How to Align Your Marketing Team Around a Successful Strategy

November 8th, 2018 by Alison Zeringue

With the explosive growth of the marketing technology landscape in the last several years, it can be easy to get completely lost in tactics, technology, and metrics. “Digital marketing is so awesome,” they say, “because you can track everything,” they say.

True, but what’s also true is that the 6,000+ vendors of MarTech platforms overwhelm us with SO. MUCH. DATA. How does a company know they are making the right decision when one can easily twist and turn data and draw correlations to tell a desired story? Confirmation bias is a real thing, and it can plague the effectiveness of any given marketer’s plan.

So how does one manage to take advantage of the right data and make strategic marketing decisions without finding themselves adrift in a sea of marketing bologna? It’s easy to say, but less simple to execute: start with a solid strategic plan.

In this post, I’ll review the essential steps to creating a highly organized and well-researched marketing strategy, which should then serve as the anchor for all future decision-making in your marketing journey. That is, until the next time you review and update your strategic plan (a bit of foreshadowing: it’s an ongoing process).

How to Create a Successful Marketing Plan

Start With Gaining Alignment

The most successful marketing plans we’ve developed for clients have started with gaining alignment from all the stakeholders involved in marketing the business. From the top of the marketing department to the most front-line sales executives, making sure all parties are heard is important to gaining an understanding of the current state of sales and marketing and gathering input on the future ideal.
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Get an Outside Perspective

Bringing in professionals for the research and development of a strategic marketing plan can help to make sure your plan is truly objective. Wrangling a lot of stakeholders, some of whom are more dominant than others, can leave you feeling like you’re chasing your tail and not making progress. When you hire a marketing agency for the development of your marketing plan, the third-party perspective can help to ensure the project not only stays on track, but also that all voices are heard.

One way we’ve done this is to host workshop-style meetings with all stakeholders, facilitating discussions of their ideas on strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats, as well as their best customers, gaining insights on what marketing tactics were perceived as successful or not in the past.

We bring to the table some initial research, like competitor profiles and trends in their marketing, as well as data analysis of existing customer profiles, if provided in advance. This information serves as the foundation for the discussion, and we prompt the stakeholders with specific questions to get them thinking more deeply about where and how marketing can help the business grow. In this process, we’ve seen clients experience some internal revelations and uncover operational opportunities for improvement, which are incredibly valuable to identify.

We take away all the inputs and begin the fun part: planning a strategic marketing plan that accomplishes a measurable goal. And on that note…

Define a Measurable Goal

It’s critical for a marketing strategy to be informed by a S.M.A.R.T. goal. Digital marketing is indeed awesome because it’s measurable, but you have to know WHAT to measure up front. Otherwise, you’ll waste a lot of time on the wrong tactics and pulling reports on the wrong metrics.

It’s critical for your sales and marketing stakeholders to be aligned on this measurable goal. If you have enough data to understand your sales pipeline, you might be able to identify a specific number of inbound leads that marketing should deliver per month or week. As a part of planning your marketing strategy, make sure you align everyone on how you will determine whether the marketing strategy was successful, at both a high level and an individual-tactic level.

What to Include in a Marketing Plan

There are tons of resources out there regarding what to include in a marketing plan, but the key elements are:Goal Setting Guide Image

  • Competitive Analysis
  • SWOT Analysis
  • Buyer Personas
  • The Buyer’s Journey
  • Strategic Tactics
  • Key Performance Indicators

Competitive Analysis

In order to know where you stand in the marketplace, it’s important to take a close look at the competition your prospects are likely considering. Typically, we like to note basic business information for context, such as the number of employees, revenue (if available), years in business, and how they compare from a pricing perspective. Next, we review their marketing and brand presence, specifically noting key differentiators, how they’re appealing to the audience via messaging and measurable-goal visual communication, and, of course, the products or services for which they are a true competitor.

SWOT Analysis

SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Strengths and weaknesses are meant to look inward, whereas opportunities and threats look to the external marketplace, industry, and geographic landscape. An in-depth analysis here on the state of your business, not just marketing, can be incredibly insightful from the top down, and the key to a successful SWOT is stepping back and being as objective as possible. Questions you can ask yourself and your team include the following:

Strengths

  • What advantages does your company have?
  • What do you do better than anybody else?
  • What unique resources can you draw on that your competitors cannot?
  • What are the reasons your clients choose you?

Weaknesses

  • For what reasons might your prospective clients not choose your company?
  • What do other companies offer that your company does not or cannot?
  • What could be improved about the products or services that you offer?
  • What types of clients are you at risk of not serving well?

Opportunities

  • What opportunities do you see in the marketplace?
  • What new ideas could you be taking advantage of?
  • What trends are popping up in your industry?
  • What positive changes in the market do you see?

Threats

  • What obstacles does your company face in growing sales?
  • What are competitors doing? Is competition increasing?
  • What negative changes in the market do you see?

Buyer Personas

A buyer persona is intended to serve as a representation of a business’ “ideal” or target customer. It should be based on research and data about your existing and prospective customers, including their demographics and psychographics. The best process for buyer persona development involves surveying or interviewing actual customers, asking them deeper information than simply gender, age, and household income. An ideal buyer persona may include the following: background, demographics, identifiers, goals, challenges, how you help their challenges, and what marketing messaging will speak to the persona. You may find that you have several personas, or maybe you have just one. There’s no hard and fast rule about what a buyer persona should include or how many a business should have.

The Buyer’s Journey

When the Search Influence team develops a marketing plan for a client, the buyer’s journey is where we spend the majority of our time and is what informs the strategic tactics and key performance indicators (KPIs). Once your buyer personas are identified, the buyer’s journey maps out your prospective customer’s behavior at each stage of the marketing funnel, which allows you to think strategically about how you can reach the audience at each stage. When complete, our buyer’s journeys typically look something like this:

Strategic Tactics

Specific marketing tactics you hope to employ to achieve your goals are outlined here. This may include everything from traditional media and print collateral all the way through your digital campaign strategies and creative direction. It’s a good idea to spend time evaluating these tactics and considering a realistic budget required to deploy them all. Perhaps you will need to do a phased implementation due to your budget or internal resources. Now’s the time to make that plan.

Key Performance Indicators

In addition to outlining a marketing plan’s overall goal and objective, we recommend that your plan defines Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for each phase of your marketing strategy and, if necessary, specific tactics. Defining this up front will help ensure that all stakeholders fairly evaluate the performance of a given tactic as time goes on and keep them anchored to the ultimate goal.

Finish With Gaining Alignment…Again

Remember the work you did with your team to collect their input early in the process? Call another meeting with them and present the finalized plan. Use this as an opportunity to set expectations for ongoing roles and responsibilities and get the team moving on the plan. They’ll enjoy seeing how their input shaped the finished product and be more willing to pitch in to make it happen. Trust us, you will need their support!

We’ve led the charge through this arduous process several times with our clients. I say WITH our clients because, if you couldn’t tell by now, it requires a lot of collaboration and partnership. If you are looking for full support in leading this endeavor or even just some hours consulting with our team on the process, we’ve got your back! Speak with a strategist today at (504) 208-3900 or fill out this form to ask for a consultation within 24 hours.