EIGHT steps to create a actionable STRATEGIC MARKETING PLAN
Creating a B2B or B2C strategic marketing plan is no simple task, your plan must provide a strategy to transform your business objectives into actionable marketing goals and prioritise a sequence of events in order for your business to thrive.
Before you start your strategic marketing plan, remember to always leave your first page blank for your ‘Index page’ and your second page blank for your ‘Executive Summary page’.
The executive summary will be an overview of what your readers will expect to learn. It’s a snapshot you write once you’ve finished writing your plan. Calculate. Don’t Speculate!
The preceding steps and tools listed under each step flow into one another. Each step needs to be created in order for your strategic marketing plan to be correctly calculated and quantified.
Step 1: Defining your purpose. Determines your starting position.
Determine your starting position by evaluating your company’s vision and mission statements. Your vision is your long-term goal(s) and guiding the force of all your efforts.
Ask yourself these questions:
Who are you and what do you stand for?
What is your target market and what do they want from you?
What do your competitors do and what does your brand do differently?
How will you meet these needs stated?
These steps will help you define your position and leads you to your vision statement.
What’s you company’s vision?
Create your vision statement
Your vision is a philosophical outlook which will always be relevant and achievable over time. [Example: Strategise strives to profitably increase our brand position of providing value-added professional consulting services for the technical B2B industries within Southern Africa and selected international markets through the idea of ‘continuous improvement’, commitment and pride resulting in quantified strategic output which meets the needs of our 4th industrial revolution. While being recognised as a sustainable business supporting sustainability in everything we do].
Create your mission statement
Your mission statement is a written declaration of your company’s core purpose and focus. It guides your employees informs your stakeholders, highlighting what’s important from what’s not important.
The vision is the cause while the mission is the effect.
Its time to make sure that all your employees are committed to the strategic process, each employee must be willing to contribute and ensure your strategy succeeds. This is the type of document mounted in places where your employees and stakeholders read it.
It needs to be drilled into your organisation creating a set of values which guides you. Creating a mission statement outlines your values and ensures that the people who interact with your organisation are aware. The statement message must reflect your brand value. You will actively demonstrate your values outlined in your mission statement through your day-to-day interactions with stakeholders. This statement and how it is carried out can make or break your clients’ trust.
Step 2: Research your external market environment.
How do you know where you are heading, if you don’t know what is taking place around you? You need reliable market research to make informed decisions. This is where you need to conduct an external marketing audit. External meaning all the factors which reside outside of your businesses direct control. External factors which affect and/or help you.
Why making assumptions is bad
The truth is if you do not conduct reliable research, you are simply making assumptions. Assumptions is like similar to your intuition, intuition only works if you relive the same experience time and time again and can make calculated guesses on the outcome based on similar experiences you have learnt from your past. The more you convince yourself, you are correct, generally the more WRONG you will be!
[thought starter] What if you import products and your government imposes a heavy excise duty to your product category? You may become reactive and not proactive, by trying to negotiate with your best customers and pass-on a hefty price increase?
But if you conducted research, which lead you to the potential problems you could compile your SWOT analysis better and plan for this kind of scenario.
These are all the tools you need and, in this sequence, as one answer leads to another and down the rabbit hole you go in a deep dive into acquiring all your answers you need to calculate your ‘Threats’ and ‘Opportunities’ later.
Segmenting your market
There are a few tools you can use, the classic is a combination of Demographic, Geographic, Psychographic, Behavioral segmentation. I often use the next tool being Ultimate Benefit Sort segmentation, You will find it easier to use, while the results are equally as good.
This is the process of dividing your market of potential buyers into groups or segments, based on different characteristics of your market.
Another great segmentation tool is the Ultimate Benefit Sort market segmentation, this is especially useful when segmenting a market for example toothpaste. Toothpaste is segmented by fresh breath, fluoride, sensitive teeth and so on. This is what people want so your product is segmented by these attributes.
Used as a tool to segment your market by benefit to your customer.
Aim to make your brand occupy a distinct position, relative to competing brands and in the minds of the customer. A good positioning strategy makes you stand out from the rest!
Create a unique selling proposition (USP)
Ask yourself, why is your product or service different from and better than that of your competition? The factors which differentiate your product of service could be ‘lowest price’, ‘highest quality’, ‘first to market’ and so on.
Remember we work within a rapidly evolving transformational period, so expect to find your USP somewhat challenging, your USP could be the first mover in your industry and then your competition catches up. Ask yourself: What makes you, you? What do you do well at? What does your product or service offer, different from your competitors?
Porters 5 Forces
Porters 5 Forces analyses your competitive intensity and attractiveness of an industry, in terms of profitability, or a lack thereof. You measure ‘bargaining power of suppliers’, ‘bargaining power of buyers’, ‘threats of substitutes’, ‘threats of new entrants’ which results in how much competitive rivalry exists in your industry.
This is a great, robust model which gets you to look and calculate how much competitor rivalry exists in your industry. Don’t discount the value it breathes into your strategy.
Industry key Success Factors
A business cannot expect to be competitive in its industry without an understanding of its key success factors, these factors are a mix of both competitive pressure and customer needs. Ask yourself: What do my customers and the industry in general expect from us? What are my industry norms and stakeholder expectations? Do I comply or exceed them?
[This is a critical step, if you do not comply, it can be rectified and placed into your action plan. This step will help you quantify if you are truly a market leader or a market follower, doesn’t matter which one you are but when you select your strategic thrust later on you will refer back to this step].
Sustainable Competitive Advantage (SCA)
Now this is an interesting one, in the old days the below is relevant and as follows:
Ask yourself: What do I own (assets, attributes or abilities) which my competitors cannot easily replicate long-term? This is the basis of a SCA. It could be unique software created, unique manufacturing processes – like the Coca Cola recipe. This will only work, providing you are not operating within an uncertain and volatile market.
Now lets flip this a bit with some newer thinking:
[4th Industrial Revolution thinking] In today’s times the argument is the old SCA thinking is dead! Yes dead. What replaces it is as follows:
In an uncertain and volatile business environment a SCA is no longer possible, you need to continually refresh your business model to remain:
a. Competitively differentiated.
b. Relevant to your customer needs.
This is something worthy of working towards to gain a long-term competitive advantage, over your competitors. If you choose the latter, you need to look at a lean business model which is quick to react to market needs, thus maintaining your sustainable competitive advantage in your industry!
The P.E.S.T.E.L analysis is the framework marketers use to measure and monitor the macro environmental factors (factors outside your firm). This is even more important for international marketing, an analysis of each country and market(s) you operate within or intend to operate within needs to be analysed.
Strategic decisions are made from investigating all the macro factors for a scenario such as: Which country or area should we place our call centre? What are the people like? People’s skills, how do they think? Governmental laws or country or city infrastructure? Economic situation of the city or country, economic policies and so on.
Environmental analysis is broken up into 6 distinct categories
Step 3: Analyse your internal market environment.
Very similar to the way you have conducted your external marketing, you need to conduct an internal marketing audit. This section will provide you with the answers you require for your strengths and weaknesses of your S.W.O.T Analysis.
Boston Consulting Group (BCG) Matrix
BCG matrix is a framework created by Boston Consulting Group to evaluate the strategic position of the business brand portfolio and its potential. It classifies a business portfolio into four categories based on industry attractiveness (growth rate of that industry) and competitive position (relative market share).
The ideal way a corporate will execute is by analysing competitor annual reporting performance and paid data versus their own. A small business won’t have this quantifiable means, however one can still use this method by evaluating your individual brands growth/decline, versus its market position over the most recent past financial years.
Ultimately you start grouping your product grouping by services brand and product categories.
This is my favourite, the Ansoff matrix is a strategic planning tool used by executives to plan future growth strategies.
Each quadrant has specific strategic menus to consider. All you need to do is use your existing BCG matrix information, and place them into the Ansoff matrix quadrants to calculate what your product categories or services or brands strategic direction is.
This is a great tool to evaluate where your strengths and weaknesses are and which products or services or brands require more attention than others.
This can get involved and technical but think of a KISS (keep it simple stupid!). If you decide to use this, it could be used to measure your desired outcome versus your actual outcome. Say you’re a Senior Manager, you may want to highlight a gap between you and your competitors on certain aspects of a particular product, similar to yours? It could be used in many ways and at this stage of your strategy it will behave as a summary block to act upon.
A competitive analysis on its own can be a very detailed report, you can include as much detail as you would like, the more information the better and more accurate your strategic plan will be. But you don’t want to over analyse, the information already collected thus far is possibly more strategic than one who hasn’t followed these previous steps.
A competitive analysis is important, look at aspects of your competitor such as:
How reactive are they to your marketing efforts?
Do your competitors follow you in product development?
How do your competitors advertising plans compare to yours?
What advertising vehicles do your competitors use? i.e. Radio, TV, Print, Out of home, Digital?
Do you share the same customer profiles as your competitors?
Do you know how much your competitors spend on marketing versus you?
What are your competitor challenges and where are they gaining on you?
Step 4: Calculate and confront your SWOT.
[Calculate. Don’t Speculate a SWOT analysis].
This is where it gets interesting, ever been in a room full of colleagues with a manager in front of a white board, you remember yourself shouting out certain points about your business?
This is the old way of determining what your firm’s ‘Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats’. The new way is far more quantitative, refer back to your previous work. Look at point 2 (External market audit) and point 3 (Internal market audit). You extract data from here for SWOT!
SWOT analysis data
Strengths and Weaknesses come directly from your ‘internal market audit’ and opportunities and Threats come directly from your ‘external market audit’. The reason is so you don’t ‘thumb suck’, as this breathes indifference and doubt.
Your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats need to be correct so that your plan flows. If you are asked about points in your SWOT, you will have the answers you need in your internal and external marketing audits conducted in your strategy.
Analyse your SWOT
A SWOT analysis can give you a snapshot of the situations you face as you go to market. our strengths are what strengthens your business, while your weaknesses are what you can improve.
The economy, your competitors, technology, and other external factors contribute towards your opportunities and threats your business faces. By analysing and confronting your situation this way, you can improve your marketing strategy, while overcoming challenges that may or may not be in your control.
Step 5: Assess your key success factors (KSF), gap analysis
At this step I like to make assessments, double check your previous industry key success factors and list all your recommendations.
Remember this is the last step to quantify which strategy you will pursue. If you do not meet your industry requirements, you will be better off adopting a follower strategy and if you do meet and exceed, you can confidently pursue market leading strategies and become aggressive in your strategic approach.
Gap analysis assessment
Assess any business gaps you need to fill as a priority from most important to least important. Look at a gap analysis between you and your competitors. A comparative tool highlighting where you are stronger and weaker than your competitors in:
Disruption affecting you or you are affecting others.
Marketing thrust versus your competitors.
Current people capacity and future people required.
Processes owned and new technologies to acquire.
Territories owned versus your competitors.
Any and all gaps need to be noted and acted upon later.
Prioritise these from most important to least important. This section creates a good summary block and a ‘check sheet’ against all your previous work.
Step 6: Marketing strategy. Design your strategy and set a clear direction to grow.
The definition of ‘strategy’ is be defined as achieving one or more goals under a condition of uncertainty. I like to call strategy the modern day ‘art of war’. Business is war and the firm who wins, reaps the rewards of increased market share, brand recognition, market leadership and yes, profit!
A strategy needs to be flexible and tailored for your immediate and future needs. You do not need to have one strategic approach, you can implement phased in approaches.
Say, you have identified certain gaps in your firm. So you can start with a ‘Fortified strategy’. To fortify really means you will fix and fill the service gaps, train employees and invest in improving systems and doing things which will better fortify you from future competitor attack.
Next, you could opt for an innovative pioneer strategy and launch first to market products, be aggressive and attack your main competitor, the obvious gain is market share. Or if you are smaller and do not have innovating means you could play the wait and see game, once your pioneering competitor releases a new product, you could analyse and release your own product months later which could take care of those ‘pioneering glitches’. This we refer to as a follower strategy (if it works) it is followed by a leap frog strategy.
Followers who follow well can learn and do the pioneering job better with research, thus jumping the innovator to become the overall leader – Look up [Sony Reader vs Kindle]. Kindle did exactly this, Sony was first to market and Kindle was released about 9 months later and took the market by storm based on changes which better suited the target audience.
Creating a overview of your marketing strategy section
You can break up this section with a strategic overview and what is a great touch is to do this in a infographic format.
This way your introduction to your marketing strategy is displayed like a small index of things to come in one image.
These are just some of the tried and tested strategic options which work. But when faced with a disruption competitor, not much will work to counter it, you may have to join them in disruption.
Considering various strategies
Offensive strategy - Used to secure competitive advantages; market leaders, runner-up’s or struggling competitors are usually attacked, generally companies which use offensive as a strategy generally invest heavily in research and development and technology to stay ahead of the competition.
Types of offensive strategies:
Counter-offensive - When you are under attack, launch a counter-offensive at the attacker’s weak points.
Frontal Attack - A direct head-on confrontation with your competitor, usually attacking their strengths, product and price war is a common frontal attack.
Flanking strategy - Operate in areas of little importance to your competitor.
Flanking attack - Attack the competitor’s weak points or divisions, this is usually attacking a market leaders’ weak points.
Flank positioning - Strengthen your weak points.
Guerrilla strategy - Attack, retreat, hide, then do it again, and again, until the competitor moves on to other markets. This is a good strategy as your competitor will not know when or where you will strike again. You become unpredictable and not easy for a competitor to fight back.
Pre-emptive strike - Attack before you are attacked. You see certain competitor products being promoted more within an industry, so you create a aggressive campaign to fend off future competitive losses.
Defensive strategy - Used to defend competitive advantages; lessen your risk of being attacked, decrease the effects of attacks and strengthen your position.
Types of defensive strategies:
Fortress strategy – Consolidate your position and prevent competitors from hurting your business. Use the time to invest in employee growth, invest in improving systems and processes and align sales, marketing and service to achieve success. Essentially you want to build a large impenetrable wall around your business and protect every key aspect of your business.
Mobile defence - Constantly changing positions and business in such a way that it is hard for competitors to compete.
Leapfrog strategy - Avoid confrontation by bypassing enemy or competitive forces, you want to be determined to deploy one brilliant and masterminded brilliant leap over your competitor which results in extraordinary growth and profit earnings.
Strategic withdrawal - Retreat and regroup so you can live to fight another day.
Sequential strategy - A strategy that consists of a series of sub-strategies that must all be successfully carried out in the right order.
Types of sequential strategies:
Cumulative strategy - A collection of seemingly random operations that, when complete, obtain your objective.
Any combination of strategy – used in a phased in approach, usually involves fortifying your position, with a fortress strategy, then a market development strategy to a pioneering strategy.
Deterrence is a battle won in the minds of the enemy. You convince new competitor entrants that it would be prudent to keep out of your markets. A large firm could work on influencing the barriers to market entry within a given industry. If new entrants see high barriers to market entry, or see you as a dominant and ruthless threat, they would think twice before entering your domain.
The innovator bears the expense of developing and creating new products, breaking market entry barriers while educating the market. A follower does not like taking risks and usually waits for a market leader to launch and adopts their successful strategies. This approach can be very useful as the follower can address market leaders product/service failures, thus launching improved offers and solutions with better success.
Alliance strategy uses business alliances and partnerships to build strength and stabilise situations. This type of strategy could evolve into a industry oligopoly.
Type of alliance strategy:
Joint venture strategy – Two or more firms joining forces which appeal to each firms’ strengths which form a unique solution to fight larger competitors.
Growth Strategy – Gaining a larger market share, even at the expense of short-term earnings.
Types of growth strategies:
Penetration Strategy – Market penetration of products into new or existing markets. This is the least risky of business growth strategies but also has the lowest opportunity for growth since it consists of selling to your existing customer set more of your current products/services. In order to achieve this, you need to persuade the customer of the benefits of having more of your product or service or find alternate ways for your customers to use an existing product/service. In the B2B industry, up-selling and cross selling is a huge area of focus.
Market development/expansion strategy – Geographic and product line expansion. Meaning finding and selling into a totally new set of buyers who don’t currently buy from you. You already have the product; using this approach of is solely dependent on your marketing efforts and offers the opportunity for great reward but can be slightly more expensive than the 'Market Penetration' approach.
Diversification Strategy – Entering into a new market or industry in which the business doesn't currently operate in, while also creating a new product/service for that new market or your current product/service offering needs changing to suit the needs of the new target market. This is the riskiest strategy as it involves taking on a new market with new competitors and possibly a new product/service offering simultaneously.
Product development strategy – You develop new products to sell to your existing customers. If you have been doing a good job at measuring the success of your existing marketing’s messaging and have been communicating well with your existing customers about areas the problems they are having in the workplace you should have a pretty good idea of what areas you can take your product into. This strategy should be proactive, not reactive, meaning you need a allocate sufficient resources to identify market changes, build products which are built to take advantage of opportunities as they occur.
Pioneer strategy – First to market strategy, being the first to market means you have the opportunity to build a large market share quickly. This strategy is heavily reliant on research and development and knowing your market and buyers. It can be rewarding but also tricky, if your research is flawed, your product/service offering is compromised. Therefore, it leaves the door open for a follower to refine the product/service offering, use you as a research model and leapfrog you later on. A Pioneer strategy means you are alone, to launch truly innovative products/services means your buyers may not even know they need the product yet. Think of the cell phones, buyers didn’t know they needed them but loved them once launched and it disrupted the whole communications industry.
Disruption strategy – Similar to an innovation pioneering strategy, but much better. Innovation generally means improving on what is already existing, while disruption means introducing something new which changes a whole industry, and will never be the same again. This strategy is heavily reliant on the use technology, it could mean using existing technology or a combination of technologies in a way which disrupts an entire industry, therefore taking on multiple competitors simultaneously. This strategy is becoming the new norm in modern day business. Creativity is the new commodity, without creativity we don’t have differentiation and disruption. Creativity is one human trait which can’t be replicated by artificial intelligence (AI). Welcome to the latest industrial revolution.
Step 7: Marketing mix – Determine your marketing tools.
The marketing mix is a set of controllable, tactical tools which a firm uses to produce a desired outcome from its target market.
These are the factors which a firm uses to influence demand. The marketing mix helps the marketer with the marketing planning and execution phase of the strategy.
Your marketing mix helps determine what tools to use for your product or service or brands offering, these tools do change between a product-based offer and a services-based offer, simply because a service type business, does not sell a physical product, rather intangible and not a physical product exchanges hands.
Marketing is forever evolving and so does your marketing mix.
This is what the marketing mix would look like for a pure product or a pure service-based business.
Product-orientated firm uses:
Service-orientated firm uses:
The people element could be added under product orientated firms very easily too. More often try and place as much data into your mix as possible. The 4 ‘Ps’ were updated to the 5 ‘Ps’ in the past few years. There are other methods, but I still find the ‘Ps’ work better than the ‘Cs’.
The P’s explained:
Your product must meet and/or exceed your customer’s needs and work as it should. Look at the product itself versus competitor products, packaging and so on and then what types of marketing are required? Retail relies heavily on packaging and visual merchandising for example.
Your product must represent good value for money. This won’t mean you need to be cheap, but customers must be happy to pay the price demanded for your product.
Where is your product and business situated? B2B or B2C or Solely Ecommerce? Your product must be in close proximity to where your target market resides, similarly your business should be too, or it impacts your distribution model. Look at how you will distribute your products or service.
PR, Sales promotion, Personal selling, Social media and website are all key communication tools for an organisation, these tools need to send the correct organisational message to the correct audiences in a way they would prefer to hear it, while appealing to their emotions. What promotional campaigns do you need, and which tools will best serve your strategy by pushing the messages outward?
Companies are reliant on the people who run them from, Front Line Sales to the Managing Director. Having the right people is essential because they are as much a part of your business offering as the products and services you are offering.
Service delivery is usually done in front of your customer, so how the service is delivered is once again part of what the consumer is paying for. Look at how your processes can be automated as much as possible. This is critical to ensure you can spend quality time with your customers and provide your customers with a fluid interaction process to fulfil their needs.
Proficiency is defined as a high degree of skill or expertise. Ask yourself; how good is your business and its people? Especially important in the insurance industry, proficiency means receiving a claim and settling the claim within 30 minutes of receiving it, this is proficiency. Be dynamic!
Almost all services include some physical elements even if the bulk of what the consumer is paying for is intangible. For example, a restaurant would provide their customer with a meal and an insurance company would give their customers some form of printed material. Even if the material is not physically printed (in the case of PDFs) they are still receiving a “physical product” by this definition. If you are selling a service, then this is for you.
Now onto communication…….
Key Message Matrix
At this stage I like to include elements of a communication strategy. It is important to understand which marketing messages will attract your target market(s).
The key message matrix is a critical tool in establishing which message your intended audience prefers over another.
Once you start looking at running campaigns this simple tool is key to ensuring you ‘hit the bull’s eye’ with the right message, to the right audience, delivered on time, every time.
Here you need a single-minded message per target market customer group, horizontally your influence hierarchy. The upmost important influences for each group. When you are looking at creating advertising campaigns, this tool is incredibly valuable.
Once you have your key communication matrix messages, check them against viral marketing methodology, checking against the 6 STEPPS ensures your messages do more than Attract, Hold Interest, Formulate a Desire into Action.
Check your messaging for traction.
For more information about word-of-mouth marketing, download this guide.
Step 8: Operational marketing plan. Implementation and Feedback.
Once you have created your plan, you must think ‘SMART’. Your goals must be; SPECIFIC, MEASURABLE, ATTAINABLE, REALISTIC and TIME BASED. Assign these tasks to members of your staff and link them to their key performance indicators (Kpi). You may want to consider hiring a marketing professional to help you execute your strategy, simply so you can stay on point and achieve your milestones. Having an objective, high level strategic partner means you gain high level insight from an unbiased source.
Create your action plan
Your action plan is your sequential roll out list of things you need to achieve, in order for your strategy to be successful. You allocate tasks to staff and teams, these are kpi’s which your staff gain some type of reward for achieving.
Creating a budget for your marketing strategies can inform your efforts by determining what you can and can’t afford. Choosing the most cost-effective options for your business ensures the success of your overall marketing plan. Advertising on social media and search engines allows you to choose the amount you can afford to pay, making them accessible to even the smallest of budgets. Your budget should reflect all your marketing costs, labelled into groups. Social media, PR, Print, Outsourced services and so on.
This will provide you with a complete, detailed breakdown of all your marketing costs.
It is advisable to create content, creating a unique content marketing strategy means you create compelling and attractive content which people would love to consume, thereby your ideal message and branding is communicated under the guise of idle chatter. This is what I call organic marketing, although there is a cost to creating your content, advertising is generally much less as you use your content to advertise.
Measure your effectiveness
Measuring the effectiveness of your marketing will inform your current plan and your future efforts. Your digital marketing analytics, customer feedback, product/service sales growth etc are all sources of feedback. To help you track this, there are many free online Google analytic tools available.
Your marketing goals and needs will change over time. Ideally, you should revisit your marketing plan every quarter and adjust as necessary. You should write your marketing plan with this growth in mind, so you can measure it.
Remember when your marketing efforts pay off, it is bound to affect a competitor, with this in mind, your plan needs to be flexible enough to change to compensate for your market changes. Establishing a marketing plan keeps your business goals organised and focused, saving valuable time.
Where could your strategy fail? Answer: On implementation.
To minimise any failure of your strategy we will advise you implement Culture S.T.A.R.S. The culture S.T.A.R.S methodology is designed to help individual employees find success in their roles and alignment of their productivity to that of your organisational strategy.
S.T.A.R.S (the acronym generally works in reverse order):
The commitment you make together.
Changing habits and behaviour in order to make your ‘dream’ happen.
Allowing your employees surroundings to reflect the story of your dream.
Making sure your employees are equipped with the right tools to be good at what they do in your strategy KPIs.
Find the perfect staff member, the perfect member for all employees to look up to. Think of an actual person or a fictitious character.
When following the S.T.A.R.S method we can create an ecosystem which is based on the future of your business. It allows people to believe in themselves and the shared commitment and therefore succeed in their roles which positively contribute to your strategic plan outcome. Remember the acronym of TEAM = Together, Everyone, Achieves, More!
There you have it, a strategic marketing plan layout which works. All you need to do is invest time, creativity, ingenuity, passion and be obsessed to make your strategy work for you. It needs to be apart of your organisations daily life and flexible enough to change with your market environment, aligning all marketing efforts to business objectives, means that your entire organisation is on the same page and optimising for the same goals. Follow these steps for success, or contact us for cutting edge results.