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How to Capture A Competitive Advantage With Strategic Planning

Author's avatar By Expert commentator 25 Jun, 2014
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3 essential requirements for a more strategic marketing planning approach

To compete today, a company needs a unique brand story if it’s going to really have success at capturing and maintaining a clear competitive edge over other organizations in its niche. This brand story has to resonate with your customers and play to their desires, passions and needs. But how can this be created? I believe that the best way to achieve this is by creating and implementing a systematic process of research with the framework of something called strategic planning. In this article I will cover the 3 techniques which can help support a more strategic approach.

1. Make time for Marketing Research and Planning

The most important quality that an organization needs if it wants to make understanding its customers a key part of its long term strategic planning is the development of a deep understanding of those customers real needs.

You will have to get to know these needs so well that your long term strategies become not just adaptive but also downright anticipatory of what the people you’re serving will want and respond to. This in essence is the antithesis of being reactive or behind the competitive curve and it can be achieved by digging deeply into the information you gain from your target market so that you instinctively learn what makes them tick and click with regards to your brand. In other words, you want to know your buyers enough so that you can accurately anticipate what they’ll want to buy and why.

Following this core process of strategic planning will put public perception of your company to a level that’s at least a cut above that of your competitors. Most fundamentally, achieving this requires asking questions which will define your long term company goals and then finding answers to those same questions through careful study of your customers behavior, effective viewing mediums (for marketing) and the market dynamic as a whole in your niche. Doing this will let you get to know your customers not just as superficial consumers but also as fully fleshed out human beings.

2. Know your Customers better than any competitor

Understanding your customers is a continuous process that your organization will have to start living and breathing on a daily basis, as part of its internal culture. As this quote from David Ogilvy shows, you must go further than simple surveys or basic client-related facts such as their age and spending budgets. Creating quality marketing research to fully understand customers is involved. You have to dig much deeper through the use of an assortment of tools on the web and in human resources so that you can create an integral customer profile which is constantly added to and made to evolve.

market-research quote

With this grade of in depth research, you will be much more adept at anticipating your buyers wishes and emotional trigger much more effectively than your competition. Achieving this will then let you then market strategically instead of reactively. And if you want an excellent example of a real world company that follows through on this exact philosophy and process, look no further than Apple Computer and its cult-like loyal following of buyers. Here are some of the more useful customer information metrics you might want to start looking at:

  • Daily online and even offline habits
  • Information about your buyers professional, personal and family lives
  • Their interests, personal passions, hobbies and assorted worries
  • Their communications, social media and online browsing preferences
  • Awareness of advertising and different marketing platforms you might use or want to use
  • The dynamics of your customers buying, shopping and desire related habits.

These are just some obvious examples and the more you flesh them out while also finding other information points to investigate, the better you’ll be able to make strategic predictions about what your consumers will respond to. Fleshing out this information and other, related metrics will let you better grasp your buyers’ emotional triggers.

3. Avoid Reactiveness at all Costs

Being purely reactive means playing a game of catch-up, and when you’re constantly trying to catch up, you’ll have no time to create any kind of long term strategic plan. This will make you fall behind your competitors and disappoint your existing customers eventually. More importantly still, a reactive marketing response will ruin your breathing space for guiding a clear course to the future of your company. While you’re busy reeling from surprises in your target market, your competitors are going to move ahead of you inexorably, particularly if they are actually implementing their own strategic planning process. Strategic planning concepts are covered in much greater detail within the pages of this Business guide to strategic planning from Insights into Marketing.

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