Thursday, December 06, 2007

How to Write a Strategic Marketing Plan

With so little written on this topic (at least according to Google Blog Search), one could easily conclude that marketing professionals must be born with knowledge of how to write a strategic marketing plan embedded in their genetic code. If you didn't enter the world with this capability hard-coded into your DNA, you may find the following helpful.

The first step in developing a strategic marketing plan is to identify your target markets. Include both current customers (can we sell them more of what they are already buying, products and services in addition to what they are already buying, or a more premium version of our products/services?) and new prospects. For new prospective buyers, develop a separate plan for each micromarket (e.g. hospitals, insurance companies and community banks, all of which buy very differently).

Next, ask the question: what do these prospects need in order to buy from me? (NOT "what do I need to sell to them?"). Divide this into three sections—strategies, tactics and tools.

Begin the plan with a high-level state of the market overview, business objectives, and marketing and PR objectives to support those business goals. These needn't be dense prose, just bullet points. The market overview should include observations and assumptions about key points such as market penetration, the competitive landscape, and buyer motivations. Getting the business objectives right is critical, as these will be logically supported by the marketing and PR objectives; for example, your marketing objectives will be much different if they are supporting a new-to-the-world product launch as opposed to a goal of increasing market share for a mature product line.

Marketing & PR Strategies

These are high-level statements of how prospects will be reached, such as "Increase awareness and build credibility through PR." Broad elements to include here are:

  • Advertising
  • Public Relations
  • Online Marketing
  • Direct Appeal
  • Branding
  • Events
  • Co-op and Channel Marketing
  • Etc.

Marketing & PR Tactics

Tactics specify how the identified marketing and strategies will be implemented, and how the tools that will be identified in the next session will be used to support the stated marketing and PR objectives. This is really the "meat" of the plan, the action items. Tactics may include:

  • Trade shows
  • Conferences
  • Company-sponsored events
  • Print advertising
  • Analyst relations
  • Media outreach
  • Blogger outreach
  • Blogging
  • Webcasts
  • Podcasts
  • Banner ads
  • White paper syndication
  • Search engine marketing
  • Newsletter advertising
  • Newsletter promotion
  • Press releases
  • Website redesign
  • SEO
  • Direct mail
  • Telemarketing
  • Outdoor
  • TV
  • Radio
  • Social media
  • Lead nurturing programs
  • Seminars
  • Analyst relations
  • Co-op marketing programs

Marketing & PR Tools

The third key section of the plan details the tools needed to implement the tactics that support the strategy. These may include:

  • Banner ads
  • Print ad artwork
  • White papers
  • Case studies
  • Press releases
  • Bylined articles
  • Sales collateral such as product/service sheets and brochures
  • Presentations
  • Tradeshow giveaways
  • Direct mail materials
  • Online press kit (fact sheet, executive bios, photo gallery)
  • Redesigned website
  • Email template and content
  • Video
  • Email ads (HTML and text)
  • Search ads
  • Greeting cards
  • Case studies
  • Blog
  • Executive biographies
  • Photos (key people, products, software screen shots)
  • Diagrams
  • Competitive matrix
  • Media, analyst and blog lists
  • Lists of key organizations and tradeshows
  • Web content
  • Channel marketing materials
  • Product demos
  • Pricing guide
  • ROI tool
  • Surveys
  • Call scripts
  • Microsites
  • Newsletter
  • Wikis
  • Etc.

That ought to get you started if you don't already have a marketing degree! A few other resources you may want to check out are Mike Kujawski's blog (focused on public sector / non-profit marketing, but strategically-focused); Strategic Marketing: Eliminate the Bottom Half from RealBlogging; How to Write a Marketing Plan from the BucknerMeredith blog; and Louis Debrun's post on How to Create a Marketing Plan That Delivers Results.

Finally, here's an excellent book on the topic:


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