How to build a winning marketing strategy, part 1

In this image, a guy is working through his marketing strategy

In 2019, the U.S. Small Business Association (S.B.A.) reported that there were a total of 30.7 million small businesses in the U.S. netting around 60 million total small business employees. There has never been a better time to jump into business, but being a small business has its challenges. Today, we’re going to focus on the challenges related to building a winning marketing strategy. The intention of this article is to help shine some light on marketing tactics and identify some core factors that you can consider in building your marketing strategy.

The need to build marketing strategies has never been more important.

There are numerous avenues for marketing and several thousand ways to spend your marketing dollar, but it isn’t always obvious what areas of focus offer the greatest return of investment (ROI). A quick search on Amazon’s book store returned over 5,000 results for books on marketing strategy and the only thing that many of them have in common is that they each assure you that their method is the one that makes all the difference. I have a bookshelf in my office that is dedicated to the topic, so trust me when I tell you that there many different approaches, case studies, statistics, and avenues for approaching your marketing plan.

It’s not that these books aren’t loaded with good information. I’ve found that the opposite is true, but it’s just that these books take a very general approach to marketing and they expect the average person to understand how to narrow that focus and apply the concepts on a smaller scale. But I’ve seen a lot of small businesses throw large amounts of money trying to market in the big business economy and they get frustrated when the returns are smaller than promised. This article is meant to sum up three factors that are covered in all of these books.

The first way to build a winning marketing strategy is to learn your market focus.

This may seem obvious, but when we look at the competition in the small to middle size business markets there is a tendency to use other companies as a measuring stick for our expectations. There is a tendency for new business owners to take their cues from other comparable businesses and emulate their marketing formula. This isn’t bad; in fact, it’s part of how competitive research is done. The problem occurs when we don’t apply any sort of deductive reasoning to our market research.

For example, you can look at the prices another small business is offering for a service that you offer and base your prices off of their business model. After all, you’ve looked at examples of their work and noted that you have similar quality and skill level. This might lead you to deduce that their price modeling is in-line with what you expect…but if you stop the comparison there then you haven’t fully examined your market focus.

So what is market focus?

Market focus means that you not only understand your competitors and their marketing strategies, but you also have to understand your potential customers. Your competition might charge 5 times what your customer thinks your work is worth, simply because your competitor has more experience, a wider customer base, or any number of other factors that you can’t possibly account for. To really gain market focus, you have to evaluate yourself by the specific factors that apply to your business. You have to ask yourself really difficult questions like “Do I have enough experience?” or “Am I overestimating the quality of my service?”

There is nothing wrong with feeling like you need more experiencing or acknowledging that you are learning as you go. We all have been there at some point or another. If you can be honest with yourself about the difference between you and another business which is successfully charging those higher prices then you can shift your focus to overcome this challenge. Where do you redirect our focus at this point? You look at your product.

The second way to build a winning marketing strategy is to learn your product focus

Product focus is a little more complicated of a term, because not only is it an aspect of building a marketing strategy it is also a business operations strategy. For the purposes of this discussion, I am going to focus on the strategy aspect of understanding your product focus.

So what is product focus?

In terms of building a marketing strategy, product focus is the understanding of what your product is, how it compares to your competitor’s product, and how your product can be improved. By evaluating these three factors, you can better set a realistic price for your service, build a plan for improvement, and work your way up to a place where you can offer a more comparable product at a competitive price.

So you see what I’m doing here? I’m setting you up to think about your product or service the way your customer is going to see your business after doing a little research. Seeing your business the way that your custom does will help you communicate why you’re the best choice and help you build up the equity of your business branding to the level you want to achieve.

Think about it, if you had bought a 1000 shares of Apple Computer at its IPO on Dec 12, 1980, when it was $22 a share, those stocks would have been worth $1,247,000 as of August 31st, 2020. But, for you to reap those kinds of rewards you would have had to buy in on the ground floor, when the product had not yet commanded that kind of price, and you would have had to have huge amounts of faith in the company to stick with them for those 40 years.

If you’re working in a saturated market, you need to build up that kind of trust and loyalty. That’s why you need to understand the full scope of your product focus when building your marketing strategy.

So how does understanding your market and product focus help you build a winning marketing strategy?

Understanding your market and product focus helps you to build the primary principle your customers are going to pay attention to when choosing your business over a competitor: pricing. The first principle you have to fully understand before you can market your product is who you are marketing to…and price is a huge factor in who will come shopping when you open the doors to your market. Understanding this will allow you to tailor your entire marketing campaign to accommodate the expectations of your ideal demographic.

Take the difference between the cars that Ford Motor Company offers over the cars that BMW sells. A quick jump into a local Ford and BMW dealership shows a pretty remarkable difference in the marketing approach.

Planet Ford has multiple pictures of their vehicles, as does The Woodlands BMW’s website…but with a trained eye; we can see differences in the use of color, page structure, and the way that each dealership approaches the sale of “new and used” cars.

This iamge shows a car ad from Planet Ford, and shows how they market towards savings
This sample was caught on the Planet Ford website

On the Planet Ford website, you can see that not only does the ad include a price for the car; there is a string of different discounts and savings that the site wants you to know about so that you are more apt to purchase. That’s because this Ford dealer knows that its conversion rates are directly affected by the perception of getting the best deal on a new Ford.

This is an image from The Woodlands BMW, and it illustrates how BMW advertises price, but without any rebate or savings information
This sample was caught on BMW of The Woodlands website

Over at BMW, there is very little emphasis on savings. BMW markets towards well-to-do upper-middle to upper-class customers. Their customers are known for buying a high quality, high-cost vehicle, and it could be said are probably more interested in the lifestyle of BMW ownership rather than the practical ownership of a vehicle.

Both of these car companies are successful in their markets. They are both offering trusted products that are valued and loved by their customer base…but their customer base is notably different.

Once you learn to see your product or service the way your customers do you can better appreciate what price points will work and how to communicate your value. This will help you create everything from your use of color in your business branding and marketing materials to what information your customer will value the most. This will also help you plan where to create marketing touchpoints for your future-customer and how to build market penetration.

Jason Usher

Jason has been studying design and web programming for over 10 years. He's a big fan of brand-oriented design with an emphasis on value for value growth. When he is not neck-deep in market research, he enjoys photography, time with his wife and kids, and a good movie.

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