Strategy is good.Famous Smart People
It’s easy to find countless quotes about how important and vital strategy is; the greatest minds in modern marketing agree–strategy is essential. That’s never been in question. Yet under-developed, ill-informed, half-baked strategy can be found throughout our industry. Why?
Because it’s hard. Or, rather, without a process in place, an experienced team, and the appropriate brand knowledge and resources necessary to create a smart and useful strategy, it can be easy to underrepresent the process or skip it altogether and go right to execution.
So, Don’t Skimp On Strategy?
Without a marketing strategy, you lack focus. And without focus, you will, quite simply, fail to reach any of the goals and objectives that you have set. Strategy establishes the marketing plan, defines goals and benchmarks, and charts out a path to success. Depending upon budget, market realities, specific objectives and a host of other variables, there will inevitably be nuances, but the process that informs sound strategy always stays consistent.
So where do we start? At the ending, of course. In narrative terms, we start with the thrilling conclusion and work backward to the ground-laying exposition. We begin with the end in mind.
While every strategic plan varies, there are some consistent truisms and tips we’ve observed over the years; some best practices that may be of use to you when crafting your brand’s strategic plan.
Define A Win First.
When beginning to talk about strategy with a client, start with determining what they consider a win. What does success look like? How will it be quantified and measured? That vision of success becomes your primary goal. Is it 40 new patients a month? Brand building and awareness? A 10% increase in donations over the next fiscal term?
Once determined (as specifically as possible), you can then begin to reverse-engineer a path to reach that goal, with clearly defined benchmarks to help chart progress along the way.
Know Your Audience.
It’s important that you identify your audience(s) in specific and relatable terms as early in the process as possible. Developing “personas”–semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers based on data and research- will help you focus your time on qualified prospects, guide product development to suit the needs of your target customers and align all work across your organization (from marketing to sales to service). The deeper and more detailed the persona, the better.
If you’re able to answer the following questions in clear and substantiated ways, congrats–you’re on your way to creating an actionable persona:
- What is their demographic profile?
- What is their job and level of seniority?
- What does a day in their life look like?
- What are their pain points?
- What do they value most?
- Where do they go for information?
- What shopping experience are they looking for?
- What are their most common objections?
- How do I identify this persona?
Determine Your Tools.
It seems obvious. But a comprehensive audit of the tools, technologies and resources available to you is crucial before putting strategic pieces in place. What tools are you using? What tools do you need? And what tools and technologies have you wielded successfully in the past? These implements will largely determine how well your strategy works in practice.
Let’s Talk Money.
The 800-lb gorilla in every client meeting must be addressed. Why, you ask? Because it’s part of the Strategy! How much should you have in your marketing budget? It depends on the goals you’ve set and how you’ve defined your success. If you are an established organization (for example) between 3% to 5% of your gross billings can be a good rule of thumb. If you are aggressively growing, 8% to 10% would be a better target budget. In any case, embarking on strategy creation without knowing the fiscal realities in play is like drawing in the dark.
Divvy Up Duties.
Once all of these pieces are in place you will need the execution plan–who-does-what-when-with-what-results. This is the plan that puts the wheels in motion and makes sure everything is accomplished on time and on budget.
Communication is key with stakeholders and lets them know what roles they play, timelines, and budgets you have set…and then we’re ready to successfully begin execution phase.
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