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    Strategy First, Then Tactics

    Many entrepreneurs and marketing executives at corporations find themselves responsible for tactical marketing decisions without the benefit having of a clear marketing strategy.

    I'm not talking about having a marketing plan document — that's usually a master "to do" list of tactical marketing and sales tasks for the next year or two.

    A marketing strategy is based on understanding your market's:

    • Product Life Cycle — Different personalities buy products for different reasons.
    • Product Evaluation and Purchase Process — Salespeople call this the "sales cycle," but it starts long before the salesperson contacts a prospect.
    • Market Segmentation — This starts with demographics and psychographics, and extends to all of the characteristics that differentiate each group potential customers.

    Steve Brotman points out (Your Founder Got Strategy?) how important it is to have a sound strategy before you can develop an effective tactical marketing and sales program:

    Strategy is the great leveler that allows small early stage companies to become crushing guerrillas over established incumbents in a relatively short period of time.

    In a stable, low-growth industry it's rather easy to develop a marketing strategy that is easy for a company's advertising agency and sales team to understand and implement. However, even old, stable industries have been transformed into fast-paced, global markets with a new challenge for marketers:

    Strategy is often counterintuitive, and few entrepreneurs can intuitively grasp and then communicate a counterintuitive strategy, especially if the strategy is based on rapidly flipping back and forth between different directions, depending on what stage of development your company and industry is.
    This is because companies need to market to multiple market segments across all stages of the product life cycle. And, each group of potential customers has prospects at different stages of the purchase process.

    The thing that most high-tech marketers miss is the need to have multiple marketing strategies that work together in harmony. This requires that marketers:

    • Ask customers what they want.
    • Listen for why customers want to buy.
    • Observe what customers actually do.

    As you develop this profile of each customer it becomes easier to create the marketing strategies that weave together a master marketing plan that's creative, cohesive, and coherent.

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