Creating a strategic marketing plan is essential to the success of any business. A marketing plan helps to align your business’s marketing goals with its overall mission statement and vision. Creating a marketing plan also helps a team get on the same page and stay focused on what’s most important. Ultimately, having a strategic marketing plan positions your company to make better decisions.
A strategic marketing plan is a report that outlines how a business is going to execute and track its marketing strategy for a given period of time, usually one year. Think of it as a roadmap that formalizes the steps your business will take in order to achieve its long-term and short-term objectives.
A marketing plan isn’t static, rather it’s a living document that should be revisited and updated regularly. Industry trends and consumer behavior are fluid, which means that businesses must be able to pivot their marketing strategies when necessary in order to reach their goals.
A marketing plan helps to clearly define the vision of the business and set concrete goals that are in line with that vision, within a specific time frame. In addition, a marketing plan
You can use a free marketing plan template or create your own, but all strong marketing plans are clear, concise, easy to read – and even entertaining. Be creative and use graphs, charts, infographics, or mindmaps to lay out your information in digestible, visually appealing ways. The look and feel of your marketing plan may depend on your industry, but a text-heavy, dry marketing plan will never tell a story as successfully as one that uses some visual elements to draw readers in.
When considering the attributes that make up a successful strategic marketing plan, use the SMART acronym as a framework for defining your goals.
Specific: Goals should be clear, unambiguous, and focused on a target. We want to become a thought leader in our field.
Measurable: Objectives must be quantifiable. The marketing plan should share exactly how progress will be measured. Think metrics, hard numbers, specific timelines and dates. So, instead of increase the frequency of our blog posts, try create new content to post to our website blog every Friday.
Attainable: Are you creating goals that can realistically be achieved?
Relevant: Take a step back and look at the big picture periodically. Why are you setting the goal that you’re setting? Tie each goal to a broader business or marketing objective. Example: We’re going to create a presence on Twitter and grow to 1000 followers by the end of the quarter in order to foster our reputation as a trusted industry leader.
Time-bound: What’s your time horizon? Attach goals big and small to deadlines.
When writing a marketing plan for your business, the style and format are up to you. Typically, it’s a PDF document, but you needn’t be bound to that. An interactive web page or presentation or even a one-sheet – in certain cases – can serve the purpose. But there are some tried and true components that should be a part of any successful marketing plan, and they include:
1. Define the goals and objectives of the business.
What are the realistic and measurable goals your business wants to achieve over the proposed timeline? Why are you doing what you’re doing? In this section, spell out the ultimate aim of your business so readers can make better sense of your marketing goals, activities and future plans. In this opening section, it’s important that the document has energy to grab your reader and get them excited to read on.
2. Conduct market research.
Share an overview of your current market and where you identify your competition. You might start with a SWOT analysis here. What’s the context and environment in which your business is practicing? What’s your current position in the community, and what are the needs of the community? These questions help you identify what your business does best and what you need to work on.
You’ll also want to become familiar with your competitor companies and you may do a SWOT analysis for them as well. Research the makeup of their marketing and leadership team, their growth and financials, and their best-selling products or services. Take a deep dive into their social media strategy and their top-performing blog posts. Understand how they have dealt with their own obstacles and threats.
3. Identify your target audience.
Define the target audience for your products or services. As you tease out the specifics, you will also be gaining valuable insight into how to differentiate yourself from the competition. What are the characteristics of your ideal potential customers? What are their media consumption habits? What about their demographic characteristics like age, gender, location, job title, income? Maybe you have a couple target “personas;” how do you visualize those segments?
4. Outline your marketing strategy.
Here’s where you get into detail about what you aim to achieve, how you plan to do it, and the channels you will use. Because you’re using the SMART framework, your objectives will be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound.
Under the umbrella of your strategic marketing plan, you may have different marketing strategies across different platforms, all working toward the same business goals.
One way to define your goals is to stage them into different buckets according to time horizon: immediate, three-month, six-month, one year, and two-year goals, or whatever makes sense for your business.
5. Set a marketing budget.
A general rule-of-thumb is to plan on spending 2-5% of your gross revenue on total marketing. Working backwards from an overall budget allows your team to effectively allocate budget wisely in line with your goals. A clear marketing budget also helps in hiring the right staff and choosing between paid resources.
6. Determine the KPIs for your goals.
How will progress be tracked and measured? KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are individual metrics that measure the various elements of a marketing campaign. You should be tracking progress ongoingly, and your strategic marketing plan should lay out exactly what, when and how the assessments will happen.
7. Outline roles and responsibilities.
Each piece of the marketing plan should be assigned to a specific person rather than a team, as individuals are more accountable than teams. Who on your team is responsible for what tasks? Timelines are crucial, too, but for larger, long-term projects, it helps to set mini-milestones along the way.
Having a defined marketing plan is crucial to the success of your business, but it isn’t a “set it and forget it” process. You must track, measure and evaluate ongoingly, tweaking plans as necessary. By engaging with your strategic marketing plan in this way, you’ll begin to see returns on your marketing efforts. If you’d like help creating a strategic marketing plan for your business, reach out to us.