How to evaluate if your marketing strategy is still fit for purpose

A cube being forced into a round hole

Is your marketing strategy still fit for purpose? The world has changed significantly over the last 12 months. Some experts think this is an inevitable paradigm shift and things will never truly return to how they were pre-2020. But, whilst the world around you has been changing beyond recognition, has your business evolved in tandem with it? Or are you still following the same marketing strategy you had back in 2019?

First things first – do you have a marketing strategy?

In figures published in the US in 2019 research showed that 50% of SMEs do not have a marketing plan. From personal experience, we would say that less than 25% of SME businesses are even working from, what we would consider, a marketing strategy. If you don’t currently have a marketing strategy, or have never really had one, then we suggest you take a look at this blog first.
Let’s for now assume that you are one of those more forward-thinking businesses who has taken the time to consider their marketing strategy. With everything that has happened over the last year, how can you evaluate whether your marketing strategy is still fit for purpose.

Sense Check 1 – Time

Yellow icon of a clock

Firstly, when was your marketing strategy last reviewed? If it is older than 12 months ago then there is a large possibility that it needs reviewing again in light of what has been going on. Different businesses take different approaches to their marketing strategy. Some will write a new one every 5 years, but review and tweak it on an annual basis. Others will write one annually. Whatever works for your size of business is fine – but this has been no ordinary year. With this in mind, even if you are on a three-year rotation – we would recommend you review it again now.

Sense Check 2 – Performance

Completely ignoring everything that has happened around the world in the last year, has your marketing activity delivered a positive ROI. We understand you could argue the point that this is down to what has happened. But that just shows you why you need to revisit it. If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always got. If it is not delivering, you need to change tack.

Graphical depiction of employees in a palm of a hand

Sense Check 3 – Resource

Now consider how your business has changed internally! Your marketing strategy may have been written at a time when your internal resources were much stronger. You, more than likely, had more cash in the business, and probably greater internal resource to deliver against it. Before March 2020 we bet most people had not even heard of the word “furlough”, but 12 months on and the scheme is still running. There is no point having a great marketing strategy if you don’t have the resource to deliver it.

Sense Check 4 – External Environment

Now it may be that you created your strategy within the last year, it has delivered ROI and your internal resource has not changed. However, one more thing to consider is the external influences on the business. How has the competitive landscape changed – are their new competitors who have diversified into your niche specialism through necessity? Perhaps some competitors have gone under due to the financial pressure placed up on them. Who is now servicing their customers? Is there changing regulations with regards to international trade that are going to have an impact?
So now we have considered four basic sense checks – let’s now consider the fundamental elements you had within your original strategy.

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Marketing Strategy Element 1 – Products and Services

One of the first things to consider when reviewing your previous marketing strategy is whether all of the products and services are still relevant? Have you introduced any new products and services as opportunities have arisen? Perhaps you side-lined one or two of the poorer performing services or slower selling products. Has the priority focus shifted on your product or service mix – and if not, should it? Perhaps the delivery of your service has completely changed and something which was previously delivered face to face is now delivered online. These are all things worth considering.

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Marketing Strategy Element 2 – Pricing

How has the pandemic affected, if at all, your pricing strategy? Should it? If your product or services are priced on a cost-plus basis, have your base costs stayed the same. If they have gone up, have you, and should you, pass these increases onto your clients? Or maybe you think you need to absorb these costs and operate at a lower margin?

It could be that the global pandemic has actually increased the demand for your products and services. With this in mind, you need to consider the relationship between demand and supply. Should pricing play its role in balancing the two? Could it be a good time to review pricing to enable you to filter your client base? This will ensure you are only working with those customers who fit your ideal target audience? All of these things are worth considering.

Marketing Strategy Element 3 – Target Audience

Graphic depicting target audience demographics

Talking of audience, it is also worth re-evaluating whether your target market is the same as it was the last time the strategy was written. Perhaps you have seen a glut in new business originate from a new and emerging market or sector. Perhaps one of your previous target markets has been dramatically impacted by Covid and is just not spending any money. We know a few businesses who have been significantly impacted because they were either within the leisure and hospitality industry, or they were targeting clients within this sector. The more specific you can be the better, because it will sharpen your focus and ensure you only invest in reaching those target audiences who are the best fit for you (and you can tailor strategy accordingly).

Marketing Strategy Element 4 – Customer Behaviour

We don’t believe that there is anyone whose behaviour hasn’t changed over the last 12 months. We have been forced to adopt new living and working practices which has had a knock-on effect to how we act as consumers. So think about your industry, how has your customer’s buying behaviour changed? Do customers still buy in the same volume or is that too risky now? Perhaps they buy even more in bulk because of the threat of raw material shortages? How do they place their orders – is it still via traditional methods or are more transactions now being carried out online with little customer interaction. Have you had to adapt your physical environment to enable a safe engagement with your customer base? Consider what has changed in how customers deal with your business – because your marketing strategy needs to take this into account.

Marketing Messaging Graphic

Marketing Strategy Element 5 – Messaging

So, considering everything that has already been said, is your positioning and messaging still relevant? Are your mission, vision and values the same as they were previously or has the developments of the last 12 months impacted on how you see the world, your business and your future. Does your messaging need to tap into and resonate with a new type of customer? Something which has really been brought to the fore of the public consciousness over the last year is ethical business practices. Do you need to emphasise more the ethical way you go about things? To be honest if any one of your products and services, pricing, target audiences or customer behaviour has changed at all – it is inevitable that your messaging will need to be tweaked accordingly.

In summary

As you can see, there is a lot to consider, even as we look forward with optimism. We cannot assume that things will just revert to “business as usual” – as there is no “usual” anymore. Even if your business internally has not dramatically changed, the world around you has. We do not trade within bubbles. You may have managed to get through this process without furloughing staff and minimising the loss of customers, but business works in a domino effect. It only takes one industry, or one supplier who sits somewhere along the chain to have been significantly hit and it cause ripples, which for some unsuspecting business somewhere can generate the momentum of a Tsunami. How can you protect against ensuring that business isn’t yours.

Just considering this sort of stuff can help protect your business. Trust your instincts, does what you are doing feel right or is something not quite sitting comfortably? Take a look at your own data within your business – what is it telling you? Research your customers, analyse your own figures and CRM data, glean insights from Google Analytics and make sound business decisions which can help formulate a robust marketing strategy for the next 12-24 months.

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Ian is the founder of Opportunity Marketing marketing, with over 18 years of experience in successfully setting up marketing departments, creating marketing strategies and implementing these strategies across a wide number of SME companies in both the B2B and B2C sectors through a variety of channels.
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