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A marketing strategy is a plan that helps an organization match its environment in the present and in the future. A marketing strategy is a coherent, all-encompassing plan that addresses your business environment, competition, the market needs, how you acquire and maintain customers, and deliver value to them.

In the most concrete terms, a marketing strategy is a set of plans and processes that drive sales of your product or service; it’s the roadmap that leads to customers and lasting revenues.

People often confuse a marketing strategy and a marketing plan. In fact, it’s not uncommon to find a marketing strategy and a marketing plan blended together. However, the line between the two is anything but blurry. A marketing strategy covers the big picture of what a business offers. The plan focuses on how the business will get across the key message — the creative, the vehicles, the timing, and so forth.

It’s also important to note that the marketing strategy should unfold well before a product or services’ inception. A mistake that many startups make is to go through the laborious process of developing a product, or taking it to the so-called ‘proof of concept’ stage, only to then start testing their product and its reception in the market. The infamous expression from the dotcom bubble in the late nineties, ‘Build it and they will come,” is unfortunately still very much in play today.

What Marketing Strategy Isn’t

Marketing doesn’t just entail maintaining a presence in certain media channels. In fact, your marketing strategy can be centered on minimizing advertising expenditures. People all too often conflate marketing strategy with advertising tactics. For example, Remarketing is a marketing tactic and not a strategy.

Marketing has also been defined as an attempt to influence behaviour, but this is a Machiavellian interpretation. Successful marketers understand behaviour, they discover needs and wants and satisfy them with useful solutions and value.

Finally, many marketers will define marketing as the science of creating a competitive advantage. While creating a competitive advantage is a typical challenge in a mature and crowded marketplace, it does not apply to the current digital economy — and even less so to truly novel and exploratory start-ups, where competition is not as direct.

Why Do We Need Strategy?

What happens without one? Chaos. The marketing function becomes a mad scurry for hacks, scattered tactics and ‘optimizing’ things that ultimately do not matter to the business.

An explicit strategy is an absolute necessity in today’s rapidly changing digital business environment. You need a sense of direction that unifies everyone in the organization. The marketing function helps teams reach conclusions about consumer behaviour using analysis, deliberation, campaigning and tools.

At the most fundamental level, businesses need customers. Customers generate revenue, and revenue solves virtually all business problems. A marketing strategy outlines how we are going to generate revenues by acquiring new customers or release more revenue from our existing customer base. Therefore, the output of any successful marketing strategy is revenue. This takes place by defining the top line strategy, and drilling down into objectives, processes and goals and executing towards them.

Strategy and Action

Marketing strategy, as with the field of strategy itself, addresses the transformation of analysis into action, or strategy formulation and implementation. Marketing strategy is worthless unless it can be proven to be effective. This is why every marketing strategist should be very well versed in marketing tactics, and oversee the execution of their proposed strategy every step of the way.