‘If you fail to plan you plan to fail’ is an age-old cliché! But, when it comes to marketing, it’s one which has been proven to be true time after time.
The fact is that most business leaders are planning all the time. However, we’re not always so quick to formalise and communicate those plans with others – which may mean they are never actioned or achieved.
If marketing is critical to your business (and that’s true of most businesses) then formalising your marketing strategy and plan could be critical too.
So, let’s take a look at what the advantages of creating an effective marketing strategy and what it should include:
What is a ‘proper’ B2B marketing strategy and plan?
A formal marketing strategy is a written document which details your marketing plans over a given period. Beyond that, the format can be quite flexible.
It could be a short document, simply highlighting the forms of marketing you intend to use and their timings – or a much larger document including all the analysis, decision making and details you used to create your strategy.
What should a marketing strategy and plan contain?
Again, the contents can be quite flexible.
When we create a comprehensive marketing strategy and plan for our clients, it typically includes:
- Background and objectives – the company’s journey and what it hopes to achieve
- Market analysis – of their products and services, competitors and market conditions
- Existing marketing analysis – a look at any and all marketing they’ve delivered to date and any lessons to be learnt
- SWOT analysis – especially good for identifying opportunities to exploit and threats to overcome
- Marketing channel mix – the right blend of strategic, digital or traditional (offline) marketing to achieve the desired objectives
- Messaging – the right core messaging to communicate whatever the marketing method used
- Plan and Gannt chart – breaking down the what, when and how much (including budgetary controls)
- KPIs – key performance indicators and other ways to gauge success
Whilst it’s good to consider all these areas, not every element needs to be present in your final marketing strategy and plan.
A relatively small document could be created simply detailing your chosen marketing channels, key messaging and a Gannt chart of planned delivery.
So, what are the advantages of having a physical marketing strategy and plan?
As a busy business, why should you go to all this effort to create a formal (written) marketing strategy and plan?
1 – It makes it real
Writing things down makes them real. A good idea is just that – an idea – until it’s written down and actioned.
A written marketing strategy and plan helps crystalise thoughts and provide a permanent record of the decisions that are made.
In a hectic workplace, referring back to your marketing plan and simply delivering what was agreed helps save time and focus efforts.
2 – Gets everyone on the same page
Business is best when everyone pulls in the same direction. Goals are met when everyone ensures their individual efforts work towards them.
A written marketing strategy and plan is easy to share and easy to refer to.
Members of your team can read it at their leisure and it can be referred back to in team and leadership meetings when instructions are given and efforts are assessed.
3 – Helps you come to the right decisions
Guess work is rarely the best method for deciding anything!
Creating a written marketing strategy and plan is a good way to encourage everyone to give it due thought and attention.
By following a tried and tested path, decisions tend to be better and more suitable for your business’s specific circumstances.
4 – Ensures you understand where you’ve been and where you’re going
Most businesses have more marketing experience than they think.
Over the years, you may have tried varying approaches with varying results. Creating a formal marketing strategy and plan is a great opportunity to think back and consider your experiences.
It’s said you can learn more from failure than success. However, if prior marketing failed to deliver, it’s important to understand whether they were wrong – or simply not sustained for long enough!
Not giving marketing sufficient time is one of the most common mistakes we see in B2B marketing.
5 – Avoids mission creep
We’ve all done it – started out with a clear goal that’s quickly morphed into quite another! In marketing, the risk is that your objective never gets achieved because your efforts aren’t consistent.
It’s important to be flexible and pragmatic. If situations change – or it becomes apparent something isn’t working – it’s important to change tactics. However, the goal to improve or embrace one area of marketing can soon escalate into a ground-up rethink.
If made the right decision for the right reasons, sticking to your formal marketing strategy and plan should be the best guarantee of success.
6 – Helps select the right marketing channels
Your marketing strategy needs to be big on digital marketing, right? Or does it?
Picking the correct types of marketing is critical and you need a healthy process to consider what to choose, what to lose and how to make your marketing methods work together for greater results.
Don’t be lulled into copying your competitors or simply going with the most popular or exciting forms of marketing – unless you’re comfortable it’s the best use of your resources.
Put yourselves in your customer’s shoes. Consider how they hear about products and services, where they search and the things which will break through the noise of their busy day at work. Again, creating a written marketing strategy and plan gives you the opportunity to formally have these discussions and consider your options.
7 – Ensures you stick to the message
Your marketing will struggle without the right messaging!
If your customers are interested in quality, there’s little value it talking about costs. If your competitors are making waves with their innovation, sounding like you’ve been around for decades could put customers off.
A comprehensive marketing strategy and plan can help you think about how you’re going to present who you are and what you do.
And remember, consistency is key. Say the same thing enough times and people will believe you!
8 – Sets milestones to measure success
If you don’t set goals, how will you know when you’ve been successful?
Ironically, setting purely statistical milestones for marketing can be a little misleading. Instead, a formal marketing strategy and plan can help you identify the actions which lead to the desired outcomes – for example, sending sufficient emails or publishing regular content.
And, don’t forget the time element too. Marketing results typically follow an exponential curve – with results slow to build before they dramatically increase as momentum builds!
Make sure your business has the right marketing strategy and plan
An effective marketing strategy is a sound investment which saves time and increases results. Few businesses truly achieve their goals without one.
A successful marketing strategy is typically at the heart of what we deliver for our clients, helping turn their aspirations into the strategic, digital and creative marketing which will make them a reality.
If you’d like help to create the right marketing strategy and plan, get in touch here