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By Ryan


What is a Marketing Strategy?

Does my company need to develop one?


There are a million ways to define your business strategy, and how you choose to define yours is a big part of what makes your organization unique. Its no coincidence that there are just as many strategies out there as there are businesses. Marketing is no different. In this post we'll cover a few important topics regarding marketing strategy including:

  • 5 signs that you need to start thinking about your marketing strategy
  • What we mean when we talk about the word "strategy"
  • 3 parts to a GREAT strategy
  • 3 things that are not strategies
  • A Rundigital marketing strategy case study
  • Some final thoughts on marketing strategies

Alright lets get into it!


5 signs you might need to start thinking about your marketing strategy

      1. Your website, brochure, marketing/sales collateral have started to develop inconsistently. You don't really understand what's in the content and neither does anyone else. You & your sales team explain the value you provide to your clients differently.

      2. You’re ignoring your competition. You don’t know who your number-one competitor is, what it’s doing, who its clients are, what products it's pushing, what its pricing is, or what its key message points are. When your customers ask you to explain why your company is different, you don’t have a good response.

      3. Everything on your to-do list is a priority. You don’t know where your time is best spent.

      4. Friends and colleagues can’t refer you because they aren’t sure exactly what value your business provides and to whom.

      5. Your business development consists largely of attending networking events, but you spend most of your time talking to people you know. You rely solely on word-of-mouth for new customers.

If you've experienced any of these issues you might have a strategy problem, read on and we'll share one of our great marketing plans and set you on the right path to begin tackling your strategic woes.


Understanding strategy; it's more than just a to-do list.

    The key word in marketing strategy is strategy. So when you hear the word strategy, what comes to mind? Maybe you're like this guy who thought his strategic duties were as simple memorizing a list of to-do items. Besides when it works it works, right?

    Well, sometimes a strategy can feel like it's just that simple, but that doesn't mean it will always be that easy (or even should always be that easy). When your marketing efforts are producing as they should, great, a well documented strategy might seem like nothing more than a handy reference to show off to superiors. But what do you when your efforts stop producing like they used to? Or a new competitor begins to steal away some of your market-share? It isn't until things start to go wrong do you really need to start asking questions, researching solutions, and implementing changes.That's when a well written strategy becomes your best friend.

    So what do we mean when we talk about a marketing strategy?

    We like to think of a strategy like a broad, well thought out, and well documented plan. You can have a strategy for pretty much anything. You can have a digital marketing strategy, a general marketing strategy, a sales strategy, a business strategy, an exit strategy, a crossword puzzle strategy, you can pretty much have a strategy for anything you can think of.

    In the following section we're going to layout what we consider a well-thought out marketing strategy. We'll cover three main phases of the strategic process : the discovery phase, the development phase, and the implementation phase. Within each phases we'll briefly touch on a few sub-elements and briefly give a few definitions of what's included. As a whole, we think this is a great example of a marketing plan that is guaranteed to deliver results.


I. Discovery: Finding Market Opportunities

The process of developing a marketing plan starts by collecting and structuring marketing information. This includes two tasks: performing a situational analysis and then strategically framing that information in a useful way.

    A. Situational Analysis

    One of the most widely used approaches to the collection and analysis of marketing information is the situation analysis. The purpose is to describe current and future issues and key trends as they affect three key environments: the internal environment, the customer environment, and the external environment. The data collected during this study gives the organization a big picture of the issues and trends that affect its ability to deliver value to stakeholders.

    B. SWOT Framing

    The situational analysis is not enough for effective strategic planning on its own, as It lacks a clear-cut direction and structure. Many consider the SWOT analysis to be the perfect compliment as it helps provide a laser-like focus to the information so that the organization can focus on developing a competitive advantage based on strengths and weaknesses in the marketplace.


II. Development: Piecing together the marketing strategy

After the discovery phase has been completed and the organization has gathered all the information it can, its time to start putting the pieces together and developing a plan.

    A. Marketing Goals & Objectives

    It can be difficult to accomplish everything in a single planning cycle, that is why the first step in the development phase is to prioritize the organizations strategic intentions and develop specific goals and objectives.

      • Goals Outline
      • Objectives Outline

    B. Customer Identification

    The next step to piecing together a great plan is to identify your customer. In this step an organization attempts to reduce all wasted effort and focus its energy resources on delivering value to the individuals that need it, its customers. There are three pieces that make up customer identification, the consumer journey map, the segmentation study, and the marketing persona study.

      • Consumer Journey Map
      • Market Segmentation Study
      • Market Persona Study

    C. Creating a Program

    The next step is to develop a marketing program that targets the consumers that have were outlined by customer identification. A marketing program refers to the strategic combination of four basic marketing mix elements: product, price, distribution, and promotion. A complete program/offering will consist of an array of physical (tangible), service (intangible), and symbolic (perceptual) attributes designed to satisfy a customers’ needs and wants.

      • Product Strategy
      • Pricing Strategy
      • Supply Chain Strategy
      • Integrated Communications Strategy

    D. Branding & Positioning

    The final piece within the developmental phase is branding and positioning. From a technical point of view, a brand is a combination of name, symbol, term, or design that identifies a specific product. It involves selecting the right combination of name, symbol, term, or design that identifies a specific product or organization

      • Differentiation and Positioning Strategy


III. Implementation: Execution through action

A perfectly researched and structured plan wont live up to its full potential if its poorly executed. Implementation is the process of executing a marketing strategy by creating and performing specific actions that will ensure the achievement of the plans objectives. There are many elements to take into consideration when considering the implementation phase such as: strategic complexity, shared goals and values, existing structures, systems and processes, resources, people, and leadership. There are three important pieces to this phase that will impact its sucess: the employee journey, the implementation procedures activities, and the evaluation and control activities.

    A. Employee Journey

    Too many organizations make a grave mistake when they assume that planning and implementation are interdependent but separate issues. In reality, planning and implementation intertwine within the marketing planning process. Many of the problems of marketing implementation occur because of its relationship to strategic planning. That is why the best marketing strategies include every end user (employees and managers alike) as relevant stakeholders throughout the planning process. By including an employee journey study early on in the research process and treating each tactical end user as an important component in the system, organizations begin to address two of the most challenging concerns that tend to arise when organizations begin to implement their marketing strategies like: inter-dependency, evolution, and separation.

    B. Implementation Procedures

    There are a variety of approaches to implementing marketing strategies and motivating employees to perform implementation activities. No matter how leadership chooses to go about implementation , there are two activities that promote the consistency and detail necessary for a successful process. These two activities include: a structural issues outline, and a tactical marketing activities outline.

    • Structural Issues Study
    • Tactical Marketing Activities Outline

    C. Evaluation & Control

    Over the long term, marketing activities must be evaluated and controlled on an ongoing basis. That's why its necessary to put together a system of marketing controls in place that allows the organization to constantly measure performance and spot issues before they become problems. The different types of controls that make up a well rounded system include: formal controls, informal controls, schedule and timelines, and audits.

    • Formal Controls Outline
    • Informal Controls Outline
    • Implementation Schedule & Timeline
    • Marketing Audit Outline


Building a great marketing strategy is no small task...

There are no doubt a lot of moving in parts in a well-thought out strategy. As complex as this one may seem, it only scratches the surface of what's possible in marketing today. If you're considering creating your your own marketing strategy consider working with a professional to help guide you along the process and minimize the risks mistake. Check out our service offering for more details. If you do find yourself in a non-marketing role and looking to take on the task by yourself, take a look at 3 of most common mistakes that people make when creating their strategies so that maybe you can avoid them.


3 things that are not strategies...

A Tactic

One of the most common mistakes that people make when crafting their strategy is confusing strategy with tactic. A tactic is not a strategy despite being intricately intertwined with it. For example, if our strategy to running a successful consulting business is to persuade thought-leaders to become advocates for our products, then our tactic might be to use email marketing, networking events, tele-marketing to reach those thought-leaders. Understanding the difference between a tactics and a strategy is a critical piece to creating a strategy designed to succeed.


A Tool

Some of the largest apps/tools in the marketplace have become so popular that for many people, they are synonymous with strategy. If you've ever heard someone say they are going to do the facebook marketing strategy, you know what we're talking about. Its important to remember that although using a tool might be a great way to get results, its not a strategy. Using google facebook advertising is just one method(tactic) of attracting others to your products.


A Template

If an organization goes too long without a clear and well defined strategy, sometimes they will turn to a pre-packaged strategy. While it might seem to offer a definitive solution, it will almost certainly lack the clear direction of a well defined strategy. For instance, things like target demographics are almost impossible to capture across large regions, which in digital marketing is a crucial component to consider before investing in any effort.


A RunDigital Marketing Strategy


Company X approached us looking to develop a marketing strategy for their healthcare systems integrations startup. As a relatively new entrant but longtime professional in the industry, management was very clear about the difficulties that lie ahead. The healthcare technology market was relatively new and still in its growth phase and competition among more established organizations made it difficult to get a start in this very competitive industry. .


Customer relationships, Competition, Differentiation, Strategic Focus, SWOT analysis, Product strategy, Target marketing, Distribution strategy


After extensive research into the growing field of healthcare technology we produced a comprehensive marketing strategy that would propel Company X to land a major contract with a leading provider within the industry. This new relationship would had a huge impact to their business model and changed many aspects of the organization. The strategy we created for Company X was simple:

  • Identify the strengths of the organization today within the context of its competition.
  • Leverage all advantages the organization currently has, as well as supplement existing communications with simple to implement lead generating channels to introduce new customers and incoming traffic.
  • Encourage brand loyalty and repeat customers with attractive promotional offers and enticing specialized rewards.


At the end of the day, no matter how big or how small your organization is, we like to think that each and everyone technically has a marketing strategy. Strategies can range from complex 80 page reports, down to a simple few sentences written hastily on a napkin. If any organization has a chance of reaching its goals, it must have at least an idea of the road map for getting there. That's your strategy. Now the quality of that idea varies, and sometimes a napkin strategy is worse than no strategy at all.

For those that are serious about their business, putting together a great marketing strategy is always at the top of their list of priorities. Not only will a strategic plan provide solid direction for your business but it will help illuminate the pitfalls, the risks, and the hazards along the way. The challenge to strategic planning is knowing when to start, what it looks like, and what to do with it once you've started. In this post we've covered a few of these points and hopefully encouraged you to take your marketing plans a bit more seriously from now on.

One of the easiest ways to sell people on the idea of a marketing strategy is to remind them that we're in the marketplace of the 21st century. As companies continue to face increased scrutiny due to the accessibility of information and the next generation of buyers begin to alter the public perception on what's valuable or not...

The questions is, what's your marketing plan?

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