So, just what IS marketing strategy in the digital age? According to Forbes, marketing strategy involves uncovering consumer needs and communicating the benefits of brands (hopefully linking benefits to needs, one must assume). Greg Satell, who wrote the piece, goes on to lament the “good ol’ days” (pre-internet) when you just put together a cool TV ad — radio spot or print — and watched produce fly off the shelf. Sorry, Greg, I’m oversimplifying for dramatic effect, but many folks still think that way — create an ad, share on a media channel, go to the bank to deposit profits.
Marketing strategy in the digital age
Marketing strategy in the digital age, again according to Greg, now reflects the explosion of media channels — everything from social networks, to websites, to review sites, to apps, to … Do you get the idea? He used this cool graphic to depict the goals of your marketing strategy in the digital age or any age, for that matter. Resting on the pillars of sales, awareness, and advocacy, it certainly beats a narrow-minded focus on sales, but is that all there is to marketing strategy?
And, I think lots of other folks struggle to understand marketing strategy and how to create winning marketing strategies in the digital age. That’s why my Slideshare entitled Marketing Strategy was viewed over 35 THOUSAND times (and downloaded hundreds of times) and put me in the top 2% of all content viewed on the platform — not to toot my own horn, but I’m really proud of this.
Marketing strategy in ANY age
Marketing strategy in the digital age — or any age — involves long-term planning that allocates scares organizational resources (time, money, talent, relationships) in a way that optimizes achievement of organizational goals. PERIOD. Nowhere in this definition does it talk about communication. That’s because marketing is SO much more than “selling and telling“.
1. Marketing strategy means analysis
You need to figure out where you ARE and where you’re GOING before you can figure out how to get there — duh! So, your first step is analyzing your current situation — called an environmental scan. An environmental scan looks at everything surrounding where you are: technology, customers, competitors, economy, and laws. Only by thoroughly understanding where you are, can you start planning.
2. Goals and objectives
Next, you need to create goals and objectives — which should be SMART goals.
3. Formulate strategy
Now, you’re ready to plan your strategy. Various tools help with some of the heavy lifting necessary. For instance:
4. Create tactics
Too many businesses start with tactics and forget all the strategic planning necessary to make a marketing strategy work. I’ve had potential clients tell me: “I want a viral marketing campaign”, but that’s a tactic (plus, even the best can’t guarantee a campaign will go viral and beware if someone does). In fact, some campaigns go viral with little lift in product sales.
Part of your strategy involves creating KPIs (key performance indicators). Monitoring performance based on KPIs tells you how well you’re doing just like the gauges in your car tell you about your car’s performance.
Modify both tactics and strategy based on your KPIs. Work toward optimizing your performance.
So, you want to develop a marketing strategy, but don’t know where to start. A good place is with an environmental scan that looks at the environment surrounding your firm. The external marketing environment contains customers (cultural and social changes), competitors, technological changes, political and regulatory changes, and economic changes. Today, I’d like to look at customer elements in the marketing environment. Here are some opportunities waiting in your environment.
1. Demographic Changes
Demographics include all those descriptors of people, like age, income, gender, race, etc. Some interesting changes in this aspect of the environment are:
Aging of consumers in most of the developed world
As the baby boomers become senior citizens, the scales are tipping toward older consumers. But, today’s senior citizens aren’t what you might expect. As a group, they are healthier, wealthier, more independent than previous groups of senior citizens. They’re not sitting on a rocking chair in some senior citizen center. They’re traveling (the number 1 activity for seniors). They’re more like to listen to the Grateful Dead than Lawrence Welk.
Opportunities include developing products designed for the specific needs of older consumers. For instance, they tend to have dry hair, so developing a product that caters to this is a good opportunity. Since they travel a lot, putting together tour groups of seniors is a good opportunity. One of our clients puts together military historical tours that focus on WWII and Korean battlefields and increasingly ones in Vietnam. Many of these tours are comprised of seniors who served during these wars (and most of these are now seniors). Politicians realize this, that’s why they enact more legislation to beef up social security than education.
Vast changes are occurring in this area. One of the biggest is the increasing affluence of women. While the average woman still earns less than a man, this gap is closing. This is becoming especially visible in relationships where wives now out-earn their husbands in nearly 30% of relationships. Especially in African American households, where the number is much closer to 50%. With economic downturns disproportionally affecting white men, this will likely continue at least until employment begins to recover. This gives women more economic power, meaning they now make decisions, like buying a car, which was historically made by men. I recently bought a car and the salesperson spent the entire time talking to my boyfriend about the car and answering his questions. He was really shocked when the 2 of them agreed on a price and I casually said NO. We had to renegotiate and I got an even better deal.
Another gender issue is one of same-sex couples. This also creates opportunities. For instance, I recently saw a commercial for KY directed at gay couples — talk about catering to your heavy half! My hat is off to them for their superb recognition of a great marketing opportunity and having the guts to go for it.
- Other changes include decreased family size, increased influence of children in a household, geographic shifts to the south and east, etc.
This means marketing opportunities for things like smaller package sizes, more marketing to younger children (as well as developing products designed especially for them), and distribution changes to new population centers.
2. Value Changes
What consumers think is important is also changing. The importance of family life is surprising many firms who now find workers less willing to relocate (their spouse may be working and their kids like the current school and friends), accept over time (although the economic conditions have moderated this somewhat), or take on additional responsibilities than their Gen X and Baby Boomer predecessors.
Today’s consumers are also not joiners and more likely to find a night at home in front of the TV more appealing than playing on a softball league, singing in the church choir, or volunteering at the local soup kitchen. Robert Putnam wrote a great book called Bowling Alone about this decline in community which likely underscores the rise of social media. This created the opportunity for leveraging these social networks to market businesses.
3. Racial Changes
The US, always a melting pot of peoples from many nations, has become a good Irish Stew of cultures committed to maintaining their cultural identity rather than disappearing into the sameness of a single culture as did immigrants in the past. This brings both challenges and opportunities to businesses and complexity to the American Marketplace.
Increasingly, other countries that had been comprised primarily of a single ethnic strain are also seeing increased cultural diversity. This is especially true in the EU, where movement within the block is seamless. This can be challenging in cultures inexperienced in handling this diversity.
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