Keeping Your Strategic Marketing Plan Top of Mind
Most of us are stretched too thin—we fight a million deadlines and are sometimes guilty of missing the forest for the trees. We can get lost in the weeds of responding to day-to-day requests and creating assets without stopping to examine the bigger picture. When I find that my team is overly focused on tasks and projects, I always suggest meeting with key stakeholders in a workshop-style setting to reflect on our strategic plan.
Strategic planning does not typically happen at a set time during the calendar year, so there is not a perfect time to engage in this exercise. It is a living, breathing process that must be revisited often. This is best done with your marketing agency’s key players (including account executives, designers and writers) as well as representatives from your business units like the heads of sales and product development.
A strategic planning session is meant to refocus the team, review business objects, set goals, and ensure everyone is on the same page. Here’s how to get started.
1. Establish a goal. Make sure everyone understands the short-term (1-2 years) and long-term (5+ years) objectives of the business unit or corporation. What are we trying to accomplish? Then re-examine your current marketing efforts as well as your future plans to make sure they align. The vision for your plan should come from the top and filter down within the organization so everyone understands it and feels responsible to contribute.
2. Stalk your competitors. A healthy dose of competitive insight is essential to strategic planning. No doubt you continuously keep a passive eye on what your competitors do. This is the time to pause and take a deeper look at the usual suspects. Look out for new players and those who are innovating. What seems to be working for them? What differentiates you?
3. Redefine your audience. As a marketer, of course you have a sense of who your audience is. Take this opportunity to re-evaluate their interests and how best to reach them. The world is constantly changing, especially online, so be sure to consider new social channels and media platforms that have sprung up recently or that you may be ignoring. Above all, make sure your goals align with the needs of your audience.
4. Conduct an audit. Gather the assets and materials you’ve created over the last year or two. Review your brochures, print ads, videos, email campaigns, whitepapers or anything else that may be relevant. Discuss what’s been effective and why. Who did it target and how was it distributed? How might your materials be improved to better serve your goals?
5. Explore new (and old) ideas. You know that idea that keeps you up at night or the one that constantly pops up in meetings and just won’t go away? Every team has them. They can be distracting but they can also present opportunities to shift and evolve. Explore these ideas as part of your strategic planning sessions. Have the group run them through a filter to determine what has merit and then find a way to move them forward. Most often, collaborative discussion makes the original idea even stronger.
6. Evaluate the process. With a clear picture of the output, reflect on the process you currently have in place to execute your work. Think about how it can be improved. Where are the gaps in communication? What tools might help? Make sure your approach to execution isn’t thwarting progress.
It’s sometimes hard to be self-reflective, but taking the steps described and answering the tough questions will not only enable the development of a solid strategic plan, it will help optimize your team. Be careful not to overcomplicate the exercise. Follow the process that best fits your organization—and be sure to let us know how it works out for you.
Jim Cosco is Principal and Founder of Tippingpoint Labs, a content marketing agency and IHAF member company. Tippingpoint Labs works with in-house agencies and corporate advertisers to craft, design, develop, and execute on strategic content creation for brands that care about building an audience, driving awareness, engaging consumers, and rewarding loyalty.
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