How to write a strategic marketing plan

Peter Desmyttere
January 16, 2019
⏱ 5 min. read

In this article, I zoom in on the structure and composition of a strategic marketing plan. You will learn which components it consists of and what is the most logical step-by-step plan.

In a previous article, I highlighted the minimal presence of marketers in upper management. The most important reason for this is the limited strategic skills of marketers. The average marketer is given a budget and targets, executes them ad hoc, does not or barely work within a strategic framework and has difficulty reporting results. 

Top marketers determine their own budget (and motivate it), set themselves detailed objectives, steer themselves or their team based on a strategic roadmap (the marketing plan) and report their results with one click of a button. The common thread? The presence of a (strategic) marketing plan that has outlined the directions for today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.

Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the sound of defeat. ― Sun Tzŭ approx. 490 BC, Chinese military strategist

The 3 cornerstones of the strategic marketing plan

Let's first take a helicopter view. I distinguish 3 major components: defining the objectives, writing and managing the plan itself and reporting the results.

3 cornerstones of the strategic marketing plan

The objectives

"If you don't know where you are going, every path will take you there" is a classic saying. Without objectives, a marketing plan is nothing more than a dead letter, because it does not indicate any direction. Clear and measurable results are key drivers for any marketing plan. In practice, there are 4 types of objectives:

  • Financial objectives (growth, revenue, return, profit,...)
  • Commercial objectives (product, market, added value, positioning,...)
  • Organisational objectives (operations, sales networks, team,...)
  • Personal objectives

Prioritise the objectives or KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) in the marketing plan. They are the essential first step in the planning process.   

The plan

The marketing plan is the answer to the question "How are we going to achieve the objectives through marketing?". For this, each marketer has numerous strategic and operational chess pieces at his disposal. That makes the marketing profession so fascinating. Marketing is a permanent search for the optimal way to ensure that customers choose you and not the competitor's brand. Below I will sketch an 8-step plan to work in the abundance of marketing techniques in function of the optimal marketing mix.

The results

Measuring and reporting results is the last step in the marketing planning process. The basis for the so-called KPI dashboard is the list of objectives that were determined in the first step of your marketing plan. It is incredibly important that the marketing plan contains measurable KPIs that serve as the basis for the measurement and reporting of results. 

The architecture of a strategic marketing plan

Marketing plans are often too simple or abstract, or too unstructured and unworkable. Great marketing plans find the perfect balance between detail, overview, structure and usability. As a marketer, I was raised with the 4P model (Product, Place, Price and Promotion), a model that is still used in marketing practice. Although it has the advantage of simplicity, I am not in favour of the 4P model because... too simple. The model does not offer enough challenge for those who want to highlight all facets within a marketing plan. A technique such as 'Promotion' has become so diverse and complex today that it can no longer be categorised under one denominator.

In practice, we use an 8-step plan that breaks marketing strategy down into 40 questions. You will see that a model with 40 concrete marketing questions is much more useful than the 4 abstract terms from the 4P model.

8 pillars of a modern marketing plan

The 8 pillars of a modern strategic marketing plan in a schematic overview.

I will translate the 8 pillars into 40 concrete questions:

Questions about your supply
  1. Which brand name(s) should I market?
  2. What is my pitch?
  3. What are my products and services?
  4. How do I earn money with my products and services?
  5. What is the cost price of my products and services?

 

Questions about your market
  1. What is the profile of my (potential) customers?
  2. How big is the market?
  3. What are the needs or problems of my customers?
  4. What do I promise my customers?
  5. Who has a significant influence on the customer's decision-making process?

 

Questions about your added value
  1. What are my strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
  2. With what strength(s) will I make the difference?
  3. On what value(s) will I position myself compared to the competition?
  4. What are my most important corporate values?
  5. What are my vision and mission?

 

Questions about your organisation
  1. Through which sales channels do I offer my offer?
  2. Who are my strategic partners?
  3. Who are my key commercial employees?
  4. How is the customer flow or value chain structured?
  5. What are my financial resources?

 

Questions about your online communication
  1. What is the ideal architecture of my website?
  2. How am I going to score high in Google?
  3. What do I communicate on social media?
  4. How do I use email marketing?
  5. Which mobile marketing techniques can I use?

 

Questions about networking
  1. How do I network with journalists for press exposure?
  2. Which marketing actions can I carry out together with partners?
  3. How do I share my knowledge within my network?
  4. At which network events should I be present?
  5. Which network events will I organise?

 

Questions about advertising
  1. Where and how do I advertise?
  2. Which direct mail methods should I use?
  3. Which trade fairs will I participate in?
  4. How will I advertise indoor and outdoor?
  5. Who or what am I going to sponsor?

 

Questions about experience
  1. How do I communicate in the pre-sales stage?
  2. How will I communicate at the point of sale?
  3. How will I communicate in the after-sales stage?
  4. How will I increase customer loyalty?
  5. Which corporate identity tools should I develop?

Consider these questions as 40 small hills you have to cross. That's much more motivating than the 4 mountaintops in the 4P model, isn't it? 

Management and reporting of the KPI dashboard

The final step in the marketing plan process is the management and reporting of the results dashboard. This is where professional marketers make the difference! Those who can provide clear and relevant figures that show the result and/or success of the marketing plan are guaranteed to gain the respect of their management.

Tip: limit your KPI dashboard to ten measurement points at first. Do not exaggerate, because then you risk losing motivation. Gradually go into detail about it. 

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