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:

The impact of digitalization on marketing strategy

A digital business model might be defined as a model that leverages digital technology to improve several aspects of an organization. From how customers interact, to how the value proposition is derived, or how monetization happens.

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, 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.

Therefore, setting a higher customer experience in each and any industry, while offering lower prices, comparisons, and options is the way 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).

Today, digital platforms can 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 any of the homes it rents).

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

But 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.

So that the message itself becomes more intimate and customers feel they are talking to who can truly understand them.

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 which 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.

Technological innovation impact on consumers’ behavior and how it impacts marketing strategy

If you haven’t realized it yet, technologies change our behaviors. I’m not going to mention to the latest survey report from the most sought agency to prove my point. Just answer to this simple question: 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 younger generations might feel normal to consume content on devices which are a few inches.

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 which 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 quaity 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.

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 enought 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 more and more efficiently.

Business model innovation impact on marketing strategy

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 for a new business playbook. The web wasn’t just a new distribution or marketing channel. It requird 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.

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 channels to experiment. For instance, in the Bullseye framework, and in the book Traction, Gabriel Weinberg highlights 19 primary channels for creating 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 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.

Published by

Gennaro Cuofano

Gennaro is the creator of FourWeekMBA which he brought to reach about a million business students, professionals, and entrepreneurs in 2019 alone | Gennaro is also Head of Business Development for a high-tech startup, which 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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