As Branding and marketing professionals, we have an in-depth understanding of the importance of a marketing plan. However, not everyone recognizes the benefits of investing in a strategic marketing plan prior to launching strategies and tactics that seem intuitive at the time. The following few paragraphs attempt to impart our understanding of a well-written plan’s importance by first defining some of key elements of the role of marketing in most organizations.
Defines Focus: Your strategic marketing plan gives the company, and everyone in it, a benchmark to measure all marketing activities against. A well-developed strategic marketing plan not only gives you a structured strategic and tactical outline, but also defines your target audience, messages, goals, and objectives, in a way that allows flexibility. A structured plan provides a benchmark to measure all marketing activities and ensure that the investment they require meet the needs and goals of the marketing plan – preventing you from spending on wasted efforts. It helps staff understand goals and become customer-focused. It also empowers them to make decisions on their own that are consistent with the company’s objectives.
Tracks Costs / Measures Value: A marketing plan provides a step-by-step guide to what you are spending money on and when. It enables you to budget marketing expenses–helping you keep control of your expenditures, manage your cash flow, track sales to marketing expense ratio, and measure success of your marketing efforts. It also ensures that product development dollars are not wasted.
Charts Success: A marketing plan helps you chart your destination point. It becomes a guide through unfamiliar territory.
Captures Thinking on Paper: The finance department isn’t allowed to run a company by keeping numbers in their heads. It should be no different with marketing. Your written document lays out your game plan. If people leave, if new people arrive, if memories falter, the information in the written marketing plan stays intact.
Reflects the BIGPicture: In the daily routine of putting out fires, it’s hard to turn your attention to the big picture, especially those parts that aren’t directly related to the daily operations. Writing your marketing plan helps in determining your current business status and provides a roadmap for business goals.
Becomes a Document to Build On: Creating your very first strategic marketing plan is a time and resource consuming endeavor, but well worth the effort. Once the plan is complete, you just need to make minor adjustments and tweaks to it; you won’t have to re-create it from scratch. It will serve as a template and benchmark for you to work from as you define your objectives and strategies for future years. It becomes a living document for measuring sales success, customer retention, product development, and sales initiatives.
Where Do You Start?
The best place to start is to evaluate where you are now. How are you positioned in the market? How do your customers see you? What are your strengths/weaknesses, and what are some emerging market threats and opportunities?
Typically the strategic marketing plan is done in sequential phases–each part of the plan builds off of the phase before it. Your strategic marketing plan also needs the help of most everyone; it cannot be completed without the assistance of many people within the company: finance, operations, sales, management, and marketing.
Your Strategic Marketing Plan Should Include Include:
Situation Analysis: Defines the market dynamics and identifies client’s position in the market as it currently exists and will summarize the current situation from an internal and external perspective.
Industry Overview: Defines the current market situation and explores market trends and product consumption.
Competitive Profile: Identifies key players in the market and defines their positions, strategies and initiatives. This section is designed to give the client a clear understanding of the competitive dynamics of the marketplace and will provide you with valuable information for developing your future strategies and target markets.
Customer Profile: Provides an analysis of each of the potential target markets, regarding their use of the product and the factors affecting their buying process. This information is gathered using a variety of research tactics and may include you contacting a number of organizations within each category to gather facts about the buying process.
S. W. O. T. (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats):
Provides client with an in-depth view of the strengths and weaknesses of his or her organization, both from an internal and external perspective. It also defines potential opportunities and threats. This section is critical because it provides an objective summary of both perceptions and issues that will affect the success of future marketing efforts.
Target markets: Key target markets will be identified given the competitive situation, growth potential and product offering of the client. These markets will provide the best opportunity to develop strong brand awareness and will maximize the potential for both market share and revenue growth.
Key Objectives: Once all of the information is gathered during Phase I of the plan, you will work as a group to define the key objectives that will be instrumental in developing future strategies and tactics.
Positioning: After reviewing the industry, competitive information, company objectives, you will then define the new positioning in the marketplace. It will tie directly to the company ‘s strengths and will reinforce its objectives and strategies.
Summary: A summarization of all relevant factors and information will be completed prior to developing strategies and tactics.
Strategies: You will then develop marketing and communication strategies that support the positioning and key objectives. These strategies will address channels of distribution, as well as define key corporate sales messaging.
Tactics: A list of marketing and communication initiatives that support and reinforce the company’s positioning, objectives and strategies will be developed. You will identify and produce the marketing support tools that provide the largest return on investment and ones that will substantially increase a client’s brand recognition and market share.
The Strategic Marketing Plan is a comprehensive effort that will allow a company to direct its resources toward achieving a common goal. It has been our experience that a Marcom plan plays a vital role in developing accurate messaging and provides a forum for consistently delivering those messages to your marketplace. It is the one document that ensures that every dollar spent on your efforts reinforces the corporate objectives, identity, image and corporate branding.