Marketing is the biggest expense for a lot of businesses, and as a business owner or marketer, you need to make sure that you’re spending your marketing dollars in the most productive way possible.
If you’re just trying a lot of different marketing strategies without a clear plan, you’ll likely see very little success.
In order to get the best return on your investment, you need a strategic marketing plan designed to bring the best results for your particular business.
Read the rest of this article to discover how to set up a realistic strategic marketing plan. We’ll also look at the importance and benefits of a strategic marketing process, as well as a step-by-step process for creating an effective plan to market your business.
If you’re ready to get started, let’s get to it.
What is a strategic marketing plan?
A strategic marketing plan is simply a report outlining your marketing strategy for a specific period of time, usually one year.
Having a strategic marketing process will give you a clear plan of how your business is going to achieve set goals.
This includes things such as missions, campaigns, content, channels, and the marketing tools or software to be used in executing your goal and tracking its success.
So, for example, your marketing plan might focus on the social media marketing aspect of your overall digital marketing plan.
Alternatively, your plan might contain two or more marketing strategies (e.g. email marketing, content marketing, link building, etc.) that come together to create a larger marketing operation to help you achieve your business goals.
Either way, a marketing plan comes with tons of benefits for your business, including the following:
- Allows you to determine your business’s current market position.
- Helps you clearly define your target market.
- Outlines the needs, challenges, and goals of your ideal customers.
- Allows you to craft a specific advertising and marketing campaign for your business.
- Gives you a high-level overview of your business’s competitors.
- Helps you specify the KPIs (key performance indicators) that you need to track.
- Outlines who is responsible for what in your team.
- Specifies a timeline for completing all your tasks.
Bottom Line: You might be a team with a goal to set smarter marketing objectives. Or, you might be a marketing consultant trying to find ways to set your clients in the right direction.
You may even be a one-person team doing your best to hustle it out and find the most effective way to maximize your marketing ROI – whatever the case, you’ll see better results when you have a realistic strategic marketing plan.
The scope of your marketing plan will depend on its purpose and the type of organization you’re creating it for.
For example, you might create a simple strategy around one specific marketing channel, such as SEO, Social Media, Content Marketing, or Email marketing. Alternatively, you might focus on a strategic marketing plan that offers a clear overview of your business’s entire marketing strategy.
Whatever the case, keep in mind that a marketing plan isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it process. You must track, evaluate, and adjust your efforts constantly based on factors such as how your campaigns are performing, industry changes, etc. This is how you’ll be able to get the most from your marketing efforts.
How to create an effective strategic marketing process
There are many different ways to create a strong marketing plan. One way is to use templates, such as this one from HubSpot:
These types of marketing plan templates come with the benefit of being simple and easy to use.
No design skills are required to create a great plan that will help you align your team and scale your business.
Alternatively, you can follow a roadmapping guide to help you create your own plan from scratch.
The benefit of this is that the plan will be uniquely tailored to your specific business. Also, when you write your own marketing plan, it forces you to think through a lot of the important steps that lead to more effective tactics and processes for your marketing campaigns.
With that said, here are the steps to create a successful marketing plan for your business:
1. Craft an executive summary
The first step in creating a powerful marketing plan is to write a simple executive summary. This will help get started on the right foot to ensure that you have a strong foundation for a marketing strategy that will dominate your niche.
A well-crafted executive summary will get people excited to read your marketing plan. In it, make sure you introduce readers to the following:
- your company’s marketing goals
- any prior marketing triumphs/milestones
- your future goals and plans
- other contextual facts, employee anecdotes, facts about your brand, etc.
Make sure your executive summary is brief and to the point. Ideally, keep it under three or four paragraphs.
Here’s an example of an executive summary template for a marketing plan from Venngage:
2. Conduct a SWOT analysis
After crafting your executive summary, your next step is to conduct a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis to help you determine where new opportunities for driving sales lie, as well as your business’s weak points that need improvement.
Look at things such as your:
- competitive position
- target markets
- target audiences
- current positioning or messaging
- channel partners
… and so on.
This type of analysis will help you create a marketing strategy that provides a consistent flow of targeted leads to fuel new sales and higher revenue.
For this, you have to be marketing to the right customers who are eager to hear from your brand so you can maximize your marketing spend, and this type of smart marketing begins with a proper SWOT analysis of your current marketing process.
3. Set metric-driven marketing objectives
Next, state your marketing goals and objectives. In this step, you’ll need to set your key baselines and metrics. You can do this by defining specific marketing objectives based on your overall business goals. These will motivate you and your team, and allow you to easily track your success.
Here are a few examples of metric-driven marketing goals:
- Goal: Achieve higher levels of market penetration (sell more products to existing customers).
- Goal: Increase market development (sell more products to new target markets).
These goals can be short-term or long-term, but they must be clear and measurable with specific timeframes for achievement.
4. Define your audience
This step is simple and straightforward. You need to research your market, profile your potential customers, and use the information you gathered to develop a persona of your ideal customer, complete with demographics, goals, challenges, needs, aspirations, etc.
Your profile should also include the target customer’s buying patterns – what they buy, how they buy, where they buy, and so on.
This can help you determine how best to structure your marketing and sales funnel by helping you understand where best to initially reach your customers, how to move them to the right platform for conversions, and the best methods for generating brand ambassadors.
For example, if you’re targeting a younger audience like Gen Z, it would make more sense to use TikTok than LinkedIn. However, for B2B businesses catering to a professional clientele, LinkedIn may be the more optimal social media platform for your marketing needs.
For eCommerce businesses, knowing where your prospective customers make most of their purchases is of the utmost importance.
While building your own eCommerce store with a website builder may seem like the best idea, it might be more optimal to try selling on Amazon or Etsy if that’s where your customers are making most of their purchases.
5. Research your competitors
In addition to defining your audience, you also need to research your rivals. Profile your competitors by reviewing:
- their products/services
- pricing options
- marketing tactics they use
- activity on social media
- resources on their website (type, quality, publishing frequency, top performing content)
… and so on.
This will help you identify your competitive advantage so you can find your strengths or weaknesses and see exactly what sets your business apart from the rest.
6. Explore different platforms
With all this information in hand, it’s time to explore your marketing channels. Pick the platforms that you’ll need to address your entire sales cycle.
Depending on whether you are an agency, B2B, or B2C brand, this might be as simple as making your target customers aware of your brand on a single channel, or it could require a more complex strategy that involves multiple processes, such as:
- building thought leadership via a blog
- spreading brand awareness via social media
- developing and nurturing new relationships via email
- engaging your existing audience via push notifications
- using eLearning platforms to create educational content that can lead to a lucrative source of consistent passive income
… and so on.
To help you choose the right channels, consider things such as the type of content you intend to create, where your target audience hangs out the most, and which marketing platforms offer the best ROI (return on investment) for your industry.
It’s important to remember when trying new platforms that you need to do more than just create and share content. You need to make sure that the content is properly branded and reflects well on the culture you’re trying to present.
Additionally, it’s essential that you produce high-quality content on every single platform you use.
While TikTok, Instagram, and other social media channels include native editing features, for longer content videos or tutorials it might be best to opt for third-party video editing tools like Movavi (my personal favorite).
7. Identify your resources
Armed with the information about your target audience, the type of content you want to create (and how much of it you’ll produce), and the platforms you will use for your marketing strategies, you can now identify the resources at your disposal.
In other words, define your marketing budget.
Many marketing strategies leverage free platforms and channels, such as social media and SEO (search engine optimization) in an attempt to cut variable marketing costs.
However, even with a predominantly free marketing strategy, there will be a lot of hidden expenses that will need to be accounted for. This can be anything from freelance writer fees and sponsorship fees to marketing consultants, etc.
Outline each of these expenses in the budget section of your marketing plan.
You can also use this opportunity to help you define your plan’s contributors, as well as their responsibilities.
You don’t have to dive too deeply into the employees’ or team members’ day-to-day projects at this point, but you should show which teams or team leaders will be in charge of which specific KPIs, marketing channels, content types, etc.
8. Create an actionable marketing strategy
Now comes the fun part – creating your strategic marketing plan.
With all the information you’ve gathered (and with your budget in place), creating an actionable marketing plan will be easy.
At this point, it’s simply a matter of defining the specific marketing strategies that will address your business goals, build your audience, and help you engage your target customers.
So, for instance, if your target market consists of millennials who are predominantly on TikTok, you might focus on creating short, engaging videos of your products, or even user-generated content of people interacting with your brand.
You can then post these videos on TikTok as a way to engage your audience and support your marketing objectives.
9. Set tracking and reporting guidelines
The final step is to put tracking and reporting guidelines in place so you’ll know what’s working and what isn’t. This way, you’ll be able to maximize your marketing results and get the best ROI for your efforts.
Test all your ideas and approaches for customer experience, sales, marketing, customer service, etc.
See what performs effectively and what doesn’t. Continually tweak your methods to optimize your sales results
Problems to be aware of and how to tackle them
Now that you know how to create an effective strategic marketing plan, it’s time to look at some of the problems that might arise during the process.
When setting up a strategic marketing plan for your business, you’ll likely come across a few issues that you must take care of if you are to succeed. Here are some of the more prominent challenges to be aware of, and how you can go about dealing with them
1. Failure to understand your audience
Most businesses don’t bother to create a persona or avatar that represents their target market. This is an important part of building a strong marketing plan that you should take seriously.
Create a theoretical persona that best describes your ideal customer. Give them a name, job, personality, and even picture.
2. Creating complex plans
Instead of creating a complex plan for your marketing, keep things simple. All you need are simple goals and high-level metrics to support a successful marketing strategy. The simpler your strategy, the easier it will be to make your information sticky.
3. Inability to visualize data
Another important aspect of building a successful marketing strategy is the ability to visualize important process flows, strategy roadmaps, etc.
The best strategic marketing plans make use of real-world data in a way that leverages the full power of visual communications, such as charts, tables, and various other data visualization methods that help you tell a story from your numbers.
Create a winning marketing plan
You need a clear strategic plan if you’re going to be successful with your business’s marketing campaigns.
Fortunately, creating your own marketing plan doesn’t have to be tedious or hard. This article has provided you with tips and techniques that will allow you to scale your marketing tactics, strategies, and processes in order to help you drive consistent growth and achieve your goals.
Ron Stefanski is an online business expert and owner of OneHourProfessor.com, which has over 100,000 monthly visitors and helps others create and grow their own online businesses. You can also connect with him on YouTube or Linkedin.
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