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A marketing strategy will help you identify your best customers, understand their needs and implement the most effective marketing methods.

The internet has transformed business marketing. No matter what you do, the internet is likely to be at the heart of your marketing strategy.

Social media is firmly established as a marketing tool. Having a presence opens up new lines of communication with existing and potential customers.

Good advertising puts the right marketing message in front of the right people at the right time, raising awareness of your business.

Customer care is at the heart of all successful companies. It can help you develop customer loyalty and improve relationships with your customers.

Sales bring in the money that enables your business to survive and grow. Your sales strategy will be driven by your sales objectives.

Market research exists to guide your business decisions by giving you insight into your market, competitors, products, marketing and your customers.

Direct marketing can be a highly successful way to generate sales from existing and new customers. Find out how to target them in the best way.

Exhibitions and events are valuable for businesses because they allow face-to-face communication and offer opportunities for networking.

PR

Favourable media coverage can bring a range of business benefits. But how do you attract the attention of editors, broadcasters and journalists?

Marketing strategy

Every time you speak to someone about your business you are involved in marketing. Any conversation about your firm is an opportunity to promote your business and increase sales.

A marketing strategy will help you focus. It will identify the different ways you can talk to your customers, and concentrate on the ones that will create most sales.

It tells you what to say, how to say it and who to say it to in order to make more sales. Because timing is critical, it will tell you when to say it, too.

Marketing strategy: objectives

Your marketing objectives will focus on how you increase sales by getting and keeping customers.

To explain how to do this, experts talk about how best to package your products and services, how much to charge for them and how to take them to market.

A marketing strategy will help you tailor your messages and put the right mix of marketing approaches in place so that you bring your sales and marketing activities together effectively in an effective marketing plan.

Marketing strategy: knowing your customers

A successful marketing strategy depends on understanding your customers, what they need and how you can persuade them to buy from you.

There's no substitute for knowledge. Experience and regular two-way communication will tell you a lot about your customers. But targeted market research will build a more detailed picture of customer segments with similar needs. It will help you understand how to target these people so you're not wasting time on people who aren't interested in your offer.

But you'll also need to understand how your market works - where do your customers find out about your offer, for example? Your strategy should even tell you how you measure up against the competition and what new trends to expect in your market.

Marketing strategy: making a plan

A marketing plan explains how to put your strategy into action. It will set marketing budgets and deadlines, but it will also tell you how you're going to talk to your target customers - whether that's through advertising, networking, going to trade shows, direct marketing, and so on.

Crucially, it will tell you when to talk to your customers. Timing your activities to fit their buying cycles will save money and maximise sales.

Finally, your marketing plan should look to the future: it should outline how you follow up sales and what you're doing to develop your offer.

As with any plan, progress should be regularly measured and reviewed to see what's working and what isn't, so you can set new targets as your market changes.