Marketing strategy – the foundation of any successful business

BY Rafał Granat

Every entrepreneur has come into contact with a marketing strategy.

Some build it consciously, while others simply create a company by unconsciously setting the rules for how it operates, how it sells its products and how it communicates about them. In both cases there is a marketing strategy, or at least elements of it, but it is only by being aware of the actions taken that a true strategy can be defined.

Why is a marketing strategy important?

Before we talk about what exactly a marketing strategy is, it’s worth looking at why you should care about it in the first place.

First and foremost, it allows you to build your own awareness of what the market is like, who your customers are, what your company’s strengths and weaknesses are, and what your company needs in order to fulfil the basic premise of a marketing strategy – to achieve profit maximisation. In this way, every tool and process chosen will be as relevant as possible and its impact will be easily measurable.

The issue of monitoring the effectiveness of the chosen marketing strategy is extremely important, as it allows you to see exactly which elements of the strategy need to be improved and streamlined. The market itself and the needs of your customers will change, which is difficult to understand without a chosen strategy and an analysis of its effectiveness. Consequently, it is impossible to consciously adjust and update the actions taken.

The more information you have, the easier it is to make decisions, and the better you make them, the better your business will grow. Measuring the effectiveness of the actions taken against concrete objectives is a very important function of the marketing strategy, most often done by comparing the effects with Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

What is a marketing strategy?

By definition, a marketing strategy can be described as a set of clearly defined actions and policies that a company must follow in order to run its business effectively and achieve profit maximisation. This means that marketing strategies must contain very specific elements:

  • identify business objectives
  • identifying marketing objectives
  • brand environment analysis
  • SWOT analysis
  • target group analysis
  • matching the components of the marketing mix

The elements of a marketing strategy may vary depending on the source of knowledge or the determination to stick to rigid concepts and definitions. Therefore, as always, it is advisable to find the golden mean and focus on real-life situations.

Elements of a marketing strategy – case study

Now that we have clarified what a marketing strategy is, it is worth describing its elements using a specific example. Let it be Apple Inc.

Business objectives – first steps in creating a marketing strategy

Assuming that Apple’s business objective is to maintain the sales results of the iPhone in the Polish market, it is necessary to consider how to achieve this objective. This is where we start to move into the area of marketing strategy, as we begin to identify needs and potential solutions.

The environment – what influences the action plan?

In order to increase customer loyalty and have the greatest impact on your bottom line, it is worth examining the environment in which your business operates. Yes, in many cases the environment can make it easier or harder to define marketing objectives, but knowledge will always help you to formulate them accurately. After all, it is precision that gets the best results from a marketing strategy.

A company’s environment can be defined as any external element that influences its operations.

For example, if you run a manufacturing and trading company, your customers may purchase products in Poland while the production itself occurs in China. In such a scenario, the business environment of your company will likely involve various elements. These include complying with legal regulations concerning production abroad, adhering to regulations associated with sales in Poland, managing delivery channels, engaging with suppliers and subcontractors, considering the competitive landscape, monitoring raw material prices, and more.

In the case of Apple, the environment to consider for the chosen target is subcontractors and suppliers. As in any case, the focus should be on delineating the most relevant issues to which the marketing objectives can respond.

So why suppliers and subcontractors? Apple’s marketing strategy, in the context of maintaining sales, must take into account changes in the market situation. In order to maximize profit, it is essential to emphasize marketing communication. However, when it comes to Apple’s communication channels in Poland, they primarily rely on their website and email marketing strategy. It is worth noting that the development process itself takes place outside of Poland.

Therefore, Apple needs to use other tools in its marketing efforts and base its plan on other pillars. It is also worth considering the target audience and the general economic conditions of the market.

Apple’s products are known for their premium pricing, making it evident that the target audience may be hesitant to accept any price hikes. However, considering the upward trend in production costs over recent years, an increase in the price of their products or services seems inevitable. A good marketing strategy should therefore take this into account and focus the marketing plan on minimising costs.

Plan to develop a marketing strategy?

Marketing objectives – what leads to success?

At this point we have begun to move into a very narrow area of marketing, which is price. We already know how important price is to customers and how easily it can hinder Apple’s ability to achieve its goal in the current environment. A concrete solution to this problem might be to find ways to reduce production, raw material sourcing or transportation costs.

In this way, a very likely customer problem is solved, the price of the product is not changed, the relationship with the target group is maintained and the brand image is not affected. All you have to do is monitor the changes made to the marketing strategy and wait for success.

However, such marketing activities are not always possible, so the content of the marketing strategy should include multiple solutions.

SWOT analysis – what do you need to know when undertaking marketing activities?

This element should be included in any marketing strategy. It’s important to remember that SWOT analysis is useful in determining every element of the strategy and the marketing activities themselves. Therefore, if you’re struggling to build it or create a marketing plan, it’s worth reaching for this tool.

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It is all the information about your business that illuminates the point at which it currently stands. A good SWOT analysis will also help you look ahead!

It is important to take into account the activities of the competition and previous marketing strategies. This includes considering all aspects of marketing, such as the target group of marketing communication, the brand image, the use of communication channels, and the characteristics and unique values of the product. The more factors are taken into account, the more useful the conclusions can be.

Returning to Apple’s marketing strategy, we can consider what information might be most useful in achieving its marketing objectives. The business objective remains the same, i.e. to maintain sales in Poland. We can already see at the outset that it is based on the threat of rising production prices, which can create dangerous costs for the company and, consequently, for regular and potential customers.

But it cannot be so bad that effective action cannot be taken! Apple has its strengths, such as the product itself, which in most cases is considered a premium product with a quality that sets it apart from the competition.

Since we are talking about maintaining sales of iPhones, Apple’s weakness on the Polish market is the base price, which is of course justified to some extent by the brand image and the quality of the premium product. Nevertheless, it limits the reach of potential customers and narrows the target group.

Another weakness may be that Apple products are sold in Poland by resellers and premium resellers, and marketing communications are based on their own marketing activities, over which Apple has no direct influence.

Opportunities remain to be analysed, which in this case may be based on the fact that the activities of the competition are largely based on following the trends set by Apple.

In many ways, a SWOT analysis can be underpinned by an analysis of the competition, an analysis of a particular market segment and a precise definition of the target audience. But it can also be underpinned by these analyses, so it is worth carrying them out on a fairly regular basis so that you do not miss out on potentially relevant information.

Your business may need several marketing strategies, so it is not worth leaving the SWOT analysis to just one marketing strategy.

Target group analysis – who needs your products, where and why?

The operation of any business is based on the customer who, by purchasing a product, satisfies a need but also meets the company’s objectives. Audience analysis naturally helps to focus a company’s attention and marketing efforts on meeting the needs of the group of potential customers most likely to buy a product or service.

Marketing strategies cannot be well planned without target group coherence. An in-depth understanding of the target group will usually allow the company to quickly and effectively gain an advantage in the marketplace.

The most important information about the target group can be, for example, the buying decision process, buying potential, distribution preferences or communication preferences. Again, the more information the better, but not all information may be needed to create a marketing strategy, marketing plan or to help achieve goals.

In the case of Apple, the characteristics of the target audience are very obvious, but it is useful to truncate them in order to prepare a marketing strategy in the context of maintaining sales performance.

The focus here is not on communication preferences but, for example, on purchase potential, which must be relatively high given the price of the product. The product itself (iPhone) already communicates a tangent to the brand values, which makes it easier to define the marketing plan, so the communication strategy should remain untouched for the time being.

Apple’s target group is also characterised by a strong attachment to the brand itself, and time has shown that even when Apple products are less technically attractive than the competition, customers still choose to stick with their original choice. In the market, new customer growth has remained relatively constant. All this information about the target audience is worth considering when defining behavioural guidelines.

But how do you put it all together?

Marketing mix – an old story or a reliable tool?

Marketing mix is one of the most common buzzwords in marketing encyclopaedias. For many theorists and practitioners, it has become an echo of the past due to the evolution of communication channels and market trends.

It consists of four basic elements (4Ps): product, price, place and promotion. The “fathers of marketing” expanded this concept over time to include other P’s, such as people, process and physical evidence.

No matter how hard you try to create a perfectly universal concept, companies are different, as are their target groups, communication channels, types of strategy and marketing plans. This is why many companies, following the advice of theorists, try to create a marketing strategy without taking the marketing mix into account. Is this right?

The answer is a familiar and unsatisfactory phrase – it depends!

Marketing is primarily t a social process based on the exchange of goods between economic actors (marketing plans are also drawn up by NGOs and politicians, not only by companies). This means that marketing definitely goes beyond communication, which is increasingly explicitly identified as the only field of activity. Because of the diversity of actors, the types of strategies will vary and in many cases will boil down to targeted advertising and campaigns. In this case, the marketing mix is in fact an outdated tool where it is not clear what is at stake.

On the other hand, if other factors influencing the customer’s decision are taken into account, such as price or distribution, the marketing mix allows a closer look at these elements, which undoubtedly helps the process of creating marketing strategies.

A good marketing strategy for a company should be based on the relevant elements of the marketing mix, i.e. those that are actually relevant to the development of the company and can support the company in its marketing activities. However, the most important and necessary function of this tool is to strike a balance between the various elements. This is the easiest way to set and achieve marketing objectives.

Going back to Apple’s marketing activities, the competitive analysis, SWOT analysis and target audience analysis showed that price is an important factor in the marketing of this company. In addition, the product itself is unique in that it plays an active role in communication and is extremely important to the customer. But it is worth stopping here and thinking about the product again – it is, after all, one element of the marketing mix.

The Apple product in question is the iPhone, a smartphone that in itself meets the customer’s expectations perfectly. But Apple also sells a charger in the same box as the device itself.

The object of the sale is also the appearance of the packaging, its shape, the impression that suggests contact with the device. In other words, there is physical evidence that the product meets the customer’s expectations.

The place is also important, which must relate to the brand values and inform customers about the product they are dealing with. Of course, we can only talk about place as a communication channel if the basic needs of customers in this context have been met, i.e. enabling them to make a purchase in their preferred way.

At this stage, it is already possible to make a preliminary assumption about what marketing activities would need to be undertaken in order to achieve the objectives and implement the marketing plan. The price must remain the same so that sales do not fall. It is impossible to save on subcontractors or materials because quality is an intrinsic brand value. But the product contains additional elements that also cost the company money and are not the main focus of customers.

What about reducing packaging and not adding an adapter to the charger? Shipping costs could be reduced with more and smaller packaging, and the cost of adapters would simply disappear! Well, that’s what Apple did. n order to address the price increases, their approach to marketing strategy involved minimizing packaging by stopping the production of adapters, considering the abundant availability of such products in the market. At the time, such a move seemed very brave and even risky to many. But it shows how important it is to prepare a marketing strategy.

Naturally, this has not gone unnoticed, however, the idea of marketing strategy and thoughtful marketing efforts must also include a very important element, which is the communication strategy. This brings us to the last element of the marketing mix (4Ps), promotion.

“Adapters have always been in the package, how am I going to charge my iPhone now? Apple, as the forerunner of many trends in this market segment, was tempted to take an action that unfortunately required the communication of why they were doing it to be written into the marketing plan.

The communication channels Apple used were mainly social media and its own website. This ensured that the cost of promoting this action did not interfere with the goal process. But it still needed some context….

As the argument of saving customers money does not fit into the list of most effective actions, the marketing plan was to use the above channels to communicate the brand values and convince the audience that smaller packaging and no adapters is a big step forward in caring for the planet.

We leave it to each of you to judge the ethics of this means to an end. However, it is important to note that such actions can indeed have an environmental impact. They would have an even greater impact if Apple did not sell the adapters separately, or if it did not base its revenue streams on additional sales channels and products – AirPods replacing the headphones that have always been included. But about CSR another time…

It’s very important not to risk damaging a company’s image when developing a marketing strategy. However, some brands can afford to do so, for example because of their stable market leadership position. Either way, the marketing plan must take such risks into account so that it is possible to assess whether the stated marketing objectives are worthwhile.

Marketing strategy – is it worth it?

The answer is simple – it is always worth it. It all depends on what your business is about, what your objectives are and what the competitive analysis shows. Objectives can vary, for some it is to maintain sales, for others it is to increase sales. It is important to have such goals.

In order to achieve them, there is no more reliable tool than the company’s marketing strategy, followed by the marketing plan and the successive building of knowledge through analysis. Following on from the introduction, just being aware of what is going on is of great value, and being able to make effective changes is key to the success of any business.

Marketing strategy – for whom?

Even a one-person business with services such as web development deserves to be interested in this topic. Of course, the marketing strategy will be much less complicated, but that does not mean it will be less effective.

A simple analysis of the competition can change the perception of the market and inspire a change in, for example, the channels for reaching customers or redefining the audience for marketing communications.

The rest of the companies, small, medium and large, should definitely have such a strategy. And if they don’t, it’s never too late to try!

Do you develop a marketing strategy yourself or with an agency?

It all depends on the resources you have in your company. And we are not talking about money, which is of course important, but experience and knowledge. Another issue is conscious risk management.

When you have a marketing team that have a deep understaning of your company, there is nothing stopping you from starting to develop a marketing strategy. If you find this task not too difficult and time-consuming for you, the benefits of a carefully developed marketing strategy will far outweigh the costs.

In other cases, it makes sense to outsource the creation of your marketing strategy to an agency. It’s clearly an important investment, and it doesn’t have to be expensive. Most agencies are very flexible about the scope of their strategy work, which may be limited to research only.

It is always worth finding a balance between what your company has or can do in-house and what is better outsourced to strategists.

FAQ: Key Aspects of a Successful Marketing Strategy

What is a Marketing Strategy?

Answer: A marketing strategy is a set of clearly defined actions and policies that a company follows to run its business effectively and achieve profit maximization.

Why is a Marketing Strategy Important?

Answer: A marketing strategy is crucial for understanding the market, identifying strengths and weaknesses, and setting clear business objectives to maximize profits.

What are the Key Elements of a Marketing Strategy?

Answer: Key elements include identifying business objectives, marketing objectives, brand environment analysis, SWOT analysis, target group analysis, and matching components of the marketing mix.

How Does SWOT Analysis Fit into a Marketing Strategy?

Answer: SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) is essential for illuminating the current standing of a business and helps in planning future strategies.

Should a Marketing Strategy be Developed In-House or with an Agency?

Answer: This depends on the resources, experience, and knowledge available within the company. Outsourcing to an agency can be beneficial, especially if in-house expertise is limited.

Rafał Granat

Rafal specializes in project management, but also in marketing in general, which means that he often supports us with strategic and creative insights. He is also a fan of the analytical approach, which is perfect for our performance marketing projects.

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