Approach to marketing: Invest in strategy-based methods not ad hoc

Approach to marketing: Invest in strategy-based methods not ad hoc

The value of marketing is now well established and accepted by all types and sizes of businesses in India. There was a time when ‘salesmanship will do everything’ or, ‘just call/meet more customers to grow the business’ kinds of approaches ruled supreme.

Moreso, perhaps, in the case of small and medium sized local businesses. But, having seen the success of modern marketing ideas and concepts, especially through MNCs and larger businesses, SMEs have also become more interested in modern marketing methods.
As such, these businesses have been making varying degree of investments in some kind of marketing activity, which is mainly outsourced. However, there still remains a key difference in the ways in which a large, successful MNC conducts its marketing efforts versus how these smaller businesses do it. It is that these smaller businesses lack the strategic component in their approach. Their focus is almost entirely on marketing communication (marcom), generally  promotions, advertising, etc. Practically, they equate marcom to marketing. But this is also carried out as one-off pieces of actions in expectations of achieving very short-term targets like pushing sales in the current month or so. The larger companies also invest heavily in marcom activities, parts of which are also outsourced, but these are drawn from an overall marketing strategy with larger goals in mind.

Thus, most startups, small and medium businesses, are unable to leverage the real power of marketing as they do not approach it strategically and holistically. Any investments they make into marketing activities provide them with relatively much lesser and only short-term benefits. They try to summon the genie with one piece of the broken magic lamp instead of putting together the whole lamp. This is not to say that marcom is not important. It is a very important piece of marketing, no doubt. But as mentioned, it is just one aspect with a very specific function, that is, communication. There are other equally or may be more important aspects that are not considered at all. Even if they are touched upon once in a while, the approach largely has the form of this or that standalone action aimed at achieving one or the other short-term/immediate objectives.

With this kind of approach, marketing is nothing more than once-in-a-while marcom activities, where any actions are taken just to achieve some very short-term and immediate objectives, and as such the now and later actions do not even fit well with each other. An approach, which is based on gut-feelings and assumptions, where a partial view and incomplete understanding is taken instead of a holistic one, and where an underlying strategy or any larger business goals are not well established can at best be called ad hoc marketing. This kind of marketing is incomplete, inefficient and leaves a huge scope of improvement for any business.

On the other hand, strategy-based-marketing is based on a robust strategy and driven by (and in turn validates) overall business goals. A strategy-based-marketing action plan is developed through external (market side) and internal (organisation side) assessments, considering all the key aspects of business and utilising the relevant guiding frameworks as per the requirements.

Typically, strategy-based-marketing approach sets clear business goals in line with the company’s vision, identifies the right markets and customers to focus on, creates and/or clarifies a strong value proposition (which is not merely the product or the service) and builds a unique position for the business, among other things. All these choices are made such that they fit and reinforce each other. Any actions to be carried out are drawn logically to enable these choices. They are all aligned with the central strategy and drive in the same direction. Some of these actions may also relate to marketing communication. But in this case, each such action will be very pointed and will help to achieve not just a local short-term objective but the overall goals set for the business.

Businesses should remember that they are not alone in the market. There are many other players who can offer similar products and services to the customers. In the case of SME industries this is possibly more so. In such a case, a well-directed, strategic marketing effort can give huge advantages to any player. While ad hoc kind of marketing, may give small, short-term benefits in terms of some extra sales in this month or season, it does not provide a long-term sustainable advantage. Assuming that other players also do similar things, e.g. some email marketing activities, some other digital communication or any other kind of communication, in the same market, with the same types of customers, there are no net effects of any one action. This is where a strategic approach becomes all the more important.

(The author is an MBA graduate from HEC, Paris, and is a strategic
 marketing professional)

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