Small/medium companies often struggle with marketing because the business suffers from a lack of self-confidence.
"We don't really know who our customer is. We're not sure who we compete against. We don't know how the customer makes purchase decisions. We don't know if our pricing is right. We don't know if our products and services are optimally bundled. We have doubts about whether we're meeting expectations."
"We don't know, to be honest."
This is often the true answer to many marketing strategy questions that underpin effective marketing. The result is ineffective marketing activities and a waste of money. "Marketing" gets blamed as "not working" whereas the real problem is that the leadership suffers from a dire lack of confidence in what it is they are trying to promote.
It's like saying the car can't drive properly; meanwhile, you haven't learned how to drive.
As a business, gaining self-confidence in what you offer requires old fashioned market research, experimentation and testing. It is about deliberate interactions with customers and intentionally gaining feedback that then informs decision-making. It is about going beyond simply engaging customers for sales and turning it into a learning exercise.
Far too many companies don't run such customer experiments. They just keep bulldozing ahead and blame "marketing" when sales falter. Of course, it is easy to blame marketing! After all, it is the one function not completely under the owner's control because it inevitably involves a bit of magic in the form of creativity, communication and plain-old human behaviour.
Running a successful business requires constant fine-tuning. This fine-tuning is primarily the role of marketing (or market) strategy. It is about constantly evaluating customer needs, competing offerings and value propositions, refining one's own message to customers to punch through the noise and kickstart a series of actions that eventually lead to a sale.
Effective marketing starts with a clear understanding of the customer and "their world" which then informs the development of marketing campaigns. Too many marketing activities fail because this is not in place.
You first need to be confident in what you are selling before marketing activity can work. It's the pillar on which promotional success rests.