Venture Builders, Inc

Professionals always need to give attention to both strategy and tactics.  For strategy, all by itself, cannot achieve anything—unless it is implemented in tactics.  And tactics that are not driven by strategy are merely aimless activities.

Strategic Marketing:  The Foundation for Successful Tactical Marketing

Mention “marketing” to small business owners and they’re likely to think of such activities as direct mail campaigns, advertising, and trade show participation.  Those activities are, indeed, examples of marketing—tactical marketing—and they may be important tactics for certain types of companies.

Tactics are designed to create demand for a company’s services or products and they often seek near-term results.  So it’s no surprise that many small companies, especially start-ups, engage in marketing tactics.  It’s understandable; but it’s often a mistake.  That’s because tactics tend to deliver only a modest return on the investment or perhaps none at all—unless those tactics are driven by strategy.

Small business owners rarely hear about strategic marketing, but it is very important to the success of their marketing tactics and, ultimately, to the long-term success of their companies.  Strategic marketing deals with such issues as the company’s position in the marketplace and its differentiation from the competition.

Since strategy guides tactics, a company needs to work on strategic issues before it engages in marketing tactics.  If, for example, a company has not identified a target market, then it doesn’t know where to direct its advertising.  And, if it has not developed a competitive advantage, then money spent on marketing materials that promote a “me-too” product or service will frequently be wasted.

So how can small business owners start working on strategic marketing issues?  A good approach is for them to answer three questions about their company, their customers/clients, and their competitors.  These questions are simple to state, but quite difficult to answer.

The first question is: What is distinctive about their company’s product or service versus the competition?  In answering this question, the owner has to go deep into the company’s identity.  The second question is: What is their company’s target market?  Owners will need to identify and understand thoroughly their target market—their niche or market segment.  And the third question is: What value does their company alone deliver to its target market?  Answering this question is critical because it concerns the special connection between the owner’s company and its target market.

These three questions have to be looked at together, because they are all closely related.  For example, the feature that is distinctive about a company’s product or service is generally distinctive only for a particular market and, sometimes, only for a limited time.  Again, determining what unique value the company delivers to its market requires the owner to consider competitors’ positions in the market.

There is no doubt that working on strategy issues is hard—not so much fun, perhaps, as engaging in tactics like writing copy for a brochure or attending a networking event.  But working on strategic issues—or failing to work on them—has direct, practical effects.  And small business owners ignore those issues at their peril.


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