Marketing strategy has many powerful benefits, but for maximum advantage, the purposes of your marketing strategy should be clearly stated in the context of the purposes of the business or organization as a whole. Here’s how to do that.

“Begin with the end in mind” is a well-known saying in business popularized by Stephen Covey in his famous 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Many other consultants and authors have pointed out the great importance of having a clear purpose. Human beings are naturally goal oriented, and without stated purposes the people in any organization can pursue their own personal interests – whatever feels right to them, thus dispersing the resources of the company and not accomplishing very much as a team.

In actuality most of us have multiple purposes where our business or organization is concerned. So it is helpful to gather together the owners and managers of the firm, perhaps with the help of a professional facilitator, and discuss the purposes of the organization as a whole and of marketing in particular. (Actually it’s really helpful to involve the entire company in small groups, but this is not cheap.)

A healthy discussion of purposes, desired end results, what we hope to accomplish, aims, goals and objectives can fill a flip-chart page fairly quickly with many items, usually not competing but complementary to one another. Then it’s helpful to step back, look at the list, consider what it means as a whole, and try to state a core purpose that sums up what most of the leaders or people in the organization want to accomplish.

In developing a marketing strategy, it is most realistic to accept that marketing cannot be adequately developed or practiced by itself – that can risk dispersing the energies and resources of the organization too much. In many organizations people in the marketing department or with marketing responsibilities tend to do what their predecessors have done in that job, what they want to do, or what top management tells them to do. But the most effective marketing purposes are defined within the context of the primary purposes of the organization as a whole, a system. This way marketing staff knows what it has to do, while the other departments or leaders know what they have to do, and everyone is pulling in the same direction, not with duplicated effort but with complementary effort. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

The purposes of your marketing strategy could include some or all of the following:

– Increasing sales and income

– Expanding into new markets

– Enhancing brand awareness

– Improving the company’s image, how it is perceived by the marketplace

– Better understanding the needs of your customers and prospects

– Gaining an advantage over your competitors

– Identifying and responding to new trends in the marketplace

– Promoting new products which are ready for launch

– Producing new marketing materials

– Strengthening Internet marketing and attracting new customers via the company website

The more the purposes of the marketing strategy are understood and shared within the organization, the more likely it is that those purposes will be accomplished! And the more they can be defined with measurable factors such as increased sales, improvement in brand awareness survey ratings, or the production of specific new marketing materials before year end, the more likely everyone involved will be pleased with the process and the results.

You can choose any purpose you want for your marketing strategy, but it is important to be realistic. For example, increasing sales by 10 percent over the next 12 months is probably realistic for most businesses. Being the world market leader in your business category is something very difficult to achieve. In between are many levels of achievement you can aim for. One way to do a good “reality check” is to see if all the members of your management team or group agree that your marketing purposes are realistic. Or ask a close customer or friend for their take on your objectives.

If you think of marketing strategy as an arrow, then the purpose would be center of the target or bull’s eye you hope to strike with your marketing program. The more focused your aim, and the more experience and skill you have as an “archer,” the more likely you will hit the center of the target. But many factors both within your organization and the external marketplace can impact your arrow on its path, and you may end up hitting the target but not the bull’s eye as a result.

The fact is, there is only one thing you can control: you. You cannot control your people – they have to control themselves – with your guidance hopefully, but they are not robots that you can program precisely. You cannot control what your customers or competitors will do. You cannot control all the marketplace dynamics, from the weather to changes in the economy or technology, which can impact your business and marketing at any moment. So be realistic. Choose your target carefully. But be very focused. All too many marketing programs are like the old saying,