When Do I Need a Strategic Marketing Plan?
Remember marketing in the 20th Century? There was a limited number of channels from which to choose to reach your audience, such as TV, radio and print to mention a few. Nowadays, the list of marketing channels is about the length of my leg (and I am fairly tall!). So, how do you know which channels are the right channels to market your business? That’s where a Strategic Marketing Plan comes into play.
Wikipedia says a Strategic Marketing Plan is a long-term, forward-looking game plan of any organization or business with the fundamental goal of achieving a sustainable competitive advantage by understanding the needs and wants of their customers. In other words, it is your “here is what the marketing department is focusing on over the next X months to obtain these X number of defined goals.” (You can fill in the X’s.)
But how do you create this game plan? Where do you start? We recommend including these 4 must-have elements.
1. Start with a Company Overview
The Company Overview section is just that – it’s a summary of the purpose of your company, your mission, your vision, your unique selling point (aka USP). Include a brief (or better yet, if time permits) a detailed SWOT analysis of your company and don’t forget your goals.
Be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely) with your goals not vague and non-committal, and make sure the goals of the marketing department are clearly aligned with those of your company. If you want to take it just a bit further, throw in a competitive analysis position chart, such as the one below, to identify where your company currently sits with its biggest competitors.
Which leads me into the next must have in any business marketing plan… the competition.
2. Stacking Up Against the Competition
Any general knows you can’t plan an attack without knowing more about your enemies – or frenemies.
- What are their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats? (SWOT)
- How can your company capitalize on what they are lacking?
- What services do they offer? How does it compete with what you are offering?
- What markets are they trying to reach?
Most of this information can be found on the web – their website About page, social media accounts, even in their Google meta description. Just do a quick search. This does not need to be an in-depth analysis but you should at least try to find out where they are advertising, aka marketing, to their customers – the customers you want to attract. This will help you in determining where you should be marketing as well. And keep in mind that you don’t need to research every competitor, just those who you feel pose the greatest risk.
3. Identify Your Target Markets
While knowing your competitors is important, knowing who your customers are is even more important. Most businesses have more than one (what we like to call in the marketing biz) persona they are trying to attract and convert into a paying customer. Personas are simply fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customers that help everyone in the company – in marketing, sales, product, and services – internalize your ideal customer.
First, you must identify who your personas are. After that, ask some quick questions to get a better understanding of each one, like:
- What are their primary goals and challenges?
- What do they want to know?
- What triggers them to look for a solution?
- Where do they go to get information (their referral sources)?
- What influences their decision – both externally and internally?
There are many other questions that may come up too. Be open minded and consider all the ways your prospects and customers think about your company and its solutions. Once you have the answers, you can start to identify the marketing means to reach them at the various stages of their buyer’s journey and nurture them into new customers or upsell/cross sell opportunities for current customers.
4. Use the Right Marketing Channel at the Right Time
Now that you know about the who, what, when and why – let’s focus on the how and where. Provided the 3 must-haves above are complete, it is time to identify where it is best to distribute your message and when it is best to spread the word.
Start by listing all the various marketing channels out there in the world today. You will see the list will become overwhelming in no time. Now take that list and pull out the top 10 channels which best suit your needs. Again, think of not only where your competition is but more importantly, where your potential and current customers are. Then take those 10 and break it down into 5 ‘must do’s’, 3 ‘should do’s’ and 2 ‘nice to do’s’ (if time/budget permits). By narrowing down that once overwhelming list, you can feel more comfortable – and you have the research to back up your ideas. Be sure to include any costs associated with that plan (in time and or actual cash money) as well.
So… What’s Next?
Keep Your Marketing Strategy Up T0 Date
Start to put the plan into action. Kick off your must haves. Measure the results. This may take time but you will start to see a pattern. Keep in mind too that things may change – your competitors’ offerings, your personas, your industry, even the world. Update your strategy as often as needed and if a ‘must-do’ is not working for you (although don’t give up too fast), ditch it and try something else on your top 10.
At Creative MMS, discovery and strategy are important parts of any digital marketing plan. Learn how we accomplish those goals with SMART marketing, intuitive designs, and conversion optimization.
There is no secret sauce. Building a Strategic Marketing Plan requires detailed research, creative thinking, a smidge of patience, and a dash of daring.
Congratulations, your comprehensive marketing plan is complete! Now what do you do with it? Call us! Just kidding, not kidding.