Marketing Strategy & Planning

Marketing is one of the most powerful tools available to CEOs and their boards when striving for growth. But it is also misunderstood and an underutilised means via which to create value in a business.

As businesses of all sizes attempt to navigate their way through the challenges and opportunities offered by disruptive forces fuelled by digital, omni-channel and data developments, the value-creation potential of marketing has never been greater.

picture1Marketing is generally not a well understood discipline outside the Marketing function. Marketing teams can also be guilty of not demonstrating the commercial value and performance contribution at a board level, particularly with the Finance and Operations functions.

It is often perceived in the context of tactical creative and campaign outputs (“the colouring in department“) with a raft of jargon and technical detail, which has become even more amplified with recent digital and mobile marketing and social media developments. In fact, effective marketing is, and should be, highly strategic and commercial in nature.

Our preferred definition of marketing is “understanding and satisfying customer needs profitably“; although the ‘profit’ aspect is sometimes diminished by some marketers.

This definition infers the strategic and commercial nature of marketing, encompassing broad issues from corporate purpose and business growth issues, through to operational and customer experience delivery:

  • Market analysis
  • Market positioning & brand
  • Understanding customers met & unmet needs
  • Value proposition & competitive differentiation
  • Product / service lifecycle management & innovation
  • Route to market & distribution
  • Pricing strategy & management
  • Marketing operations, investment and ROI through key stages of the customer journey:
    • Awareness
    • Consideration
    • Acquisition
    • Retention
    • Advocacy

Given this definition and this context, marketing should be a critical component in achieving a company’s strategic and commercial aims, helping to define and deliver business plans and performance. The precise role and contribution of marketing in an organisation varies across industry sectors, as well as determined by the purpose, scale and maturity of the company.

Of course, Marketing is only one function and discipline, and it must operate in a highly collaborative and effective way, working with all functions, especially Sales, Operations, IT and Finance.

Ironically, marketers have not always done a great job of describing the commercial contribution from marketing in the boardroom or with Finance colleagues, in particular. This is odd in a way, as at the heart of it, marketing strategies, plans and campaigns should be designed and developed based on the P&L structure and forecast, and in particular the cost of acquisition.

‘Marketing and Finance’ by McDonald, Smith and Ward (2013), puts a spotlight on the relationship between marketing strategy and shareholder value through the process of:

Marketing strategy:

  • the optimal choice of target customers and value propositions, leading to

Customer preference:

  • differential in customer selection of one supplier over another, leading to

Superior returns:

  • Driving increased market share and / or higher margins, contributing to

Shareholder value:

  • Higher dividends and / or higher share price

At a strategic level, marketing is therefore about managing and mitigating market risk for the company in pursuit of its corporate objectives in a competitive environment. At an operational level, it focuses on delivering tangible customer value and commercial outputs that drive choice and preference.

At Whitecap, we help clients develop, connect and align marketing strategies, plans and people with the business ambitions and operations, and most importantly with the board room, and visa versa.