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Marketing strategy

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Pick post its with tasks on

A marketing strategy is essential to the success of your co-op or community business. We've outlined the steps you need to take to create your own strategy and marketing plan.

What is a marketing strategy?

When businesses think about marketing, they often jump to the fun bit – the actions – and focus their energies on printing leaflets, tweeting or contacting the local paper.

Good marketing considers the whole organisation - the people, products and services, distribution channels, pricing as well as promotion. It looks at your competition, who your customers are and much more. We cover this in the marketing audit.

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Marketing is the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.
– Chartered Institute of Marketing

Creating a marketing strategy

Below we've outlined the steps you need to take to pull a simple strategy together. If you are are member of Co-operatives UK, you can download this template as a word document to use in your organisation, along with a template marketing audit.

First start with your vision and mission:

  • Your vision should be ambitious and defines where you want to be in the long term. For example, Co-operatives UK's vision is to 'build a better world through co-operation'.
  • Your mission is what you do. It describes simply why your organisation exists. For example, our mission is to grow the co-operative economy in the UK.

Your marketing and communications strategy should support your organisational strategy, business plan or operating plan. It should help you achieve the organisation's aims.

A situation analysis simply means looking at where you are now.  It's sometimes called a marketing audit. Spend some time writing down:

  • Your organisation's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT analysis)
  • The external factors influencing your co-op. These are the things that affect your co-op but are mainly outside of your control. Consider political, economic, social, technological, legal and environmental issues. This is called a PESTLE analysis.
  • Who are your main competitors, what are their strengths and weaknesses?  Look for any ways your co-op is different. 
  • What you know about your customers and their buying behaviour? Look at sales records, carry out surveys or simply ask people!
  • Who your stakeholders are. Stakeholders are people who have an interest or stake in your organisation, such as members, workers, suppliers etc. You could prioritise the ones that are most important.
  • Which products are the most profitable. Are there are opportunities for growth in your industry etc.

We've created a template marketing audit that you can use to plot down some of this information. Summarise the findings of your audit. What conclusions can be drawn?

Your marketing objectives will be informed by the marketing audit.  You only need three or four. Make these specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timebound, for example

  • Increase numbers of members by 10% and/or income from membership to £xx by the end of the financial year.
  • Increase engagement with new and existing members – from xx to xx by the end of the financial year.
  • Grow income from a specific business area to £xxx by the end of the financial year

You will need to decide how to measure these objectives. Make sure you know what the baseline (current situation) is. Otherwise you won’t be able to track any improvement.

  • Decide broadly how you will achieve each objective. For example, launching a membership recruitment campaign aimed at young people who live in your town. This is your strategy.
  • Outline the specific tasks that you will do to achieve each objective, by when and by whom.  These tactics form your marketing and communications plan and can be updated and monitored on a weekly/monthly/quarterly basis. This could take the form of a table or list of actions. It can be part of your strategy or included as an appendix.

  • This is the hard bit.  Now you have to do the work!
  • Deliver the tasks in your marketing plan and monitor progress.
  • Schedule time to reflect on what’s working, what’s not, and adapt the plan based on experiences.

These are sometimes called key performance indicators (KPIs). Pick the ones that will help you measure success against your objectives. Here are some examples.

  • Number of members
  • Turnover / profit
  • Satisfaction rating from customers
  • Income from particular products/services or business areas
  • Average customer spend
  • Income from funders
  • Market share
  • Social media followers / email subscribers
  • Feedback / complaints /compliments
  • Member/customer surveys and focus groups

It’s really important to evaluate your marketing and communications strategy so that you are working effectively. It’s common to get so involved in delivering your plans but not take the time out to measure if you have been successful.  Make sure you set objectives that can be measured, or you won't know if your hard work has paid off.

  • Use what you have learned to update the marketing audit, review your objectives and strategy.
  • How will you report your performance back to members?
  • How are members involved in setting your strategy and making decisions?

This step is often missed out, so take the time to reflect on what you have learned. 

Co-operatives UK members can access template marketing audit and strategy tools
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