There is no doubt about it: the growth of a business depends primarily on the application of an effective marketing strategy.
This is true for any type of business, and it is equally true for ICT companies.
Of course, a marketing strategy for an ICT company will differ radically from those who operate in fashion or food, since ICT is a cross-cutting industry that includes services and products generally used to communicate, process, and transmit information and data. It is a specialized sector whose target audience is not easy to define, let alone to reach with targeted marketing operations.
In this article we will guide you through the different steps that make up a marketing strategy to help your technology achieve the expected results.
What is a marketing strategy?
Let’s start with the basics: a marketing strategy is the planning of the various activities designed to generate a competitive advantage within a market. The growth of a business is closely related to the implementation of an effective marketing plan, but no plan can exist without an underlying strategy that determines its guidelines.
The objectives vary according to the needs of the business and the conditions of the target market. A marketing strategy may aim to:
- Achieve better positioning within the market
- Build loyalty among the target audience for a product or service
- Increase sales or lists of potential customers
- Promote a particular activity to improve engagement
- To convey ideas, concepts or values that are functional to the business
Why is it important to apply a marketing strategy?
The need to apply a marketing strategy stems from one of the foundational elements of the very concept of “the market,” competitiveness. Multiple companies like yours are competing to earn a better position in the minds of the same portion of customers and, therefore, a better chance to increase profits.
Planning an effective marketing strategy means investing your resources in a balanced and thoughtful manner for the purpose of achieving your set business goals through the enhancement of some competitive advantage.
If you are planning your marketing strategy, the question to ask yourself is:
“How do we hope to beat the competition or gain the trust of customers and a profitable slice of the market?”
Strategic marketing vs. operational marketing
A first fundamental distinction is that between strategic marketing and operational marketing.
- Strategic marketing concerns the planning of marketing activities based on studies and research that demonstrate the effectiveness of the operational plan. For example, without a study of the product, target market and competitors, to define a competitive advantage will be impossible. Similarly, without a clear definition of the target audience, it is not possible to develop either an effective communication strategy or an offer adapted to the consumer’s needs. Strategic marketing determines tangible results in the medium to long term precisely because these coincide with business growth objectives.
- Operational marketing, on the other hand, is the set of all activities planned in the strategic plan and necessary to achieve the set business objectives. It can be considered as the performance of all the activities planned during the strategic phase and as the executive phase of a marketing plan. It determines quantifiable results in the immediate term, precisely because it coincides with the implementation of the strategy that lies upstream of the marketing plan.
A marketing plan is effective only when there is full consistency between the strategic and operational plans.
Study of the product or service
To approach this type of reasoning, we can recall the concept of Unique Selling Proposition (USP), which will enable you to answer the following question:
“Why should our potential customers buy our product and not someone else’s?”
The question is by no means trivial because it refers to that aspect which makes the product, precisely, unique and different from others. It is therefore a real competitive advantage, but it concerns the product in its characteristics and in the way it satisfies one or more of the customer’s desires. Seth Godin wrote a very popular book called The Purple Cow, which suggests that idea according to which a business is only successful when it stands out from the crowd by its originality, or be recognized for its unique features.
So be a purple cow and stand out from the herd if you do not want to fall back into anonymity.
Choose product/service price
Another sensitive aspect that concerns any type of product or service is the definition of the price (also called pricing). This is done by taking into account many variables, such as production and promotion costs, the value perceived by possible customers, the trend of the target market and relative market positioning, but also by comparison with competitor prices.
The choice of price falls within the levers of a marketing strategy because from its definition certain marketing choices arise and others are excluded.
Target study and definition
The term targeting is used to refer to the process of defining the class of potential customers for a product or service.
There is no marketing or communication strategy without first defining the target audience, what type of user the product or service you want to sell or communicate is aimed at.
Let’s see together how to get clarity on your slice of market and define the ideal customer.
Market segment analysis
A process closely related to targeting is the analysis of the market segment in the peculiarities that characterize it. What kind of market is it? Are there particular laws governing it? What is the trend of the supply and demand curve over time? How can I best position my product or service within the market segment?
The answers to these questions highlight critical issues in the target market. At the planning stage, attending to all these critical issues not only helps to understand what is worth doing and what is not, but is an important first step in defining buyer personas.
Profiling buyer personas
The buyer persona is a most useful tool for making targeting as effective as possible. This expression refers to the ideal profile of a consumer interested in the product or service being offered for sale. It is an imaginary model that:
- Defines the socio-demographic conditions, interests and expectations of the typical customer
- Forms the starting point for building the customer journey, i.e., the reconstruction of how the interaction between customer and product-service or customer and company takes place, delving into aspects related to the user’s feelings and moods
- It forms the basis of the empathy map, a tool used to gain a deeper understanding of the real needs of the typical customer.
The buyer persona serves as a compass to direct marketing actions toward a specific goal. It is the tool that enables the company to anticipate the moves of the typical customer and meet his or her needs better than others.
Market analysis, to achieve the highest degree of completeness, needs a detailed study of the competition. Seeing what others are doing and how they are doing it helps us not only to gain a deeper understanding of the market within which we operate, but also allows us to define the unique selling proposition of our product. To be distinctive within a market, you have to know the market on the one hand, and on the other hand, you have to come up with something that stands out clearly from those who are targeting the same audience.
Understanding what your competition does also allows you to review your business to assess whether something about your product or service needs to be changed.
Define positioning within the market
After a careful analysis of the market and competition, positioning must be defined. This means determining how your product or service gets inside the consumer’s head, how it is perceived by the target audience and what kind of idea it conveys.
This is a very important issue and is where strategic marketing and operational marketing come together. Defining how one is perceived within a market means structuring that identity that everyone will recognize and that must be successful. How to define positioning within the market depends on answering a few questions:
- What kind of idea does your product suggest?
- How must your product be recognized? As a leader in its category? As the eternal second cheaper than the first? As the best in a certain aspect? As the ideal product in a certain segment of the target market?
- Do you want to be first in people’s minds with a new idea, or do you prefer to take the place of someone else who was positioned before you with the same idea?
Market segment analysis will always be partial without a good SWOT analysis.
Conducting a SWOT analysis involves defining strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. It plays a key role within any marketing strategy because it adds a building bloc defining the scenario and how the company can relate to it.
Knowing, for example, what competitive advantages a certain product or service possesses and what opportunities the market offers, helps the company make predictions about the success or otherwise of a certain promotion operation. Likewise, a deeper knowledge of opportunities and weaknesses could illuminate the way to make the necessary improvements for business growth.
The Marketing Budget
Regardless of the objectives, which may be to expand in the marketplace or to simply preserve growth inertia, a good marketing strategy calls back to the need to define and allocate an economic budget that is consistent with expectations and expected results.
Every marketing operation, even the simple planning or monitoring of a campaign, requires the investment of time and resources. The budget is the amount of money required to carry out all activities concerning marketing, whether it is the strategic phase or the operational phase.
How to calculate the marketing budget
First, a detailed list of all the actions in the strategy is needed, to which estimated figures will then be associated based on the amount of resources used. There are three steps to calculate the budget needed to implement the strategy:
- Any marketing operation requires the use of resources in terms of personnel, services and paid products. An advertisement requires an investment as much as any type of promotional campaign on social channels or various search engines. Therefore, the first step is to calculate the costs related to each individual marketing operation included in the strategy.
- In setting the budget, consideration must also be given to the relationship between set objectives and the expected economic return from the various operations belonging to the marketing strategy. It must be congruous: expectations in terms of economic return must somehow equate with the objectives to be achieved. The second step, therefore, is to make a rough estimate of the economic return of each operation included in the plan and to compare it with the set objectives.
- The last step is to do a cost-benefit calculation from the timelines, the calculated payback, and the total resources used. If the expected outcome meets expectations then the budget is right.
A marketing strategy without clear goals is like a house without a foundation. Defining goals based on concrete, tangible data that reflect the reality of the facts allows companies to:
- Give clear direction to all marketing operations included in the strategy
- Define a benchmark to determine whether the results achieved in a given time frame meet expectations or not
- Motivate the operations team
- Measure the progress achieved over time
Goals are the benchmark not only for calculating the initial budget but also for determining what changes to make during the different stages of applying the marketing strategy.
You can do a great job in calculating the initial budget, but you should always be prepared to revise it. Especially when it comes to the budget for long-term marketing strategies, it happens very often that the cards on the table change in relation to medium- and long-term objectives and to the changing fluctuations of the market.
Consistency between objectives and budget is an essential component to avoid overspending and to effectively review the allocation of budgeted resources on the operational side.
Define KPIs, monitor progress and correct the operational plan
KPIs, or Key Performance Indicators, are indices that keep track of the value and effectiveness of the operations envisioned in the strategic plan. They are adopted in any business to measure progress toward the goals set for any growth strategy. Thus, they do not only pertain to marketing, but to any operational plan that aims at business growth.
KPIs are defined and then monitored through specific tools (such as Google Analytics or Search Console, but also through Excel Sheets or other tools) that offer metrics by which to measure progress over defined time frames. Without these metrics, it would be impossible to determine what is going according to plan and what is not, just as it would be impossible to understand what corrections to make to the operational plan to make it more effective.
The effectiveness of a marketing strategy depends on this point: monitoring progress through appropriate KPIs is the only way to correct the operational plan and achieve its goals. There are no loopholes.
Strategic and operational marketing should be coupled with monitoring activities capable of returning a true picture of what is happening and recommending what improvements should be made to increase the effectiveness of the strategy.