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Focus Your Marketing with a Strategic Plan

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We are a little more than three months from the new year and you what that means: It’s time to think about creating your 2024 strategic marketing plan. 

I know it seems a little early but time flies. 

Before you know it Halloween will be upon us. A short time later you will be celebrating Thanksgiving and then you will be in full-blown holiday mode with Christmas and New Year’s barreling down on you.

There is no better time to think about the future than right now. Before the holidays and their own brand of insanity hits.

Before I get going I want to set expectations.

This is not a how-to-plan post but I do have a post that goes into how I approach planning here. There is even a link to a free planning template. No email or registration is required.

There are things I’m not going to talk about such as research and measurement. I view those as their own topics and I have talked about them here and here.

I know some people view planning as a pain or just a waste of time.

I view planning as an opportunity. It helps you clarify what is really important and how you’re going to get where you want to go.

This in itself offers its own value because when you and your team understand these two things, you have a purpose and a direction.

If you’re still feeling a little sceptical about spending the time creating a plan I can tell you one more thing. Creating a plan will help you focus and when you’re focused, it is much more likely you’re going to hit your goals.

Why Do You Need a Strategic Marketing Plan?

Think of a strategic marketing plan as a map.

It helps you go where you want to go.

There are many options available to you and planning will help decide which are the right ones for you.

Unless you have a big marketing department and a budget that matches, you’re going to have to deal with the reality that you may not be able to be everywhere you’d like to be.

Your job is to decide what channels are the most worthwhile for you. 

I’ve found the 5P framework works really well for this. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s the framework that Katie Robbert, CEO at Trust Insights, suggests to help you make decisions. It’s flexible and can be used in just about any situation.

The companies that I’ve come across that don’t plan are typically unfocused. They are doing all sorts of things but nothing consistently and don’t get the results they want and need. 

They conclude that marketing doesn’t work well for them when a big culprit is a lack of focus. 

For many businesses, this can be the difference between success and failure. 

It takes time, but creating a plan is well worth it.

Define Your Goals

A couple of years ago I was working with a non-profit organization. 

We had a meeting to talk about the marketing and communication plan for the new year. 

One of the first things I asked in the meeting was, “What are your goals?”

All I got were blank stares. 

“These are what I think your goals are,” I said as I named them off hoping they would chime in or at least nod in agreement or disagreement. 

Once again, nothing but blank stares. I knew right then we were in trouble. 

The few times we had clear goals we were able to get the results they needed but most of the marketing we did didn’t have clear goals attached. The results were spotty at best.

Every business has goals whether they are stated or not.

Understanding and communicating what they are will help you and your team focus on where you’re going.

I’ve always found that when I understand what the goal is, I can work through any chaos thrown my way. It’s when the goal is fuzzy that everything goes off the tracks. 

Keep in mind business goals need to be created before marketing goals. Marketing is a function that supports business so your marketing goals are informed by your business goals, not the other way around.

Define your goals because they will inform everything else you do.

The Strategy of Your Strategic Marketing Plan

You have created goals to help inform your plan. The next step is to define what you are going to do to achieve your goals.

This is the strategic part of your strategic plan. How are you going to get from point A to point C?

This is where identify your channels and the actions you are going to take to help you get from where you are to your goal.

These are the tactics and they are the actions that you take to meet your goals.

It’s the posts on social media. The blogs that get written for your website. The videos that get created and distributed on social media and your website. The ads you run.

You can think of them like a recipe. To make a cake you need certain ingredients you need to use. If you don’t have all the ingredients you could still try to make the cake but it’s not going to come out like should.

Be thoughtful.

Be creative.

But, if it’s not going to help move you towards your goals, you shouldn’t be doing it.

The only exception to this is when you decide to test something new but don’t count on this to help meet your goals.

In the end, meeting the goal is the important thing so choose your tactics wisely.

Dealing with the Unforeseen

You have done your planning. You have goals and tactics to help you achieve those goals. 

Now you only have to execute. 

If it was only that easy. 

No matter how much research you do or how carefully you plan, there will be something that comes along that you didn’t anticipate. When it does, it’s easy to lose focus.

Every year I plant a garden which I grow from seed. Tomatoes are the main thing I grow because I can preserve them in many ways such as salsa, sauces, and soups.

I had 29 plants that went into the ground in mid-May. Four days after I planted, a thunderstorm hit. It wasn’t in the forecast when I planted. It wasn’t in the forecast at noon the day it hit. It wasn’t even in the forecast two hours before it hit. 

We got some rain and some lightning but the biggest feature of this storm was the wind. It blew over fences and light and electric poles.  

I lost several seedlings and that was just the beginning of a tumultuous ten days in which it seemed like every time I checked the garden, something else was dead courtesy of wind damage and cutworms. Did I mention I’d never had cutworms?

Because of these two unforeseen events, I lost 11 seedlings. There were two more that sustained enough damage that I wasn’t sure they would recover. Most of them were plants I needed to make all those things I previously mentioned.

I was frustrated and a piece of me wanted to give up but I calmed myself down and started considering what I could do to salvage the situation so I could get to my goal.

I went to the store and bought seven tomato plants that I knew would help me get to where I wanted to be.

From a planning perspective, what changed was the variety of the plants that I had, the fact I had to buy them, and I had fewer plants. Everything else stayed the same.

In the end, I had the most productive garden I’ve ever had.

When something or some things happen and it doesn’t look good, it can be really easy to throw the plan away. When that happens, the focus you had completely goes with it, and chaos, organized or not, takes root. Then you get to the end of the year and you are irritated because you didn’t meet some or all those goals. 

The unforeseen will happen. Remember your goals and make the necessary adjustments to keep moving towards your goals.

Creating a strategic marketing plan is one of the best things you do for your business. 

It will help you focus your efforts so you get the results you want and need.

Stop thinking what if and take a step toward reaching your goals. Invest in a strategic marketing plan. 

Until next time. 

*Photo by SplitShire from Pexels

Shane Carpenter
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