Simply put, a marketing strategy determines direction; tactics deliver results. More specifically, a strategy tells how you are going to win in the marketplace and tactics implement and execute the strategy. Winning in the marketplace is defined as identifying prospects, converting them to customers and keeping them long term. Tactics are plans devised to roll out your strategy, including the details of your offering, communication channels, messaging and timing. Often companies execute marketing tactics very well but lack a coherent strategy. This is frequently the case with small and medium-sized businesses. Companies may have a website, attend trade shows and run a few ads but lack an overall strategy to win in the marketplace. What’s more, by failing to implement a strategy, companies often fail to attract and retain the best, high-margin customers. You must clearly define why you deliver value to your target customer, how you communicate that promise and what needs to happen to facilitate the buying process.

Targeting Your Ideal Client

Define your ideal client by answering these questions:

• What makes you different from their perspective – what do they value that you do?
• Where do you make the most profit?
• What are common characteristics of your most profitable client?
• What customers are you and your team most passionate about?
• Who are your repeat customers?
• What customers are raving fans of your company and why?
• Which customers refer you to other high-value prospects?
• Which ones will tell you why you were chosen?

If your prospects can’t differentiate between you and your competitors, they will select a partner using the one criterion they can compare – price. Be very specific about your target market and who you want to work with. You may focus on a particular technology, industry and product or on solving a specific problem. Choose a focus or your customer, market and competition will choose it for you.

Generating Leads

Targeting the ideal client will uncover your messaging, while lead generation activities communicate that message. Use a mix of inbound marketing, outbound marketing and sales prospecting tactics. Inbound marketing tactics are those that attract prospects using your website, search engine optimization, blogging and social media in conjunction with email list building. Outbound marketing encompasses tactics such as pay-perclick, direct mail, trade shows, trade journals, advertising and public relations. Sales prospecting covers activities that your sales team engages in to generate leads, including cold calling, referral generation and networking. A good marketing strategy incorporates all three tactics.

The key with marketing tactics is to test small and scale up with what delivers the best prospect leads. Determine the key metrics to measure for each tactic and hold your team accountable for results – generating revenue.

Converting Leads to Customers

A big part of a successful marketing strategy is understanding how your ideal customer buys your product or service.

• How do they consume information about solutions like yours? Where? When?
• How long do they take to make decisions? Who is involved? How are resources budgeted?
• How do they interact with salespeople?
• What encourages prospects to move through the buying process? What slows them down?
• Do they require demos, samples, tests, independent opinions?
• What is the best way to present your solution, pricing, delivery, service?
• How do they view your competitors?

In essence, how will they get to know you, develop confidence in you and then decide to invest in you?

Marketing success is not only about customer acquisition. A good strategy also depends on delivering enough value that existing customers buy more often and buy more per transaction. Your strategy should contain a detailed understanding of who is buying from you, how often, how much and when.

Developing a successful marketing strategy hinges on knowing your target market and focusing your efforts on the right prospects. This will give you the best chance at winning in the marketplace.