At last the winter gloom is retreating, along with the withdrawal of shop window ‘sales’ signs and the recycling of Easter egg boxes. In spring, brands large and small can harness their promotional calendar, seizing the season’s many events and bank holidays as opportunities to promote their offer and grow sales. This all must stem, of course, from a carefully honed marketing strategy…
What is a marketing strategy?
In this post, we will explore how your fashion or creative start-up can develop an easy marketing strategy. In laymen’s terms, this is how you – consistently, across all platforms – promote your products or offers to your consumer to entice them to buy. This ensures all your marketing and promotional activities are in sync, cohesive and with a consistent brand identity and tone of voice reflecting your brand so your customers come to recognise and trust it. Not, as we are all – unfortunately – familiar with, a rushed and regrettable scatter-gun approach which didn’t achieve what we wanted…
This blog post will take you step-by-step through three stages – identifying your business’s marketing mix, understanding the objectives of a marketing strategy and, going forward, considering your business’s direction.
Why do I need a marketing strategy?
Having a road map and plan for what marketing activities you will do and how and where you will promote these lessens the risk of wasting money and time, and missing – or worse, confusing and alienating – your customer. Thinking your marketing through gives you the opportunity to keep a tight focus on your message, your visual identity, the tone and message of communications, and the objective – the goal – for either brand awareness or short term sales. All this ultimately leads to an ongoing and financially rewarding relationship with your customers = sales!
The Marketing Mix – the 7Ps
Right at the heart of any marketing strategy sits the Marketing Mix, or 7Ps: product, price, place, promotion, people, physical evidence and process. The 7Ps is a very simple and easy to use theory; in essence, it’s a framework for getting all your business’s ducks (or Easter chicks) in a row. I cut my marketing teeth on this some fifteen years ago from David Jobber[i] and still use it with my fashion and creative clients whether pre-start or more established SMEs. It’s that easy!
According to the Chartered Institute of Marketing, this is: “Successful marketing depends upon addressing a number of key issues: what a company is going to produce, how much it is going to charge, how it is going to deliver its products or services, and how it will tell its customers about this.”
So, any marketing mix must ensure offering the right product (or service) at the right price point, in the right place(s) for the customer, with the right promotion, with trained people (staff/after sales), considering all physical attributes (store, packaging, logo), with ease of consumer process.
This all serves to build that better relationship with your customers. So, in practice, this means getting to grips with:
Product – What is my product? Does the customer want it???
Price – How much will the customer pay? And how much do competitors charge?
Place – Where does the customer shop? Online or local?
Promotion – How will it be promoted and where? Is this relevant to my customer and will they see it?
People – Whether its trade fairs, pop-ups, galleries or department store concessions, who will be selling?
Physical evidence – Spanning appearance, packaging and brand identity – this is the first thing your customer sees.
Process – Quick, convenient, easy, secure, and with good after sales/returns options. Remove the barriers and give them a good experience and reason to return!
Planning an easy marketing strategy
Now armed with a clear understanding of your own mix or offer, you can develop a simple strategy or guidelines from it. I would recommend my ‘what, who, how, where, when, why’ approach – your marketing objectives:
What – what is it that I am selling or communicating? The offer or product in your 7Ps.
Who – who is my customer? What do I know about them – age, gender, spending power, spending frequency etc?
How – how will I reach them? Through events, pop-up shops, or regular host website or stockist (the ‘channel’) – direct or indirect distribution strategy?
Where – where is my customer, are they local, online or reached via a catalogue, are they actual end consumers or stockists and retailers?
When – when will this start and how long will it last?
Why – why am I doing this? What am I trying to achieve? The marketing objectives – sales, new customers, brand loyalty building etc.
How (again!) – how will I measure the success of this? Customer feedback, sales and turnover, Google analytics, or feedback from the retailer, etc.
For your overall marketing, the above provides an overview and a guide to refer to. However, you should break this down further so that with each promotion that you undertake, you set out these objectives too – whether this is a social media competition campaign, or invitations to an event or pop-up. We will explore this in my next posts Easy Ways to Promote Your Business: Part 1 and Part 2.
What is vital in both instances is that you thoroughly know your offer (yes, this sounds obvious, but often this can be easily diluted when desperate for sales), you know your customer, and you are keeping tabs on your competitors’ activities. In my earlier blog posts on market research, customer research and competitor research, I have explored these issues, but this knowledge is again necessary to make sure your marketing really hits home. If you want to undertake more rigorous and full research, then take a look at The Design Trust’s [ii] recent post The Design Doctor: How can I do market research which is a helpful guide.
But what if you are a little further down the line with your business, or are just more confident in your marketing? Perhaps it is time to refocus and rethink, to reach out to new customers and expand into new markets, or develop your product range? Where should you begin? This is where Ansoff’s Matrix comes in.
Over sixty years old as a theory and practical guide for marketing, Ansoff’s Matrix[iii] from 1957 shows that no matter how you might develop your business, ultimately there are only four simple directions that you can go in. I always use this with my clients as it is great for clarifying direction and focusing, plus highlighting areas of risk – crucial for start-ups and SMEs.
This means you develop your business in one of four ways:
Existing products in existing markets
Here, you don’t spend money on developing any new products or investigating new markets (regions or customers) but instead focus on promotion, perhaps in new ways to pique existing customers’ interest. This is the lowest ‘risk’ as you are sticking with what you know but you still need time and money spent on promotion.
New products in existing markets
You might introduce a new prints or homewares line to your current customers and overall market. You will have spent time and effort on product development and have built up inventory – you need to be sure to sell these products, will your existing customers want them? This carries some risk financially, and also risks potentially alienating customers.
Existing products in new markets
You might export your existing menswear accessories range anew to Japan or India, or to new age groups or genders in the UK. Here, you don’t develop new products but the market is as yet unknown (cultural differences, export taxes, exchange rates etc), so is still risky and costly.
New products in new markets
Here you would combine new products and expansion into new geographic or customer markets. This is the most risky and unknown combination. Be sure to fully research, take advice and build financial contingencies in here.
So, back to strategy and promoting your products or offers. To sum up, you will now have understood the different components of your own marketing mix and ensured that they are in sync – this creates a cohesive package that is more identifiable and less confusing for your customer. You will fully understand who your customer is and where and how to reach them from your research, and also know your competitors and their activities inside out, again from your earlier research. You may even know your new direction – developing new products, or venturing into new markets.
Now your next steps are to start planning some promotions! And this I will cover next time in Creative Planning Next Steps 6: Easy Ways to Promote Your Business, Part 1 and Part 2 where we will look at the different types of promotion that are right for your business, where to get ideas, and how to plan them into a promotional calendar.
Until then, enjoy spring!
If you have any questions after reading this, or would like me to work with you on your creative business, then feel free to email me on firstname.lastname@example.org, or drop a comment on the blog.
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