Corporate Strategy: The Ladder for Strategic Ascendancy

With the ever increasing B2B sales and rapidly expanding global network, organizations today face a tough challenge  dominating the competition and gaining substantial market share. Moreover to answer questions like “Where are we now?, Where do we want to be?, and How do we get there?”, companies require a concrete strategy to help comprehend and answer these questions at hand. These multifaceted problems requires the senior management of the companies to work in tandem to create and define “Corporate Strategy”, that helps address the ever increasing challenges of the corporate competition.

Corporate Strategy defined by the company’s senior management team are guiding principles for the organization as a whole which takes into consideration an assessment of the existing capabilities of the company and external opportunities and threats to the business. Thus formulation of a company’s Corporate Strategy requires inputs from multiple stakeholders, particularly senior management who are well aware of the strengths and weakness of the organization.

To device a proper Corporate Strategy most companies use existing documentation regarding their Corporate Product Strategy, Corporate Marketing Strategy, Corporate Operations Strategy, Corporate Finance Strategy, and Corporate Human Resource Strategy. These documents are integrated to help define a coherent Corporate Strategy. The level and complexity of documentation for these strategies vary depending on the size of the company and the breadth of its product portfolio and geographic reach.

Many companies execute strategic planning exercises at appropriate and specific time intervals like once or twice a year to arrive at a corporate strategy. This process helps ensure that leadership team has coherently defined goals and strategies that align with the overall strategic goals of the organization.

Corporate Strategy is often defined at a company level; but strategy can also be formulated at lower levels depending on the size and complexity of the organization. For example, the Corporate Strategy for an entire company can be divided into strategies for each business unit or geographic region and then divided further into specific product or brand strategies for each product or brand in a defined geographic region. The Product or Brand Strategy is the lowest level of this hierarchy.

Corporate Strategy thus acts as a benchmark for the company to execute future plans by carefully assessing it internal and external capabilities and helps inundate actions that aid in achieving overall targets and goals.

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Importance of Questions During Lead Generation Process

Questions are an effective tool for the Needs Assessment for Each Qualified Lead process. Asking questions is especially useful when the qualified lead does not have clearly stated needs.

Even in cases where requirements are documented, questions are an effective approach to gain a better understanding of the need or needs driving those requirements. Questions are also helpful in conveying a better understanding of the lead’s industry. Answers to the questions during this phase serve as inputs for designing, creating, or customizing a solution.

The questions asked during the Needs Assessment for Each Qualified Lead process are generally classified into two types:

Closed Questions – Closed questions can be answered with either a simple “yes” or “no,” or the answer may lie in a single word or phrase. Typical examples of closed questions include the following:

  • Is your annual revenue above $5 million?
  • Does your company use an ERP system?

Open Questions – Open questions require longer answers and cannot be answered with a “yes” or “no.” Typical examples of open questions include the following:

  • What can you tell me about your current business environment?
  • What can you tell me about your manufacturing process?

Needs assessment uses a combination of closed and open questions.

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A Disappearing Brand

The iPad was Apple’s last big innovation launched in 2010. Since then the company has yet to give the people a product that has really caused us to say, “wow.”

Why is this?

In the last five years the company has released upgrades to the iPhone, but I think we can all agree that Apple has mastered the art of the iPhone, so maybe it is time to move onto something else. The company seems to have adopted the, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality, but the problem with this approach is technology is not static. It is changing, adapting and growing every second; so instead of mastering its product, the company should think of advancing with technology by creating a new product.

Apple followed the iPad release with the iPad Pro, which should have provided us all with that “wow” factor that we have been looking for, but unfortunately the device seems more like a copy of Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3. So, instead of creating new, innovative products the company has stooped to mimicking.

This rut that Apple finds itself in can all be attributed to their previous innovations. According to Timothy Wang at Cubic Lane, “the company is at the top of the industry in the terms of revenues. There is really no pressing need to create or change when business is doing so well.”

The company has to get out of the comfort zone they’ve created if they plan on staying on top of the industry. Remember Nokia? The company used to be the leader in the mobile phone industry. If Apple doesn’t change their mentality soon they could become just another disappearing brand.

As discussed in the recent article, “Out with Innovation, in with Maturation,” brand loyalty is the reason for the company’s continued success, but if we, as consumers, aren’t provided with a big “wow” anytime soon we might find loyalty for another brand. I used to love my Nokia, but now I love my iPhone. Maybe I’ll love my Samsung Galaxy next, you never know.

Apple can look to the SMstudy® Guide, the Sales and Marketing Body of Knowledge, to find their answer. As noted inMarketing Research, book two in the six book series, “A 5C Analysis is one of the most popular and useful frameworks in understanding internal and external environments. It is an extension of the 3C Analysis that originally included, Company, Customers, and Competitors. Collaborators and Climate were later added to the analysis to make it comprehensive. This integrated analysis covers the most important areas of marketing, and the insights generated can help identify the key problems and challenges facing the organization.”

An analysis of the company and where it wishes to advance in order to beat competitors and appease their customers can be done with the help of collaborators and climate. Apple needs to stand up to its reputation as the most innovative company in order to stay on top of the technological food chain, and fortunately for the company the SMstudy® Guide is the light at the end of their innovative tunnel.

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Levels of Sales and Marketing Strategy

A company enjoying a good reign must possess an assortment of umbrellas.

Beneath the wide umbrella of Corporate Strategy exists a smaller umbrella known as Corporate Marketing Strategy, which covers Business Unit and Geographic Strategies. Those, in turn, are further divided into particular Product or Brand Strategies for each product or brand.

This figure illustrates the relationship between the various strategies:

The Corporate Marketing Strategy is defined at a corporate level and outlines the overall marketing goals for the company. These general marketing goals drive more specific marketing strategies for each of the company’s business units or geographies. Each business unit or geography defines its own goals, which become relevant inputs for each area’s particular product or brand marketing strategies. Each product or brand marketing strategy defines sales and marketing objectives for each product or brand, which drive specific tactics that align with and often rely on other Marketing Aspects identified in theSMstudy® Guide (Marketing Research, Digital Marketing, Corporate Sales, Branding and Advertising and Retail Marketing).

Here is an example of Levels of Sales and Marketing Strategy:

Land Development Company

  • Corporate LevelA land development company wants to grow to be among the top three land development companies in its state.
  • Business Unit/Geographic LevelThe land development company operates two business units: residential and retail. A goal of the residential business unit is to grow that unit by 12 percent within one year; a goal of the retail business unit is to grow that unit by 10 percent within the same time period.
  • Product/Brand LevelWithin the residential business unit, the company sells three products: condominiums, town homes and singles. The singles Product Marketing Strategy identifies an objective to grow the sale of single units by 15 percent. To achieve this objective, the teams responsible for building strategy within the various Aspects of Marketing establish specific objectives that are designed to support the overall product objectives and to align with one another.
  • Marketing Aspect Level­The company’s greatest strength is the fact that it is an award-winning leader in green sustainable development. Therefore, the branding and advertising team builds specific tactics that incorporate an increase in reach of its messaging around sustainable development. One specific tactic is to leverage billboard and newspaper advertising with the objective of increasing reach of green messaging by 30 percent. The digital marketing team incorporates tactics to support the objective of increasing the green sustainable development messaging, stressing the importance of this trend and positioning the company as a leader in the industry through the use of various social media channels. One specific tactic is to leverage blogs and online public relations with the objective of increasing the company’s rankings in online searches related to keywords such as “sustainable development.” The tactics of each Marketing Aspect are aimed at achieving their own specific objectives; however, both support the overall singles Product Strategy objective of achieving a 15 percent growth in sales for this product line.

When seeking sustained success, a company should equip and adhere to a comprehensive Corporate Marketing Strategy. That umbrella has you covered.

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Shifting Techniques: From Conventional to New-Age Marketing

In the twentieth century, with the increase in the number of manufacturers and industries for specific products, consumers had numerous options to buy from multiple manufacturers. Manufacturers faced the need to differentiate their product and thus mass media marketing was born. Primary channels used for mass media marketing were print advertising, mass mailers, television, radio, and outdoor advertising. The objective of conventional mass media marketing was for organizations to create strong brands and differentiated brand perceptions so that consumers would desire and purchase their products rather than those of competitors.

However, in recent times, the media have become increasingly fragmented with several hundred television and radio channels as well as a large variety of print media including newspapers, magazines, and trade publications. With the increasing popularity of the Internet and, more recently, smartphones, many options now exist for advertisers to reach a global audience using digital media marketing methods such as cell phone apps, Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, QR codes, gamification, and proximity marketing. All of these options have resulted in fragmented new-age marketing. Some characteristics of fragmented new-age marketing are as follows:

  • Fragmented new-age marketing suits new, small brands with much smaller budgets targeted directly to customers in a global marketplace. Thus, it enables small companies and startups with smaller budgets to achieve a global reach.
  • New-age marketing is data-driven and more centered on driving specific calls to action. Also, new-age marketing is about engagement, unlike mass media marketing, which involves interruption.
  • Sales and Marketing communications have increasingly become multi-directional in new-age marketing. The producers can reach consumers directly; similarly, consumers can share their feedback with producers and other consumers.
  • Huge amounts of data gathered by multiple media forms and the ability to process the data through proper marketing analytics and generate valuable insights has given rise to the newest trend of “smart marketing.”

These characteristics provide compelling reasons for companies to shift their focus toward fragmented new-age marketing. Marketers evaluate all media in terms of who the target audience is and what media resonates best to arrive at an integrated approach to marketing by leveraging the strengths of various types of media.

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Selecting Points of Parity and Differentiation

Points of parity for a product are those characteristics of a company’s product that are not unique but are rather on par with competing products. Points of differentiation are those areas on which a company’s product outperforms competing products. The company needs to decide which product features and benefits it wants to match with competing products, and those it wants to differentiate from competing products. It is simply not feasible or advisable for a company to differentiate its product on all aspects.

Though points of differentiation provide a company with its competitive edge over the competition, choosing points of parity carefully is also important. Customers should be able to relate the company’s product with a certain product category, so they can understand at a broad level the type of need that the product satisfies. Therefore, some basic characteristics of the product must be similar to other products in its category. If the product fails to meet the basic characteristics that customers expect from all products in the product category, then customers may not consider it for purchase, irrespective of how well the product is differentiated on other characteristics.

In product categories where there are many differentiation options (such as in the software industry), it makes sense to focus on creating sustainable differentiators rather than on blunting the competition’s points of differentiation. Thus, efforts could be better utilized in creating profound points of differentiation. Additionally, differentiation is not always accomplished through product characteristics. It can be created by offering better services or unique packaging, or by implementing more efficient processes that provide a cost advantage.

Let’s try to understand this better with a few examples..

In the past, the ability of major retailers to provide options for customers to purchase products online would have been a point of differentiation. However, as online shopping grows in popularity and more companies develop their e-commerce capabilities to match consumer demand, the ability to facilitate online shopping has become a point of parity among major retailers.

Similarly, Until recent years, free internet connectivity through Wi-Fi was a point of differentiation for some coffee shops; however, as increasingly more consumers have come to expect this service, the ability to be freely connected is quickly becoming a point of parity in the industry.

A company may choose to match a competing product on a point of differentiation, effectively softening that product’s edge. Thus, if the company achieves parity on all the basic characteristics and blunts the competition’s competitive advantage by targeting its point of differentiation, then even a relatively minor point of differentiation can provide the company with a competitive advantage.

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Eye-to-Eye on IT Value, Marketing and SMstudy

When designing a marketing strategy should you start where you want to be, or where you are?

If you’re a motivational speaker, you’re probably saying, “Start where you want to be.” If you’re a process engineer, you’re likely to say, “Start where you are.” If you’re a marketing strategist, you’re probably saying, “Yes.”

“But it’s an ‘either/or’ question!” they might remind you.

“True, but the answer is still ‘Yes,’” you would answer.

In sales and marketing, there must be a strong focus on goals and objectives, the “where you want to be”bit. “The Corporate Marketing Strategy is defined at a corporate level. It defines the overall marketing goals for the company. These general marketing goals drive more specific marketing strategies for each of the company’s business units or geographies,” saysMarketing Strategy, book one of the SMstudy™ Guide.

Can the company meet these goals? The answer to this lies in the “where you are.” “The strengths and weaknesses of a company determine its internal capabilities to compete in a market and to fulfill customer expectations,” says the SMstudyGuide. “Strengths provide the company with a competitive advantage and weaknesses place the company at a disadvantage.”

“Start where you are” is one of the “Practitioner 9 Guiding Principles” identified by Axelos, the people responsible for publications coming from the Information Technology and Infrastructure Library (ITIL) of the British Home Office. These principles are designed to help IT practitioners succeed in an increasingly customer- and market-oriented service environment.

One of the key “Practitioner Guiding Principles” is “focus on value.” This is something marketing professionals know very well: their product’s or service’s value proposition. “All successful products or brands need well-planned marketing strategies in place to ensure that they satisfy the goals set by the corresponding Business Unit or Geographic level, and in turn the overall Corporate Marketing Strategy. Marketing Strategy is therefore one of the most crucial Aspects of Sales and Marketing. It defines a product or brand’s unique value proposition, target markets, and the specific strategies to be used to connect with defined audiences,” according to the SMstudyGuide.

Arriving at a value proposition involves identifying the target market segment: what are the people that make up this group like? What do they do for a living? For recreation? How do they spend their money? These are very similar to questions that IT developers ask and answer when creating personas for their end users and customers. How will they use this service? When will they most likely access it? What will it do for them? How much is this worth to them? The confluence of service development and marketing is becoming greater and greater.

With the decreasing time between product development and its “hitting the shelves,” it seems inevitable that marketing interests and elements would enter product lifecycles earlier. Which ties in well with “Practitioner Guiding Principle” number 8: collaborate. The real value that developers put into a product after conferring with marketing and management becomes the real value that the sales and marketing people communicate to the customers, who buy that value, take it home and cherish it. Everyone is working together and the world’s a happier place.

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