How to create a strategic marketing plan

Strategic marketing plan

You know marketing is essential but have you specified what makes you different and unique, your objectives and how you are going to achieve them?

Recently I went to a workshop, organised by Innovate UK and Enterprise Europe Network, to do just that: learn about achieving business goals by using strategic marketing.

Strategic marketing is essentially a structured plan that helps you achieve competitive advantage or other business goals through a set of defined activities that are most appropriate for your aims.

We were taken through a number of exercises that helped us define how we position ourselves and what we are trying to accomplish, whilst aligning the marketing efforts and tactics with overall business goals.

It was especially useful to bounce my ideas off others so if you’re going through similar exercises, I recommend you do the same. It really helps to sense-check your thoughts and how you describe your business with someone outside your company.

Below I’ll go through my top takeaways and methods that I found most useful when devising a strategic marketing plan.

Define the purpose/mission of your business

Think about what you are trying to achieve as a business – is it clear or does it need further refining? Why are your services and products needed or wanted, and who are your customers?

If you have a clear purpose or a definition of what you’re trying to achieve, it will help you plan your marketing activities and inform other business activities. Having an easy to understand idea of your purpose also helps guide your resources and avoid spreading them too thinly, which is especially valuable if you’re a small business where resources are limited.

Define your value proposition

A value proposition is what you promise to deliver to your customers through your services or products. Here you need to think what makes you unique, better or different from your competitors.

If you struggle to offer a reason why your offering is more valuable than your competitors, then you may get stuck competing on price only.

I found the Geoffrey Moore’s model particularly useful for defining the value proposition.

It goes like this:

  1. The  ____________ (product name)
  2. Is a ____________ (product category)
  3. for ____________ (users/customer segment)
  4. who ____________  (statement of desire/problem)
  5. that ____________  (compelling reason to use)
  6. unlike ____________  (the next best alternative)
  7. allows ____________  (the main difference).

And here’s an example we were given:

  1. The iPod
  2. is a portable music player
  3. for music lovers
  4. who want to listen to their music
  5. anywhere, anytime
  6. unlike portable cd players or 
MP3s with less storage
  7. the iPod allows easy access to all your music

Define your marketing goals

We used SMART method to define 3-5 marketing goals for the next 12 months. Being specific about the number of goals you’re trying to achieve within a year helps to focus on specific outcomes you’re trying to achieve. It also helps to measure your success after 12 months or another timeframe you set for yourself.

Specific – clearly defined 
and specific goal rather than a generic and vague one, eg increase signups

 – quantifiable goal, eg how much or how many

Achievable – realistic to complete within a set timeframe, eg a few months

Relevant to you and your customers 
- choose what matters or matches needs

Time-bound – that you have the time, money & resources to achieve your goals within a specific timeframe

Define your segmentation, targeting and positioning

Segmentation is an activity where you divide the broad market into specific customer segments by their common characteristics, and devise your tactics around targeting each segment. A few ways you could segment your customers are demographics, geography, psychographics, lifestyle, behaviour, etc.

Once you have a clear idea of different customer groups, you will be better placed to pick the most attractive or suitable segment to target. When selecting your target segment, see if there are segments that are the easiest, cheapest or quickest to reach, whilst being realistic about your capabilities and resources to target those segments.

Positioning your business gives you a distinct image of your benefit(s) to the target audience that you are going to communicate. If you have a number of segments you can target, then define your positioning for each segment. Same applies to the Geoffrey Moore’s value proposition model – write it out for each customer segment.

Define your marketing tactics

Once you have a clear idea of the customer segment(s) you’re targeting, why they would use your services or products, and what you’re going to communicate to them, you can pick specific marketing tactics that are going to help you do that. Some examples of tactics are producing ebooks, using online ads like PPC, sharing data findings via blog, and organising webinars.

If you need inspiration or ideas, there are plenty of resources online when you search for marketing tactics, marketing strategies, growth tactics and similar.

Define your marketing KPIs

Decide on a set of metrics that you are going to use to measure the success of your marketing efforts. By having the right KPIs, you can evaluate if you’re on track towards your goals, and adjust your activities if necessary.

To give you a few examples of what you could measure:

  • Cost per lead or enquiry
  • Average order value
  • Landing page conversion rate
  • Customer lifetime value
  • Impressions / clicks / visits

I hope this has helped you to start thinking about defining your business and marketing activities more strategically and in line with the over-all goals. There are lots of great templates online that you can use to assist with outlining your plan – for example, check out Smart Insights resources bank that has lots of useful PDFs for marketing planning and more.

If you’d like to discuss further, comment below!

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