Trisha Shetty (Editor)

Marketing strategy

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit

Marketing strategy has the fundamental goal of increasing sales and achieving a sustainable competitive advantage. Marketing strategy includes all basic, short-term, and long-term activities in the field of marketing that deal with the analysis of the strategic initial situation of a company and the formulation, evaluation and selection of market-oriented strategies and therefore contribute to the goals of the company and its marketing objectives.


Marketing management versus marketing strategy

The distinction between “strategic” and “managerial” marketing is commonly used to distinguish "two phases having different goals and based on different conceptual tools. Strategic marketing concerns the choice of policies aiming at improving the competitive position of the firm, taking account of challenges and opportunities proposed by the competitive environment. On the other hand, managerial marketing is focused on the implementation of specific targets."

Developing a marketing strategy

Strategic planning typically begins with a scan of the business environment, both internal and external, which includes understanding strategic constraints. It is generally necessary to try to grasp many aspects of the external environment, including technological, economic, cultural, political and legal aspects. Goals are chosen. Then, a marketing strategy or marketing plan is an explanation of what specific actions will be taken over time to achieve the objectives. Plans can be extended to cover many years, with sub-plans for each year, although as the speed of change in the merchandising environment quickens, time horizons are becoming shorter. Ideally, strategies are both dynamic and interactive, partially planned and partially unplanned, to enable a firm to react to unforeseen developments while trying to keep focused on a specific pathway; generally, a longer time frame is preferred. There are simulations such as customer lifetime value models which can help marketers conduct "what-if" analyses to forecast what might happen based on possible actions, and gauge how specific actions might affect such variables as the revenue-per-customer and the churn rate. Strategies often specify how to adjust the marketing mix; firms can use tools such as Marketing Mix Modeling to help them decide how to allocate scarce resources for different media, as well as how to allocate funds across a portfolio of brands. In addition, firms can conduct analyses of performance, customer analysis, competitor analysis, and target market analysis. A key aspect of marketing strategy is often to keep marketing consistent with a company's overarching mission statement.

Marketing strategy should not be confused with a marketing objective or mission. For example, a goal may be to become the market leader, perhaps in a specific niche; a mission may be something along the lines of "to serve customers with honor and dignity"; in contrast, a marketing strategy describes how a firm will achieve the stated goal in a way which is consistent with the mission, perhaps by detailed plans for how it might build a referral network, for example. Strategy varies by type of market. A well-established firm in a mature market will likely have a different strategy than a start-up. Plans usually involve monitoring, to assess progress, and prepare for contingencies if problems arise. You should also write a marketing strategy when starting your own business.

The customised target strategy

The requirements of individual customer markets are unique, and their purchases sufficient to make viable the design of a new marketing mix for each customer.

If a company adopts this type of market strategy, they design a separate marketing mix for each customer.

The differentiated strategy

Specific marketing mixes can be developed to appeal to all/some of the segments when market segmentation reveals several potential targets.

Diversity of strategies

Marketing strategies may differ depending on the unique situation of the individual business. However, there are a number of ways of categorizing some generic strategies. A brief description of the most common categorizing schemes is presented below:

Strategies based on market dominance

In this scheme, firms are classified based on their market share or dominance of an industry. Typically there are four types of market dominance strategies:

  • Leader
  • Challenger
  • Follower
  • Nicher
  • Entrant strategies

    According to Lieberman and Montgomery, every entrant into a market – whether it is new or not – is classified under a Market Pioneer, Close Follower or a Late follower


    Market Pioneers are known to often open a new market to consumers based off a major innovation. They emphasise these product developments, and in a significant amount of cases, studies have shown that early entrants – or pioneers – into a market have serious market-share advantages above all those who enter later. Pioneers have the first-mover advantage, and in order to have this advantage, business’ must ensure they have at least one or more of three primary sources: Technological Leadership, Preemption of Assets or Buyer Switching Costs. Technological Leadership means gaining an advantage through either Research and Development or the “learning curve”. This lets a business use the research and development stage as a key point of selling due to primary research of a new or developed product. Preemption of Assets can help gain an advantage through acquiring scarce assets within a certain market, allowing the first-mover to be able to have control of existing assets rather than those that are created through new technology. Thus allowing pre-existing information to be used and a lower risk when first entering a new market. By being a first entrant, it is easy to avoid higher switching costs compared to later entrants. For example, those who enter later would have to invest more expenditure in order to encourage customers away from early entrants ). However, while Market Pioneers may have the “highest probability of engaging in product development” and lower switching costs, to have the first-mover advantage, it can be more expensive due to product innovation being more costly than product imitation. It has been found that while Pioneers in both consumer goods and industrial markets have gained “significant sales advantages”, they incur larger disadvantages cost-wise.

    Close followers

    Being a Market Pioneer can more often than not, attract entrepreneurs and/or investors depending on the benefits of the market. If there is an upside potential and the ability to have a stable market share, many businesses would start to follow in the footsteps of these pioneers. These are more commonly known as Close Followers. These entrants into the market can also be seen as challengers to the Market Pioneers and the Late Followers. This is because early followers are more than likely to invest a significant amount in Product Research and Development than later entrants. By doing this, it allows businesses to find weaknesses in the products produced before, thus leading to improvements and expansion on the aforementioned product. Therefore, it could also lead to customer preference, which is essential in market success. Due to the nature of early followers and the research time being later than Market Pioneers, different development strategies are used as opposed to those who entered the market in the beginning, and the same is applied to those who are Late Followers in the market. By having a different strategy, it allows the followers to create their own unique selling point and perhaps target a different audience in comparison to that of the Market Pioneers. Early following into a market can often be encouraged by an established business’ product that is “threatened or has industry-specific supporting assets”.

    Late followers

    Those who follow after the Close Followers are known as the Late Entrants. While being a Late Entrant can seem very daunting, there are some perks to being a latecomer. For example, Late Entrants have the ability to learn from those who are already in the market or have previously entered. Late Followers have the advantage of learning from their early competitors and improving the benefits or reducing the total costs. This allows them to create a strategy that could essentially mean gaining market share and most importantly, staying in the market. In addition to this, markets evolve, leading to consumers wanting improvements and advancements on products. Late Followers have the advantage of catching the shifts in customer needs and wants towards the products. When bearing in mind customer preference, customer value has a significant influence. Customer value means taking into account the investment of customers as well as the brand or product. It is created through the “perceptions of benefits” and the “total cost of ownership”. On the other hand, if the needs and wants of consumers have only slightly altered, Late Followers could have a cost advantage over early entrants due to the use of product imitation. However, if a business is switching markets, this could take the cost advantage away due to the expense of changing markets for the business. Late Entry into a market does not necessarily mean there is a disadvantage when it comes to market share, it depends on how the marketing mix is adopted and the performance of the business. If the marketing mix is not used correctly – despite the entrant time – the business will gain little to no advantages, potentially missing out on a significant opportunity.

    Raymond Miles' strategy categories

    In 2003, Raymond Miles proposed a more detailed scheme using the categories:Miles, Raymond (2003). Organizational Strategy, Structure, and Process. Stanford: Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-4840-3. 

  • Prospector
  • Analyzer
  • Defender
  • Reactor
  • Marketing warfare strategies – This scheme draws parallels between marketing strategies and military strategies.
  • Growth strategies

    Growth of a business is critical for business success, so using strategies such as horizontal integration, vertical integration, diversification and intensification will all benefit a business’s growth, be it long term or short term. Refer to Ansoff's Matrix for a simpler explanation of the various growth strategies if those mentioned below are difficult to understand.

    Horizontal integration

    Horizontal integration is the degree at which employees are specialized and integrated in. There are low horizontal levels which show that employees are specialized in their work and high horizontal levels which show that employees are integrated in their work. A business's horizontal boundaries can determine the quantities and changes of products that are produced by two or more businesses that have been merged producing the same product as one business . Some benefits of the horizontal integration strategy is that it is good for fast changing work environments as well as providing a broad knowledge base for the business and employees. High levels of horizontal integration leads to high levels of communication within the business. Another benefit of using this strategy is that it leads to a larger market for merged businesses, and it is easier to build good reputations for a business when using this strategy. A disadvantage of using the horizontal integration strategy is that this limits and restricts the field of interest that the business is expanding the new products into. Horizontal integration can affect a business's reputation, especially after a merge has happened between two or more businesses. There are three main benefits to a business's reputation after a merge. A larger business helps the reputation and increases the severity of the punishment. As well as the merge of information after a merge has happened, this increases the knowledge of the business and marketing area they are focused on. The last benefit is more opportunities for deviation to occur in merged businesses rather than independent businesses.

    Vertical integration

    Vertical integration is when business is expanded through the vertical production line on one business. An example of a vertically integrated business could be Apple. Apple owns all their own software, hardware, designs and operating systems instead of relying on other businesses to supply these. By having a highly vertically integrated business this creates different economies therefore creating a positive performance for the business. Vertical integration is seen as a business controlling the inputs of supplies and outputs of products as well as the distribution of the final product. Some benefits of using a Vertical integration strategy is that costs may be reduced because of the reducing transaction costs which include finding, selling, monitoring, contracting and negotiating with other firms. Also by decreasing outside businesses input it will increase the efficient use of inputs into the business. Another benefit of vertical integration is that it improves the exchange if information through the different stages of the production line. Some competitive advantages could include; avoiding foreclosures, improving the business marketing intelligence, and opens up opportunities to create different products for the market. Some disadvantages of using a Vertical Integration Strategy include the internal costs for the business and the need for overhead costs. Also if the business is not well organised and fully equipped and prepared the business will struggle using this strategy. There are also competitive disadvantages as well, which include; creates barriers for the business, and loses access to information from suppliers and distributors.


    Diversification is an area included in the Ansoff Matrix strategy, where the most risk for a business is situated. This is due to the use of a new product being introduced to a new market, so there are no already existing target markets or competition. There are two types of diversification, vertical and horizontal. Horizontal diversification is when a new product is introduced but doesn’t contribute to the already existing product line. Meaning horizontal diversification focuses more on product that the business has knowledge about, whereas vertical diversification focuses more on the introduction of new product onto new markets, where the business could have less knowledge of the ne market. A benefit of horizontal diversification is that it is an open platform for a business to expand and build away from the already existing market. A disadvantage of using a Diversification strategy is that the benefits could take a while to start showing, which could lead the business to believing that the strategy doesn’t work. Another disadvantage or risk is, it has been shown that using the horizontal diversification method has become harmful for stock value, but using the vertical diversification had the best effects.

    Strategic models

    Marketing businesses often use strategic models and tools to analyze marketing decisions. There are three main models that can be applied and used within a business to receive better results and reach business goals. These include:

    The 3C’s

    The 3C’s stand for: Customer, Corporation and Competitor, is a strategic model that uses these three key factors which lead to a sustainable competitive market. This strategy was developed by a Japanese strategy guru called Kenichi Ohmae. Each factor is key to the success of this strategy; The corporation factor mainly focuses on maximizing the strengths of the business from which the business can influence the relevant areas of the competition to achieve success within the industry. Customers are the basis to any business. Without customers you have no business. The most important factors of customers and the wants, needs and requirements that the business needs to fulfill in order to attract buyers. The competition can be looked at in various different ways such as; purchasing, design, image and maintenance. The more unique steps a business takes the less competition a business will face in that field.

    The Ansoff Matrix

    The Ansoff Matrix model was invented by H. Igor Ansoff and is a model that focuses on four main areas, which are; Market penetration, Product development, Market development and Product/ Market Diversification. These are then split into a further two areas known as the ‘New’ and ‘Present’. From this strategy, businesses are able to determine the product and market growth. This is done by focusing on whether the market is a new market or an already existing market, and whether the products are new or already existing. Market penetration covers products that are already on the market and are familiar to the consumers, this creates a low risk as the product is already on the established market. Product development is the introduction of a new product into an existing market. This can include modifications to an already existing market which can create a product that has more appeal in the market. Market development, also known as market extension, is when an already existing product is introduced to a new market in order to identify and build a new clientele base. This can include new geographical markets, new distribution channels, and different pricing policies. The last area, Diversification, is the riskiest area for a business. This is where a new product is sold to a new market at the same time. There are two type of Diversification; Related which means the business remains in the same industry that they are familiar with. The other is Unrelated which is when there are no previous relations or market experiences for the business.

    Marketing Mix Model (4P’s)

    The 4P’s also known as Price, Product, Place and Promotion is a strategy that originated from the single P meaning Price. This strategy was designed as an easy way to turn marketing planning into practice. This strategy is used to find and meet the consumers needs and can be used for long term or short term purposes. The proportions of the marketing mix can be altered to meet different requirements for each product produced, similar to altering ingredients when baking a cake.

    Real-life marketing

    Real-life marketing primarily revolves around the application of a great deal of common-sense; dealing with a limited number of factors, in an environment of imperfect information and limited resources complicated by uncertainty and tight timescales. Use of classical marketing techniques, in these circumstances, is inevitably partial and uneven.

    Thus, for example, many new products will emerge from irrational processes and the rational development process may be used (if at all) to screen out the worst non-runners. The design of the advertising, and the packaging, will be the output of the creative minds employed; which management will then screen, often by 'gut-reaction', to ensure that it is reasonable.

    For most of their time, marketing managers use intuition and experience to analyze and handle the complex, and unique, situations being faced; without easy reference to theory. This will often be 'flying by the seat of the pants', or 'gut-reaction'; where the overall strategy, coupled with the knowledge of the customer which has been absorbed almost by a process of osmosis, will determine the quality of the marketing employed. This, almost instinctive management, is what is sometimes called 'coarse marketing'; to distinguish it from the refined, aesthetically pleasing, form favored by the theorists.

    With perhaps very few notable exceptions, "Real life marketing" (if this is not a journalistic made-up term) being based on gut instinct as opposed to trained, vetted and backed by high investment data, may produce very inferior results vs the marketing discipline taught in the best business schools such as Harvard, Insead or Cambridge, but also Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Coca-Cola, or Amazon.

    Strategic Marketing, because complex, suffers from being misunderstood. Many entrepreneurs and small companies think they can manage this without training. To the detriment of their business.

    An organization's strategy combines all of its marketing goals into one comprehensive plan. A good marketing strategy should be drawn from market research and focus on the product mix in order to achieve the maximum profit and sustain the business. The marketing strategy is the foundation of a marketing plan.


    Marketing strategy Wikipedia