The key to modern marketing strategy—evolve or die
Don’t use marketing tactics from 2013 on a 2019 audience, especially when your competitors are implementing 2021 strategies (and thinking about 2025)
Here's what your average marketing strategy looks like for most businesses:
- Create a marketing strategy for the next five years
- Show it to all stakeholders and assign jobs
- Put it in a drawer and forget that it exists
- Let everyone implement their favorite marketing tactics however they please
- Make no real changes or updates and spend no time evaluating competitors, target markets, target audiences, or even the success/failure of your own efforts
- Wonder (five years later) why your marketing efforts seem to be falling flat
If your intent is to spend marketing dollars without making an impact, this is the way to go about it.
But, if your intent is to grow your brand, dominate your target markets, and thrive…
Then you might want to look at marketing strategy just a little bit differently.
A solid marketing strategy is never "done"
The hard truth about marketing strategy is that you're never really "done."
And in today's lightning-fast business landscape, evolution must be constant for businesses to thrive.
Markets shift in a breath. Marketing tactics and practices evolve (or simply die out) overnight. Competitors rise from nonexistence to towering, colossal foes before you can blink. Your own marketing efforts themselves change the landscape, altering the reality in which you work and requiring yet more change.
A single document that your CMO wrote a year ago isn't going to cut it.
How are businesses to thrive in such volatility? Taking the pulse of your audiences (regularly), your target markets, your competitors, and evaluating your own strategies and marketing objectives, is a great place to start.
An agile marketing strategy is critical to success
For a marketing strategy to be successful, you (or whomever is sailing the strategy ship) need to do a few things:
- Regularly analyze how target markets and target audiences are shifting and evolving and use this information to inform and drive incremental changes to/improvements in your marketing tactics while identifying opportunities and threats
- Measure how the changes in your marketing tactics and your brand's interactions with your audiences and markets are working and evaluate how ongoing interactions need to inform and drive existing marketing strategies and shifts in tactics
- Evaluate your individual marketing tactics, especially in terms of customer acquisition, retention, and reacquisition, and compare them to both your original marketing objectives and to evolving objectives that are informed by your audience's/market's interactions with your brand and their own evolution
- Follow competitor's marketing strategies and tactics closely and search for opportunities to go after market share, especially when an audience's/market's evolution has shifted away from the competitor's once-successful strategies and the competitor is not responding to this evolution
To boil it all down, take a little advice from everyone's favorite surgeonfish, Dory: Just keep swimming—that is to say, just keep moving forward, and don't get stuck in old marketing tactics designed for an audience or a market that has shifted dramatically over the years.
Never forget the lessons of Blockbuster's fall—when an audience and a market moves, you move with it, evolving and thriving, or stay a dinosaur (and fade away).
As you already know, a solid marketing strategy takes some serious work. If you know this is a place you're lacking, there are some simple steps you can take to get back on track.
Get your marketing strategy back on track
Marketing strategy is a team effort.
The first place to start is figuring out who is in charge of what.
Whose job is it to watch existing audiences? Whose job is it to see how marketing tactics are affecting those audiences? Whose job is it to guide tactic evolution as you and your competitors impact your target markets and their needs, desires, and views change?
Start by mapping ownership for each area of your marketing strategy. Are there shared responsibilities? Are roles clearly defined? Maybe one person is in charge of all tactics and is the master of strategy, or maybe responsibility is diffuse and unclear, or maybe no one is in charge of strategy at all and tactics are happening haphazardly—figure out where you stand first.
Assess Competency and Define Ideals
Next, assess your firm's competency in each area, especially compared to the competition. Then, make the same comparison to best-in-class, regardless of industry. Identify significant gaps and realistic opportunities for improvement. Look for the low-hanging fruit that is going to drive your firm toward those marketing objectives you've laid out.
Define your ideals—how do you want each area of your marketing strategy handled, and who do you want handling it? Where and with whom, both realistically and ideally, should each role reside? Depending on the size of your firm, you may need to shift tactics from one person to another or from one division to another. Define your marketing team's direct and indirect roles along the way.
Articulate an Action Plan and Consider New Marketing Technologies
Finally, articulate an action plan to evolve your organization to those ideals you've identified, even if it feels like it's extremely far in the future. This is going to feel a lot like the marketing strategy stuck in the drawer we mentioned above, but only if you actually put it in the drawer. Instead, if you make this into a living document, you're going to find it a valuable asset that your newly defined roles will cherish as they access and edit it regularly.
Consider especially how, as you grow, you will handle the implementation of new marketing technologies for gathering insight into your customers and your target markets/audiences and for implementing and improving acquisition. Who will be in charge of learning/monitoring/running these tools, and how will they share measurements of marketing effectiveness, changes in audiences/target markets, evolution of competitors and the competitive landscape, and other critical factors, with the rest of the team?
It’s all in the wrist
As we mentioned, the key to it all is a profound change in the way marketing strategy is conceptualized and executed. The fast-forward dynamics of the digital landscape demand an equally dynamic strategy to keep up. If you change your practices to constantly stay on top of your marketing’s moving parts (market and audience analysis, competitor analysis and campaign evaluation) and inform your strategy accordingly, you’ ll be well situated to stay relevant and resonant, no matter how volatile, crowded and noisy your industry is.