustainable value chain framed for a target customer. A powerful marketing strategy needs to be able to manufacture desire, amplify the underlying value proposition, and build a brand that feels unique in the mind of its customers.

How has marketing changed in the digital era?

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:

As we’ll see those forces have changed the way we do marketing. However, the underlying psychological forces that shape our minds are still the foundation of a powerful and effective marketing strategy.

And we’ll see how they affect and need to be taken into account, especially in today’s marketing, where engineering trying to rationalize it might make it ineffective.

The impact of digitalization on marketing strategy

digital-business-models
A digital business model might be defined as a model that leverages digital technologies to improve several aspects of an organization. From how the company acquires customers, to what product/service it provides. A digital business model is such when digital technology helps enhance its value proposition.
 

Digital businesses have become critical players in the marketplace, which 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, having must-have products is really the baseline.

In the era of mass-media marketing (driven by TV and Radio) it was possible to manufacture desire, by creating cultural stereotypes to generate demand for products.

While a few companies like Nike have successfully transitioned through the digital age, by using strategies like influencer marketing to stimulate the demand of its products, by leveraging on cultural memes.

Digital platforms, with a customer-centric approach, have changed the way we conceive marketing. Thus, a platform to be successful has to push as much as possible on customer experience through engineering and product development. Thus, the common mantra today is that if you can build a product sticky enough, people will get back.

However, while digital platforms have changed the way we can interact with potential customers. Better customer experience is indeed the domain of manufacturing design, and aligning those design with your brand.

In short, a brand that drives growth by the sheer force of engineering might gain traction in the short-term, but it might not be strong enough to survive in the long-run

In consumers’ industries, while offering lower prices, comparisons, and options are the ways in which digital platforms are mostly breaking down the traditional trade-off between value (you charge more by offering more) and cost advantage (you charge less by offering a standardized service), what can be defined as a blue ocean strategy.

Today, digital platforms can also offer more at a lower cost. That’s because digital platforms usually don’t own the assets they sell (a classic example is how Airbnb doesn’t own the homes it rents).

In this era, marketing becomes integrated more and more in product development, and engineering processes (disciplines like Growth Hacking look at breaking down the silos in traditional department structures so that engineers and marketers can work together as a growth team).

But it’s important to highlight that marketers are also required to be able to deeply understand the customers they want to talk to.

And as new tools for audience segmentation become available those same marketers can deliver the message to specific intents and smaller and smaller segments. But those messages need to be framed to be understood by the target audience. 

In other words, marketers have powerful weapons which if used sparingly can have a big impact on a company’s long-term value.

Globalization’s impact on marketing strategy

Globalization has might have accelerated in the last two decades as well. A marketing strategy that doesn’t take into account globalization might be short-sighted.

A media business that publishes an article, which is an instant has the potential to reach hundreds of countries across the world, it has also to be able to deliver that message to each of those locations.

At the same time, the potential access to a global community might give the impression that distribution has become an easy game in the digital era. That is just that, an impression. Building up a proper distribution strategy is just as hard as it has always been.

A message can get easily lost into the Facebook algorithm. A piece of content properly written can get easily lost into Google’s ranking algorithms. And a product distributed across an existing platform can become easily commoditized (think of how users can easily compare products on Amazon).

In short, Globalization works as a double-edged sword, where on the one hand requires a deeper (not provincial) understanding of your potential audience.

While on the other hand, it requires a powerful distribution strategy to get your message across and make sure that in the billions of users available on the web you reach those few hundreds to which your message can resonate.

In this era, it is also important how to frame a message to make it fit the platform desired format. For instance, in an era where platforms like Google, Instagram, TikTok, and others compete for snippets of our attention, understanding what formats work best for each platform is a critical element to give the message maximum amplification. 

Technological innovation and consumer behavior

If you haven’t realized it yet, technologies affect our behaviors or more precisely certain behaviors can be amplified through technologies. As a thought experiment, what’s the first thing you do in the morning, as soon as you open your eyes?

Chances are you’ll probably pick up your smartphone, to either go on social media or engage with someone in a digital manner. That might sound trivial. Yet just a couple of decades ago that was unthinkable.

One of the effects of those technologies is to change our habits and the way we do things. If we used to consume most content on a TV screen, now for younger generations might feel normal to consume content on devices that are a few inches wide.

That makes the experience different and also its perception. Armed with that the marketer needs to know how to deliver a message in the format that fits the medium and thus its audience.

That is why among the most effective marketing strategies, that of creating several formats to spread a message might work. For instance, if you wrote an article for the blog, if that article has proved successful why not make an audio version for that or a video that might get more easily shared on social media.

By repurposing the same content on several formats you can also fit it into several media and make sure you give people options to consume content as they like.

For instance, I personally love reading.

But I also realize not anyone does like reading, or find reading efficiently. Therefore, I also launched my own podcast and an online business school that can help people consume content at their own pace, and in the formats, they like the most.

Again if you’re a marketer you might want to create options for your audience. The foundation is great content. And if that content can be delivered in several formats, and delivered across different channels without it losing its intrinsic quality that you’re also creating more options for your audience.

In short, technological innovation changes the way people behave and consume content, thus the way we might need to communicate. But it also creates for us more opportunities to reach our desired audience.

But once again, you need to make sure not to forget that as a marketer you need to make the message compelling, and unique, so that the story told by your brand resonates.

Moore’s Law impact on marketing strategy

Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, in a paper, back in 1965 foresee how in the coming decade the numbers of components would double every year. Just to confirm this prediction a decade later, but this time the doubling rate would be every two years.

This heuristic would prove quite powerful. And this is also one of the reasons why computers kept becoming more and more powerful in the digital age. And that also affected the rise of certain business models.

For instance, before Netflix would be able to roll out the on-demand content consumption model its founder had in mind, the company had to wait a decade before technology would pick up to that.

But once it did, Netflix became a streaming content company in a blink of an eye and outside its optimistic forecasts.

When new technologies become mature enough they also enable marketers new ways to communicate, which makes more and more options available. That availability of options might make markets lose focus and dilute their strategy.

However, a focused marketer can take advantage of those new media to spread the message effectively.

Business model innovation impact on marketing strategy

business-model-innovation
Business model innovation is about increasing the success of an organization with existing products and technologies by crafting a compelling value proposition able to propel a new business model to scale up customers and create a lasting competitive advantage. And it all starts by mastering the key customers.

The web-enabled new ways of doing business. Business modeling once a sleepy beast, it woke up suddenly when the web became commercially viable. Companies like Google and Amazon proved that by building tech empires.

The most important takeaway for business model innovation is how it demands a new business playbook. The web wasn’t just a new distribution or marketing channel. It required a new mindset.

While using the same marketing strategy and bring it on several channels might amplify the message. Its impact on your business might be limited in the long-run.

As with a new business playbook, you would need also a fresh perspective when it comes to marketing strategy.

For instance, take the case of a platform business model, which relies on network effects to grow. A marketer to enable a successful strategy should execute that on top of the platform developed by the company’s engineering team.

While marketers need to know how to work with engineers to build growth tools that make the brand go viral. Those same marketers also need to make sure to preserve their discipline by keeping creativity at the center. 

Creativity is about loosely held assumptions, tested quickly, and sometimes with what might seem to engineers as “clumsiness” and as counterintuitive, yet for that reason effective. 

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.

value-proposition
A value proposition is about how you create value for customers. While many entrepreneurial theories draw from customers’ problems and pain points, value can also be created via demand generation, which is about enabling people to identify with your brand, thus generating demand for your products and services.

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.

Key forces behind an effective marketing strategy

communication-strategies
An effective communication strategy starts with a clear brand identity, by defining clear boundaries and compromises your brand will not take in the marketplace. Based on that, understanding, whether context, formats, and scale are in line with your business message to prevent a loss of identity.

A marketing strategy and a marketing plan might dissolve to the same primary functions. In my opinion, a marketing strategy is driven by a few key forces.

Focused but authentic

In many cases, the failure of a strategy might be due to a 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.

This kind of approach works for startups and companies with a minimum marketing budget. Once you scale, and you have a substantial marketing budget, that is when it becomes critical to manufacturing desire.

Being focused doesn’t mean you don’t have to work on your brand story. Quite the opposite. As you’re a small player you won’t need to spend huge marketing budgets for your story to be appreciated by your potential audience.

Large companies and tech giants need to spend billions on distribution and to make millions or billions of people “believe” their brand story.

Companies like Google and Amazon seemingly engineering-driven spent respectively $16.3 billion in sales and marketing and $13.8 billion in marketing alone for 2018.

As a niche player, you can be authentic, as your values, your organization values, and your customers’ values are aligned.

Specific but flexible

A marketing plan, derived from a focused marketing strategy should have specific goals and actions.

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.

However, flexibility is essential, as actions identified might not work out in the real world, you want to allow tests, experiments, and actions that have a wide spectrum, as you might be surprised to find out that something completely counter-intuitive works. 

Measurable but not metric-enslaved

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.

At the same time, even a simpler approach where you measure impact (a 10X approach on results for tests and experiments you perform) might solve any doubt on whether or not a strategy is working. 

What other threats you might want to be aware of?

Beware of the “data scientist mindset” (do not try to make marketing too “SMART”)

In a digital world, where, so far engineering and programming are the protagonists, marketing becomes relegated to being S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely), as marketers try to become data scientists.

Those approaches and methodologies try to reduce marketing to a linear process to follow. Yet human behavior, the pillar of any marketing activity, is not linear. It follows a logic that goes beyond logic itself.

In an interview for MarketingWeek, sports brand’s global media director, Simon Peel explained how Adidas overinvested in digital advertising channels, as those were easy to track in terms of performance.

In short, Adidas, like many other companies assumed that digital channels, as trackable would enable it to drive most of its sales.

Yet by looking at the data with a more holistic approach, Adidas found out that in reality was the brand activities that drove Adidas sales across wholesale, retail, and e-commerce. As Simon Peel highlighted for MarketingWeek:

The reason for that is short-termism because we are trying to grow sales very quickly,

And he also added:

We had a problem that we were focusing on the wrong metrics, the short-term, because we have fiduciary responsibility to shareholders.

Adidas had used an attribution model borrowed from digital platforms (like Goole Ads, or Facebook Ads) which primarily tracked the last mile the consumer wen through, as this is the easiest to track, which led to short-termism.

That doesn’t mean digital channels can’t be used to build a brand, but when you focus on the wrong metrics (most of the metrics which are easily available to measurement) that is how your marketing becomes ineffective, irrelevant, and your brand gets diluted.

As such, the great marketer will need to treasure creativity as the most important asset. Where most marketers in the digital world convert in data scientists, those that keep an artistic profile will make a difference in the business world. 

Marketers are persuaders

It might sound like an exaggeration, and after all, some digital marketing channels (take a technical marketing activity, like SEO) might not seem suited to generate dreams and drive action. However, you don’t need to lose focus on what marketing is.

On that Seth Godin can help us:

If you need to persuade someone to take action, you’re doing marketing.

Distribution is the volume of your message

In order for a message to be heard it needs to be amplified. Distribution is the volume. While in many cases you don’t need a higher volume to make your message resonate (sometimes whispered messages might work more effectively).

In a crowded space, you have two options to increase the volume or change the frequency. If you don’t have a choice you might want to increase the volume. If you do have a choice it’s important to find the distribution channel that can vehicle your message effectively. 

The Context is the message

A marketing message to work has to be in fit with the context. A message that makes sense in a context, might not in another. Understanding the context in which your audience is when experiencing the message is critical.

That is why today’s technology is powerful. It enables marketers to feel the context of the audience. Where mass media required marketers to frame messages that could be compelling for all, but for such reason ineffective. Today’s marketers can frame a message to make it resonate. 

Perspective and frame of mind

In life, perspective is all we got. The same event happening to different people, interpreted – thus framed in a different way, can bring wholly different outcomes. There might be a few things that are objectively bad.

For all the rest perspective and framing help us go through anything. As a marketer, you have the power of framing in your hands. If you know how to use it, you can help your customers frame their life for the better, that is how you become a source of inspiration for them. Framing though is a powerful weapon, and as a marketer, you must use it ethically!

Types of marketing strategies and channels

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 channels to experiment with. For instance, in the Bullseye framework, and in the book Traction, Gabriel Weinberg highlights 19 primary channels for creating a distribution, delivering your message, and execute your marketing strategy.

In the book, these are the identified 19 channels for growth:

  1. Targeting Blogs
  2. Publicity
  3. Unconventional PR
  4. Search Engine Marketing
  5. Social and Display Ads
  6. Offline Ads
  7. Search Engine Optimization
  8. Content Marketing
  9. Email Marketing
  10. Viral Marketing
  11. Engineering as Marketing
  12. Business Development
  13. Sales
  14. Affiliate Programs
  15. Existing Platforms
  16. Trade Shows
  17. Offline Events
  18. Speaking Engagements
  19. Community Building

Those are just some of the types of existing channels and I’m sure that we can find several classification methods, and lists.

Byt the key point here is about making sure to communicate properly your value proposition and in a way that gets through your desired audience.

Each of these types of marketing requires a specific strategy and execution. 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.

Marketing strategies examples

We’ll look at several cases where a marketing strategy is built into a business model

TOMS: when the one-for-one becomes an effective marketing strategy

toms-business-model-explained

The TOMS one-for-one business model is also a marketing strategy. As its value proposition is delivered through its business model. In short, the one-for-one works as a powerful trademark for the brand, which not only helps TOMS delivers its value proposition more powerfully. It also helps it save on marketing expenses, as the brand is pushed forward by its one-for-one model.

Brunello Cucinelli: when humanism becomes a powerful trademark

brunello-cucinelli-business-model
Brunello Cucinelli is an Italian luxury and casual-chic brand, which built its success around cashmere clothing. Brunello Cucinelli built its business around the Humanistic Enterprise model, which revolves around Italian Craftsmanship, Sustainable Growth, and Exclusive Positioning and Distribution. More than 50% of the company revenues come from the retail mono-brand, directly managed by the company.

Also, Brunello Cucinelli Humanistic Enterprise isn’t only a business model but within that, there is built a powerful 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.

Amazon: how a financial model translates into a growth/marketing strategy

cash-conversion-cycle-amazon
The cash conversion cycle (CCC) is a metric that shows how long it takes for an organization to convert its resources into cash. In short, this metric shows how many days it takes to sell an item, get paid, and pay suppliers. When the CCC is negative, it means a company is generating short-term liquidity.

Also Amazon 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.

This came through its cash conversion cycle strategy. While this is a financial strategy, integrated into its business model, it became very powerful over the years. In this case, Amazon better marketed itself by unlocking liquidity to grow the operational efficiency of the business. 

Apple: when stores become the cathedrals of the brand

apple-distribution-strategy

Over the years, Apple has built its stores across the world, in central locations. Many of those stores are now iconic monuments. And yet, most of the sales Apple make is though indirect distribution channels (third-party stores, carriers, and cellular networks).

So why does Apple built its stores? While this is a quite expensive branding strategy, and yet very effective, other reasons for having those stores is the ability of Apple to develop its own line of services on top of its products and in part, to control also the overall experience of customers across the world.

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.

However, marketing is primarily about understanding hidden psychological levers, to manufacture desires, and build a strong brand that is unique for your tribe.

Marketers that lose sight of that are leaving immense opportunities to build a valuable brand that drives change for its tribe.

Business pro tips

In a world, where former startups turned into incumbents, controlling vast portions of the digital landscape, it becomes important to understand the logic behind those giants and build a valuable business on top of them!

Gain traction in the gatekeepers era

gatekeepers-model
In a world driven by tech giants that locked-in the digital distribution pipelines to reach billions of people across the globe, the gatekeeper hypothesis states that small businesses will need to pass through those nodes to reach key customers. Thus, those gatekeepers become the enablers (or perhaps deterrent) for small businesses across the globe.

Master distribution

distribution-channels
A distribution channel is the set of steps it takes for a product to get in the hands of the key customer or consumer. Distribution channels can be direct or indirect. Distribution can also be physical or digital, depending on the kind of business and industry.

Leverage on digital distribution

digital-marketing-channels
A digital channel is a marketing channel, part of a distribution strategy, helping an organization to reach its potential customers via electronic means. There are several digital marketing channels, usually divided into organic and paid channels. Some organic channels are SEO, SMO, email marketing. And some paid channels comprise SEM, SMM, and display advertising.

Surf the giants

amazon-seo
Amazon SEO represents the set of marketing tactics that sellers on Amazon can employ to better rank their products’ pages organically (without paying for placement), thus building a continuous stream of customers on the store. In short, Amazon SEO leverages Amazon search capability to rank e-commerce pages and make more sales.

Build your brand

brand-building
Brand building is the set of activities that help companies to build an identity that can be recognized by its audience. Thus, it works as a mechanism of identification through core values that signal trust and that help build long-term relationships between the brand and its key stakeholders.

Business resources:

What is a marketing strategy?

A marketing strategy is the “what” and “how” to build a sustainable value chain framed for a target customer. A powerful marketing strategy needs to be able to manufacture desire, amplify the underlying value proposition, and build a brand that feels unique in the mind of its customers.

What are examples of marketing strategies?

Nike shoes and how those are branded it’s a great example of marketing strategy and how the company differentiates its product through its communication. For instance, Nike has an entire budget dedicated to demand generation, which is a key branding element helping the company be a recognized brand across the globe.

What is the most effective marketing strategy?

There isn’t a size-fits-all marketing strategy. And it will highly vary from the context in which it gets applied. A successful example is how Apple managed to differentiate its products on the marketplace by creating a whole line (iPhone) that opened up a new market, with no competition.

Published by

Gennaro Cuofano

Gennaro is the creator of FourWeekMBA which target is to reach over two million business students, executives, and aspiring entrepreneurs in 2020 alone | He is also Head of Business Development for a high-tech startup, which he helped grow at double-digit rate | Gennaro earned an International MBA with emphasis on Corporate Finance and Business Strategy | Visit The FourWeekMBA BizSchool | Or Get in touch with Gennaro here

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