James Atkins of Vantage Strategy & Marketing explains why marketing should be at the core of a business’s strategy in relation to achieving competitive advantage.
I am often asked to assist organisations to develop their business strategy. When I question their approach to market or their competitive advantage these things are sometimes seen as separate; it is as if their marketing strategy is something the marketing team focuses on and is an outcome of developing a business strategy.
Successful businesses, in my view, have marketing strategy front and centre, driving the overall value proposition and every decision they make, including the ‘why, how and what’ they do. It is from this point that strategic decisions around how you structure and operate the business should be made.
Therefore, marketing strategy and business strategy are not two separate activities.
Viewed from that perspective marketing should not just be responsible for flogging products!
There was a time that marketing was seen as the department (if indeed you needed a marketing department at all) charged with promoting and communicating an organisation’s goods and services.
Today marketing should be core to how an organisation orients itself to serving the needs of the market – in effect becoming market led.
So what is a market(ing) led organisation?
There are four characteristics that underpin a market led organisation:
1. They have a very clear view of who they serve. They know their core customer segments and have a deep understanding of their needs and how they will deliver solutions to meet those needs.
2. They can clearly articulate their competitive advantage and know why a customer will purchase their goods/services over the competition. Is it because you offer something unique? Perhaps it is a specialised approach to service? Or maybe the ability to excel at the product surround; those services and experiences that are supplementary to your core offer? Whatever it is, you need to know it, be able to deliver it, and it must be of real value to your customers.
3. They understand that their competitive advantage underpins the marketing strategy and overall operations. The products that will best deliver value to your customers are the starting point. Then you can make decisions around such things as:
- how you position yourself in the market;
- your approach to service;
- your core processes, standards and systems;
- the values your team works by;
- how and where you fund your growth.
These are all key strategic decisions driven by clarity around your marketing strategy. They will be the drivers of how successfully you deliver your value proposition.
4. They recognise that the marketing function of today is well placed to gather valuable insights into customer needs, desires and behaviour.
In a market led organisation, marketing becomes a strategic engine equipped to use this insights to develop and refine a more meaningful strategy. Marketing is, therefore, a driver and source of innovation in a changing market.
Marketing should not only have a seat at the strategic table but is now a core driver of your strategy and eventual success.