* During Coronavirus, we're flagging up key articles about business planning and marketing. We hope this will help you minimise the impact of the current crisis on your business *
Marketing is an essential function of your business. It helps you identify your target market, understand what they need, and meet that need profitably. It has the power to make or break your business. So it makes sense to invest time in writing a marketing strategy for your startup.
What is a marketing strategy?
A marketing strategy helps you determine your current position in the market, record what you want to achieve in the coming year, and work out ways to do it.
Like any strategy, it isn’t nearly as intimidating as it sounds. Just think of it as a roadmap from where you are now, to where you want to be, and what routes you have available to get there.
At Transmit Startups, we’ve supported thousands of small businesses to get off the ground. Here are our tips for writing a thorough marketing strategy that can lay the foundations for business success.
How to use this guide to write a marketing strategy
- Read this guide start to finish before you start to write your marketing plan. You might have to go away and do some research.
- Once you’ve thought about all of the information you need, download our handy marketing strategy template and start filling it in.
- Don’t forget your creativity. Marketing is one area of business where creativity can deliver a real competitive advantage. Let your imagination and personality shine.
- A word about words. We use the word ‘product’ in this guide to refer to physical products and services. We talk about ‘you’ a lot. That means you and / or your business.
- Remember your marketing strategy will be a living working document. We don't want a hefty tome that is going to languish on a dusty shelf. Make it relevant and actionable.
Step 1 - Define your mission
Often mocked and misunderstood, mission and vision statements are actually an important part of any business.
Your mission and vision sum up your reason for being. They tell the outside world what you stand for and remind staff what they’re working towards.
So whether you’re a small startup or a growing concern, take time to get your mission and vision right.
What is a mission statement?
A mission statement is the 'what and why' of your business. A short, simple description of what you're working towards and how you do it.
It provides a strong and simple statement of intent that can help motivate your team and inspire action.
The best mission statements strike a balance between being aspirational and achievable.
For example, Cancer Research UK's mission is 'to prevent, control and cure cancer through our ground-breaking research'.
What is a vision statement?
A vision statement is the 'where' of your business. It describes where you'll be if you achieve your mission.
It sums up the ultimate destination of your business if (when!) everything goes to plan. As such, it is a powerful motivator and a great foundation for your marketing strategy.
For example, Cancer Research UK's vision is 'Together we will beat cancer'. You can't get much more motivating than that!
Step 2 - Understand the marketing environment
Step 2 is all about preparing for the marketing journey you’re about to embark on. What’s happening internally with your business? What’s happening externally in the environment at large?
This is often called 'marketing analysis' or ‘situational analysis’ because it looks at the market / situation your business will be operating in.
There are a number of tools and techniques to help you think about this. Check out our handy articles on each of the tools below for more information.
It’s important you are brutally honest in your analysis if these tools are going to add real value to your plan.
Limit your list to four or five points in each section to make sure you stay focused on the most critical points.
Once you’ve completed your audit, you are in a much better position to start planning your strategy.
- Understanding strengths and opportunities will help you maximise on positive marketing factors
- Being mindful of weaknesses and threats will help you plan ways to minimise the risk they pose to your business
- Seeing how you compare to the competition will help you to differentiate yourself and gain competitive advantage over rivals
Step 3 – Focus on your target market
Next you need to think about the target market for your product. Your target market is the group of people you hope to sell to. You need to know who your target market are if you want to develop a product that will appeal to them.
Having a defined target market makes it easier to build your brand and choose your marketing channels. For example, it is easier to plan how you’ll market ‘socks for male hill walkers aged 35-65’, rather than just ‘socks’.
Try to choose a target market that will create a strong demand for your product or services. Whilst having a well-defined niche helps you market your product, being too specific can limit your potential.
Once you know your target market, creating customer personas adds more depth and focus to your marketing plans. A customer persona is a portrait of your ideal customer. It helps you develop highly targeted and effective marketing messages.
Step 4 – Review your product offer
Next you need to think about what you offer and any options you have for growth and development.
- If you’re an established business, you can think about what you currently offer.
- If you’re still at the concept development stage, you can think about what you hope to offer.
You’re going to use the marketing mix to pin down the details of what you offer.
There are lots of versions of the marketing mix but, at the core, it comes down to four key areas – known as the 4Ps.
What are the 4Ps of marketing?
The 4Ps are: product, price, promotion and place. Here are some questions to help you start thinking critically about your product offer.