In order for an organization's marketing effort to be successful, it needs to be based on a strategic marketing plan to help ensure that the goals and objectives of the effort are appropriate to the needs of the marketplace. Strategic marketing (a subfunction of marketing) examines the marketplace to determine the needs of potential customers, the strategy and market position of the competitors, and attempts to develop a strategy that will enable the organization to gain or maintain a competitive advantage in the marketplace. There are a number of factors that should impact the development of a strategic marketing plan. These include internal factors such as the assets and skills of the organization and the organizational culture as well as external factors such as various market drivers, market or industry lifestyle, strategic windows, and the nature of the competition. An optimal strategic marketing plan will also follow a contingency approach that allows flexibility in meeting the unique set of factors that govern the marketplace and the organization's viability within.
No matter how good an organization's products or services, unless their value can be communicated to potential customers, the organization will fail in its mission. This communication is the responsibility of the marketing function within the organization. According to the American Marketing Association, marketing is "an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, communicating and delivering value to customers and for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organization and its stakeholders." The marketing function comprises two interrelated subfunctions. Strategic marketing examines the marketplace to determine the needs of potential customers and the nature of the competitors in the market and then attempts to develop a strategy that will enable the organization to gain or maintain a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Operational marketing is built on the foundation set by the strategic marketing function and implements various plans and strategies, including a development of the appropriate marketing mix, to attract customers and foster customer loyalty.
Methods for Product
There a number of ways to market one's products or services, including advertising, direct response, sales promotions, and publicity. However, unless one understands the needs of the customer, the market, and the industry as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the competition, these approaches are unlikely to be successful. Strategic marketing helps an organization sharpen its focus and successfully compete in the marketplace. Strategic marketing is concerned with two components: the target market and the best way to communicate the value of one's product or service to that market.
The development of a viable marketing strategy depends on several key dimensions. First, as with any global strategy within the organization, a successful marketing strategy needs to be endorsed by top management within the organization. Marketing strategy is political in nature; powerful units within the organization may disagree on the best marketing strategy, and an accord may need to be negotiated. Marketing strategies may also be affected by organizational culture and the assumptions that this culture engenders. For example, if the organization has always marketed its widgets to business executives, it may fail to see the potential for marketing to lower-level personnel within the organization or even for personal use to adults or teenagers.
Factors That Impact Strategic Marketing Plan Development
As shown in Figure 1, there are a number of factors that should impact the development of a strategic marketing plan for the organization. The first of these consists of the assets and skills that the organization already possesses or can readily acquire. For example, if an organization has a significant programming department on the payroll, it would be feasible for it to make and market application software. However, if these personnel are too involved in other projects to work on a new software project and the organization cannot afford to hire additional programmers, starting a new software line would be inadvisable at best.
The second factor that must be considered when developing a marketing strategy is the market drivers. These are various political, economic, sociocultural, and technological forces that can influence the wants and needs of the consumer base. For example, the need to be able to handle increasing volumes of information and data has led to widespread use of information technology in many industries. Similarly, the need for a college education for an increasing number of jobs has led to a proliferation of for-profit institutions of higher education.
Market drivers, however, are not the only external force that shapes one's market strategy. The nature of the competition in the marketplace is also very important in determining whether or not a marketing effort will be successful. Virtually no business is without competition. When buying a computer, one must choose between Mac and PC. Most soft drinks on the market are manufactured by one of two companies that offer very similar products. There is a variety of choices available when deciding where to fill up one's car, yet most of the fuels available at the pump are virtually the same. Each of these businesses has its own market position and strives to retain its market share through marketing efforts. Part of the strategic marketing effort is to decide how best to differentiate oneself from the competition.
Another external factor that impacts how one can best position oneself in the market is the stage of the market or the industry life cycle. Some organizations excel, for example, at being the first on the market with an innovation or new product. Others excel at taking the innovation and adapting it to the needs of the marketplace (e.g., lower price, different features). In addition, there are various strategic windows that affect an organization's ability to successfully compete in the marketplace. A strategic window is a limited time period during which there is an optimal fit between the needs of the marketplace and the competencies of the organization. For example, as computer storage technology continues to evolve, the methods by which people store data and information change. Punch cards and magnetic tape gave way to 5.25-inch and 3.5-inch floppy disks. By the 2010s, most people were storing data and information on flash drives or in cloud storage, and computers were no longer made with floppy disk drives. The concept of using punch cards is as foreign and antiquated in most people's minds as using an abacus. Once the strategic window begins to close, it is typically best that the organization look for another opportunity.
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