Why You Need a Strategic Marketing Plan and How to Create One
Stop wasting time and money on marketing that doesn’t work and create a plan that does.
Many business owners cringe when they hear the word “marketing”. And the grind of promoting your business can indeed be a tough one, filled with rejection. But fortunately, we can improve our odds with a strategic marketing plan.
In this article, you will discover:
- what a strategic marketing plan is
- how to leverage your strengths to promote your business
- how to set goals and track them
- a step-by-step process to help you create a strategic marketing plan
What Is a Strategic Marketing Plan?
A marketing plan is a strategy used by an organization to reach its target market and generate leads. In other words, it’s a roadmap that leads you to new customers.
The marketing strategies and tactics that have worked for decades still work today. Whether you plan to promote your business on- or offline, many of the concepts are the same.
Marketing plans often fall short because of a lack of preparation. Instead of thinking things through first, many small businesses experiment with marketing. Essentially, they throw stuff against the wall until something sticks.
Then, when something doesn’t meet expectations, they change directions. But, unfortunately, this approach creates several problems:
- It wastes time and money
- Creates a disconnect with the target audience
- Reduces the effectiveness of all marketing activities
Before you start, you must first know if a specific strategy or tactic aligns with your goals. To make creating a strategic marketing plan more manageable, we can prepare one in four stages.
Stage 1: Assess Your Strengths
The first step is to focus on what you do well. For example, if you’re a good writer, include blogging in your marketing strategy. If you’re better on video, do that instead.
What platforms or venues work well for you? Do you shine at events? Are you a great networker?
Maybe ads are your thing because you can write attention-grabbing copy.
Be as honest with yourself as you can. While you may like doing something, that doesn’t mean you’re good at it. Decide what you can do well and build your marketing strategy around those things.
Think about the customers you want to attract. The way you communicate—your brand voice—will resonate with certain people. Your marketing messages should appeal to the type of customer you want. It’s best to target those that are the best fit for your business.
Also, consider what your competitors are doing to promote their businesses. Don’t mimic them too much, or you will end up looking and sounding like them.
Stage 2: Determine Your Business Goals
Why does your business exist?
The answer to this question is the key to an effective strategic marketing plan.
Often, businesses are so concerned about generating activity that they think any results are positive. But your strategic marketing plan must align with who you are and your business goals. Otherwise, you could end up with a bunch of unqualified leads.
At some point, you may discover that the quality of your target market isn’t good enough to help you achieve your growth goals. For example, maybe the customers you want can’t afford the prices you would like to charge, or there aren’t enough of them in your area. If this is the case, you may have to change your target audience completely.
Stage 3: What Is Your Offer?
Your offer is built around the benefits your customers receive from you. The goal in this step is to create messaging that communicates your value in a compelling way.
Here are some questions to help you with this part of the process:
Do your marketing messages give compelling reasons to buy?
People expect “great service” and “good work”, so statements like these aren’t good enough. Avoid talking about the features of your product or service and focus on the problems they solve instead.
Can you deliver on the promises you make?
Many times, people buy into the big promises many businesses make. Then, unfortunately, they’re disappointed with the result because the product or service doesn’t meet expectations. This failure to deliver is sometimes called buyer’s remorse.
To get and keep happy customers, you must follow through. Examine your offer and make sure you can back up your claims.
Once you are confident with an offer, you’re ready to set targets.
Stage 4: Tracking Results and Making Adjustments
The level of marketing activity must support the goals you set. For example, suppose your goal is to get 100 new customers. In that case, you must make enough effort and invest adequate resources to hit that target.
Likewise, your marketing budget must support the activities. How much of an investment will give you a legitimate chance to hit your goals?
For example, if your cost to acquire each new customer is $50, you’ll need to invest $5,000 to hit your target of 100.
If you aren’t sure what your cost per customer is, start tracking it now. Having a baseline is the only real way to measure success.
It’s best to decide which performance indicators align with the goals you want to hit. Then, track those statistics.
For instance, to hit your goal of 100 new customers, 30 of them may come from your email list. If you get one new customer for every 25 email subscribers, you will need 2,500 new email subscribers. That means “new email subscribers” is a performance indicator.
If you work in a partnership or team, get everyone involved. At first, there are no bad ideas. In fact, some of the best strategic marketing plans evolve from collaboration.
Another trait that makes a marketing plan “strategic” is the ability to adjust it. Tracking statistics, campaigns, and promotions will reveal what works and what doesn’t. It will also provide ideas for future marketing tactics.
Components of a Strategic Marketing Plan
This section will explore each aspect of a strategic marketing plan and how to use it.
These are definitive targets you want to hit within a specified timeframe. For example, acquiring 100 new customers within 12 months is an objective. This goal directly generates revenue, but you could also include other objectives that support your high-priority goals.
Growing your email list by 25% over a year is another example of an objective. Though you may not make any sales to that group right away, growing your list will help make future sales.
It’s important to consider why you’re doing something. If it doesn’t make sense or align with your brand strategy, it’s best to avoid it.
Once you know what your objectives are, it’s easier to organize your strategic marketing plan. You can then use your primary goals to identify the secondary activities that will make the most impact.
It’s crucial to establish an order for marketing activities. Taking on too many things at once will lead to overwhelm. But, on the other hand, trying to do too much also makes each tactic less effective.
A goal to increase customer accounts by 20% is great, but can you service them? Unfortunately, many businesses set ambitious goals without considering the impact of hitting them. Rather than plan, many business owners decide they will deal with the problem when it occurs.
It’s better to prepare ahead of time. That doesn’t mean you have to make commitments or invest a lot of money without knowing if it’s the right thing to do. It simply means having a plan for what you will do should you hit the goals you set.
Setting ambitious goals is admirable, but they should also be attainable. For this reason, it’s best to have two goals. The first is one you should expect to hit but stretches you to reach it. The second is much higher, but you never know what you can do until you try.
Target Market & Brand Positioning
Your target audience is a critical piece to consider when developing a strategic marketing plan. These are the people who will help you reach your growth goals.
Focus on your “bread and butter” customers first. These buyers will make the quickest impact on your bottom line. Then, develop an individual plan for each audience you want to reach.
If you’re selling to different audiences, you may need more resources to reach each one.
Your brand position is a composite of how people see your business in the marketplace. It’s how they view you compared to competitors.
Let’s use price as an example. If you sell at the lowest price, consumers may think your product or service is cheap too. As a result, consumers who prioritize quality may not buy it. Likewise, if your prices are above average, it will be hard to sell to price-shoppers.
To develop a successful strategic marketing plan, you must think about how people see your business.
Targeting the wrong audience can be disastrous. You may have a great offer, but you won’t make sales if your audience doesn’t agree. Finding the right target audience makes all the difference.
Brand positioning helps your business become more competitive by leveraging strengths and compensating for weaknesses.
Through the strategic marketing plan process, you may uncover new opportunities you never knew about before.
For most of us, resources are almost always limited. Resource limits make it easy to decide whether we should pursue an opportunity or put it on the back burner.
Most of us don’t have enough time or money to do everything we want to do, especially when it comes to marketing. Your strategic marketing plan will help you focus on the activities that will have the most impact. As a result, you won’t have to worry about whether you’re investing money in the right things.
Working through this step of the planning process will help you become more efficient with time and money.
Action is the key ingredient of a strategic marketing plan. However, taking action isn’t limited to significant steps. Routine activities that help you hit your goals are essential too.
Posting on social media, blogging each week, and emailing 20 prospects every day are examples.
Your strategic marketing plan dictates each action you will take and determine which ones are the most important.
As you progress, take note of what’s working and what isn’t. If something falls short, dig into it until you find out why. Sometimes a small change can make a big difference.
Risks & Delays
Even the best-laid plans fail. No matter how diligent or disciplined we are, something is bound to get in our way. While you can’t think of everything that could go wrong, take some time to plan for the unexpected.
We will also incur risks. After all, you will be investing time and money in your strategic marketing plan. Not everything you do will yield a positive result.
Don’t get discouraged. Keep adjusting and learning from your mistakes. As your strategic marketing plan evolves, you will realize that having it is one of the best business decisions you will ever make.
Until next time,
Managing Director, The Brand Auditors