Strategic Marketing - What it Means

Strategic Marketing might seem self evident, but it has a very different meaning to different groups in the organization. We will decode the message

The words “Strategic Marketing” evokes grand ideas and concepts. But as with many phrases, there is more than a little bit of ambiguity in the perception of those who hear it. Different groups within the organization will have very different interpretations of “Strategic Marketing”


When Sales hears the term “Strategic Marketing,” they think that means helping them sell more of what they already know they can sell, focusing on the obvious, proven strengths and strong markets. They think of you helping them find more opportunities that are invisible today.

Alas, sales seems to be locked into their past glory (where they win comfortably with minimal work), and are hesitant to venture outside their comfort zone. Add to that their time horizon of no more than 4 months, and they can’t help but think small.

If this sounds like tactical marketing, give yourself a brownie point.


Engineering takes a different view. They think Strategic Marketing is them developing a “cool” product, and then finding a market for it. However they neglect the whole up front research of the market, the problem, and the definition of a solution (A.K.A the "Product"), but jumps straight to the “we built this, now sell it” modus operandi.

Often a marketing person is brought in a few months before a product is ready, and is told to find a segment or market to target. Or worse, they are brought in 6 months post launch, when sales are far below expectations - duh.

Regardless, this isn’t strategic marketing.

A gold star for you if you identify this as bailing out a leaky ship.

Senior Management

This group should be far more attuned to Strategic Marketing. In fact they will often offer up the correct definition, “Strategic Marketing’s goal is to increase sales and thus achieving a sustainable competitive advantage for the organization”. Yet, they are as often blinded by the short term. Driven hard by metrics and the financial markets (especially in public companies), the heat is on to move the needle NOW and damn the future planning.

Oh, you will do future planning, you will do market research, you will identify lucrative segments to target, and they will likely be good plans. But those plans will be usurped by the drive, the pressure to increase revenue. So you will do more of the same, more often with limited results. And nobody will be happy.

What is Strategic Marketing Really Supposed to Be?

True strategic marketing is identifying one or more sustainable competitive advantages that a company has in the markets it serves (or intends to serve), and the allocation of resources to exploit those advantages.

It is the last that is most problematic, the allocation of the resources. Easy to do, if your identified, sustainable competitive advantage aligns with the pet projects of the group, much more difficult if you can’t get the agreement and buy in.

But that is why we are in Marketing.

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