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time to plan

Just over two weeks into the New Year and it feels like we have returned to the normal routine. The start of the year is typically a busy time for our team. Entrepreneurs return from their Christmas break with a fresh injection of enthusiasm and often innovative business ideas have sprung up from Christmas family gatherings. We love it! In addition, we find exciting projects that have been ‘on hold’ for months suddenly gather momentum and the green ‘Go’ button is pressed with a mighty push! Then, we seem to pop the bubble with the dreaded P word by asking the client, “Does it still fit with your overall marketing plan for the year?”.

There is a plan for every client we work with. Even those who are only asking us to help with just one or two small areas of their marketing. It always amazes me how many business tasks fall under the wide category of marketing. With so many activities added to the pot, it can very easily spiral out of control, particularly when a brand operates in a fast-moving industry. No matter how exciting the new idea is, we always advise our client to default to the plan. Does it fit with the overall business objectives? Does the activity reflect the brand values? What is the outcome? Can we measure it? We don’t want to lose the ability to be spontaneous and take advantage of an opportunity, yet we believe it is vital to operative within the framework of a strategic marketing plan.

The mention of a strategic marketing campaign from a marketing consultancy can sound quite daunting. Particularly to those with limited knowledge about how marketing differs from sales or the overall advertising plan. Large companies invest significant hours annually in business planning, yet the steps to put together a marketing plan following the guidance from the Chartered Institute of Marketing are very straight forward. All that’s needed is time and a quiet space to think!

A strategic marketing plan covers the following areas with some key questions to address:

1. Where are we now?

  • What is happening in the business right now?

  • What is the mission or purpose of your business?

  • What does your audience think of your brand?

  • What marketing are you doing right now? Is it working? What has worked well in the past?

  • What are the strengths of the product or service you offer? Where are the weaknesses or areas for improvement? What do your customers say?

  • What is happening in your market? What is coming up in the future?

  • Who are your competitors? Do you lead or follow?

  • What are the threats in the market? Are they imminent? What might you do to counter them? Have you got the time and resources to do this?

2. What do we want to achieve?

  • What are the business objectives for this year? Next year? Beyond?

  • What are the marketing objectives for 2023 that will enable us to achieve those business objectives?

  • How are these objectives measured?

3. How are we going to get there?

  • Which types of customers are the most desirable?

  • Which section of the market is the most accessible and profitable?

  • Consider your product or service on offer. Does it need changing? Is the brand appropriate or has the market moved on?

4. Which tools do we use to get there?

  • How do you reach your audience?

  • What do they read? What content do they typically consume and where do they consume it?

  • How to they behave? Is your product or service an impulse buy or something considered over a period of time?

  • What marketing activity do you stop?

  • What new marketing methods do you start?

  • How do you adjust your messaging and advertising accordingly?

  • What does the marketing communications calendar look like?

5. Action plan and measurement

  • How will the marketing plan be delivered?

  • Is there resource internally to make this happen or do you need to find additional support?

  • Who will take ownership and responsibility to review the plan on a quarterly basis against the original objectives, to make sure you are on track to achieve them?

These questions can help point you in the right direction and create a firm foundation to build upon. A clearly defined marketing strategy sits at the heart of business development. This strategy plan can always be adjusted in the future to fit the changing environment. Growth is more likely to happen if there is a structured marketing plan in place, which can be adapted regularly than when no plan exists at all.

If you are just starting out on your new idea or if you have been trading for a while and looking to grow in 2023, get in touch with us to find out how we can help put you put your strategic marketing plan together.

Image captured on Reigate Hill by our partner, Fable Photography