1. Make time for Marketing Research and Planning
The most important quality that an organization needs if it wants to make understanding its customers a key part of its long term strategic planning is the development of a deep understanding of those customers real needs.
You will have to get to know these needs so well that your long term strategies become not just adaptive but also downright anticipatory of what the people you’re serving will want and respond to. This in essence is the antithesis of being reactive or behind the competitive curve and it can be achieved by digging deeply into the information you gain from your target market so that you instinctively learn what makes them tick and click with regards to your brand. In other words, you want to know your buyers enough so that you can accurately anticipate what they’ll want to buy and why.
Following this core process of strategic planning will put public perception of your company to a level that’s at least a cut above that of your competitors. Most fundamentally, achieving this requires asking questions which will define your long term company goals and then finding answers to those same questions through careful study of your customers behavior, effective viewing mediums (for marketing) and the market dynamic as a whole in your niche. Doing this will let you get to know your customers not just as superficial consumers but also as fully fleshed out human beings.
2. Know your Customers better than any competitor
Understanding your customers is a continuous process that your organization will have to start living and breathing on a daily basis, as part of its internal culture. As this quote from David Ogilvy shows, you must go further than simple surveys or basic client-related facts such as their age and spending budgets. Creating quality marketing research to fully understand customers is involved. You have to dig much deeper through the use of an assortment of tools on the web and in human resources so that you can create an integral customer profile which is constantly added to and made to evolve.
With this grade of in depth research, you will be much more adept at anticipating your buyers wishes and emotional trigger much more effectively than your competition. Achieving this will then let you then market strategically instead of reactively. And if you want an excellent example of a real world company that follows through on this exact philosophy and process, look no further than Apple Computer and its cult-like loyal following of buyers. Here are some of the more useful customer information metrics you might want to start looking at:
- Daily online and even offline habits
- Information about your buyers professional, personal and family lives
- Their interests, personal passions, hobbies and assorted worries
- Their communications, social media and online browsing preferences
- Awareness of advertising and different marketing platforms you might use or want to use
- The dynamics of your customers buying, shopping and desire related habits.
These are just some obvious examples and the more you flesh them out while also finding other information points to investigate, the better you’ll be able to make strategic predictions about what your consumers will respond to. Fleshing out this information and other, related metrics will let you better grasp your buyers’ emotional triggers.
3. Avoid Reactiveness at all Costs
Being purely reactive means playing a game of catch-up, and when you’re constantly trying to catch up, you’ll have no time to create any kind of long term strategic plan. This will make you fall behind your competitors and disappoint your existing customers eventually. More importantly still, a reactive marketing response will ruin your breathing space for guiding a clear course to the future of your company. While you’re busy reeling from surprises in your target market, your competitors are going to move ahead of you inexorably, particularly if they are actually implementing their own strategic planning process. Strategic planning concepts are covered in much greater detail within the pages of this Business guide to strategic planning from Insights into Marketing.
Different Strategies Used
1. Balanced Scorecard
The Balanced Scorecard is a strategy management framework created by Drs. Robert Kaplan and David Norton. It takes into account your:
- Objectives, which are high-level organizational goals.
- Measures, which help you understand if you’re accomplishing your objective strategically.
- Initiatives, which are key action programs that help you achieve your objectives.
There are many ways you can create a Balanced Scorecard, including using a program like Excel, Google Sheets, or PowerPoint or using reporting software. For the sake of example, the screenshot below is from ClearPoint’s reporting software.
This is just one of the many “views” you’d be able to see in scorecard software once your BSC was complete. It gives you high-level details into your measures and initiatives and allows you to drill down into each by clicking on them. At a glance, you can tell what the RAG status of each objective, measure, or initiative is. (Green indicates everything is going as planned, while yellow and red indicate that there are various degrees of trouble with whatever is being looked at.)
All in all, a Balanced Scorecard is an effective, proven way to get your team on the same page with your strategy.
2. Strategy Map
A strategy map is a visual tool designed to clearly communicate a strategic plan and achieve high-level business goals. Strategy mapping is a major part of the Balanced Scorecard (though it isn’t exclusive to the BSC) and offers an excellent way to communicate the high-level information across your organization in an easily-digestible format.
A strategy map offers a host of benefits:
- It provides a simple, clean, visual representation that is easily referred back to.
- It unifies all goals into a single strategy.
- It gives every employee a clear goal to keep in mind while accomplishing tasks and measures.
- It helps identify your key goals.
- It allows you to better understand which elements of your strategy need work.
- It helps you see how your objectives affect the others.
3. SWOT Analysis
A SWOT analysis (or SWOT matrix) is a high-level model used at the beginning of an organization’s strategic planning. It is an acronym for “strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.” Strengths and weaknesses are considered internal factors, and opportunities and threats are considered external factors.
Below is an example SWOT analysis from the Queensland, Australia, government:
Using a SWOT analysis helps an organization identify where they’re doing well and in what areas they can improve. If you’re interested in reading more, this Business News Daily article offers some additional details about each area of the SWOT analysis and what to look for when you create one.
4. PEST Model
Like SWOT, PEST is also an acronym—it stands for “political, economic, sociocultural, and technological.” Each of these factors is used to look at an industry or business environment, and determine what could affect an organization’s health. The PEST model is often used in conjunction with the external factors of a SWOT analysis. You may also run into Porter’s Five Forces, which is a similar take on examining your business from various angles.
You’ll occasionally see the PEST model with a few extra letters added on. For example, PESTEL (or PESTLE) indicates an organization is also considering “environmental” and “legal” factors. STEEPLED is another variation, which stands for “sociocultural, technological economic, environmental, political, legal, education, and demographic.”
5. Gap Planning
Gap planning is also referred to as a “Need-Gap Analysis,” “Need Assessment,” or “the Strategic-Planning Gap.” It is used to compare where an organization is now, where it wants to be, and how to bridge the gap between. It is primarily used to identify specific internal deficiencies.
In your gap planning research, you may also hear about a “change agenda” or “shift chart.” These are similar to gap planning, as they both take into consideration the difference between where you are now and where you want to be along various axes. From there, your planning process is about how to ‘close the gap.’
The chart below, for example, demonstrates the difference between the projected and desired sales of a mock company:
6. Blue Ocean Strategy
Blue Ocean Strategy is a strategic planning model that emerged in a book by the same name in 2005. The book—titled Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant—was written by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, professors at the European Institute of Business Administration (INSEAD).
The idea behind Blue Ocean Strategy is for organizations to develop in “uncontested market space” (e.g. a blue ocean) instead of a market space that is either developed or saturated (e.g. a red ocean). If your organization is able to create a blue ocean, it can mean a massive value boost for your company, its buyers, and its employees.
For example, Kim and Mauborgne explain via their 2004 Harvard Business Review article how Cirque du Soleil didn’t attempt to operate as a normal circus, and instead carved out a niche for itself that no other circus had ever tried.
Below is a simple comparison chart from the Blue Ocean Strategy website that will help you understand if you’re working in a blue ocean or a red ocean:
7. Porter’s Five Forces
Porter’s Five Forces is an older strategy execution framework (created by Michael Porter in 1979) built around the forces that impact the profitability of an industry or a market. The five forces it examines are:
- The threat of entry.Could other companies enter the marketplace easily, or are there numerous entry barriers they would have to overcome?
- The threat of substitute products or services.Can buyers easily replace your product with another?
- The bargaining power of customers.Could individual buyers put pressure on your organization to, say, lower costs?
- The bargaining power of suppliers.Could large retailers put pressure on your organization to drive down the cost?
- The competitive rivalry among existing firms.Are your current competitors poised for major growth? If one launches a new product or files a new patent—could that impact your company?
The amount of pressure on each of these forces can help you determine how future events will impact the future of your company.
8. VRIO Framework
The VRIO framework is an acronym for “value, rarity, imitability, organization.” This framework relates more to your vision statement than your overall strategy. The ultimate goal in implementing the VRIO model is that it will result in a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
Here’s how to think of each of the four VRIO components:
- Value: Are you able to exploit an opportunity or neutralize an outside threat using a particular resource?
- Rarity: Is there a great deal of competition in your market, or do only a few companies control the resource referred to above?
- Imitability: Is your organization’s product or service easily imitated, or would it be difficult for another organization to do so?
- Organization: Is your company organized enough to be able to exploit your product or resource?