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  • Writer's pictureLyanne

Your Strategic Marketing Plan: A Timeframe and Guide


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Strategic Marketing Planning. Where to begin? How long will it take?


Well, typically, the time to start is three months before your fiscal year-end, which for many people is December 31. If you still need to start, don't worry; you still have time to create or update your strategic marketing plan before the year-end.


When it comes to how much time? Dedicating 42 to 75 hours of genuine focus time to complete your plan thoroughly is recommended - this will depend on what you have in place already and how much research you need to do.

 
Female hands typing on laptop with plant beside

When I approach a strategic marketing plan, the result creates a playbook which typically entails up to 60 pages of research, content, and strategy. Many marketers have shared with me that they have a marketing strategy that is only 1 or 2 pages. I think that is great, as long as it is only a summary of the deep work that went into building it.


If you are thinking, 'How could you possibly build a plan that long and actually use it?' the truth is, I do. It creates a foundation of knowledge and information resources when the plan is actioned. Additionally, it helps to onboard new employees, ensures existing employees 'get it', and establishes a source of understanding for leaders from different areas of the organization.


If you've been following me on LinkedIn, beginning in July 2023, I have been posting weekly learnings of each area of the strategic marketing plan.


Join me today as I walk through each section, share how I approach it, and the recommended time to allocate.


The first 'chunk' of the plan involves digging and research. We'll call this the foundational phase.


writing notes with a pen on a wooden desk

Phase 1 - Foundation

Conduct a Marketing Environmental Scan (sometimes known as a PESTEL-C analysis). The environmental scan helps set the foundation for the strategic and critical thinking of the marketing strategy by identifying trends, opportunities, and threats in 5 key areas – political/regulatory, economic, competitive, technological, and social/cultural. (I will typically source two articles / whitepapers / documents from reputable sources, then outline the key highlights and interpret what that could mean to the business – from a marketing lens). By understanding the external forces, you can craft more effective plans tailored to the market's specific needs and target audience.

  • I recommend allocating 5 to 8 hours to complete this.


Next up is a SWOT analysis. You can make informed decisions about your marketing strategies by assessing these four elements - Strengths and Weaknesses (internal factors) and Opportunities and Threats (external factors). By understanding these factors, you can create marketing plans that capitalize on your business's strengths and take advantage of opportunities while avoiding potential threats. Additionally, a SWOT analysis can help identify areas for improvement and evaluate their competitive advantage, allowing for proactive decision-making.

  • Depending on if this is the first time you have done this or if you are building off of one already created, I recommend allocating 1 to 3 hours to complete this. If you involve more people (recommended), you may want to allow more time.


Once those steps are complete, you will compile information that you have from any surveys completed as well as research that is available to you -this could include research on your customers/ clients/ members, such as satisfaction surveys, how your business is perceived, descriptive analytics of existing customers, identify who your main competitors are, etc. To understand your market better, you may also want to see 'who are the people in the neighbourhood' (so to speak). For this, you can look at Stats Canada reporting, health card statistics, and additional sources on people's behaviours in the areas your business is serving.

  • I recommend allocating 8 to 10 hours to complete this.


Group of 5 young professionals

In this foundational stage, it is also beneficial to lay out the key accountabilities and skills required by each marketing team position - this is separate from the skills of the individual currently serving in the role. Instead, it is about the skills needed to successfully and fully do what is required for the position - this allows for three key things:

  1. The individual currently in the role can assess themselves and identify areas they may need to sharpen.

  2. It outlines what to look for in candidates should you need to fill the role.

  3. It helps to identify if there are areas where additional support is needed, either by way of hiring a new employee or consultant.

  • I recommend allocating 1 to 2 hours to complete this.


This is also a time when you will want to connect with leadership from other areas of the organization to understand what they are striving to achieve in the coming year(s). This can include their financial targets, as well as events or add-ons they want to do.

For example, they may have this departmental goal: increased client engagement, and they want to accomplish this by hosting two events in the year.

Knowing this, from a marketing perspective, is huge! Not only will you need to factor it into your plans, but you should also get in there and support the team from the planning get-go ... and not wait until they say – 'Can you create an invitation for us to send out?'. By then, the window of opportunity has passed, and you are not able to help them with the knowledge you have on the audience or marketplace. These are critical elements for success.

  • I recommend allocating 1 to 2 hours per department to meet with them and complete this.


The foundational stage's final essential element is reading through the corporate strategic plan and priorities. It is interesting to learn of many marketing leaders who have not read this – either because they didn't think of it or the leadership holds this information 'close to the chest' and doesn't share. As a marketer, understanding the corporate strategic plan allows you to create campaigns and strategies supporting broader business objectives and goals.

  • I recommend allocating 1 to 2 hours to read through and add key information from the corporate strategy to your plan.


Phase 2 – Goals and Strategies

gold compass on wooden boards

In this next section, you will use the foundational phase information to build out your marketing goals. Marketing goals serve as a guiding star for everything we do. It helps us define what we want to accomplish, whether it's boosting brand awareness, driving sales, or expanding our customer base. Marketing goals support the corporate strategic objectives and priorities. We can track our progress and evaluate our performance by setting specific, attainable, and time-bound goals.

  • I recommend allocating 1 to 2 hours to complete this.


Now that you have your marketing goals in place, the next step is to outline the strategies to get there. I approach this by creating a table with four columns. The number of rows depends on the number of marketing goals you strive to accomplish.

Column 1: Identify the marketing goal

Column 2: Identify the strategy that will best meet the goal (such as content marketing, customer retention, promotional, etc.)

Column 3: Definition and best use case (includes who is the target audience, the ideal result, and the definition of the strategy).

Column 4: Compatible campaigns that would align. This is a complete list – this doesn't mean you would implement every single campaign or idea.

  • I recommend allocating 2 to 4 hours to complete this.


Phase 3 - Positioning

magnifying glass on book

The first step in this phase is to identify your target audience; identifying and grasping their needs, preferences, and behaviours directly impacts your success. Here are some tips to help you determine and understand your target audience:

  1. Research your industry, competitors, and market trends. This analysis will help you define your target audience more precisely. You can also consider factors like age, location, interests, needs, and purchasing power to narrow your focus.

  2. Understand your target audience's challenges and pain points. By identifying their problems, you can tailor your products or services to provide appropriate solutions. This will create a more robust customer connection, as they feel understood and supported.

  3. Engage with your audience and gather feedback through surveys, social media polls, or direct interactions (you may already have information on this from a previous section of your strategic marketing plan). This feedback will provide insights into what drives your target audience's decision-making process and the value they seek.

  4. Utilize analytics tools to measure social media engagement, website traffic, and customer behaviour. Analyzing these metrics will help you understand which platforms, content, and campaigns resonate most with your target audience.

  5. Develop buyer personas to personify your target audience segments. A buyer persona is a detailed fictional representation encompassing your typical customers' demographics, motivations, and preferences. This exercise will facilitate a deeper understanding of your audience and their decision-making processes.

  • I recommend allocating 2 to 8 hours to complete this, depending on what you already have in place. You will need considerably more if you are planning to develop personas.


Next, you will look at your positioning and messaging. When writing or building a positioning statement, I consider each service or product offering category for the business and craft a message for each. The power of a well-written, concise positioning statement conveys your offering to the right audience in the right way while holding to your brand essence. This allows your marketing team to consistently use the same messaging and the broader group (think client-facing) to articulate the value similarly. A positioning statement should incorporate your target audience, their pain points, your brand differentiator, and the value you promise to deliver. Keep it focused, concise, and compelling, ensuring it resonates with your audience emotionally.

  • I recommend allocating 2 to 4 hours to complete this, depending on what you already have in place.


Price and product will have a place in this phase. Here are some things to note:

  1. It is helpful to have the pricing (or even ranges) for the products and services in this section. If possible, the cost to provide these products or services is also super-helpful when applying marketing metrics.

  2. If analyzing the market and recommending price changes falls under your organization's marketing area, you should ensure these fit your marketing timeline.

  3. If product management falls under your marketing umbrella, exploring opportunities and anticipating market needs will be necessary to ensure successful product launches and enhancements. If it doesn't fall under marketing, you'll still need to be very aware of future product or service introductions, enhancements or sunsetting. You'll need to communicate these changes if they impact your customers.

  • I recommend allocating 1 hour to complete this.


man in red hooded sweatshirt running at sunset

The final step in this positioning phase is conducting a competitor analysis. In the foundation phase, you identified who the competitors are. In this step, you will dig deeper. The intent of this is to get in touch with what your competitors are doing - as in what they are doing well and where they don't shine as brightly. I do this by creating a spreadsheet listing all the competitors in one column. I then hop on their website, socials, blogs, and podcasts and start to dig.

The first thing I'll look at is their social media links (typically on the footer of their webpage). Then, I'll look into the social pages.

  1. What social channels are they on, do they have a lot of followers, and what's their total following on all channels?

  2. I will also look at the posts they make on each channel. Is it the same post across all? Are the posts regular, sporadic, or so old you think they must have forgotten they owned the channel?

  3. What tone of voice and branding are they using in their posts and channels? Is it consistent across all? What are they trying to portray in it? (friendly, authoritative, welcoming, etc.)

  4. Are their social channels linked back to their website and other media they own?

  5. Do they promote other media, like podcasts or blogs?

  6. Do they utilize chat?

  7. And, of course, what topics they are talking about.

Next, I'll go back to reviewing their website and start by running an analysis.

  1. I'll look at total visits, bounce rate, pages visited, average duration and the breakdown of female and male audiences using https://www.similarweb.com/

  2. I'll do a 5-second test. In 5 seconds, I should be able to answer these questions: 1. Who are you? 2. What do you do? 3. Why should I care? 4. What is the next action I should take?

  3. I'll poke around the website to see what the feel is as a reader. What is their tone? Their branding? Is it consistent with their other media? What are they currently focused on?

  4. And finally, I'll wrap up by investigating any other media they may have.

  • I recommend allocating 6 to 8 hours to complete this.


Phase 4 – Support

man and woman shaking hands over a desk

In this phase, you will reach out to your sales or retail teams and partners to ensure you are building and fostering strong alliances.


Marketing serves as a supporting role in many organizations. I like to say that the member / client / customer-facing representatives wear the cape, and marketing is the sidekick. One of our roles in marketing is to help create opportunities for conversation and help educate (both internal and external). You must understand the sales (or retail) strategy and its goals to accomplish this. This is an essential part of the strategic marketing plan so that you can understand how the marketing aligns and ways to support it best.

Additionally, you'll need to understand how the team is trained to converse with customers. This will ensure that your wording and phrasing continue to build and foster the organization's voice. This builds off of the conversations you had in the foundational stage of this plan.

  • I recommend allocating 1 to 2 hours to complete this.


A successful marketing strategy encompasses even more than your business. It's also about fostering and building strong alliances. Start by identifying strategic partnerships or relevant influencers in your industry who complement your brand and can help achieve shared goals. Now, arrange a meeting with them to discuss how you may collaborate in the coming year(s). This doesn't need to be a new alliance; this most certainly includes those you've had an ongoing relationship with.

  • I recommend allocating 1 to 2 hours to complete this.


Does your organization have any programs in place? These would be things that run continuously without a firm start and end date. An example in financial services may be a financial literacy program. In a retail business, it could be a loyalty program.

You will want to make note of these, including:

  1. Program name.

  2. Description of what the program is.

  3. Who is the target audience?

  4. How is it delivered (channels)?

  5. Frequency of delivery.

  • I recommend allocating 1 to 2 hours to complete this.


In the positioning phase, you identified if there are any changes in the pipeline for products or services. In this section, you will highlight:

  1. What is being launched (or re-launched)?

  2. Timeline - when is the launch planned, and when will it conclude?

  3. Alignment to the corporate goals and marketing goals.

  4. Level of effort (or investment) that will be required.

  • I recommend allocating 1 hour to complete this.


The final portion of this phase is to outline the marketing channels and technology in place. This is enormously helpful, particularly to a new employee or an employee needing to pick up any work to cover another.

  1. I first include a table that identifies the traditional media (such as TV, outdoor, newspaper, direct mail), in-house media (such as employees, displays, posters) and online/digital media (such as website, socials, paid advertising).

  2. Next, I will list each supplier under headings such as Advertising, Creative Support, Displays, Press Releases, Promotional Materials and Branding, Research, Website, etc. I also include the details of each supplier per heading, including the business name, what service they provide, the area/market they serve, the representative name, and their contact information.

When it comes to the technology the marketing team uses, similar to the marketing channels, I will list each supplier/provider under headings such as Creative Design, Distribution (email, social, webinars), Event Management, Project Management, Secure File Transfer, Surveys, Website (hosting, content management, analytics).

  • I recommend allocating 1 to 2 hours to complete this.


Phase 5 – Tie it together

Woman creating a timeline plan on a board

This final phase is where you take everything you've researched, compiled, and written and bring it all together.


The campaigns and timeline are where you will plan the coming year and determine how to allocate time and resources. You may find your marketing and leadership team most interested in this section.

I find this easiest to absorb and share when laid out in a table, beginning with a row identifying the Marketing goal. In the row below, outline the Description and Campaign type, # of Weeks in the Market and Months for Market Placement. You may have numerous rows in your table depending on the number of goals/campaigns.

  • I recommend allocating 1 to 2 hours to complete this.


Now that you know what you want to do and when you can create your budget for the year. For each client I work with, I develop an Excel spreadsheet that identifies how much is being allocated to each marketing goal and broken down by each campaign or initiative and any support expenses coming from the marketing budget. This becomes a resource to use throughout the year, inputting actual spending per budgeted item. By keeping this up, you can very quickly see how much was spent per goal and percentage per category. I will also have a workbook sheet outlining sponsorships and donations (cash/in-kind). This can help when asked how the marketing has supported various key values of the organization. I also identify the channel used to see how the marketing spend is distributed. These are all significant areas in the marketing realm.

By doing this process, you can clearly articulate and state your case if more funds are needed to support the marketing and organizational goals.

  • I recommend allocating 4 to 8 hours to complete this.


7 hands stacked

And last but most certainly not least, it is time to set your achievement metrics. This is an area that can make some uncomfortable because they may never have set annual marketing goals or are just wondering how to do it. In a blog post I wrote earlier this year, I dove into a handful of marketing metrics you may find helpful.

If you have never set goals before, look at some of your historical data to give you a sense of where to place your target. You may want to consider the first year a benchmark year.

  • I recommend allocating 2 to 4 hours to complete this.


I hope you found this helpful and an inspiration to build your Strategic Marketing Plan. If any of this feels like ‘a lot’, you are not alone. Reach out to me, and I would be happy to chat about how I may be able to support your strategy.


Keep on being amazing,


Lyanne

 
image of Lyanne Campbell owner of blue dragonfly Marketing Strategies and writer of this blog

With a drive to accomplish high-quality results, the marketing work Lyanne has spearheaded in business has been recognized and awarded nationally on several occasions. In addition to this, she proudly holds the Chartered Marketer designation through the Canadian Marketing Association.


After serving 28 years in corporate finance, she emboldened into new territory by striking up a business marketing consulting practice that exists to lighten the load of marketing leaders. Having been a leader in marketing, she appreciates the complexities of the job and the many demands that come with it.


Whether you are interested in learning more about how blue dragonfly can help your business, are interested in joining or learning more about Mastermind groups, would like to chat about a speaking engagement, or just want to meet with Lyanne, this is a great way to get started. Connect today.


Cheers to the beginning of a great relationship.


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Guest
Nov 12, 2023

Wow! How extremely helpful for anyone moving forward in wanting a strategic marketing plan! Well done! (I think I would hire you - way to much to do off a side of a desk!)

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