Today’s topic is surely one of the most essential when thinking about marketing activities. It could be argued that “what should my marketing strategy include?” is the very first question to ask ourselves.
If you checked my profile on Opportunity Marketing website, you may have seen my motto: “A goal without a plan is just a wish”. I love planning. I make lists and compare options for everything. My wife makes fun of me… But I keep doing it because it provides a great deal of confidence to know that you have a plan which is based on research and well thought through. It allows me to be creative in my day to day and take risks that are measured and contained.
Spoiler alert: this post won’t do the work for you, or give you a one-size-fits-all template for your business. It will however equip you with an overview, tips, and the benefits and pitfalls to look out for. If you still want to use a ready-made generic template, that’s fine, you can do that more effectively after reading this.
I’ll start by asking a question: Should this post be called “marketing strategy vs tactics?”. Many think they don’t need a strategy. From experience, I’d say that most businesses plan tactics (campaigns), yet most businesses do not set out a formal strategy.
Business owners have a very good instinct of what their company’s goals, resources and activities are or should be. However, the benefit of a strategy and a written plan is that teams work more efficiently, and drive is consistent. There is no need to rethink at each milestone, and reviewing achievements is integrated, rather than something that requires investigating (when wanting to know why it has been good or bad, how targets were missed or exceeded).
DEFINITION OF MARKETING STRATEGY
This is a definition which describes nicely how the strategy, plan and tactics/activities interact.
“The marketing strategy informs the marketing plan, which is a document that details the specific types of marketing activities a company conducts and contains timetables for rolling out various marketing initiatives.
Marketing strategies should ideally have longer lifespans than individual marketing plans because they contain value propositions and other key elements of a company’s brand, which generally hold consistent over the long haul. In other words, marketing strategies cover big-picture messaging, while marketing plans delineate the logistical details of specific campaigns.”
A marketing strategy is about being proactive, minimising the unknown and making the most out of opportunities. Now more than ever, with Brexit and now Covid-19, uncertainty can be overwhelming. In reality, not much is ever certain. Strategy is about managing and being prepared, rather than just keep repeating activities in isolation. One way of managing this is to be pragmatic, thorough and structured. These are the pillars of a good marketing strategy in my view.
Goals! Goal! Goals! Keep coming back to what you want the business to achieve, make sure it is realistic and you don’t drift too far from the tracks. It’s ok to investigate opportunities but review any decision carefully if it takes you too far away from the most direct path to your goals.
Obviously, the limitation is often resources, how ambitious you should be depends on size and purpose… how long is a piece of string? Basically the length of the string can you afford! That is (should be) defined by what the business stands to gain from the exercise; the ROI.
Research is another aspect that differentiate strategy from tactics. In order to create a marketing strategy and plan, you or your consultant should leave no stone unturned. For example, a PEST(EL) analysis is often overlooked… Again the coronavirus is showing that macro events can bring both risks and opportunities. Ask these guys selling Aldi’s £1 hand sanitizer gel for £10 on eBay! Or with a more positive outlook, those who have transformed overnight their location-based food business into a delivery service. My local organic produce shop told me their turnover is set to increase by about 50% compared to the same period last year, despite their door being closed!
Thoroughly analysing your activity and market can bring up some questions and answers that would otherwise be missed.
Keep the marketing plan in sight. It builds on the idea of keeping goals in mind, and breaks it down into manageable chunks, sections. Categorizing content and structuring it into a plan means that every time you research, develop and create, outcomes can be logged and easily retrieved. It also highlights which sections need attention in order to reach completeness.
It is important to understand the ‘why’. That’s why I expanded on the definition and place that strategy takes in marketing as a whole.
STEP BY STEP ESSENTIAL PARTS TO A MARKETING STRATEGY
In the next section, I sum up the essential parts a marketing strategy should contain, the step by step process to draft one, and what to do once you have completed it.
Go through all the steps below without overthinking or trying to get the exact figure from somewhere. The aim is to do it in less than 30 minutes. Then go back to it, review and start developing a comprehensive strategy.
It goes like this:
1. The ‘wish’ (remember my motto?): the preliminary goal. Why are you reading this? Are you wanting to grow profits? Launch a new product? Diversify?
2. Establish the resources available.
3. Current activities review (including marketing, sales and anything that can impact on growth)
4. Market research (including competition)
5. Set specific goals and metrics. E.g. if profit growth is the aim; by what percentage? by which date? Etc. They must be SMART (Specific – Measurable – Achievable – Relevant – Time-bound).
Now you have the analytical work done, the following points are the essential parts your strategy should contain:
6. An executive summary: comes first, written last. (come back to this bit on your second draft)
7. The value proposition should be highlighted. It is the essence and core/ engine of a marketing strategy. I like to state this to conclude the executive summary and before going into the detailed content. As part of the executive summary, it should be produced once all the strategy has been established.
8. The 7 Ps: this is the core statement of the strategy:
Then, draft your:
9. Branding which can include your brand personality, tone, as well as the basic visual stuff such as logo and colour schemes
Once you have established what to promote, prioritise and plan where you will focus your efforts:
11. Pick the relevant and most effective channels
12. Projected sales and budget
13. Make a schedule
14. Set milestones and review dates
Strategy completed? Well done! You have gone further than most companies have.
Now… actioning your plan is obviously the critical part.
One last tip: Delegate. Internally or externally, but if you have the resources: do it! As much as a marketing strategy is invaluable, it is no good half finished. Value your time and delegate to expedite the process.
Make sure you agree and set outcomes with your team and service providers. Share your milestones with them so they are on the same wavelength, and you will be one step closer to completing your marketing strategy.
“Hope for the best, plan for the worse”.
A strategy and plan shouldn’t be taken as static and rigid. Be prepared to take feedback and data into consideration as you go along, in order to adjust at the earliest opportunity. That’s where having the right metrics and tracking tools in place becomes valuable.
I hope this was useful, and helped make the path to complete your marketing strategy clearer.
Good luck and feel free to pick our brain – The first 30 minutes consultation is FREE.