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Getting marketing strategy right with all ducks in alignment

salmon ceviche on white plate and, left, bottle of Australian Distilling Co Gin on a marble table with navy napkin and fork to the right.Dr Al Marshall is a senior lecturer in marketing and postgraduate coordinator at Le Cordon Bleu Australia's School of Business. His teaching specialisations include marketing research, international marketing, marketing communications, branding and consumer behaviour. This month he discusses what it takes to get marketing strategy right for your business or brand.

Marketing as a discipline and as a business practice is sometimes conceptualised as part science and part art. It’s both rational, logical and subject to scientific methods and rules, while also creative, imaginative and the product of linear thinking. Put another way, marketing may be both a product of both right brain and left brain thinking. 

Different schools of thought within the marketing community put a different emphasis on one or the other with marketing scientists being very much grounded in a quantitative measurement-based paradigm, in which scientific method and the rules of statistics can be used to build and implement successful marketing strategies.

The non-marketing scientists, in contrast, disclaim that such a positivist approach can be the sole basis for building and implementing successful marketing strategies. They instead place emphasis on a creative and interpretivist approach to marketing strategy, believing that success is as much a product of inspiration as ‘crunching the numbers’.

However, a commonality between the marketing as science and marketing as art is an understanding of the fundamental building blocks of successful marketing strategy, and the fundamental considerations that go into these building blocks.

Building blocks

These are the P’s of the marketing mix. These are Product, Price, Place and Promotion, and for services (in addition to these), Physical Infrastructure, People and Process. Successful marketing strategy is premised on building and implementing an effective combination of these P’s.

In my own teaching I often use the analogy of a jigsaw puzzle or a Rubric’s Cube, with the different jigsaw pieces, or different sides of the cube, representing one of the P’s. When all the pieces (or sides) fit together, the full jigsaw puzzle or completed cube emerges. So it is with successful marketing strategy – all ducks must be in alignment.

Marketing as a discipline and as a business practice is sometimes conceptualised as part science and part art. It’s both rational, logical and subject to scientific methods and rules, while also creative, imaginative and the product of linear thinking.

As an example, fast-food chain McDonalds involves the right products, at the right price, promoted the right way, in the right places. And in terms of the service aspects, they have the right physical infrastructure, the right people and the right processes to deliver the restaurant chain services.

For a marketer of physical products, it is a matter of getting the four P’s of the marketing mix right, while for the marketers of non-physical products (services), as per the above example, there are seven P’s to get right.

A more sophisticated view of the underpinnings of successful marketing strategy would emphasise that there is more to building and implementing strategy than just working on the P’s and ensuring an optimal combination of these. Lying behind each one of them are some fundamental considerations.

Fundamental considerations

A clear understanding of the needs and wants of consumers in the marketer’s product category is an essential starting point in the building of a successful marketing strategy. Beyond this, the marketers should be able to identify a specific group of consumers (the target market) for the product, and also to design the product’s tangible and intangible qualities to meet the target market’s expectations.

Beyond this, a successful marketing strategy is very much premised on being able to identify competitors and their strengths, and in the face of these being able to develop a competitive differential advantage that will cut through with the target market. Constant environmental monitoring must be part of a winning marketing formula, as is the willingness to make tactical adjustments to marketing strategy.

Successful strategies are as much about retaining customers as they are about attracting customers to trial the product and to buy it again. Put simply, customer acquisition without retention (and loyalty building) means that a marketing strategy cannot be long term.

Products which are successful in the marketplace repeat sell, cross-sell and upsell, and generate strong customer WOM (Word of Mouth) and e-WOM (electronic Word of Mouth). In regard to the latter, if you can get customers to be advocates for your product, you know you are onto a winning formula. You want them to buy the t-shirt or the cap with the logo and promote your brand.

A company like Nike® is especially good at understanding all these fundamental considerations, building them into their marketing strategies and leveraging them into their marketing mix building blocks. Right products, right price, right promotions, right place is somewhat of a mantra among marketers. Getting all those ducks in alignment is of course the challenge, whether a marketing scientist, or not a marketing scientist.
Written by Dr Al Marshall, senior lecturer, Le Cordon Bleu Australia School of Business

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