Overview: Strategic Marketing Plans—Essential Information
Strategic planning marketing is one of the essential steps in developing a business. It is how a company or brand stays competitive, and the success of a business is often dependent on it.
It is vital, therefore, to understand how a strategic marketing plan works and to give strategic marketing plan examples to clearly demonstrate a plan in action.
The first step in good marketing is identifying the audience a niche business should target with their product or service. One consistent and important element in this is the development of a strategic marketing plan.
This helps to identify the audience, to understand it, and to know how to appeal to it.
This is more complicated than it might seem; whether a business is new or already established, good strategic marketing requires in depth knowledge of its inner workings.
A strategic marketing plan outline begins with this and grows, becoming more detailed and complex. Even before this point, however, another question needs to answered: Just what is strategic marketing?
What Is Strategic Marketing?
Source: Strategic Marketing
Put simply, strategic marketing is a planned and coordinated effort to tailor a brand or product’s marketing to suit a specific situation. It takes into account as much context as possible to maximize the impact of a marketing campaign and avoid potential problems.
In practice, strategic market planning is a multi-step process. It can consume a lot of time or resources and often requires special expertise. The benefits, however, often outweigh the possible costs, which makes strategic marketing plans invaluable tools for any business.
One possible process of developing a strategic marketing plan, according to cleverism.com, can be roughly broken down into three steps:
- Planning: Analysis of the company, industry, competition, changes in technology, and wider culture
- Implementation: Gathering of resources for finalizing and actually executing ideas from the planning stage
- Control/Evaluation: Analysis of the strategy in action, including accounting for unexpected deviations for future improvements
As this development method suggests, a strategic marketing plan is an ever-evolving thing. This means that there is no one correct way to do it, and what works will vary wildly depending on the context. Every company that wants to take advantage of a strategic marketing plan should tailor it carefully or risk wasting resources.
This review will cover each step of the process for strategic planning marketing in more detail; provide strategic marketing plan examples; and examine specialized forms, such as strategic internet planning.
Strategic Marketing Plan Phase 1—Planning
This is arguably the most important of the three phases. It is also why identifying what strategic marketing is exactly is so vital. Commitment to a strategy for marketing something requires a lot of time, energy, and resources.
It is very important, therefore, that company knows (as much as possible) what to expect before doing this.
This phase can be further broken down into smaller steps. This first of these is to define the company, brand, or product in question carefully. This includes various strengths, weaknesses, possible competition, and the current position in the wider market. With this information, a strategic marketing plan can really begin to come together.
One reliable method of gathering this basic information is with a SWOT Analysis.
What Is a SWOT Analysis?
SWOT, an acronym that stands for Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats, is just one of many effective methods for establishing the state of a company.
When asking what strategic marketing is most suited for, this is where a company should begin. There two main areas that each part of the SWOT Analysis addresses: internal and external.
Internal investigations, the strengths and weaknesses portion of the analysis, is a detailed look at the company itself.
Any strategic marketing plan outline needs knowledge of what resources are available and what issues might need to be addressed. Staff, assets, and existing position within the relevant industry are all things that should be considered carefully here.
Perhaps some staff have experience with developing good strategic marketing plans or have useful contexts. These can be leveraged to improve the odds of success. Likewise, potential problems, such as limited access to technology or lack of important training, can be accounted for to prevent unexpected failure.
External factors, the opportunities and threats portion of the analysis, are primarily concerned with things beyond the company’s direct control. Normally this focuses on marketplace competition, but other things need to be taken into account for a successful strategic marketing plan. Economic trends or the views of the general public are examples of this. These present potential difficulties that the company needs to be prepared for and opportunities to seize should the chance come up.
The Needs of the Customer
No strategic marketing plans can exist without a clear idea of what the potential customer wants and how to provide it in a realistic, attainable way. Using the SWOT Analysis results as a baseline, a manager developing a strategic marketing plan should focus on this.
Identifying a potential customer needs is a relatively simple process itself. It typically involves a general awareness of public demand and could be as straightforward as improving on a popular existing idea. Figuring out how to meet that need in a realistic way is more difficult. Strategic planning marketing requires that a manager set goals for their company based on the identified need and the SWOT Analysis.
These goals keep a strategic marketing plan on target and everyone involved clear on what is required from them. Then a plan should identify points of difference between their product/service and that of their competition. What advantages does the company have that could give the product/service an edge that the strategic marketing could focus on?
Finally, a good strategic marketing plan will leverage research to select the most appropriate target markets. This is the point at which the customer needs and the company goals come together so that both are met.
Resources and Actionable Elements
What is strategic marketing from an internal company perspective? This area is why the first internally focused half of the SWOT acronym is so important to any strategic marketing plan. The manager or management team will figure out how to allocate resources in order to make the plan a reality using what is called the 4 Ps Strategy:
- Price Strategy—list prices, discounts, credit, and payment periods
- Placement Strategy—distribution channels, outlets, and shipping networks
- Promotion Strategy—public relations, promotions, and direct advertising
- Product Strategy—features, packaging, branding, and warranty
Each of these areas in turn should be considered for phase 1 of the strategic market planning process. This establishes a series of actions that make the company goals achievable. This part of the planning process can be repurposed for many different products or services, especially if they target similar customer groups.
Strategic Marketing Plan Phase 2—Implementation
“What is strategic marketing?” and “How is a strategic marketing plan developed?” were the central concerns of phase 1. With the answer to these questions now clear, phase 2 is the next step. This is the part of the strategic marketing plan that involves commitment to real action.
Using everything decided during phase 1, especially the 4 Ps Strategy, the company should act on the following:
- Obtain resources—Gather the finances and resources necessary for strategic marketing, as previously determined
- Design market organization—Develop a hierarchy of tasks and personnel to oversee the plan and make it a reality
- Develop planning schedules—Give a clear timeline and deadline for each task, so they can be accomplished effectively
- Execute the marketing plan—Pay close attention to the actual workings of the plan and put all previous steps into action
By this point, the company should already have determined if their strategic marketing plans are practical and manageable for them. This is why it is important not to rush the first phase and to ensure that all elements are in place for a clear strategic marketing plan outline.
Organizing Execution of the Strategic Marketing Plan
Attention to detail, as previously discussed, is important at every stage of this process. It is arguably most vital, however, in phase 2.
No amount of preparation and care in first or third phases will matter if the execution of the strategic marketing plan is sloppy.
The establishment of an organizational hierarchy for the purposes of oversight is important. A manager must be able to trust that each moving part in the execution of the strategic marketing plan works properly.
Every staff member must be totally aware of the company goals, as well as what is expected from them personally. Clear timetables should be provided to keep the plan moving.
The complexity of this process obviously leaves lots of potential for error, so this should be accounted for as part of the SWOT Analysis. This includes possible lost time and money, especially from external sources. Effective strategic planning marketing is flexible enough to work around unforeseen problems and able to absorb unexpected costs without failing.
Strategic Marketing Plan Phase 3—Evaluation and Control
Strategic Marketing Plan
The last part of phase 2 feeds directly into the third phase. Otherwise known as the checking phase, the purpose of this is to ensure that the strategic marketing operates without serious problems.
Any negative deviations from the plan are spotted and resolved at this point. Additional resources may also be channeled to take advantage of unexpected positive deviations, such as a helpful boost in the company’s public image.
A secondary, but equally important, purpose of this phase is to examine what works and what does not in a more general sense. It effectively doubles as preliminary research for future strategic marketing plans in similar contexts. It is helpful to break the elements of a strategic marketing plan down into verifiable parts:
- Are the established goals practical and realistic?
- Are the tactics used to reach the goals effective at this?
- Are there sufficient resources to achieve each goal?
- Are there any areas where efficiency saving can be made?
- Are there clear milestones to define levels of success?
- Is the strategic marketing plan too dependent on external forces?
What Is Effective Strategic Marketing Evaluation?
Being able to identify areas to monitor closely is only useful if the methods for dealing with problems are clear. So here are some general tips for how to cope with deviations of different kinds.
- Identify the difference between a strategy and a tactic. The former defines broad goals; the latter defines methods for reaching those goals.
- Use research and previous strategic marketing plans to identify realistic achievement milestones.
- Do not rely on forces outside of company or personal control. If a marketing strategy does this, it is much more likely to fail.
- Ensure that every aspect of the plan, from actions to timetables, is clear to all personnel involved and easily referenced.
- Clearly identify the target customer groups and find commonalities between them to maximize the effect of the strategic marketing.
Many of these are common sense, and an experienced marketing team will put them into action without the need for specific instruction. Ensure that these ideas are clear, however, and keep them at the forefront of the strategic market planning process. This keeps everyone involved on the same page regarding strategies and tactics.
Other Forms of Strategic Marketing Plans
What Is Strategic Marketing?
This review has given and developed a clear single answer to the question “What is strategic marketing?”
It is only one possible strategy, however, and often combinations of different strategies are the most effective approach. Here is another strategic marketing plan example that should prove useful.
Market Positioning Strategy is a strategic marketing plan that focuses on the visibility of the product or service in crowded marketplace. It is likely to be especially useful for strategic Internet marketing.
It is similar in basic structure and principles to the strategies already discussed, but the aim is to appeal to the customer on a direct level.
This is done through the use of carefully developed positioning statements, similar to the SWOT Analysis used as part of many strategic marketing plans.
Using customer and internal research, the company will direct itself at their chosen customer base. They achieve this through specific language and imagery that draws those customers in. Due to the potentially much larger customer base for online businesses, this allows for a targeted and effective strategic Internet marketing plan.
What Is Strategic Marketing?—Conclusion
An effective strategic marketing plan can come in many different forms, but there are many commonalities. Whether developing strategic Internet marketing plans or adopting a more traditional approach, it is essential to have a good eye for detail, a clear plan of action, and detailed research to base this on.
To get the most from any strategy, a company must begin with an honest appraisal of both themselves and the circumstances of their industry. This forms the basis of all effective strategic marketing plans, as it helps to prevent resource waste and drastically reduces the risks involved. As the most time-consuming part of any strategy, the first phase requires the most expertise and care.
A strategic marketing plan is typically a broad, complex effort. Good leadership is vital. An eye for detail, an openness to honest appraisals of resources and personnel, and an ability to plan complex tasks with great care are important, but yield considerable dividends. Effective marketing isn’t simply an advantage in a modern market; in many ways, it is necessary for a company to stay competitive.
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