Welcome to the first edition of our Creative University Video Series!
My name is Lauren Devens and I am the Digital Marketing and Social Media Coordinator here at Creative MMS in Philadelphia. I’m here today with the wonderful Jennifer Greenjack who is the Director of Marketing here at Creative as well. We’re here to talk today about strategic marketing plans.
Why are strategic marketing plans important?
I think before I talk about what it includes, I want to talk more about why it’s important.
It’s not unusual for companies that come to us to have kind of a “fly by the seat of their pants” marketing strategy. In fact, many of them don’t even have a designated budget for marketing. Quite often, any marketing that’s done tends to be more reactive rather than proactive. We react to what’s happening in the industry, what our competitors are doing, and things of that nature. That’s why when the going gets tough or the future is uncertain, marketing tends to get cut as it seems like it’s more of a nicety than a necessity.
But creating a strategic marketing plan and defining a budget (which, by the way, should be about 10% of the overall annual revenue of a company), will outline your goals, your objectives, and any next steps to help you achieve those objectives over the course of a time period, which is usually about a year. Keep in mind that everything in your marketing plan must tie back to your overall goals.
If it doesn’t tie back to a goal, then you either need to rethink the goal or rethink the plan. But if you start by aligning on the overall company’s goals and then creating marketing goals based on those company’s goals, you’re going to always be on the right path to help the overall company’s strategy.
Think of things like percentage of ROI that comes from marketing, number of conversions that you need to make a sale, website visits, and how many people need to be aware of you in the first place. Those are some things that you might want to think about when coming up with your marketing objectives. They should be based on a few data and research points.
What information does a strategic marketing plan include?
If you only attempt to focus on one specific piece and that’s it because it can be time-consuming to create a marketing plan, make sure you understand your audience. We have a saying here, “market for everyone or market for no one.”
Do you know who your customer is, what motivates them, what their pain points are, and what they’re responsible for depending on their industry or company? If not, you may be wasting your time, your team’s time, and your budget.
You need marketing to take place when and where your audience is and where they’ll find you. And what you say will be the main factor then what drives them to take action, be it a purchase, a demo, etc. So, talk to your fellow employees, especially sales and maybe anybody that works in Customer Support. Maybe even talk to customers directly if you can. Choose those that are loyal and willing to give you some insider information. But dig deep into the questions to help define that important role of your audience.
If you have a little more time, check out your competition. Not only who you think are your competitors but who the search engines believe your competitors are. There’s a bunch of tools out there like SEMrush, SpyFu, and so forth that you can use. But if you don’t have access to these tools, you can also very easily just start Googling your services or products and who else comes up. Those results are going to be who your audiences will see if they’re searching for your products or services.
Once you know who you’re competing against, look at their marketing tactics. Are they crushing it on social? Do they rely a lot on paid ads to get to the top of page one on Google? Or heck, are they even still stuck in print and you see a huge billboard when you’re driving on your way to work? Whatever it is, just jot it down and keep it as food for thought. Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily have to actually do their strategies if you feel that it’s not right for your brand or, more importantly, it’s not right for your target audience.
If you still want to dig a little deeper, take what you know about your company, your competition, your audience, and the industry, and conduct a full SWOT analysis. Pull your team together and have them start identifying your internal strengths and weaknesses.
Once you’ve got your strengths and weaknesses internally, go to your external threats and opportunities. People in these different roles that you have pulled will call it different things, but all of them are going to be really important and you’d be amazed at what you’re going to find out.
At the end of it all, maybe try to pinpoint where you stand in the industry and against the competition. But most importantly, look at the things that you can capitalize on and where you’re falling short. Be sure to include those in the objectives and insights as part of your marketing plan.
How often should businesses revamp their strategic marketing plan?
Well, let’s say you have a plan already or you’re going to make one in the future. Just because you’ve created an annual marketing plan, does not mean it’s set in stone. Things are going to happen and you’re going to need to pivot.
For example, maybe there’s a new competitor that comes into the industry or a competitor starts to offer something similar to what you offer. Or maybe your company decides to launch a new product or service sometime in the middle of the year that wasn’t anticipated when you started your marketing plan. And, of course, let’s not forget the pandemic that we just went through. Everything that companies had planned for 2020 when they started in January went completely out the window in April. So, you’ve really got to make tweaks as needed.
Personally, I would recommend revisiting your marketing plan on a quarterly basis. If you need to do it more than that because of things that are changing – external forces, threats and/or opportunities – then, you want to go back in and address them.
Who should be involved when creating strategic marketing plans?
It depends on the company and perhaps the size of the marketing team. If you’ve got a larger marketing team and it’s pretty diverse, then you can start drafting the plan with just the marketing team. Don’t try to have too many cooks in the kitchen right from the get-go. However, I would recommend talking to a lot of people before you actually start putting pen to paper – or fingers to a keyboard.
You want to ask questions, get feedback, understand everything that they do. What problems or questions or issues or concerns do they hear when they talk to customers or prospects or leads? You may also want to include the C-suite, the directors, and the managers. And I’m sure you’ll need to get approval from someone on the budget, so make sure to include them as well.
But do your homework. Connect with others and get their feedback. The most important thing is to make sure that by the time you’re done with this marketing plan, it’s aligned on everything.
What tools can make building SMPs easier?
There are a lot of tools out there. If you have like a marketing platform like HubSpot, that’s a great opportunity to make sure your CRM is in order and you’re tracking things properly. At Creative, we’ve built out a template that is very helpful and we actually use it as the basis of our strategic marketing plans. You can download it for free.
If you want help filling it out as I know it can be a bit much, feel free to reach out. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or connect with me directly on LinkedIn.
Also, this is going to be the start of a weekly video series for Creative University. So, if you want to hear more helpful tips from members of our team, be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel.