Peter Drucker once said: “Marketing is not only much broader than selling; it is not a specialized activity at all. It encompasses the entire business. It is the whole business seen from the point of view of its final result, that is from the customer’s point of view.”
I love this Drucker quote because it underscores the fact that marketing is not just a set of activities, but the development of your business. And it also helps to clarify why so many people say they provide a marketing strategy when they are not all doing the same thing.
There are really three levels of strategy in marketing: Business, Operational and Transformational. Marketers can be doing any one or all three. A Chief Marketing Officer typically creates and coordinates all three levels, but in today’s business environment, many smaller and mid-sized companies find outsourcing to be a smart approach to profitable operations. That has created a more distributed framework for the development of the various levels of strategy, which must be carefully managed to optimize your success.
The overarching strategy for your marketing is a business strategy. The marketing strategy encompasses every aspect of your business plan, defines the brand experience you want to create for your customers, and guides the development of the operational and transformational marketing strategies. The “brand experience” is the ecosystem into which your customers fit that helps them interact with and feel connected to your brand. The plan for creating that ecosystem is defined in the overall marketing strategy.
When those who create specific tactics for attracting and connecting with prospective customers and customers talk about creating a “marketing strategy” they are actually talking about creating an operational strategy for one or more tactics in your marketing program. These should be guided by the marketing strategy but they address only the way the tactics will be used. This is what people are referring to when they are helping you implement or improve your SEO, Content Marketing, or Digital Marketing. These strategies are operationally focused, or implementation strategies.
The third level of strategy includes any strategy that defines the platforms or tools you use in your marketing activities, and how you will use them to achieve the business goals. These are called transformational strategies because their focus is on changing the way things are done and the results you are getting. For example, if you plan to use email marketing, a transformational strategy would address what you want to accomplish by using email, which, in this case might be to both warm up leads and reduce the time a sales team member needs to be involved.
Building an effective marketing program requires all three types of strategy. In larger organizations a Chief Marketing Officer (or CMO) typically creates, leads, coordinates and sometimes manages all three levels of strategy. A Fractional CMO does those things on a smaller scale for companies that do not need a full time CMO. Here is more information about the five key roles of a Fractional CMO.
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