Marketing Strategy and Planning: The Road Map

Many small to medium sized businesses face a common struggle; a balancing act of plans, strategies, departments and decisions. All of the elements are present, all of the gears in working condition, but business isn’t exactly booming at the pace it had anticipated or forecasted for. What exactly does this growth and sustainability require? In a turbulent economy teeming with congested airwaves and aggressive business practices, it’s about standing out from the crowd. And surprisingly, your marketing strategy has a lot more to do with it than you might realize.

Conflicted business owners can overcome the masses and draw the customers that are right for their product by executing a stellar marketing strategy, not by yelling louder than their competitors or using neon banners on their storefront (or banner ads on your website). My point is, you don’t have to be throwing yourself out there with a bunch of noise all the time. What you need to do is paint a vision for your business, your employees, and your customers. Make promises that nobody but you can keep, and then blow them away with your admirable businesses practices and superhuman skills.

Take a moment to consider this: marketing strategy is the single most important factor in determining the prosperity or deterioration of a business. That’s a pretty substantial claim and I’m willing to prove its legitimacy. Marketing strategy distributes itself throughout all the facets of a business, whether intended by its creator or not. This is possible because the strategy is created and defined by the overall objectives of a specific business, and integrates these objectives with a company’s unique vision and mission. Put simply, every level of a business should be oozing marketing strategy. Really!

Marketing Strategy

Does it seem far-fetched? Let’s examine the relationship between marketing strategy and four key aspects of any business: market research, the marketing plan, corporate identity, and the economy. First, let’s get the formalities out of the way and set forth a definitive explanation of what marketing strategy actually is. After scouring several websites for the official definition, I settled on a less-official but more effective description of marketing strategy:

Marketing Strategy:
A strategy that integrates an organization’s marketing goals into a cohesive whole. Ideally drawn from market research, it focuses on the ideal product mix to achieve maximum profit potential. The marketing strategy is set out in a marketing plan.

While your marketing strategy is, essentially, a document; its purpose is far more load bearing. Included in the strategy should be your mission statement and business goals, an exhaustive list of your products and services, a characterization or description of your target clients, and a clear definition of how you integrate into the competitive landscape of your industry.

Marketing Strategy v. Market Research

This relationship establishes an order of operations: the first phase in any marketing or branding initiative is research. (See our white paper on this subject: Market Research for SMB’s). No matter the scope of your research, whether it is a broad canvassing of your current client list or unveiling specific, detailed findings about your target market, the outcome will have a direct effect on your marketing strategy. It’s imperative to find out everything about whom you are trying to reach. What generation are they in? How big are their families? Where do they live, eat, and hang out? How do they spend their free time and money? All of this information will influence and alter your marketing strategy.

Research alone will not benefit your business without a solid marketing strategy. Often, business owners narrowly define market research as the collection and organization of data for business purposes. And while that is technically an accurate definition, the emphasis lies not on the process of research itself, but the impact it commands on future decisions regarding all levels of a company. Every business decision presents different, unique needs for information, and this information then shapes a suitable and applicable marketing strategy.

Research can be a grueling, confusing, and tedious process. From establishing or cleaning out a database to creating surveys and conducting interviews, you can receive a lot of information about your clients and potential clients and wonder what to do next. Before beginning to formulate a strategy, the information and data collected must be organized, processed, analyzed, and stored. Rest assured, with a little creativity and a lot of effort, this will all be molded into a structured, effective, and easily adaptable marketing strategy. Furthermore, continuous and updated research will ensure your strategy is a current and relevant reflection of your target market, marketing goals, and future business endeavors.

Marketing Strategy v. Marketing Plan

In this relationship, the marketing strategy is essentially a guide to judge the performance and efficiency of a specific marketing plan. In simple terms, a marketing strategy is a summary of what you offer and how you are positioned in the market (in relation to competitors’ products and services), and your marketing plan is an organized list of actions that you will enforce to achieve the goals outlined in your strategy. The plan will encompass the steps to a real-life application of a marketing strategy, bringing life to your mission and vision. It’s your time to show and sell your products and services so that your target market can experience them in the presence that you truly imagined.

Often, businesses lack a balance of creative personality and logic personality. While a business owner might have the creativity to dream up a stellar product, business model, and brand, they may lack the entrepreneurship and discipline to bring it all to life through research, planning and execution.

Marketing Strategy v. Corporate Identity

It’s no surprise that some of the most successful and recognizable companies in the world are those who establish distinguished, one-of-a-kind cultures that permeate through every channel of a business and reach customers on a human level. The culture of a corporation, its psychology, attitude, approaches to business, values and beliefs, lays the groundwork for a unique and compelling corporate identity. There is a powerful and undeniable connection between the health of these companies and the identities that their culture has provided.

These companies have discovered the delicate balance between a brand and a strategy, and how this symbiotic connection encourages visibility and growth. The relationship is simple: the marketing strategy represents where a company wants to go, and the culture determines how (and sometimes if) it will get there. Think of a corporate identity – the style, words, images, and colors – as the personification of your marketing strategy. The corporate identity is extended and applied in every phase of the marketing strategy, and plays a stylistic role in its execution.

Let’s look at an example. Starbucks, until recently, didn’t really have a marketing or advertising budget, per se. Starbucks started advertising in the New York Times and on TV in 2009, and very gingerly at that. Once a week it would print full-page ads in the Times, and on select channels it would air brief, lighthearted commercials. Prior to, the company was able to very successfully promote itself and its products through word of mouth and slapping the 25-year-old logo on every cup its baristas cranked out, proving that even something as simple as a logo can deeply resonate with consumers. But it was the Starbucks’ identity that its millions of customers were happily waiting fifteen minutes in line for. The infamous Starbucks cup rapidly became associated with wealth, leisure, high standards, and urbanites. From college freshman to corporate CEO’s, people couldn’t get enough.

Starbucks enforced its marketing strategy through clever, catchy campaigns, a genuine and human “front line” at the store level, and for the most part, acknowledging any mistakes or shortfalls that it might’ve run into. All of these actions are traits, portraying a deeply rooted culture that is exuded from top to bottom of the Starbucks hierarchy. And, love ’em or hate ’em, there’s no denying their great success, even in a strained economy.

Marketing Strategy v. The Economy

The economy is an incredibly sensitive subject around the globe. What we’ve also noticed is that a lot of companies and business owners are using a depressed economic state as a reason (and in some cases, an excuse) for the shortcomings in their business.

For example, a big trend recently has been layoffs. Larger corporations are using weak economies as a reason to purge its staff and cut positions, when it knows just as well that that’s exactly the opposite of what needs to happen. Or does it? It’s become hard to tell. Is surviving a “depression” really as simple as, say, reassessing your marketing strategy? While an unstable economy is troubling, risky, and unpredictable, it’s also an excellent test of the flexibility of your marketing strategy. Your strategy isn’t set in stone…the whole purpose of designing a strategy in the first place is for smooth navigation through any given circumstance, whether good or bad. Unfortunately, many CEOs and CFOs target their marketing departments first in lean times, while the reality is that it should be investing in these areas so that its marketing managers can adjust their strategy to survive-maybe even prosper, through tough times. An excerpt from the blog of R. Bruer, the owner and head of a strategic communications firm in Portland, Oregon, lays it all out:

“Most businesses treat marketing as a discretionary expense, making it an easy target for budget cutters. It’s as if marketing is a luxury afforded only when times are flush. Less customer demand, less we can afford marketing, or so conventional thinking goes.

But really, can we ever afford not to market?

It’s natural to want to preserve cash during a downturn. I was an employer for nearly 14 years, so I’m sympathetic. But the tendency is to make deep cuts in marketing when sales head south. Companies often start by reducing or eliminating outside expenses, such as advertising, events, sponsorships, research. And when that’s not enough, they lay off marketing employees, sometimes the entire department.

The net effect of gutting marketing is to stifle generation of customer awareness, demand and retention just when these things are needed most. It’s a penny-wise, pound-foolish decision.”

Your Marketing Strategy

While marketing strategy isn’t tangible, its role in business is just as dire as the product or service being offered. It’s contribution bears significance through every phase of a business plan, from conception to execution and far beyond these four aspects of research, planning, identity and economy.

Marketing strategy will continue to fold itself into business plans as long as it is created and executed properly. Research on your industry and competitors will enable you to develop and formulate a proper, pliable strategy. From here, your marketing plan will act as a guide that will bring your strategy to life, attaining and exceeding the goals outlined, all while establishing your corporate culture and identity. Remember, the culture piece works two ways. Your culture helps to form the strategy, and following that strategy will reinforce your culture. Lastly, your strategy must be both strong and flexible enough to withstand the most difficult or unpredictable of circumstances, such as an economic depression, new trends or competitors in your industry.

Strategy is a small piece of a much larger picture. It can all be overwhelming at times, sure, but it’s part of the adventure. With dedication, organization, and a champion marketing team (ahem! B&A), the pieces will come together with ease, allowing for the truly awesome personality of your business to shine, and profits to follow shortly thereafter.

20 Must-Do Push Notification Best Practices For Ecommerce Marketers

Mobile marketing is the recent buzzword and push notification is definitely an indispensable part of this promotional journey. Reaching the users out of the app usage was not an easy task but the push notifications have made it possible. It has the power to stay apart without getting lost in the colossal crowd of unread messages. Although push notifications are the ideal way of grabbing user attention, they can be easily manipulated – if, in wrong hands, it has more influence to do wrong than anything right.

Problems

According to a report published a year ago, people find push notifications really annoying. The fact is push messages are nothing but attention seekers. They like to grab user’s response being a direct communicating line between the customer and the app. It is important that only relevant messages reach the app user without infuriating them. The problems that usually arise in case of push notifications are-

· When the user is giving consent for push notifications, marketers must ensure only the relevant updates are reaching the customer by knowing their set of preferences.

· It must be realized soon that push notification is a privileged tool that must not be used for spamming users with all day frequent messages.

· Wrong timing can annoy a user and make them instinctively delete the app. To avoid any such thing set the timer right for relevant alerts.

· Before sending any push messages certain criteria like age, time, basically all user info is must because otherwise you are bound to send wrong messages to wrong people.

· Push ads through notifications are a complete no for any user who wishes to stay with you and likes your app.

· Late messages can annoy people to the core.

· Marketers must ensure that opting out of push messages must be as easy as opting in for notifications. Easy settings can stop the customers from deleting the app completely.

Industry Overview

The year 2015 was considered as the game changer for push notification industry. From general push messages, the focus shifted to segmented notifications to target users based on their preferences. The changeover from spammy, unrelated push messages to planned tactical ones significantly enhanced consumer engagement, retention, and experience. Every industry must be flexible enough to remain in the forefront of the varying flows of customer needs. The fashionistas and creators struggle to imagine the subsequent popular trend, whereas, the medical scholars try to retort to nature’s hardest queries. To become a leader in a particular industry setting trends is more important than just following them blindly.

Push notifications are the most economical and best way to drive app retention and engage your customers. But, often it is applied in a thoughtless, insensitive, and honestly indecorous manner. A new report from Accenage that is based on more than 38 billion push messages suggests, if such notifications are applied and used fittingly, push messages can be very influential on Android (until the launch of Android M OS), with 100% opt-in rate.

20 Interesting Solutions

The Push Notifications are as important as the user experience (UX) of your app because the researchers believe that more than 71% of the app uninstallations are usually triggered by the push messages. The bottom line is bad push practices can be harmful as push notifications directly hit the users and not the devices. So let’s check out few of the best push practices to hit the bull’s eye.

1. Respect to the Specific Local Timezone

It is quite easy to think and act according to your own time zone like “its 8 p.m. in India so let’s start circulating the push messages”. The push notification doesn’t work that way. When your customers are involved it becomes vital that your messages hit the user at the right time when they are ready to receive it according to their time zone. A decent push service will definitely reduce the server load and stagger the messages over a window if required.

2. Internally Prioritize a Message

What is prioritizing a message? The marketers often think, the more, the better. Right? It is not the same in all cases. Many times, more can reduce your revenue, your users, usage, feedback, and everything. Sending 23-50 pushes a day to the customers can not only irritate them but also make them uninstall an app. Thus, internally prioritizing a message to 5-10 maximum per day can help and suit most of the applications.

3. Avoid Generic Pushes

Considering a hard limit to multiple pushes per day can be an effective practice. You might be thinking of sending various services that can help your app interact with the user, inform them and gain user preference knowledge. But, generic pushes can be termed as bad practice. Giving preference to the transactional messages can grab more attention of the user.

4. Value Your User’s Sleep

As far as night is concerned, people usually want a good night’s sleep in order to start a fresh day. Mobiles are usually put on silent or do not disturb mode while people are asleep. Considering this, do you really think people really have time to go through all the push messages pouring in throughout the night or in the early morning? So, marketers must also value the user’s sleep and limit the notifications till day time. Maybe a summary push notification in the morning can be more effective than 10 odd messages at night.

5. Personalise Content For Users

The push messages can be personalised and sent to the users to make it more valuable. Except for junk and irrelevant messages, news alerts, deals, and chats based on user preferences can create a positive impact. Numerous marketing automation are possible with some very basic data inputs. Like how long the app is installed on your device, what level of the game you are at present, your last usage, and many such small things can help in personalizing push messages for the users.

6. Favour the Transactional Pushes

The 1:1 push messages that are usually directed to the single user and are not commonly unique with audience division, is termed as a transactional push. For instance, their package is being shipped or there’s a new like, and more. Such notifications are seamlessly bespoke as per the definition. Yet, timeliness is one of the best practices that one must adhere to.

7. Personalize with User Name

When a message is purely meant for a user and is indicated with the user’s name in the push messages, like Ronit, it is time for your doctor’s visit in another 4 hours; people take it more seriously and truly like such notifications.

8. Make it Simple and Short within 10 words

To create impact in minds of the users, 10 words are more than enough to convey the right message what you wish to let your user know.

9. Correct Implementation of the Technology

To keep the 71% stats shown above at bay, implementing the notifications rightly is very important. It is not just about certificates and provisioning.

10. Seeking Permission is Indeed Vital

The pop-up alert appearing at the beginning of installing an app seeking permission is ideally the most vital checkpoint. Without the permission of the user notifications cannot be pushed.

11. Seek a 3rd Party Service

Setting up push notifications is not an easy task to do it on your own. Seeking help from the 3rd party service is the best option in terms of topping, consistency and good features.

12. Opt Content Preload

If you are directed to some in-app content by a push message, preloading it with available API is most likely to do. This can delay the push by few seconds but you get the ready to go UI, without waiting for the irritating loading screen.

13. Easy Availability of the Notification Settings

Difficulty in locating the notification configurations can be annoying for the customers. Easy availability of the setting to turn off or on the notification is vital.

14. Personalize Message as per Location

Appropriate location-based significant messages will develop engagement with the customers. Personalizing messages according to the location of the user can be a great practice.

15. Out of the Box Thinking

It is important that you deliver specific value and unique content to end users while incorporating the push notifications in your planning strategies. This requires out-of-the-box thinking. The push ads are not just a slice of your communication approach; it is a portion of customer’s mobile involvement with your brand.

16. Smart Segmentation

The CRM software or the in-app behaviour must be the intelligent factors for smart segmentations. The user behaviour and profiles are both required for a solid division planning.

17. Defining KPI

The mobile key performance indicator can help you understand the real engagements, long-term retention or conversion, and lifetime or revenue value of the product whereas, the click and conversion rates just helps in understanding the preliminary achievement of a campaign.

18. Content plays a Major Role

The content of your message creates a strong impact on the success of push notifications. Such as, “off”, “discounts”, “promo code”, etc. have a strong interest of the consumers.

19. Rich Pushes

Apart from the text content, the Android forever lol and iOS 10 brings forward rich pushes. Now, your push previews can include GIF images and videos. For arbitrary views from your iOS 10, you can study in detail.

20. Expired Message Removal

Once the message loses its relevance, it must be automatically removed. For instance, 50% off on shoes was an offer valid a week ago but at present is of no use to the user, so it must be removed automatically.

Why is Betaout All In One Ecommerce Marketing Automation?

Betaout empowers the E-Commerce businesses to upsurge conversions and identify with the user engagement procedure using real-time user personality and committed data. It offers a tailored set of tools that the marketers of e-commerce businesses can utilize to distinguish themselves and thus address precise client needs. The hassle free Betaout tool is an easy-to-use marketing solution that enables the e-commerce companies to bring their marketing efforts into a strict line, offering them the much-required edge over the competitors.

Magento 2.1 – Just the Right Features to Empower Marketers and Merchandisers

Magento 2.1 brought with it a number of appealing changes that ecommerce businesses simply loved. It has all the great features to provide online shoppers with excellent shopping experiences.

It’s important to note that it’s the marketers and the merchandisers who create compelling campaigns for promotions and the platform that supports ecommerce empowers them with the numerous built in features.

Magento 2.1 gives you the power to create memorable shopping experiences for your customers – faster and in the easiest way possible.

Here’s how Magento 2.1 can help:

It drives sales and improves productivity

Magento 2.1 has new features for content staging and preview. You can stage and preview all types of content such as updates to products, categories and categories too. User friendly tools have been developed with extensive usability testing and the entire process of staging and previewing before you add new products or categories is made very simple and fast. It also has a new timeline dashboard that provides store owners with at a glance scheduled updates so that your sales and marketing team can use the data to maximize the impact. With Enterprise edition 2.1, you can preview this information across the sit and share the links so that reviews and approvals are easier.

Boosts conversion rates

In order to streamline the checkout process, the Magento 2.1 has a number of enhancements to increase the efficiency of the checkouts and boost sales. PayPal in-context checkout greatly increases the conversions as the customer does not have to leave your website in order to complete the payments. Securely storing credit cards is a great way to quickly pay especially for frequent purchases. Customers just love to pay quickly and checkout without having to manually type in the credit card information.

Scale for growth

One of the newest features of Magento 2.1 is that it comes loaded with Elastic Search which is a powerful search technology that supports over 33 languages or quickly searching the site. You can set stop words, search synonyms and can handle large catalogs that are required by fast growing merchants. The configuration for elastic search is fairly simple and you can begin using it right away.

Improved management experience

There have been significant changes to the way Magento is administered. The new technology elastic search enables you to quickly find customer records or orders and assign search synonyms that can be used to better navigate the site.

Deploy in the Magento cloud

Deploying in the cloud ensures that you can create amazing customer experiences without worrying about the infrastructure to support it. This is mainly because the cloud ensures that you get a highly customizable, secure and scalable storefront built on AWS. It is optimized for rapid deployments and high performance.

Magento allows you to flexibly deploy your store in any environment you wish – whether on the cloud or hosted or on-premises.

Magento is truly the most apt platform for ecommerce development. It is ever evolving and enables store owners to sell better and convert better!