Do You Have a Strategic Marketing Plan?

Are you improving your strategic planning process? How?

I receive quite few of requests regarding developing an effective strategic marketing approach and how to do it. I’ve noticed that entrepreneurs believe they have one but, in reality, they don’t have a strategic marketing plan but, a tactical plan.

There’s a difference. Let’s examine what it is.

Many times, small business owners spend time thinking “in the business” versus thinking “about the business”.

The former’s focused on daily details while the latter is actually thinking about the business–shorter and longer-term plan.

In other words, focusing solely on daily details is akin to a tactical plan while, thinking about the business ties into a strategic approach with the longer-term in mind.

Any marketing or positioning plan you put in place for your company needs to be regularly reviewed and updated to reflect the current competitive dynamics of the marketplace.

Any thorough marketing strategy needs to encompass a 360-degree approach, which includes:
· Vision: more aspirational and longer-term focused. In others words, what do you aspire to be in three to five years?

· Mission: the purpose of your business and why you go to work everyday. You and your employees should understand the business’ mission statement and it should be the focal point for your daily operations.

· Competitive Landscape: No matter the size of your business–start-up, small, medium and/or large, it’s essential you understand competitive activity. Pricing, promotions, news products and/or services will impact decisions affecting your business and can drive how consumers perceive your brand and/or services.

· Goals: do you have SMART goals? Are they specific, measureable, actionable, realistic and time-based? They should be clear and concise because this will enable you to effectively determine your level of success–or failure.

· Strategic approach: Do you have a roadmap to achieve the company’s goals? Strategies are the “how’s” while tactics are the “what’s”? Each goal should have a supporting strategy which is focused, clear and also, concise.

· Target Audiences: Who are your market segments? As an entrepreneur, you have products and/or services, but can you clearly articulate who you want to do business with? A clear understanding is essential because, in the long run, it’s cost efficient.

· Marketing Communications: What and how will you communicate with your consumer/customer base? Establishing an integrated communications approach is essential for effectively delivering your message.

Incorporating these concepts into your strategic marketing plan provides opportunities to understand long-term strategic approaches for your company, while providing short-term plans to get there.

Recently, I had the opportunity of leading a major healthcare organization’s rebranding effort. By applying these tactics, we were able to develop a plan of action that successfully rebranded the organization in the marketplace. While a larger organization, the approach is relevant to small business owners.

These were the key factors that drove the strategic planning process:

Changing marketplace – Consumers were becoming more engaged in the decision making process, and the product mix offered by the organization required adjustment to reflect the changing marketplace and remain competitive.

Increased competition – Healthcare reform created increased competition from other large players, leading to higher marketing spending and higher customer acquisition costs for the next 3-5 years.

Emerging markets – Large group employers had been the traditional customer focus profile, but healthcare reform was bringing new, individual customers into the marketplace. The challenge was to figure out how to reach those new customers, and be relevant to those new segments of the population.

Effective Integrated Communications Plan – Once key challenges and key markets were identified it became essential to determine how to communicate the company’s key messages effectively.

By following the approach discussed, the organization was able to achieve its stated business goals while minimizing overall risks.

As an entrepreneur, isn’t this what you would like to accomplish? Achieving overall goals while mitigating your risk. Remember, a plan can help you do this.

So, while you’ll always think “in the business”, it’s now time to begin to think “about the business” so you can achieve the level of success you desire.