8 Essential Steps To Creating A Winning Marketing Strategy
Most businesses have a marketing plan, of sorts, but if you’re looking to grow your business then it’s essential you invest in your marketing strategy. Just knowing where to start can be daunting, so here’s an essential how-to to get you on the right path.
1. Commit time and resource to your plan
The first rule of marketing planning is to give it the time it needs. In many businesses I’ve witnessed the marketing plan being the ‘after thought’, the creation of activity based on informal business decisions and directions.
Appoint someone in the business who has the skill set and who can dedicate the time to create the marketing plan. It needs to be dedicated time where they can turn their attention purely to marketing planning.
There are 3 phases of planning: research, plan-writing, execution.
2. Do your research like a pro – and start wide.
A marketing strategy should be informed, and this comes from the research that you conduct. It’s a very basic rule: the more effort you put into research, the more informed your plan is.
Most marketing plans run in calendar years. So, if your plan begins in January then you should begin the research phase in August or September.
I always take an outside-to-in approach. Start ‘wide’ and conduct macro-analysis. Look at economical and other factors that could impact the industry, organisation or customer. Then take a deeper look at your industry and marketplace. This should include competitor analysis where you consider traditional competitors but also think about the emerging competition and what affect they may have. Take a deep dive on your top 3 competitors. Look at their financials, turnover, proposition, product/ service offering, price of products, website. Make sure you really know what they’re up to.
3. Get to know your customer better
Your marketing will perform better if you know your audience. This is the point where I question how well do you really know your customer? A lot of organisations I work with have never conducted formal customer research. This is the time to invest because this piece of work will enhance your business in so many ways; it will help you shape your proposition and communicate to your customers more effectively, right across the business and not just in your marketing campaigns.
From the research that’s conducted you can create your customer personas. Once you know who you’re talking to, how and where you should be talking to them, you’re on a winning path.
4. Critique your business
So this is the part where you lift the lid on your own company. Starting with a review of this year… “what went well and what didn’t go well?”. This honest critique will enable you to realise what you need to keep doing, or doing more of, and what you need to stop doing.
Whilst you’re taking an internal view, it’s time to also look at the resources and capabilities of the organisation. There is simply no point creating a marketing plan that can’t be fulfilled because there isn’t the infrastructure to fulfil it! Look at resource, budget and service capability.
5. Summarise into a SWOT
Forming a SWOT to summarise is a very effective way of capturing the main highlights and findings of your research. When looking at strengths and weaknesses, you should take an internal view; rank and prioritise the top 5 or so strengths and weaknesses of your business. The threats and opportunities should reflect the external landscape; again, you should rank and prioritise the top 5.
You’re now at the end of the research phase and by now you should have a good idea of how your marketing plan will form.
6. Create your business goals and marketing priorities
Many business directors create their business goals based on several components. The largest component of the strategy is often formed from the ‘gut feel’. This intuition is not to be ignored of course; as the business owner or CEO you will have a stronger feeling than any as to the direction of your business. However, I always encourage organisations to also include the marketing research as part of the business planning.
There are two reasons for this;
1 – the research can discover things that might change our view or understanding of the competition or customer, for example, and so could be very relevant to setting business goals.
2 – the research usually substantiates the ‘gut feel’, empowering you and your business to move in the new direction.
A marketing strategy must be aligned to the business plan. At this stage of planning it’s essential that the marketing objectives are relevant and achievable. Marketing is measurable and so the priorities should be tangible. For example, if a business goal is to achieve a new business number, then a marketing strategy should be to generate a pipeline (with value attached) that will contribute to, or even fulfil, the new business goal.
7. Write your marketing plan
Not forgetting the point made earlier about time and resource to deliver the marketing, it’s now time to write your marketing plan. The marketing priorities should form the marketing strategies. For each marketing strategy you should have a plan that includes your tactics. This is where the application of the 7P’s come into play; it’s time to create your brilliant marketing campaigns.
This is also the point where you set your budget for your plan and, where possible, work out and set the ROI target for your objectives.
8. Track and measure your ROI
This is usually the weakest part of marketing for many organisations. This can be because the marketing activity you’re doing is what you’ve always done and so it’s never been questioned or measured. But often it can be that organisations don’t know how to, or have the time to, measure their campaigns.
This is where step 7 comes into play. If you set an ROI goal in your planning phase then you will have a clear understanding of what you need to measure in implementation phase. Basic marketing metrics are important – open rates and click throughs of digital campaigns – but you need to track the customer journey through to conversion.
So, before you activate your campaign take the time to consider how you will measure it and ensure those measurements are in place. This way you can genuinely review the effectiveness of your marketing plan, gain a true understanding of the ROI and make better decisions based on real results.