What is marketing strategy?

According to Wikipedia, marketing strategy is defined as:

Marketing strategy is defined by Prophet’s David Aaker as a process that can allow an organization to concentrate its resources on the optimal opportunities with the goals of increasing sales and achieving a sustainable competitive advantage.[1] Marketing strategy includes all basic and long-term activities in the field of marketing that deal with the analysis of the strategic initial situation of a company and the formulation, evaluation and selection of market-oriented strategies and therefore contribute to the goals of the company and its marketing objectives.[2]


I think it was put better by general Patton who is reported to have said that the secret of success in war was:

” to get there fastest with the mostest”

Or Montgomery’s statement that:

“success comes through being superior at the point you intend to strike the decisive blow.”

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Rudyard Kipling and the art of marketing


I KEEP six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.
I send them over land and sea,
I send them east and west;
But after they have worked for me,
I give them all a rest

The Elephant’s Child – just so stories

Kipling’s poem has been used as a basis for structuring writing projects and by journalists, but it also has much to tell us about the ancient art of common sense marketing.

Marketing is becoming more and more detailed and technically sophisticated, particularly as social media and other internet tools enable us to get closer to customers and amass a welter of detail about them and the impact of our marketing activities.

The ancient art of common sense marketing reminds us that – whatever the complexities of our market or the technical sophistication of our marketing tools – six simple strategic questions should underpin our thinking:

Who are we talking to?

Who is our customer? What do we know about them? What are their motivations and behaviours? How is the market segmented?

What are we trying to say?

What is our USP/proposition? How is it supported? What’s the benefit?

Why should they believe us?

What are competitors offering? How do we compare? What evidence do we have to support our product or service features?

How do we reach them?

Where do they get their information? What are the routes to market? What media do they consume and who do they turn to for advice?

Where do we engage with them?

What are the touch points? How does our customer service support the brand? How well trained are our staff?

When are they in the market?

What is the customer journey and the decision making cycle? What prompts the decision to buy and what are the criteria?

And so the six honest men continue to be the basis of our thinking as we go below the surface into increasing levels of sophistication, always seeking to answer who, what, when, why, how and where.

If we can do that we will get better targeted, more integrated, more effective marketing across all our platforms.

Kipling had it right.


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How Will The Rise In Private Providers Affect Traditional HE Models – threat or opportunity?

The UK Higher education sector is facing unprecedented challenges across all aspects of the competitive landscape from increasing numbers of universities, government policy aimed at freeing up the sector, students becoming more demanding under the impact of tuition fees, and new entrants in the form of private providers.

Private provision will become an increasingly important element of the Higher Education landscape in coming years and there is no doubt about the thrust of government policy in making the market more accessible to private providers  and reducing barriers to entry by addressing the regulatory framework.

The private HE sector contains a range of different types of institutions, which can be broadly divided into for-profit and non-profit sectors. For-profits include international corporations with a UK presence such as Kaplan (owned by the Washington Post) and the Apollo Group (which in 2009 acquired BPP, a for-profit provider of professional qualifications, some at HE level), as well as small colleges, often offering non-accredited programmes.

Private providers employ business models ranging from partnerships with UK institutions overseas, partnerships with UK institutions to accredit courses, gaining degree awarding powers themselves and acquiring existing institutions.

There has been a sea-change in attitudes to Higher education under the impact of tuition fees. Employability is the number one driver amongst applicants along with the course and its importance in helping deliver career aspirations. Return on investment is a key driver.

These developments in student attitudes to UK Higher Education offer significant opportunities to those Institutions and private providers who can tailor their offer to meet these three drivers – cost, employability, and relevant student experience.

The US experience offers some salutary lessons when it comes to the regulation of providers and the maintenance of quality parameters, but the private sector is quick to respond to market demands and on current trends, they are clearly putting pressure on UK Universities in the areas of professional and vocational programmes. However, this is also a marketing opportunity given the increasing emphasis on employability and the trade-offs being increasingly made by students between courses, costs, employment outcomes and the overall student experience.

Private providers are more flexible, can react quickly to market demand and do not carry the large overheads associated with a traditional University model. In addition, they invest heavily in marketing themselves at levels around 10% of turnover, whereas most UK Institutions invest less than 3%.

The biggest challenge facing Higher Education in the next 5-10 years is a change of mind set, from “funding” to “income generation”, from thinking like a public institution to thinking like a commercial enterprise, from marketing communications to marketing strategy, and from corporate identity to creating a powerful brand.

Universities need to embrace the potential for private sector business partners to develop more flexible business models and tailored service offerings whilst putting in place managerial processes to manage risks, based on experience in other countries.

This is an extract from “How Will The Rise In Private Providers Affect Traditional HE Models – threat or opportunity?” published in the EMS vision series. For more details or to order the full report please email ivor.lawrence@underlyingform.co.uk

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Chairing meetings or how to avoid chaos and get something done

Brown bar by Ivor

Brown bar by Ivor


Meetings are a part of everyday life, whether with colleagues, groups of friends, family members or groups we belong to. A lot of our personal and professional business is conducted through meetings, and a few simple rules can help move things along and get a positive outcome.

Rule 1

What are we trying to achieve with the meeting? What do we want to get out of it? What does the speaker want to get out of it? Who needs to be at the meeting?

Publish an agenda with the aims, content, timings and location of the meeting.

Rule 2

Introduce the speaker and make them feel comfortable. Find out a bit about them. They’ve taken the time to come and talk to you, so get them in a good frame of mind to deliver their best.

Rule 3

Keep to time! If you have an hour for the meeting, be clear what you want to achieve, what the stages are, and how long to allow for each. If you are planning a presentation for 20 minutes and questions for 15 minutes, ensure the speaker keeps to time and doesn’t eat into the allotted time for questions. Similarly, don’t allow questions to drag on and impact on the next session.

Rule 4

Allow adequate time for questions. Nothing is more frustrating for the audience than not having enough time. Get the ball rolling. If no-one wants to start – ask one yourself!

Rule 5

Everyone has a say. Try and give everyone an opportunity. Check to see whether people are being missed out. Don’t allow someone to hog the questions. Which leads to rule 6…

Rule 6

Manage conflict. Meetings can get heated. Try to retain control and don’t allow it to get out of hand. Insist on courtesy and step in if necessary. Don’t allow the speaker to be bullied.

Rule 7

Test understanding. Ensure the group has had their say and is happy they have understood the content and have no more questions. Test for understanding and gather feedback for the minutes and for the speaker.

Rule 8

Produce minutes, action points and allocate them to someone or call for volunteers. It’s all about getting things done!

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