Marketing Strategy: Where to Start

A three-step process for creating your marketing strategy.

Diana Lillicrap 9.04.2013

Fall is the perfect time to develop your marketing strategy for next year. Clarifying goals, determining strategies and tactics, and creating a plan of action will ensure you stay on track to achieve results. Here are a few tips to help you get started and make the most out of the process.

Step I: Preparation

Before you gather everyone into a room to hash out ideas, make sure you’ve prepared for the process. Start by identifying who should be involved. Internal experts from different key business function, such as sales, HR, operations, and marketing, can provide valuable insights. You may also want to consider hiring an external expert to guide you through the process, especially if your team is big or unfamiliar with generating a marketing strategy. For additional guidance, here’s more about knowing when to hire a consultant.

Once you’ve established your team, gather up any available audience research, outcomes from the current and past years, and details about sales, operational, or other business goals. Take time to explore the competitive landscape to gain a fresh perspective of your marketplace. And assign each person on your team with some pre-work. A few simple questions and exercises will allow everyone to begin the creative process on an individual level and come to the first strategy session with a framework of ideas on which to build—making the process more productive. Learn a few additional brainstorming homework tips here.

Step II: Creative Thinking

Once you’re prepared, it’s time to conduct an ideation session with your team to confirm objectives and think creatively about how to get the results you desire. Start by listing out your goals (big picture and specific), reporting on your homework assignments and marketplace evaluations, and gaining consensus about what you need your marketing strategy to accomplish. Answer the basic who, what, when, and why questions—who do you need to reach, what do you need to tell them, when does it need to happen, and why should they care? Include details about available marketing resources for the coming year (people and dollars).

Once you’ve agreed upon your goals and objectives, take time to think creatively with a series of brainstorming techniques. Be sure to include individual and small group activities that encourage participation from everyone. Document all of your ideas, big and small. As the session progresses, narrow your focus and identify the strategies with the most potential. Then, list out the specific action steps needed to accomplish the ideas that are worth pursuing. Be sure to include details about who on your team will be responsible for each action step, when it will need to be completed, and how you will track results.

Need activity ideas and tips on running effective sessions? Search our brainstorming articles.

Step III: Planning

Once you’ve completed your ideation session, it’s important to document and distribute your strategic plan. This doesn’t have to be a 20-page report. In fact, a simple document is often the best way to keep your team focused. State your goals and objectives in clear, measurable language. List your identified strategies with the tactics that align with each, and include your action plan with a timeline and the team member responsibilities.

Here’s an example of an action plan that identifies specific strategies, tactics, responsibilities, and a timeline in a simple, but visual manner.

StrategicPlan.jpg

Make sure you plan for scheduled check-ins with your key team. This will help keep everyone energized while providing opportunities to evaluate and adjust the plan throughout the year as things change in your market and organization.

Going through a strategic planning process can be valuable for any organization. Not only will it give you a roadmap for getting to where you want to go, it will also create consensus and accountability for making it happen.

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