Looking for ways to increase our brand awareness and grow the customer base is a natural instinct of every manager, consultant or entrepreneur. But we don't always know where to start.

There is always only one answer: strategic marketing. This is the real beginning of all marketing thinking.

In this in-depth discussion we will take a closer look at what it is, the differences with operational marketing, and the necessary steps.

What strategic marketing means

Strategic marketing is the process of aggregating the data necessary to generate an efficient marketing plan and then implementing it by making the best use of an organization's resources. It emerged in the 1970s/80s as a field of study distinct from the rest of marketing and economic studies, grounded only in strategic, that is, long-term management. The main goal of strategic marketing is to create a sustainable competitive advantage for the organization. This can be done by creating unique propositions and differentiating the organization's products and services from those of its competitors. 

A sustainable competitive advantage is one that cannot be easily duplicated or imitated by other organizations. An example of a company with a sustainable competitive advantage over time is, of course, Apple. Apple has a strong leadership position in the consumer electronics market, with products such as the iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch having great popularity among consumers. The company also has a global presence with a network of stores, support services, and distributors. Its strong reputation, building a strong base of loyal customers, and global presence make Apple a company that has a huge sustainable competitive advantage.

Strategic marketing enables organizations to focus limited resources on the best opportunities to increase sales and thereby gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace. It integrates the company's mission with a marketing plan that determines the direction of the entire organization and how the overall goals are to be achieved. It is essential that every organization and company have a clear and documented marketing strategy to use strategic marketing to its fullest potential.

Identifies the target market

Identifying your target market is an important part of strategic marketing. It involves understanding who your potential customers are and what their needs, wants and desires are. This involves researching the market and collecting data to help you better understand your target audience, the competitive landscape, the products and offerings of direct competitors and similar services, the power of suppliers, and the geopolitical context in which you operate.

Analyzing your competitors is an important part of market research. It helps you understand their strengths and weaknesses and what to expect. This can be done through market research, studying their product offerings and prices, and monitoring their promotional activities.

With this knowledge, you can develop a competitive strategy to differentiate your product or service and gain a competitive advantage. In addition, it can provide information on how to best meet customer needs and expectations. Using a range of tools and techniques such as SWOT analysis, competitive audits, market segmentation, and Porter's 5 forces study, you can get the information you need to formulate a strategic marketing plan.

What are they and how are Porter's forces identified? Read our dedicated article:

Dominating competitors with the study of Porter's five forces

Develop your brand identity

Developing a strong brand identity is an integral part of any strategic marketing plan. 

It is the foundation of your company's reputation and how you are seen by your target audience. A well-defined brand identity will create a sense of trust and loyalty among your customers, which in turn will lead to more sales. To create an effective brand identity, you must identify your market positioning, develop a brand message that speaks to your target audience, and create a recognizable logo and visual identity. 

Having a strong brand identity will help you stand out from the competition and increase your visibility in the market.

Our designers have written a guide with rules for creating the perfect logo:

Logo, marks on the ground
How to make your mark with a distinctive and memorable logo

Take advantage of the Blue Ocean Strategy and Deep Needs.

The Blue Ocean Strategy is a concept developed by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne. It focuses on companies creating their own market space instead of competing in a crowded and competitive market. The strategy advocates that companies focus on creating unique products and services that have little or no perceived competition. In this way, companies can differentiate themselves from competitors and create their own profitable market space.

The Blue Ocean Strategy encourages companies to analyze their current market position and identify areas where they can offer something unprecedented. This could include introducing a new product or service, developing a unique customer experience or creating a new pricing model. By leveraging the Blue Ocean Strategy, companies can create a distinct competitive advantage and build a sustainable market presence.

Blue Ocean falls under the brand positioning methods oriented to customer demand and needs. In the same class you can find the "Deep Need" discovery method and needs matrices, created by Francesco Galvani, founder of the Deep Marketing agency. The system was first popularized in 2017 in the first edition of the book "Digital Deep Marketing" (now in its third edition). The idea (solid in terms of scientific evidence) behind these approaches is to set up brand and business differentiation based on uniquely and unprecedentedly responding to customer needs, not (as in the case of more classic positioning systems) starting from the supply side. That is, providing customers with something different from competitors in terms of product or service attributes and features.

Let's look at some examples of famous demand-oriented companies:

  1. Amazon: Amazon has a strong marketing strategy based on customer needs, offering a wide range of products at competitive prices and quick delivery incentives. If Amazon were supply-driven, it would probably be limited to offering only a particular category of products not offered by competitors, or simply lower prices.
  2. Starbucks: Starbucks offers customers a high-quality experience and a wide range of food and beverage options. Again, it is noticeable that this chain did not just set itself apart from its competitors. It actually started from what customers wanted but could not find in its competitors.
  3. Nike: Nike has always offered trendy and high-end products, focusing on people's need in recognizing themselves as sports stars and striving to improve themselves as physical performance.
  4. Walmart: Walmart literally gives customers what they want and what other competitors cannot give. A virtually endless range of products, great prices, a widespread presence throughout the territory.

Establish the main goal

Having a clear understanding of strategic marketing is all well and good, but how do you set the marketing goals that will help you achieve your desired results?

Setting marketing goals allows you to ensure that your team is focused and motivated. It helps ensure that your resources are being used effectively and that you are able to monitor progress over time. When setting a marketing goal, it is important to be realistic and concrete. The various mottos such as "TO THE MOON!" from crypto-exalts all gone horribly wrong, let's leave them to it.

Start by identifying the key objective of your current marketing strategy. From there, take it a step further and define a new, more challenging goal. It should be measurable and have timelines. It should be aligned with your overall business values and should be reviewed regularly to ensure it is still relevant.

If you don't have goals today, start with typical goals for your market and don't reinvent hot water. For example, if you are in the insurance business, probably setting a certain number of quotes or policies to achieve in five years is a good idea.

You can learn more in the book "Deep Marketing Growth Hacking," which is entirely devoted to rapid development and testing of new companies and business functions.

Polar star
The main goal is your North Star

Create a marketing plan

Now that you know what strategic marketing is, how to identify your target market, develop your brand identity, set marketing goals, analyze your competitors, and know the difference between demand-driven and supply-driven strategies (which you should avoid), it's time to create a marketing plan.

A comprehensive marketing plan is a critical part of any successful business and should include methodologies for increasing brand awareness, reaching potential customers and promoting your products or services. The plan should also include specific timelines, budgets and goals.

Remember that the general marketing goals seen just now are long-term "pole stars." But in a real marketing plan you will have to achieve not only the pole star, but in the process also other goals. For example, if the ultimate goal is to sell policies, there must be channels in the marketing plan to develop branding, retention, credibility, get leads, expand distribution channels...

Establish specific rewards for achieving each goal. These rewards can be anything from a bonus or recognition to a team celebration. By setting marketing goals, you can ensure that your team is on the right path to success!

When creating a marketing plan, you should remember that each workflow consists of:

  • Subgoals
  • Usable channels
  • Dedicated timing
  • Distinction between goal goals and partial "milestones"
  • Budget and resources
  • Risks
  • Opportunities
  • "Plans B"

Clearly, the more expertise and experience you have behind you, the easier it will be to avoid mistakes and oversights. The key point is that a marketing plan must be revised, yes, but never overturned. Otherwise, it is not a marketing plan.

Choose the appropriate channels for promotion

Choosing the right channels for promotion is an important part of your strategic marketing plan. You must carefully consider the various channels available to you, such as traditional media, online marketing, influencers, and direct mail. It is important to understand how each of these channels will reach your target market and which channels are most cost-effective for your budget on the individual goals of your overall marketing plan.

In addition, it is important to examine trends in your industry and assess how your competitors use and will use each channel. After you have identified the best channels to use, you can begin to think about operational marketing, that is, the actual operations to be performed.

Let's look at some examples of online promotion channels where you will realistically invest most of your time and resources:

  • Organicsearch: organic search is one of the most effective marketing channels and can be used to find new customers. The king of organic search in Italy is obviously Google
  • Video marketing: video marketing is becoming increasingly popular and is an effective way to reach an audience. Companies can produce videos showing their products or services and share them on various digital platforms.
  • Social media: social media is a powerful tool for companies to promote their products and services. You can use platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and Instagram to interact with your audience and build relationships.
  • Digital advertising: platforms such as Google Ads and Facebook Ads can be extraordinary for reaching markets.
  • Email marketing: email marketing is a great way for players to stay in touch with customers and potential customers, especially in conjunction with CRM platforms. You can leverage tools such as Mailchimp, MailerLite or GetRespose to send newsletters to your subscribers with updates and promotions.
  • Sponsorships: sponsorships are a fantastic tool for promoting one's products and services. You can also sponsor events, athletes or organizations in exchange for brand visibility.
Pen and paper: the right place to start breaking down the different objectives of our marketing strategy

Measure and adjust

Once the strategic marketing plan is implemented and fielded with operational marketing (which we will discuss in the future), it is important to measure and evaluate the results.

Monitoring the progress of your operational campaigns and activities can help you identify areas of success or failure. The key point is to never think in absolute terms, but always relative to the goals of our marketing plan:

  • How close are we getting to the partial goals (milestones)?
  • How close are we getting to the subgoals?
  • How far are we on the straight and narrow path to reach the super goal, that is, our ultimate North Star?
  • How many resources are we wasting? To achieve what?
  • Is the market changing? Is our initial analysis still valid?
  • Do we need to change our portfolio and offerings to maximize results?

Therefore, it is important to monitor performance regularly and make necessary changes. This will help ensure that your strategies are effective and that you are able to remain competitive in the marketplace.

When making changes, it is important to consider external factors that could affect results. These could include changes in customer preferences, competitor activities, or even economic conditions. Keeping an eye on these factors can help you adjust your strategy accordingly to ensure you remain competitive and successful.

It is also important to pay attention to the feedback you receive from customers and stakeholders. Taking this feedback into consideration can help you identify areas where your strategy needs improvement and make the necessary changes to ensure that you are meeting customer needs.

Remember that marketing is not just about advertising; it also has to do (obviously) with offering appropriate products and services that bring us closer to our goal. You can reason about this and possible changes in your portfolio by taking advantage of tools such as the BCG matrix or Ansoff's matrix.

Here is our in-depth discussion of the BCG matrix:

Strategy BCG matrix
Boston BCG matrix - Pros, cons and how to use it correctly

And here on Ansoff's matrix:

future ansoff
Designing the future of your business with Ansoff's matrix

Choose a reliable partner agency

As we have seen, every step of strategic marketing is complicated. So is identifying the market, mapping competitors, understanding customer needs and how they can be better met by offering new services or products. So is understanding the main objective, sub-objectives, channels, means, budget and timeframe, and milestones to achieve them. It is extraordinarily difficult to measure correctly by evaluating all the axes. Even more so to adjust advertising, PR, promotional, commercial, and especially product and service portfolio actions.

It is really incredibly complex.

That is why choosing a reliablepartner agency to work with you on your strategic marketing activities is an important step. It can be really difficult to navigate the complex world of marketing, so it is essential to have a knowledgeable partner who can help you understand and implement the right strategies. When selecting a partner agency, be sure to examine its track record, experience, and portfolio. Also, look for a passionate team that is committed to providing the highest quality services and willing to work with you to ensure success.

If you want to know what types of agencies exist, you can read our dedicated article.