Planning Season: 5 elements of a good marketing strategy

It’s planning season.  You can smell it in the air as the summer closes. School traffic increases and you can suddenly schedule meetings again because people are back from holiday.

The need to balance long and short-term goals is heightened in Q4. It can be a busy time for marketing teams. Sales teams need extra support to hit annual targets, yet the business wants you to focus on 2019 plans and budgets.  How do you find the resource to balance the short and long term and build a marketing strategy?

I’m a fan of taking time to develop a marketing strategy and plan every year.  It’s good to set (or reset) clear goals that everyone can aim for and launch the year with them.

The marketing plan isn’t just about ‘what sales support activities are you going to provide?’ or ‘what are we going to say on social?’.  It starts by answering strategic questions like ‘who’ you want to do business with, ‘why’ you exist, and ‘how’ you help them.  These need to be agreed at a senior level and it’s the CMOs job to make sure those conversations happen.  Without this marketing strategy, your sales support and social media activities will never align.  And you’ll probably spend the year managing conflict across the organisation.

For me there are 5 elements of a strategic marketing plan:

1 – Balanced Goals.  Many organisations build their plans based on commercial targets only.  Positioning has to be one of those targets too.  Deciding which products to build, which customers to sell to, which partnerships to develop, which marketing channels to use – must be reviewed against profit and positioning to drive the organisation forwards.

2 – Focused Proposition.  This is the core of your positioning and tackles which customer problems you are and aren’t going to solve.  It should also cover why and how you’re different from other options.

3 – Target Customers.  A focused audience that has the problems you want to solve. I find this is the hardest element to agree, especially in organisations with multiple sales channels.  You have to be clear upfront where the priorities lie because at some point in the year, you’ll have to make trade-offs.

4 – Consistent Messages.  The more you can align everything you say to just two or three core messages, the better you will stand out.  What’s your specific take on the issues facing your customers and your industry?  It’s helpful to guide what your teams can and cannot comment on.  It’s also important that these messages match your company values, or you’ll create a lot of tension internally.

5 – Selected Channels.  Do you know where your target customers are?  What do they read, attend, comment on?  Pushing your message out is harder than pulling customers to you by being visible and active where they already congregate.

It may feel like finding the time to do this amidst the busy race to the year-end target is hard.  If you have a CMO, it’s likely that they will be focused on next year’s strategy whilst most of the team support today’s target.

If you don’t have a CMO, remember to allow the marketing team, and their key stakeholders some focused time every week to work on this now.

I specialise in running the workshops and stakeholder meetings that build this part of the plan.  So if you need help to focus you, there is a solution. And if we start now, you can be ready to launch at the start of 2019.