Your business strategy and marketing strategy are two different plans. Both are essential to the success of your business. But many people, even long-time business leaders, aren't sure about the difference between a business strategy and a marketing strategy. The two are similar, but they have different components and structures. Here are the differences between them, and what to include in a business strategy compared to a marketing strategy.
What is a Business Strategy?
A business strategy is the big-picture, long-term plan of where you want your company to go. Here are a few of the things that usually go into a business strategy:
1. Vision and Mission
Your vision is essentially where you want the company to go. Your mission statement is how you're going to get there.
Start with your vision statement, which should include:
- Core values and long-term objectives
- Defined outcomes
- Contingency plans
Once your vision statement is in place, it’s time to address how you plan to get there.
Your mission statement should:
- Align your staff to work towards a common objective
- Define goals that are focused and cohesive
- Inspire your team to be dedicated to your company’s objectives
2. Company Structure
A second important part of a business plan is your company structure. The company structure defines what needs to be done and by whom. People in different roles will undertake specific tasks to achieve defined objectives. Teams can be established, coordinated and directed toward achieving your company’s aims.
3. Action Plan with Measurable Outcomes
A business strategy is no good if it doesn't include an action plan that outlines how and when set goals will be met. When establishing your action plan, make sure your steps are definite, measurable and achievable.
Once your action plan is clear, then assign accountability for each action step and identify those that will be supporting them. Making an individual responsible for a particular task eliminates the confusion of who is responsible for what, and allows individuals to take pride and satisfaction in a job well done.
5. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
KPIs are critical elements of your business strategy, as they tell you whether you're meeting your goals. Set KPIs and track them on a regular basis. This ensures you will have accurate updates on the progress and success of each of your projects.
Your business strategy is essential to organizing your operations and to setting and achieving your goals. Once you have a business strategy in place, then you can build your marketing strategy to support it.
What is a Marketing Strategy?
Your business strategy is in place – operations are clear, staff are motivated and KPIs have been set. Congratulations! Now it's time to put a marketing strategy in place to help achieve your business goals.
Here's what goes in a marketing strategy:
1. Target Market
One of the most important decisions that companies make in their marketing strategy is about their target market. It's a mistake (even though it's tempting) for a business to try to appeal to everyone. It’s called a “target” market for a reason. Miss the bull's eye and you lose. You must identify your target market based on what different kinds of customers need and who you're best able to serve.
You've established your target market, so now it's time to define how your company will position itself in that market.
Positioning is easiest to think of as 'what do you want your reputation to be?' When people talk about your company, what do you want them to say? Are you the low cost competitor? The premium service provider? The cutting edge innovation company?
To determine an effective position, think of your company's strengths in light of what your target market wants and needs. That's usually the best position to take.
Now that you know what position you want your company to have in the market, you can define your messaging. Your messaging is how you'll establish that position. For example, if you want to be the low cost competitor, your messaging will be about your low prices and how you can beat the competition on price any day. If you want to have a position as the innovation leader, your messaging will be around your investment in R&D, your patents and your new products and services.
If you don’t clearly define your messages, you will run into trouble quite quickly. It takes time for customers to absorb a message and form an opinion about a company. That means you need to frequently repeat a consistent message in order to build that reputation. Too many companies don’t realize this and end up wasting a lot of time and money by shifting their message too often. For tips, read How to Improve Marketing Messages with Competitive Advantage.
4. Future Plans and Adapting to Change
Companies grow, industries expand, and markets change.
Your strategic marketing plan must evolve with your company’s expansion and diversification plans. At some point, it’s often better to split your target market into segmented groups and remodel individual marketing strategies for each of them.
Strategic marketing involves a set of integrated activities that align with your business strategy.
Remember, a marketing plan supports your business plan. So you need a clear business plan first - although a good marketing plan can help confirm your business plan.
For tips from 65 Chief Marketing Officers on how to develop an effective strategic marketing plan, get the Executive Guide to Creating a Strategic Marketing Plan.