Start with a Plan

Overwhelmed by today’s proliferation of communications channels, marketers often focus their attention on the project of the moment. Without a strategy-first approach, these businesses frequently spend their marketing dollars on isolated tactics that generate low ROI.

You may think that your company needs a Facebook page or to sponsor a local event. But what you really need to do is to take a step back and look at exactly why you think that is necessary. Before you dive into strategy you first must build a foundation by knowing your company’s unique selling proposition. Only then can you figure out which channels you should use to get your message across to prospects. A strategic marketing plan will help answer the “why” questions and ensure not only that you select the optimal tactics but that you develop the right marketing assets to use in communicating with your target audiences.

Finally, getting clarity on the details can help you to efficiently allocate your strategic marketing spend. In fact, a study by OnStrategy (formerly M3 Planning) found that businesses that use strategic plans in their marketing are 12% more profitable than business that do not.[1] In the study, firms whose top management were very committed to executing strategic planning saw an 80% increase in sales volume.

Keep the big picture in mind
If your company’s core goals are clearly defined, the leaders of the company will make better-informed decisions. After a set of big-picture ideas has been put on paper, it serves as the foundation for future short-term plans and guarantees a unified strategic vision.

In addition to helping everyone in your organization keep the big picture in mind, a strong strategic marketing plan lays out a detailed path to meet the company’s goals. The strategic plan makes it easier for members of the marketing team when they face both major and day-to-day decisions. It puts everyone on the same page, thus ensuring that they are able to work together efficiently—and more cost-effectively—toward achieving companywide goals.

Your strategic marketing plan’s job
To reap the benefits we’ve just outlined, begin by evaluating the current state of your business. We at TribalVision recommend that you conduct a full audit of your company’s current marketing efforts, review the competition, speak with customers, and speak with employees in order to gain a better understanding of the current state of your business.

Next, outline your company’s priorities. What are you trying to get out of this plan? More leads? Higher customer retention rates? Brand awareness? All of the above? These priorities should be the guiding principles of your company’s strategic marketing plan.

Once you’ve confirmed your company’s priorities, you can get more granular and determine which initiatives are best suited to achieve those company-wide goals. Estimate the ROI of various tactics that can get you closer to those goals, in order to determine which tactics should be implemented first and in what manner.

As you plan your tactical priorities, include a detailed timeline for each. Staff assignments for each initiative should be determined based on the strengths of individual employees. For this, TribalVision uses Gantt charts – a type of bar chart that enables you to visualize all of the elements of a project schedule simultaneously and to expand any single initiative within it to see all of its moving parts. However, a simpler document will work as well if you have only a few employees who are running your company’s marketing strategy.

The goal: an annual marketing blueprint
The result of this process should be an annual marketing blueprint in which the marketing tactics are chosen based on expected ROI and detailed marketing calendars are provided for each initiative. The plan should be meticulously detailed for the short-term (the upcoming six months), and should outline big-picture initiatives for the long-term.

A strong marketing plan will have the following components:

  • a delineation of all marketing assets and how to strengthen them
  • an internal marketing strategy
  • initiatives for new business outreach
  • a strategy for customer retention
  • concrete next steps for each component of the strategy.

The combination of these initiatives will help to strengthen your company, prepare it for growth, ensure that everyone in your company is on the same page and understands their roles, and ensure all customer-facing touch points deliver a consistent message.

Always be ready to adapt your plans to address new opportunities or unexpected obstacles. Also be flexible enough to make major adjustments as you begin to see which initiatives are producing the highest ROI and which initiatives are falling flat.

In-the-trenches takeaway
If your company doesn’t have a clear marketing plan in place, now is the time to develop one. Make sure that it is actionable and practical with clearly defined roles and accountability. Ask yourself, “Where do we want the company to be in a year?” After setting clear objectives, you can work backward to create a strategic marketing plan that achieves those goals. Make sure to audit your current marketing efforts, review the competition, and speak with your customers and your employees. Don’t be afraid to look beyond standard marketing tactics, such as email newsletters, paid search, and SEO; additional opportunities may come from properly equipping and training your salespeople, forming industry partnerships, or co-marketing with suppliers or distributors. Finally, consider new markets and new opportunities for growth.

[1] 1 Erica Olsen, “Leaders: Success Takes Strategic Planning,” OnStrategy, February 23, 2007, takes-planning/.