The Chartered Institute of Marketing defines marketing as: “the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.”

Marketing is often given a far narrower definition and sometimes it is used interchangeably with ‘advertising’. It is also common to hear professional people talk about ‘sales’ and ‘marketing’ as though they were separate, but this is not the case. Marketing is a key management discipline, of which advertising and selling are part. It is on a par with finance, human resources and other business functions. Marketing enables the producers of goods and services to interpret customer needs and meet or exceed them.

Marketing is central to the performance of all companies because it involves the most important aspects of the commercial process. Many of the everyday business tasks fall within the marketing remit: identifying customers, researching their needs and preferences, analysing their behaviours and persuading them to buy from you. All businesses do this to some degree, but doing it consistently is often the challenge.

Decide on the ‘what’ before you start on the ‘how’

A marketing strategy outlines the business goals that you want to achieve with your marketing activities. So, first of all, you need to understand what your business goals are. If you are employed by an organisation you should be able to refer to the corporate plan to find out its strategic aims, but if you own your business you will need to define the goals yourself.

There are no hard and fast rules about what your marketing strategy should contain as it will depend on your individual business aims. For instance, if your intention is to bring in new customers this will require a different set of objectives than if you are trying to improve customer retention.

You will find a wealth of information about marketing strategy online. Some of it will resonate with you and the rest you can discard, but, whatever you do, make sure you have a clear idea of what you want your business to achieve BEFORE you plan any marketing activity.