In a rapidly changing world defining a workable Corporate Strategy and turning that into an effective Marketing Program is extremely challenging. Further, it is not unusual that just as you think you have cracked the code; new information arrives that requires rethinking the whole process.
At Neos, we have worked with companies of various sizes in many different spaces with the development of Strategic Plans and the Resulting Marketing Programs. There are a number of things we have learned in the process. Several things are important to know, and others are important to do.
Things to Know
A strategy-based marketing plan does not create itself, nor is it the kind of document that can be accomplished by just a few people in the company. It is a process that calls for the involvement of upper level management to provide needed strategic guidance and requires knowledgeable middle management and marketing staff to development an achievable plan for marketing success.
Developing a comprehensive strategic marketing plan is one of the most important things a marketing department will do for its organization. To insure success, there are seven essential elements to be aware of in order to have a productive and successful strategic marketing planning process.
1. Strategy development and marketing planning are not the same thing. Marketing planning flows from strategy. They are distinctly different, but related activities.
2. A strategic plan must come first. Marketing planning cannot proceed without a strategic plan agreed on by management. Only then can a marketing plan really be called a Strategic Marketing Plan.
3. A strategic plan is developed for an entire enterprise with input from all departments. A marketing plan, however, may be focused on one division, product or service.
4. Strategy is based on extensive analysis of the enterprise, its customers and its competitors. It is not based on how someone “feels” about the enterprise, its customers and competitors.
5. Part of the strategic planning process is selecting the go-to-market approach. The marketing plan develops the “How”, as in how this approach will be implemented.
6. Mission, Vision and Values are formed as part of the strategic plan. They guide the marketing plan. They are NOT determined by the marketing department.
7. Before marketing planning, comes analysis. The analysis needs to be of both the external environment, including competitors, and a self-assessment, including current and needed marketing resources.
Twelve Things To Do
Many activities called strategic marketing planning don’t produce useful strategic results. To insure your Strategic Plan is well thought out and of use to you and your organization, do these twelve things so your strategic marketing planning process yields a roadmap to success.
1. Assess available resources to set realistic goals: The ability to develop a credible plan requires recognizing the limitations of the resources you have available. While a small team, under pressure, can get a lot done, a larger team may be able to accomplish more in a saner fashion. You may accomplish less than you hope, if you overwhelm a small but talented team.
2. Decide what goals you want to achieve: The greatest benefit a strategic plan affords the marketing department is the ability to fashion clear and concise goals that support the enterprise in achieving its vision. The marketing team should create a comprehensive list of goals covering every aspect of their activities.
3. Decide who you are targeting — personas of key buyers: The strategic plan is invaluable in identifying the profile of the buyers that you are targeting. It is imperative that detailed profiles (personas) be developed for each of these potential buyers and influencers. The marketing team should develop these with the sales team and solicit comments and discussion from sales personnel.
4. Define the buyer journey: The traditional sales process no longer works. Review how your personas are gathering information, how they are interacting with you and how marketing can nurture the relationship throughout the process. Again, test these with the sales team. Review these regularly as they will evolve and change.
5. Prepare a content development plan: Once you understand the buyer journey, consider what information is helpful to your personas in their journey and develop that into a content plan. This is a point where identifying resources available is crucial, as developing meaningful content requires specialized skills.
6. Develop a content deployment plan: Map out how the content will be deployed, and over what time frame, to support the buyer's journey.
7. Include social media implementation: Include social media, as appropriate for your personas, to discuss and promote your published content. Ensure all sales team members have a robust presence on LinkedIn with profiles that contain important key words.
8. Consider other special opportunities that fit your industry: This might include seminars, webinars, trade shows, speaking, and networking. Each industry has different special opportunities where you can interact with potential customers. Each of these should get serious consideration in the preparation of any marketing plan.
9. Integrate into an action plan: Prepare a detailed action plan with projects and action items with assigned responsibilities and milestones.
10. Present to management for buy-in: In many organizations, the MBA's and accountants in management distrust the marketing department and what it says it can do. Showing them a detailed plan of action with goals and objectives, as well as a thoughtful utilization of resources and ROI, will go a long way to eliciting their support.
11. Measure, monitor and report on results: This step is also crucial to not only getting buy-in from management, but also will help answer ROI concerns management has about marketing.
12. Evaluate, adjust and repeat as necessary: No plan is perfect. There is no better way to learn than by executing against a plan and seeing what is working and what isn't. Don't be afraid to adjust and put more emphasis on the successful and less on the not-so-productive. It doesn't mean the plan was bad. It means you learned something you didn't know when you were planning.
Do Them Well
Strategic Planning and Marketing Planning are not for the faint of heart. Yet, when well executed, they produce results well worth the effort. Plus, they help prevent all the wasted effort that comes from not having a plan and doing what feels good or looked like a good idea at the time.
Getting agreement from the management team that a strategic plan comes first is a big step, but nothing compared to what is involved in finally getting one created. But with it in place, a useful and productive marketing plan can ensue. Keeping the twelve important aspects of strategic planning in mind will help you be more successful, not just in planning, but also in execution.
If you are going to undertake this process, do it the right way. Take the time to plan it out, make sure you know who on your team you can count on to perform, and plan accordingly. Set realistic goals, get management buy-in and then implement. Track your results and learn from what they reveal. While effective strategic and marketing planning isn’t rocket science, it is difficult, which is why so few do it well.
For more detailed discussion of strategic planning download Strategic Planning 101.
If you are thinking of undertaking the strategic planning process and want a great framework for insuring success, consider diving a little deeper.
Download our eBook: Strategic Planning 101 -- Creating the Future of Your Business, and learn the following:
- An introduction and overview of the strategic planning process
- How to make strategic planning successful - 6 Keys to Success
- 10 Steps to Prepare for your strategic planning exercise