Many startups start their marketing activity without giving enough thought to the overall, long-term brand strategy. Often founders leave the marketing program entirely to a marketing team. However, marketing activities have to be deeply rooted in overall brand strategy.
This will comprise of the following aspects.
Mission - a statement of why we exist, why did we start this venture, what is our value proposition (some examples below)
Alibaba: To make it easy for businesses to do business anywhere
Facebook: To give people the power to share and make the world more open & connected
Google: To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible & useful
LinkedIn: To connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive & successful
Adobe: To give web developers and designers the best tools & services to enable them to move the web forward
While, it may not have been as well articulated for InfoEdge (Naukri, 99acres, Jeevansathi, Shiksha), Sanjeev Bikhchandani has often articulated it as this:
Mission: To kill print classifieds (Print classifieds were relevant when they started)
Vision: To be the leading market places for infrequently bought services
Vision - a statement of what we want to achieve in the next 5 - 10 years
Business Strategy - a series of ways in which you will achieve your mission & vision
- What is the core offering(s) to customers
- What is the current value proposition i.e. why does your customer buy / use your product/service
- What is your pricing strategy and business model
- What will we do to strengthen our value proposition e.g. product features
- What will you do to improve access e.g. distribution channels, EMI, etc.
- What will you do to improve user experience e.g. UI, Ux, customer support, better on-boarding, etc. etc.
- What will you do to expand your margin e.g. may be e.g. on-demand freelance service provider model like Swiggy/Zomato instead of people on your rolls.
Market penetration strategy: How do we expand sales of our existing products in existing markets and customer segments (this will also dovetail into your media, distribution and channel partnership strategy)
Market development strategy: How do we expand our market - this could be new markets, or new consumers in the future
- What is our current target customer - this needs to be very, very, very sharply defined - demographics, psychographics, need, etc. etc.
- Which other customer segments would we want to service in the future (e.g. If you are a mid-premium brand, would we ever want to go mass-market? If so, when? Would we want to go the ultra-premium segment? If so, when? If yes to either or both options, would it be with the same brand name or different brand?)
- (e.g. Think of Private Banking and Retail Banking in the context of a bank’s offerings)
Diversification strategy: Leveraging some things from your current business, what new revenue lines / businesses / divisions / value proposition can be launched in the future
- What new product lines can we offer to our customer base (This should be evaluated on whether you will have an added advantage because of what you already have - e.g. customer base, technology, service provider network)
- What new businesses can we explore because of our insights in a market or customer segment (And if yes, what is the right time to launch this…. When we have 10,000 subscribers or when we have 100,000 subscribers?… if it is 100,000 then the base product itself may need some thinking e.g. maybe a freemium model?)
Not all strategies need to be executed at the same time, or immediately. But if you have a long-term plan outlined, it allows you to be cognisant of what competencies you may be able to build even in the current stage
The reason why mission & vision are super critical to define is because then your strategies can be assessed on whether they deliver on the mission & vision… else, even if they seem lucrative, it might be better to drop them if they don’t help you achieve your mission and vision
Sustainable competitive advantage - what will give you a defensible differentiator…. That will be hard for someone to replicate
- What do we focus on e.g. increasing customer base or increasing revenue per customer or improving unit profitability
- What are our business goals
- What is our roadmap to achieve our goals
All this will drive the brand communication strategy:
- What is our target audience (this could be different for the corporate brand and for specific offerings) - who is the user, who is the influencer, who is the buyer
- What is the positioning of the brand (e.g. convenience, experience, dependable/reliable, value-for-money, functional, etc. etc.) - think of Indigo Airlines and Kingfisher for understanding difference in positioning of the two brands
- What is brand personality you want to create / reinforce (in the long run)
- What is your brand’s communication style
- What is your media mix strategy (and why) e.g. what role is each medium going to play - i.e is PR for awareness or for lead generation
- Content marketing (as different from marketing content)
- Outdoor (hoardings, posters, in-cab advertising, etc. etc.)
- Video (TV, cinema, YouTube, etc.)
- Direct marketing
- Outbound calling
- Feet on street
- Channel partnerships e.g. distributors, agents, etc. etc.
Note: The marketing mix will differ by stage and business goals e.g. for a subscription service targeted at retail consumers, direct marketing may work in getting the first 500 customers but may not be the most optimal for getting to 50,000 customers)
Doing the above exercise also helps you plan for and focus on the things that will add the most value, rather than just things that may add quick revenues but may be tactical. (And even if you do do some tactical things to get quick revenues, you recognize them as that and do not take your eye off the core of the business i.e. mission, vision and strategy.).
Getting all the above in shape will involve a lot of back and forth… a lot of debates about what to keep and what to drop, what numbers, what should we focus on and what will be the trade offs, etc… There is no one ‘right strategy’…. Strategy is nothing but making a choice of which direction to follow, and aligning the rest of the resources behind that decision.