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
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.
"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:
Prioritise the objectives or KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) in the marketing plan. They are the essential first step in the planning process.
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.
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.
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.
I will translate the 8 pillars into 40 concrete questions:
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?
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.