Defining and documenting critical elements included in a strategic marketing plan sets the stage for a truly differentiated approach to success within your market.
An effective strategic marketing plan should include exercises and documentation meant to bring out healthy discussion amongst key players, establish clarity, and document how a company will differentiate itself to the target audiences in their market.
As a creative agency, we’re often approached by prospective clients interested in a creative production project. One of the first questions we ask early in this discovery phase is, “Why do you believe your company needs this piece?” This question is the key to what is missing from most creative project requests – the strategy.
Creative projects, sometimes referred to as collateral, vessels, pieces, campaigns, or initiatives, are all communication tactics that are extensions of the insights uncovered and included in a strategic marketing plan. Without a strategic marketing plan, any creative project initiated is very likely based off of an assumption or an impulsive decision.
A strategic marketing plan analyzes your company’s current status, the competitive landscape, what makes you valuable in the market, who you’re trying to reach, and how to reach them effectively. Without those critical pieces of information, it’s like throwing darts. Blindfolded.
A third party becomes key to the success of this process. Having an outside voice, perspective, and facilitator helps navigate what can be very energetic and sometimes intense conversations surrounding the company’s future goals and objectives. You and your team should be passionate about the direction you’re heading. An outside voice brings clarity to these critical decisions, and can help turn those goals into actionable marketing steps through a strategic marketing plan.
Let’s dive into a few of the key elements of a strategic marketing plan.
BRAND HEALTH AUDIT
Uncovering the current health of your brand in the market is an important step to understanding where the strengths and weaknesses already exist. It’s very difficult to know where to go with a strategic plan without knowing where you currently are. Part of this process includes identifying what’s working so that it can be expanded upon and folded into the new strategic plan. Weaknesses will be brought to the discussion as major areas of need that should be addressed through the strategy and creative processes, where future projects may be pre-planned.
The market is always changing. Existing competitors are changing their strategy year-to-year, and new players are entering the market. Understanding who the key competitors are and how they are positioning themselves allows for a strategic marketing planning process to move in a direction of differentiation. This exercise will also uncover weaknesses in the competition that could be leveraged into opportunities for your brand’s approach. In this process, each competitors’ claims, positioning, service offerings, value propositions, marketing channel choices, and voice & tone are all identified to use as comparisons moving forward that set the bar.
CLAIMS & POSITIONING
One of the most important pieces included in a strategic marketing plan is the positioning statement. This is the element that will direct all future marketing efforts and establish your company as a unique, memorable player in the market. This process starts with a claims analysis that spans from universals claims to product or service claims. These claims are dissected at a granular level to uncover what that claim actually means to your company. For example, everyone claims to have great customer service, but what does that actually look like at your company? What elements of customer service do you offer that impact your customer relationships? The same process applies to product or service claims – why are you different? A gap analysis will start to identity the most promising differentiator for your company. A position can be vertical in nature, defining your expertise in a specific market type. Alternatively, a position can be horizontal, defining your expertise in a specific skill or product used across multiple industries.
AUDIENCE PERSONAS / PAIN POINTS
Understanding who your target audience is helps inform creative marketing campaign production. These exercises build out multiple persona types that will outline demographic information, personality traits, pain points, and typical marketing channels that they may be found in. This information helps avoid writing and designing marketing pieces for the wrong audience. For example, if your persona is someone in their 60s and looking for Medicare, fast-paced videos with casual scripting posted on Instagram is likely not the way to reach them. That creative piece would be more suitable for a fashion brand targeting 15-25 year olds. It’s possible to have a wide range of personas, which simply means you must consider multiple types of content to help them through their buying journey.
Whether you approach marketing from a funnel or flywheel model, in each you must understand the buying scenarios that each persona will find themselves in during the research, consideration, and decision phases of their journey. In these exercises, uncovering common questions each persona has during their journey will help to identify the answers your company can provide, the creative pieces you can create to present those answers, and the channels you can utilize to reach each target audience. These insights are incredibly important to prioritizing and planning creative marketing projects and campaign work.
When it comes to entering a strategic marketing process, it’s important to remember that this will take some time. This type of process includes multiple collaborative exercise sessions that will each be a few hours long (our clients have called these “business therapy”). Before each of those sessions, the creative agency will be doing preparation work, setting up documents, researching, and tuning the exercise to the client’s needs. After each session, the creative agency will debrief, distill the findings into a recommendation, and prepare to present back to the client for approval or further refining.
Expect a strategic marketing process to take some time to complete before diving into a full schedule of creative projects that implement the new strategy. This process is an investment, the result of which, is a clearly defined path to move forward with and an aligned organization that is positioned to optimize its strengths and opportunities in the marketplace.
For more information on how we’ve implemented these tactics for our clients, head on over to our case studies page. Additionally, we’re always posting relevant information regarding strategic marketing and creative campaign production on our LinkedIn page.
If you’re interested in learning how our strategic marketing and creative team can work with your company, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or give Tim a call at (716) 332-1640 x2.