Corporate marketing strategy

Many firms need a corporate marketing strategy.

In my experience, at least half of the big issues surfaced by strategic planning are to do with marketing.

Where we are in the strategic planning process

During earlier stages of the strategic planning, you will find the handful of major issues that the strategic plan must address. Usually at least one of them will be to do with marketing. At the strategic option generation and short listing stages of the planning process, corporate marketing strategies could well be on the agenda.

Corporate marketing strategy is not
business strategy

Many business managers believe that if they have a marketing strategy they have done business strategy as well. This is not so. They believe that firm level strategic planning results in one or more of these things -

  • repositioning of a company in its market place
  • introduction of a range of new products
  • a shift into a new market.

This is not to understate the importance of marketing. It is just that sometimes other elephant sized issues outside the marketing arena need attention in the strategic plan. For some companies corporate marketing strategy is the central issue for the corporate strategic plan, in other cases it is not.

For an overview of the definitions in the strategic marketing area, see the paper Strategic Marketing. A literature review on definitions, concepts and boundaries, by Jorge Mongay, Autonomous University of Barcelona, SBS Swiss Business School, 2006.

It is vital that top managers consider corporate marketing issues in the context of the SWOT analysis. They do not just delegating corporate marketing strategies to the ‘marketing manager’. All managers need to keep a clear distinction between marketing as methods and marketing as mindset.

Corporate marketing strategies -
methods and mindset

Marketing methods or techniques include such practices as -

  • advertizing expertise
  • packaging and product design
  • market research
  • competitor analysis
  • distribution
  • customer services
  • pricing policies and so on - a long list of marketing techniques, many of which might be of strategic significance in their own right.

Some firms confuse corporate marketing with the practice of advertizing. Advertizing is just one part of the practice of marketing, often called the marketing mix.

Marketing mindset means designing the whole business around the needs of the customer. The company will be aware of these needs from top to bottom. The chief executive will personally know all their opposite numbers in all the key customer hierarchies. The shop-floor workers and delivery people will know exactly how each customer likes their product delivered, when and where. Everyone in the company takes responsibility for satisfying the customer.

Corporate marketing strategy needs to take account of key issues to do with marketing practices. It also should attend to anything likely to alter the arenas in which a firm will compete.

Now let me point you to a few simple frameworks for thinking about some of the choices in corporate marketing strategy.

Corporate marketing choices

At the corporate level, the top managers need to have a clear framework that enables them to rule in or rule out some actions. These mainly relate to the products offered or markets served.

How does one choose a corporate marketing area in which to compete?

Elsewhere I have described the generic strategies that arise from basic choices about the basis of competition and the target markets. See the Porter generic strategies.

With these considerations in place, some other choices relate to product and market choices.
Start with a two by two grid. Label one-side “products” and the other “markets” in order to identify new business arenas.

Markets, together with the products to meet needs in these markets, define the target opportunities.

Two lower risk strategies and one higher risk strategy are possible.

Product market growth options

Four possible directions of development -

  1. Market penetration, i.e. sell more of the same to the same market
  2. Product development, i.e. sell new products to existing customers
  3. Market development, seek out new markets for existing products
  4. Diversification, i.e. sell new products to new groups of customers

For corporate marketing strategy, first consider using on current strengths.

The advantage in using these is highest for a market penetration strategy and lowest for an unrelated diversification strategy.

If the diversification opportunity looks worthwhile, then you might choose a strategy to build the required competencies. Thinking this through may raise other strategic options. These could include human resources strategies around recruitment or development of the needed capacity. Another option might be to acquire another business that already has the required corporate marketing capacity.

When such choices have been clarified, then the more specific corporate marketing strategies related to the use of marketing methods may be employed.

Marketing mix

The following factors influence the market and affect the business profits.

  • The "product" component includes the product design, which in turn can affect the name, packaging, and whether or not it includes associated services like after sales support, and so on. These in turn may affect the price.
  • Price should take into account the costs of producing and delivering the goods or services and if any kind of discounts will be offered. Approaches to pricing also include targeting a ‘price point’ in the market place, and managing costs to achieve desired profitability at this price level.
  • Place decisions shape where the product will be sold and how it will be distributed to the customers.
  • Promotion raises customer product awareness, and how they are encouraged to take purchase action. This includes strategies for advertising and public relations.

Marketing mess

Final approval on your approach to corporate marketing strategies rests not with top managers, or even the governing board of directors. The result depends on the customers.

Even successful businesses run risks of marketing failure -

  • Sudden changes corporate marketing because of managerial ego
  • superficial readings of market research data or
  • in unthinking responses to competitor actions.

The customers can vote by withdrawing their purchases and taking their business elsewhere.

A classic story, offering some lessons for would-be marketing strategists is that of 'New Coke'.

For a range of relevant material, see the listings below.

Return from Corporate Marketing Strategy to Business Strategy.

Return from Corporate Marketing Strategies to Simply Strategic Planning Home Page.

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