In the good old days, mass marketing pioneer Henry Ford could afford to deliver his famous line that “Any customer can have a car painted any color he wants, so long as it is black.” Ford had the luck to perfect mass production of a desirable product and his blast marketing approach worked well at the time. Yet within a few decades, General Motors overtook the Ford juggernaut by appealing to segmented markets and offering specialized products.
The trend today is toward more precise, targeted marketing. Organizations need to incorporate strategic marketing that carefully incorporates a plan for differentiation. Blanketing the public with a mass message is ineffective communication that results in little to no traction. Instead, strategic marketing allows a business to take careful aim at one type of customer and deliver that customer a tailored, effective message.
There is often an old-school urge to think of marketing in terms of “reach” and “frequency,” so the idea of marketing to a small group of specific customers does not always make immediate sense. A better approach is to think of strategic marketing as “strategic communication” – getting the right message to the right place.
It is important to understand that segmenting and targeting your markets doesn’t necessarily mean limiting or narrowing a customer base. To the contrary, a strategic approach can help you enlarge your customer base by providing information with which to successfully adjust some component of your offering. The process should allow you to:
· Identify and understand competition with other firms trying to capture the same customers
· Develop new offerings and expand profitable brands and products lines
· Remarket older, less-profitable products and brands
· Identify early adopters
· Redistribute money and sales efforts to focus on your most profitable customers
· Retain “at-risk” customers in danger of defecting to your competitors
Figuring out “who is who” in terms of customers involves some strategic planning and analysis. Environments and playing fields change quickly; what was working yesterday may be inadequate by tomorrow. Organizations need to lean forward and anticipate the road ahead, and strategic planning is a useful tool in this pursuit.
A good approach is to perform an annual comprehensive review of markets and opportunities, then make long-term strategic decisions without the distractions of day-to-day activities. Daily decisions then fit into the company’s overall strategic marketing goals. This also allows organizations to get a clear view of what is changing in the world around them—what regulatory, environmental, political, and economic events are driving change and creating both opportunities and difficulties.
The big-to-small process of developing a strategic marketing plan helps insure that all tactical marketing programs support your goals and objectives.