Over the years, I have explored, collected and trialled plenty of marketing, brand and business strategy tools. Overall, I’m not very good at using them consistently. They have to be pretty simple and pragmatic in their application to be useful in the real world. Now, the reason I persist in trying to find a collection of strategy tools to help is that this is a better path than the following commonly used options.
- Make stuff up. Do whatever it is that you feel like doing, and then reverse engineer justification. Find someone to work with who likes your money and is willing to agree with you. This can work – some people are incredibly intuitive, but for most, it’s a bad idea.
- Use the standard marketing plan template that you downloaded off the web. Great. At least this makes you think about each key section of a marketing plan. But how do you know what to put in each section – easy. Just refer to A.
5 Marketing Strategy Tools to Help
So the descriptions of the following tools are short and sweet, but if you are here with the mission of finding a collection of tools to help craft a marketing or brand strategy – then you have come to the right place.
At least, I think so.
And the reason I think so is that I have not made them up and given them some fancy name. Every one of these tools has been developed and refined over many decades. Put them into a search engine like Google Scholar, and you will be greeted with dozens of peer-reviewed articles on their application.
(OK – that sounds so boring. Just trust me, they are worth using).
The Playing To Win Framework
The “Playing to Win” Cascading Strategy Framework is a strategic approach developed by A.G. Lafley and Roger L. Martin. It is based on their experiences at Procter & Gamble (P&G) and is outlined in their book titled “Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works.” This framework offers a structured and practical methodology for organizations to develop sound strategies that align with their goals and capabilities.
The “Playing to Win” framework consists of five key elements:
- Winning Aspiration
- Where to Play
- How to Win
- Core Capabilities
- Management Systems
While there is a lot to learn to master the concept. At a top level, it is pretty straightforward. Answers need to be provided at each level, but they must be congruent with each other sections. It forces you to make choices and forces you to have alignment between the market you compete in, how you choose to compete, and the business’s capabilities.
The “Playing to Win” framework is, in my experience, reasonably practical and action-oriented. It encourages businesses to make deliberate choices. In particular, the Where to Play and How to Win elements are what I focus on. And you can just buy the book to learn more.
It’s worth listening to/watching some of Roger Martin’s talks as well.
Market Segmentation Map
How do you know where you are going without a map? You really don’t.
A Market Segmentation Map is a visual representation that helps a business understand and display information about various customer segments based on specific criteria. This map assists in making informed decisions about brand positioning, product offerings, and communication approaches for each segment.
It will help identify different customer segments based on certain characteristics or criteria, such as demographics (age, gender, income), psychographics (lifestyle, values, interests), behaviour (buying habits, product usage), geographic location, or any other relevant factors.
- Analysis and Decision-Making: By visually mapping out different segments and their characteristics, businesses can gain insights into the diversity of their target market. This helps in tailoring marketing efforts and strategies to meet the specific needs and preferences of each segment. It also aids in identifying segments that offer the most potential for growth and profitability.
- Communication and Personalization: The Market Segmentation Map guides businesses in crafting personalized marketing messages and offers for each segment. This approach can lead to more effective communication, higher customer engagement, and better conversion rates.
- Resource Allocation: The map helps businesses allocate resources effectively by focusing efforts on segments with the highest potential return on investment. It also helps in avoiding one-size-fits-all approaches – in particular for digital marketing, which has detailed targeting options.
Remember that the specific structure of a Market Segmentation Map can vary based on the company’s needs and the nature of the market. For what can end up being a simple diagram, a significant amount of research and thinking can be required to create a Segmentation Map that is truly useful for decision-making. There are many ways to accomplish a segmentation map, and I honestly could not tell you which is the right one.
There is, however, one critical point to be made. The segments have to be usefully different. This might sound obvious, but many segments I have seen created sound great, but in reality, are challenging to target and be truly useful.
I like to use a Treemap Graph to represent the information (we can then write extra stuff in each of the boxes), but this is personal.
Competitors Perceptual Mapping
Competitors’ perceptual mapping, also known as competitive perceptual mapping or competitive positioning mapping, is a visual tool used to understand how customers perceive different competitors or brands in a particular market. Perceptual maps help businesses gain insights into the competitive landscape and identify strategic opportunities.
On the surface, they look simple and are easy to read and interpret, which is a big positive. But scratch one layer below, and you will quickly realise that the analysis that goes into determining which competitors to focus on and which attributes to map makes their creation something that requires a significant level of research.
Here’s how the process of creating competitors’ perceptual maps might work:
- Identify Key Competitors: Determine the main competitors in the market you want to analyze. These could be brands, products, or companies that compete in the same market segment or for the same customers.
- Select Relevant Attributes: Choose the attributes or factors that are important to customers. These attributes could be related to product features, benefits, quality, price, customer service etc.
- Collect Data: Collect data on how customers perceive each competitor with regard to the selected attributes. This data can be gathered through surveys, focus groups, online reviews, or other forms of market research.
- Scale and Measurement: Use a scale to quantify customers’ perceptions of each competitor’s performance on the selected attributes. This could be a numerical scale (e.g., 1 to 10) or a semantic differential scale (e.g., excellent to poor).
- Plotting the Map: Create a two-dimensional graph where each competitor is represented as a point on the graph.
It’s a valuable tool for market positioning, brand differentiation, and strategic decision-making. By understanding where competitors are positioned and how customers perceive them, businesses can tailor their marketing strategies to stand out and meet customer needs more effectively.
A Perceptual Map cannot be done without first doing the Segmentation Map discussed above – otherwise, how would you know which customers and competitors to focus on?
The Perceptual Map works perfectly with the Strategy Canvas discussed below – in fact, you will probably use several of the attributes from the map to create the Canvas.
Blue Ocean Strategy Canvas
I enjoyed reading the Blue Ocean Strategy book a long time ago, but it ended up being something that I could never get my head around actually using in its entirety. However, there was one tool that I did bond with, and that was the Strategy Canvas. A simple diagram that maps out the key factors related to an industry or market category.
In the words of the Blue Ocean Website…
The strategy canvas serves two purposes:
- It captures the current state of play in the known market space, which allows users to clearly see the factors that an industry competes on and invests in, what buyers receive, and what the strategic profiles of the major players are.
- It propels users to action by reorienting their focus from competitors to alternatives and from customers to noncustomers of the industry and allows you to visualize how a blue ocean strategic move breaks away from the existing red ocean reality.
It works beautifully with the Playing to Win Framework section on “How to Win” and can help to general novel ideas and strategies to operate and market the business in ways that differentiate it from competitors.
It tends to be great at starting conversions about what are the key factors for success, where the business currently sits, and what we could change (or promote) to provide the business with an advantage.
Customer Journey Map
The fundamental idea behind a Customer Journey Map is relatively simple; it is a visual depiction of the sequence of events through which customers may interact with an organisation during the purchase process.
So this one can be a bit hit-and-miss. And is say this because the process can create large generalisations about how people purchase from a category – and we know that everyone is different right?
However, the process helps clients become more customer-orientated, and to be successful requires empathy and, ideally, a level of ethnographic research to achieve. Which can only help.
A customer journey map provides a comprehensive view of the customer’s interactions, emotions, and needs, helping organisations identify pain points, opportunities, and areas for improvement.
Here’s how customer journey mapping typically works:
- Identify Touchpoints: Begin by identifying all the touchpoints through which customers interact with your business (or businesses similar to yours). Touchpoints can include website visits, social media interactions, customer service calls, in-store visits, product usage, etc.
- Define Stages: Divide the customer journey into different stages that align with the customer’s progression, from initial awareness to post-purchase support. Common stages include awareness, consideration, purchase, onboarding and usage.
- Gather Data: Collect data through various sources such as customer feedback, surveys, interviews, analytics tools, and user testing (depending on your time and budget). The goal is to understand customer behaviour, emotions, pain points, motivations, and the context of their interactions.
- Create the Map: Create a visual representation of the customer journey map. This can be done using a timeline or a flowchart format. Post-Its and large pieces of paper are great. Place touchpoints within the corresponding stages based on when customers encounter them. Include information about how customers feel and what they expect at each touchpoint.
- Empathise by adding Pain Points: Highlight customer emotions and pain points at each stage.
Analyze the customer journey map to identify areas where you can reach them most effectively from a marketing perspective and also where the customer experience can be enhanced. Look for pain points, gaps in information, inconsistencies, and opportunities (and feed this back into the Strategy Canvas above).
A couple of not commonly asked questions when using this tool are the following:
- How much knowledge do customers have of the category overall? I.e. is well known, or are customers starting on a journey of learning for themselves?
- How well do customers understand the options available within the category (this flows from the above question)?
- How good is brand awareness within the category?
So that’s it.
Not really. There’s a lot of work to do now. My approach is similar to solving a puzzle. I draw them out on paper and start by filling in what we (myself and a client) think we know (much of this being our assumptions). As we come to gaps in our knowledge, we go away and do the research required to generate an answer. Slowly each tool is filled out, and we look at the consistencies (or inconsistencies) between each.
Even if you rush the above processes and finish them in only a few weeks – there is no way that you will be in a worse position than when you started. Being more aware of your market/customer/competitor is inevitable – and this will lead to better marketing decisions.