The goal of every business is to get its products into the hands of its customers. However, that’s easier said than done. Businesses need to first find their target market, tell them about their products and convince them that the products are superior to their competition. A useful business tool that can help companies to encourage customers to purchase their products is a strategic marketing plan.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
A strategic marketing plan helps businesses to identify their marketing goals and develop tactical strategies to achieve them.
Strategic Marketing Plan Definition
A strategic marketing plan reviews both long-term and short-term objectives that the company wants to meet. The strategic marketing plan also takes into consideration the current financial position of the company as well as trends in the marketplace.
The strategic marketing plan is a living document, which means it is never final. In order to remain successful, the company must regularly update its strategic marketing plan with new strategies and ideas. Since the position of the company, industry trends and consumer behavior and sentiment are always changing, the company must pivot its marketing strategies in order to achieve its goals.
Conduct a SWOT Analysis
A strategic marketing plan needs to identify the company’s place in the current market. A SWOT analysis that reviews strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats ensures the business has a clear vision for where it stands in the present and where it needs to go in the future in order to remain successful.
A SWOT analysis of the company should review:
- Internal strengths, such as resources, talent and experience
- Internal weaknesses, such as budget or time constraints
- Competitive organizations
- Changes in business processes and business technology
- Cultural shifts within the industry
- Market trends
The importance of strategic marketing planning is that it enables businesses to get a comprehensive view of the possibilities that lie ahead, taking into account both internal and external factors. This is a strong foundation upon which to build a strategic marketing plan.
Outline Your Organization’s Goals and Marketing Objectives
In the strategic marketing plan, it’s critical to specify the goals that the company wants to achieve. This may include doubling revenue, entering a new market or maintaining growth at 25% each year. These goals are what should drive the marketing strategies and tactical plans.
It’s imperative that marketing objectives align with larger company goals. Otherwise, the marketing activities have little impact on the success of the business. If the company’s goal is to enter a new market, for example, a corresponding marketing objective would be to increase brand recognition in that new market.
The company cannot sell to new prospects who are not familiar with the brand or the product. As a result, the marketing effort works hand in hand with the company’s overarching goals.
Research Market Opportunities
In order to create a useful strategic marketing plan, the organization needs to research the trends in the current marketplace. This insight informs all four elements of the marketing mix: product, price, place and promotion.
Marketing opportunities may show that a certain area of the market is heavily saturated with products. This may tell the company that it is difficult to enter. On the other hand, the company may then become aware of a different market segment where there is little competition and room for growth.
It’s important to analyze both long-term and short-term breaks in the market. For example, there may be an opportunity to increase revenue in the short term by holding a promotion for a particular item geared toward low-value prospects. In the long term, the company may work on building customer loyalty and increasing revenue through repeat purchases from high-value customers.
Identify Your Target Market
The strategic marketing plan needs to answer the “who” question in detail. Who are you serving with your products and services? Conduct research to ascertain your target market’s age, gender, income and occupation. You’ll also need to go beyond the demographic details into the behavioral details. It’s important to establish:
- What problems are your prospects trying to solve with which you can help?
- What do they fear will happen if they cannot solve that problem?
- What will happen if they are able to solve that problem with your help?
Regardless of what your business sells or does, the key value proposition is that you are helping your target market solve an issue they are experiencing. It’s vital to extrapolate on that problem to fully understand how you can help them. For example, if you sell hand-painted scarves, the problem you solve is that you help your prospects find unique luxury accessories at an affordable price that they cannot get anywhere else.
Establish Your Marketing Mix
The marketing mix serves as the basis for any marketing strategy. Outline the following elements in your plan:
- Product: What you’re selling and how you will package it to capture your prospect’s attention.
- Price: How much the consumer is willing to pay for this product while still enabling you to make your desired profit
- Place: Where you will make the sale, such as a store, online or at a temporary location like a farmers' market
- Promotion: How you will communicate the benefits of your product to your prospects, including advertising, direct marketing, sales promotion, personal selling or public relations
Focus on Your Brand Messaging
In the strategic marketing plan, outline how you will share the value of your product or service. It’s vital to develop a unique value proposition that specifies what your company helps your prospects to do that no one else does. For example, if you run a mobile tire-changing shop, you ensure your customers can get new tires without having to drive to a mechanic. You save them time by coming to them.
Be sure to list three to five unique elements about your business that help you stand out to your prospects. Go back to your target market description and connect your value to what your prospects want to see. For example, if your target market is pressed for time, helping them save time will be of value to them. Frame this in a way that helps set you apart from your competitors.
Outline the Marketing Tactics
Establish the different marketing activities you plan to implement during the next fiscal year, complete with schedules, budgets and resources. It’s important to ensure your activities align with the goals you initially set out in the strategic marketing planning process. Everything must relate to what the company is hoping to achieve, so be sure to establish that connection. This way, the impact your marketing activities make can be maximized.
For example, if the overall goal of the company is to enter a new market, one of the marketing goals may be to increase brand awareness in that market. Your tactical plans need to specify how you will do that. Will you use print or social media advertising? Will you issue press releases or hold a community-wide event? How long will it take, and how much will it cost? Who will execute the plan?
Create Benchmarks to Measure Success
In order to ascertain whether your strategic marketing plan was successful, it’s important to establish some benchmark metrics. Quantify how you can measure your marketing activities. Remember to relate your metrics back to your company’s initial goals. This will enable you to tell whether you have achieved your objectives.
Be sure to establish timelines for your metrics. Will you measure monthly or weekly? What targets do you hope to achieve during each session? Creating benchmarks and then pivoting the tactics to achieve them will help ensure your organization meets its overarching goals.
Anam Ahmed is a Toronto-based writer and editor with over a decade of experience helping small businesses and entrepreneurs reach new heights. She has experience ghostwriting and editing business books, especially those in the "For Dummies" series, in addition to writing and editing web content for the brand. Anam works as a marketing strategist and copywriter, collaborating with everyone from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups, lifestyle bloggers to professional athletes. As a small business owner herself, she is well-versed in what it takes to run and market a small business. Anam earned an M.A. from the University of Toronto and a B.A.H. from Queen's University. Learn more at www.anamahmed.ca.