What is a strategic marketing plan? (And why you need one)
“If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else.”
― Yogi Berra
A strategic marketing plan is a business’ strategy for who their customers are and how they will meet their needs as well as a plan for how to reach those customers. A business’ marketing strategy is much more than a document. It is a planning process and execution plan that aligns your sales and marketing activities.
What’s included in a strategic marketing plan?
There are three parts to developing a marketing strategy: Analysis, Targeting & Positioning, and the Marketing Mix decisions.
Let’s follow Janelle, as an example of how to build a strategic marketing plan. Janelle is a sales and marketing director at a fast-growing cleantech startup. Her company’s marketing efforts have been mostly through word-of-mouth and personal selling to other businesses. However, the company is at a transition point where they want to grow and want to align their teams on a strategic game plan.
Janelle has few key goals in developing this marketing strategy which include:
Better understanding who their customers are and what their customers want
Using this information to nail down their key value proposition
Developing a plan to acquire new customers, retain existing customers, and turn customers into brand ambassadors
Align their team to ensure there is cohesive forward momentum in reaching their goals
Step 1: Analysis
Janelle knows that her strategy will only be as good as the insight she has into her customer and the market. Therefore, the first step is to undertake an analysis of the marketplace. This includes answering the questions:
1. Who are your customers?
This includes insight into the demographics of the customer, how they make purchases, what the decision-making process is and who is involved in that process. Janelle may use focus groups, surveys and interviews to gather this information. At Brilliant, we LOVE to do this work and gather amazing insights that help our clients!
2. What are the strengths and weaknesses of your company?
Janelle needs to talk to her leadership team about the company’s core competencies, special skills, and finances. Marketers therefore not only need to be good communicators but business-savvy individuals who can see the big picture.
3. Who are your key collaborators?
For Janelle, this may include their suppliers, manufacturers other partners that refer customers to them. Janelle must understand how these collaborators help to elevate their products and services as well as their marketing efforts.
4. Who is your competition?
Janelle must do an audit of the companies that seek the same customers. She must understand what those companies offer, how they market, and what their key differentiators are. This can be done by interviewing current and potential customers as well as conducting secondary research.
Step 2: Targeting & Positioning
Now Janelle needs to analyze this information and find the “white space” for their company. The “white space” is the opportunity for the company. It is where the company should compete and position themselves to be the most successful. Some questions she may ask are: What are competitors doing that you can do better? What are competitors not doing? What are your customers asking for?
Using these insights, it’s time to make decisions on who your exact target market is and how you will position your company.
1. Define your target customer
This is where Janelle needs to decide what segment of their customers she specifically wants to target. Who is the MOST important?
2. Develop your positioning statement
Based on this customer, Janelle needs to put all that she’s learned into an internal positioning statement which is meant to align the entire company on who they serve, the problem they solve for customers, and the benefit that service brings. It is also the basis of the entire marketing plan.
3. Develop your brand story
Janelle would also want to through a branding process based on this new positioning and insights from her analysis. The branding process would include a visual update and, even more importantly, developing a comprehensive brand story, elevator pitch and key messages that all team members are trained on. This ensures brand consistency and ultimately increases brand recognition. If you want to learn about this, check out our branding page.
Step 3: The Marketing Mix
It’s finally time for Janelle to make decisions about how the company will deliver on their positioning. She has to now make decisions in four key areas: Product, Price, Place, and Promotion.
1. Product: What value does your product or service provide your customer?
This includes answering questions like: How many products or services do you offer? How are they packaged together? Do you offer a guarantee? What features of the product could be improved to better serve your target audience?
2. Place: Where should the product or service be sold?
Many times people think products or services are sold directly to consumers. However, Janelle’s products or services could instead be sold through 3rd parties or partners. This is where Janelle must think about what kind of buying experience she wants for their customers.
3. Price: What should be the price of the product or service?
Price can increase or decrease sales. Therefore, Janelle must make decisions on: Will the price be the same for all customers? Does their company want to be seen as a “value” brand that competes on price or a “premium” brand that has higher quality?
4. Promotion: How will your products and services be promoted?
This is what many of us typically think of marketing. It includes what marketing channels we want to be on (social, Google ads, etc.) and what we will say to drive sales.
Janelle is finally ready for action. Part of her plan will be to continually monitor progress based on key performance indicators.
Developing a strategic marketing plan is an insightful and holistic process that forces companies to think through their true value to customers. It is key to building a customer-centric culture. Without one, companies run the risk of jumping from one tactic to another with no clear goals or ways to measure success.