Marketing strategy is a process that can allow an organization to concentrate its limited resources on the greatest opportunities to increase sales and achieve a sustainable competitive advantage.
Marketing strategies serve as the fundamental underpinning of marketing plans designed to fill market needs and reach marketing objectives. Plans and objectives are generally tested for measurable results. Commonly, marketing strategies are developed as multi-year plans, with a tactical plan detailing specific actions to be accomplished in the current year. Time horizons covered by the marketing plan vary by company, by industry, and by nation, however, time horizons are becoming shorter as the speed of change in the environment increases. Marketing strategies are dynamic and interactive. They are partially planned and partially unplanned. See strategy dynamics.
Marketing strategy involves careful scanning of the internal and external environments which are summarized in a SWOT analysis. Internal environmental factors include the marketing mix, plus performance analysis and strategic constraints. External environmental factors include customer analysis, competitor analysis, target market analysis, as well as evaluation of any elements of the technological, economic, cultural or political/legal environment likely to impact success. A key component of marketing strategy is often to keep marketing in line with a company's overarching mission statement. Besides SWOT analysis, portfolio analyses such as the GE/McKinsey matrix or COPE analysis can be performed to determine the strategic focus.
Once a thorough environmental scan is complete, a strategic plan can be constructed to identify business alternatives, establish challenging goals, determine the optimal marketing mix to attain these goals, and detail implementation. A final step in developing a marketing strategy is to create a plan to monitor progress and a set of contingencies if problems arise in the implementation of the plan.
Marketing strategies may differ depending on the unique situation of the individual business. However there are a number of ways of categorizing some generic strategies. A brief description of the most common categorizing schemes is presented below:
* Strategies based on market dominance - In this scheme, firms are classified based on their market share or dominance of an industry. Typically there are four types of market dominance strategies:
* Porter generic strategies - strategy on the dimensions of strategic scope and strategic strength. Strategic scope refers to the market penetration while strategic strength refers to the firm’s sustainable competitive advantage. The generic strategy framework (porter 1984) comprises two alternatives each with two alternative scopes. These are Differentiation and low-cost leadership each with a dimension of Focus-broad or narrow.
- Product differentiation (broad)
- Cost leadership (broad)
- Market segmentation (narrow)
* Innovation strategies - This deals with the firm's rate of the new product development and business model innovation. It asks whether the company is on the cutting edge of technology and business innovation. There are three types:
- Close followers
- Late followers
* Growth strategies - In this scheme we ask the question, “How should the firm grow?”. There are a number of different ways of answering that question, but the most common gives four answers:
- Horizontal integration
- Vertical integration
A more detailed scheme uses the categories:
- Marketing warfare strategies - This scheme draws parallels between marketing strategies and military strategies.
Marketing participants often employ strategic models and tools to analyze marketing decisions. When beginning a strategic analysis, the 3Cs can be employed to get a broad understanding of the strategic environment. An Ansoff Matrix is also often used to convey an organization's strategic positioning of their marketing mix. The 4Ps can then be utilized to form a marketing plan to pursue a defined strategy.
There are many companies especially those in the Consumer Package Goods (CPG) market that adopt the theory of running their business centered around Consumer, Shopper & Retailer needs. Their Marketing departments spend quality time looking for "Growth Opportunities" in their categories by identifying relevant insights (both mindsets and behaviors) on their target Consumers, Shoppers and retail partners. These Growth Opportunities emerge from changes in market trends, segment dynamics changing and also internal brand or operational business challenges.The Marketing team can then prioritize these Growth Opportunities and begin to develop strategies to exploit the opportunities that could include new or adapted products, services as well as changes to the 7Ps.
Real-life marketing primarily revolves around the application of a great deal of common-sense; dealing with a limited number of factors, in an environment of imperfect information and limited resources complicated by uncertainty and tight timescales. Use of classical marketing techniques, in these circumstances, is inevitably partial and uneven.
Thus, for example, many new products will emerge from irrational processes and the rational development process may be used (if at all) to screen out the worst non-runners. The design of the advertising, and the packaging, will be the output of the creative minds employed; which management will then screen, often by 'gut-reaction', to ensure that it is reasonable.
For most of their time, marketing managers use intuition and experience to analyze and handle the complex, and unique, situations being faced; without easy reference to theory. This will often be 'flying by the seat of the pants', or 'gut-reaction'; where the overall strategy, coupled with the knowledge of the customer which has been absorbed almost by a process of osmosis, will determine the quality of the marketing employed. This, almost instinctive management, is what is sometimes called 'coarse marketing'; to distinguish it from the refined, aesthetically pleasing, form favored by the theorists.