How to Do Strategic Marketing Planning Right

Strategic planning is a term being thrown around a lot right now – for good reason. While the concept is not new to marketers, it’s become a critical tool we need to thrive in our current climate. But do we really know what strategic marketing looks like? Because a list of tactics is not a strategic marketing plan. 

We’ve broken down the steps to create a strategic marketing plan:

  1. Align with corporate strategy – business impact is your North Star
  2. Set SMART marketing goals for measurable results
  3. Create an action plan to achieve your strategic targets
  4. Organize your calendar of programs to support your strategy
  5. Execute, then iterate, to keep plans fresh

1. Align with Corporate Strategy – Business Impact is your North Star

Driving impact for the business is marketing’s top priority. It’s the key to strategic marketing planning, and ending the reign of random acts of marketing. 

Start by thinking about:

  1. What are the company’s top priorities for the quarter? For the year?
  2. What pipeline and revenue numbers are we aiming for this quarter? For the fiscal year?
  3. What adoption rates, or implementation goals are being set for the product? 

(Aligning to corporate objectives) allows you to create a plan that is specific to certain business targets and that is scalable and repeatable, and at the end of the day, can show a return on corporate investments.

Ken Evans, VP Demand Generation & Marketing Operations at Fuze

Aligning marketing plans and activities to business objectives from the start gives the marketing team confidence that every action they take is moving the needle forward. This results in stronger decision-making by every marketer because they can gauge plan and budget adjustments against current goals, plans, and business objectives. The cherry on top, is finding a way to tie plans, investment, and results all in one place. Allocadia has a Strategic Planner function that lets marketers track the performance of activities and programs against their strategic goals. 

2.  Set SMART Marketing Goals for Measurable Results

After creating context by understanding the business goals, marketing needs to create its own SMART goals that help the business achieve results. We’ve probably all heard of SMART goals before, as a refresher they are:

Specific

Measurable

Attainable

Relevant

Timely goals. 

Relevant goals for marketing are ones that support business goals. If corporate’s goal is generating $5 million in new business this quarter, and the average cost new clients purchase is around $500,000, then sales needs to close 10 new clients. Based on the percentage of accounts that make it through the buyer journey to close, you’ll know how many contacts marketing needs to serve up. For example, if it’s 10% then you need 100 contacts. So marketing’s goal becomes: 

Setting SMART goals helps to align expectations and plans, coordinate team efforts, and hold everyone accountable for achieving results. There are two rules that go along with these to help you succeed. 

Rule #1 – Re-evaluate these at least every six months and use them to measure your success. 

Rule #2 – Prioritize resources. Limit your SMART goals to 3-5 maximum so that your team has enough bandwidth to drill down and bring in results. 

3. Create an Action Plan to Achieve Your Strategic Targets

This is where your marketing budget comes in; you’ll need to decide the investment allocation mix for your newly minted strategic targets. For example, if you’re in an established market, market intelligence will be a bigger portion of budget versus if you were in a growing market where you might invest more in brand awareness. 

Knowing your investment mix and total budget, you can start to make a list of all the potential activities that best support your goals. To do this properly, you’ll need to know which activities deliver the biggest ROI. You don’t want to put all your eggs in a basket that’s heading for the trash. For a successful marketing strategy, you must use resources effectively. Once you know your best performing programs and tactics, you can build out a data-driven plan that supports your strategic targets. 

Structure follows strategy. Too often CMO’s don’t create the right organizational structure needed to operationalize a new strategy.

Debbie Qaqish, Principal & Chief Strategy Officer, The Pedowitz Group

4. Organize Your Calendar of Programs to Support Strategy

This is a great time for a kick-off meeting to define the key stakeholders in each project, what their roles will be, and the deliverables. This provides necessary background information for team members that aren’t decision-makers but will be executing activities. Your marketing organization must be a collective force working together in order to achieve your goals.

Creating content for your prospects and customers is half the battle. The other half is making sure the cadence and themes of your whole marketing team’s content is aligned. Every aspect of your marketing output should be cohesive and reiterate the same story. Ensure that various team programs stay on the same page with a calendar showing the integrated marketing activities. 

When you start mapping campaigns and activities onto a calendar, don’t forget to take into account holidays and other events that could influence timelines. It’s such a simple thing, but has the potential to cause massive headaches down the line. 

Part of strategic marketing planning includes scheduling check-ins to measure results and assess if any changes need to be made. This should be built into your calendar of activities, and you should leave realistic time frames to collect data. What do we mean by that? Don’t try to calculate the number of opportunities created after just two weeks and start making changes. Pipeline doesn’t happen overnight. Figure out the leading indicators and use those for short term gut checks until you have enough time and data to make a more declarative statement about the program’s overall success. 

5. Execute, Then Iterate, to Keep Plans Fresh

You’ll never know why your marketing plans worked and which programs to invest in further unless you measure success, analyze the results, and then optimize. Or if a program is failing, you want to know before you sink more money into it in its current state. 

Start by looking at these three areas:

  1. Pipeline influenced and created
  2. Opportunities created 
  3. Closed/ won deals 

Armed with your conversion rate, you should start thinking of ways to optimize the process and move opportunities through the buyer’s journey faster and easier. Dig into which stages opportunities drop out of and see how you can tweak programs directed at that stage. If your accounts are constantly not closing or moving through the buyers’ journey, then you need to re-evaluate the entire program. On the other hand, if a program exceeds expectations, think of ways that you can scale it to drive even more impact. 

Marketers should always be focused on the ultimate business outcomes. If your plans need to pivot, that doesn’t mean your goals also need to change – you just need to take a different path to achieve results. 

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