What is ‘strategic’ in strategic marketing? It’s defining and achieving business objectives by doing the right things in the right way through a considered and measured approach. Knowing where you want to be and having a prioritised and resourced plan to get you there using marketing best practices, competencies, tools and processes.
Marketing without ‘strategic’; poor focus, confused priorities, wrong approach, high wastage, bad practices, poor results and disappointment.
From Marketing to Strategic Marketing in 9 steps:
Step 1 - Directors’ vision:
Whether a large corporate or small business start with the aspirations and vision of the company leaders. Ask them for their view of what they would like to have achieved if you were three years from today and if they were looking back over those three years at what had their business achieved. Consider:
- Company size aspirations including financials & market share
- Target markets and countries
- Customers and sales channels
- Solutions, products & services
- Personal and non-financial aims (e.g. CSR, etc.)
- Investment appetite and funding source/s
At this initial stage, the answer to all questions may not be known but combined they give an initial scope to guide the creation of the strategic business aims. The following steps are then guided by this umbrella input which is either prioritised and realised in the subsequent plans or realign to what is realistic considering all factors and possible constraints.
Step 2 - Business audit:
After obtaining the input from the company Directors then review the status of the current business. What does it do well? What does it need to improve? What has worked to date in helping the business achieve its aims? What hasn’t? Also, consider the following:
High-level financials by area:
- What areas are creating the sales, margin and profit?
- Consider them separately as profit may not necessarily correlate to the highest sales areas.
Business sweet spots, products/services, pricing, marketing, process:
- Identifying where your business is really strong, where you win and why you are reflecting upon your businesses sweet spot. Focus gives results costly effectively so by knowing where you are strong helps you improve your focus and directing your resources to the areas that are most likely to be highly productive for your business.
- If the business continues its current trajectory and takes no action where it will end up. This can help to start to get a feel for the gap between where the Directors want the business to be and what the current business activity will achieve.
Already committed roadmap:
- When planning it is obviously important to consider those items already committed within the business as they will take attention and resource. When these initiative roadmap items are delivered how will they contribute to the business aims? Are they still the priorities for the company to help it support its strategic aims?
Internal strengths and weaknesses:
- Consider the internal strengths and weaknesses of the business. Be careful not to wear rose-tinted glasses when reflecting on what the business is strong or being pessimistic when looking at its weaknesses. For further details on completing a SWOT analysis see Epitomise’s blog https://www.epitomise.co.uk/blog/create-business-marketing-strategies/.
Voice of the customer:
- To avoid the common tendancy to wear those rose tinted glasses when judging your own strengths and weaknesses it is important to go to Gemba. Gemba is a Japanese term meaning "the actual place" where the service provider interacts directly with the customer. Going to your customers, obtaining constructive feedback and feeding this into your strategic marketing planning process will enhance the output of the process.
- What is helping push the business along (the tailwinds) and what is prohibiting the business from progressing as rapidly as it would like (the headwinds)
Step 3 - Market reflection:
Consider your target market, competitors and where your business growth is likely to come from:
Market size and CAGRs (growth rates):
- What are the relevant high compound growth rate markets and segments?
- Roughly how large are the markets you may be targeting?
Market and industry trends:
- What are the relevant industry and market trends that you should consider when developing your business strategies?
- Consider the profile of the vertical and horizontal markets your business is likely to be operating within going forward. Should you focus vertically to help you differentiate and achieve your aims. Are you able to significantly enhance your value proposition if you do and do you have the resources to do this effectively
- Consider relevant Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal and Environmental factors that could significantly influence the business in the future.
Competitors, positioning and their marketing:
- To be successful the value your offer to your target markets and customers need to be at least the same and preferably better than your competitors. Reflect on the main competitors operating in the markets that you are likely to position your business to. Relatively review their positioning, value proposition, messaging and marketing.
Customers; buyers and influencers:
- What is the profile of your current customers? Decisions are often made by teams rather than individuals within companies. Who are the influencers and decision makers with current and future customers?
- Consider the external market opportunities and threats for your business.
- For further details on completing a SWOT analysis see Epitomise’s blog https://www.epitomise.co.uk/blog/create-business-marketing-strategies.
Intelligence at this stage is vital to guide decision making in the subsequent steps. Where possible use free (or paid) research input and digital tools to help you identify synergistic attractive markets. This Epitomise blog helps to illustrate the importance and impact of this exercise.
Step 4 - Mission & vision:
Considering the initial Director/s view above and the internal and external audits, reflect upon the high level first pass mission and vision of the business.
- Mission: A summary statement of the company's business, its core objectives and its approach to reach these.
- Vision: A summary statement of the desired future position of the company including its purposes, goals and values.
As you progress through the rest of the steps below you can revisit the mission and vision to ensure it aligns with the realistic aspirations of the business.
Step 5 - Vital objectives: That will achieve the vision
Now reflect on the main things, the 20% of objectives that will give you the 80% of results, that when achieved will enable your business to achieve its growth aims to bring to life the vision and mission. Consider:
- Market share and financial objectives
- Customer and segment objectives
- Solution, product & service objectives
- Sales and channel objectives
- People objectives
Objectives should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Ambitious, Realistic and Timed)
Step 6 - Strategies: How vital objectives will be achieved
Initially capture all the ideas (the strategies) that when combined will achieve the vital objectives. The process to follow is:
Possible strategies, selection and prioritisation:
- Brainstorm and fishbones
- Business impact assessment/matrix
- Boston Consulting Group matrix
- Investment analysis (e.g. NPV & IRR)
- Balanced scorecard objectives:
- Internal processes
- Learning & growth
You don’t need to review all the steps above but if you wish to seriously consider the breadth of possible strategies the suggestions above will help guide you.
Once the overall strategies are selected and prioritised the marketing plan should be created to support the delivery of the objectives.
The process to be followed is:
Marketing strategy development:
- Whole product offering
- Offensive and defensive offerings
- Value proposition; client challenges, your solution, value and proof.
- Unique selling points and differentiators.
- Brand & messaging strategy; brand principles, brand guidelines, value proposition and messaging, value sheets, etc.
- Content strategy; videos, infographics, papers, blogs, brochures, etc.
- Communication mix; social, email, ads, events, shows, etc.
- The customer journey; From company to a loyal customer.
- Considered campaigns; outbound and inbound.
- Markets, customers and customer segmentation
- Sales channels; direct, indirect, ecommerce, etc.
- Channel partner programs; structured, progressive & motivational.
- Sales enablement; aware, motivated, skilled, convince, equipped.
- Sales incentive programs.
- Revenue and margin
- Licensing and structure
- Relative positioning
- Sales promos/programs
- Benchmarked best practices
- MarTech stack / Tools
- Marketing operations
- Measurement methodology
- Internal or external resource
- Skills and competencies
Step 7 - Program plan: Created for each of the key vital few objectives.
Constant and relentless focus on the owned and resourced actions is key to realising the growth aims. For each of the major vital few business growth objectives create a summary program plan that includes:
- Program description
- Program objectives
- Target audience
- Specific action, owner and due date
- Black dot program owner
- Resources and budget
- Key performance indicators
If the actions are comprehensive and complex you may wish to use a more formal project management approach leveraging project tools such as MS Project.
Step 8 - ‘Daily’ & Visual Management: Constantly review progress and optimise your approach.
Daily management is an ongoing review process that ensures focus is maintained on the execution of the strategies within the marketing plan to ensure it is executed optimally and delivers the desired business results. Although called ‘daily management’ the frequency of progress reviews should be set to ensure every review adds real value and the resulting actions can be progressed.
The progress review structure should be considered and align with the structure and priorities of the overall plan’s aims. For example, it may be that individual campaigns and programs are reviewed weekly and the progress of the marketing plan, which the campaigns and programs are derived from and feed in to, monthly.
Visual management visually represents and presents the progress of the marketing plans key performance indicators to provide a clear and obvious representation of progress towards the stated aims. As a central focus point that is constantly updated with the latest performance data the visual dashboard/s quickly show how things are progressing against the core plans objectives. A common way of visually representing whether a priority is on-track is to use a traffic light representation. The daily management review will then ignore green items and focus on variance management highlighted by amber and red items.
Step 9 - Risk assessment:
Now your strategy has been created reflect on the risks to achieving it and put in place necessary risk mitigation actions:
- Business risks to achieving objectives identified
- Risks are scored on probability and impact
- Risk mitigation strategies are development considering likelihood and impact.
- Strategies have owners, action plans and completion dates.
- Interested in more detail on achieving a strategic approach see our ‘8 Steps to Strategic Growth’ blog.
Following the above process puts the ‘strategic’ into marketing. Your strategic marketing approach will help you ensure your focus on the right things and execute in the right way to ensure you achieve your business aims in line with your defined aspirations.
Epitomise provides exceptional strategic marketing to help customers cost-effectively grow. If we can help you please don’t hesitate to contact us.
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