Your company’s marketing process can make or break your brand positioning and customer loyalty. Your strategic process is what guides your overall marketing efforts, ensures you target the right audiences and helps you maintain a watchful eye on your goals and objectives. It provides an actionable way to measure the status and success of your initiatives.
And if your company hasn’t taken the time to fully plan and map out its marketing process, the risk that you’ll miss taking advantage of your market niche and fall behind in your industry is very real. Whether you’re promoting a new product, trying to improve your public relations or gain greater market share, your marketing program needs a strategic edge.
What is a strategic marketing process?
A strategic marketing process is just as it sounds – it’s a plan that lays out all of the elements connected with and impacted by your business’s marketing initiatives. We’ll go into more detail in just a bit, but a marketing process should cover things like:
- Your company’s mission, goals and objectives (and these things are not one and the same – learn more about defining your goals and objectives and the differences between them).
- The strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that affect your brand’s marketing.
- Your target audience and the specific customer needs.
- The required resources and distributed channels you’ll use to carry out your plans and support marketing initiatives.
- Actionable, measurable metrics that provide a clear picture of where efforts stand according to the process, and how successful outreach and interactions with customers have become.
Your marketing process doesn’t just concern your own brand, but your positioning in your industry as well. It’s the roadmap that propels you forward in your unique marketplace and helps you make valuable, memorable connections with your target audience.
Problems to be aware of
There are quite a few moving parts involved with any strategic marketing plan, and it’s often a somewhat complex and involved process that will include a wide variety of company stakeholders. But the payoff of these efforts – substantially improved interactions with customers, marketing sector leadership, enhanced profits and more – are well worth the time and resources.
The ability to build strong customer relationships through a successful marketing campaign requires a clear picture of your target customers and their needs. That being said, there are a few hurdles that marketing stakeholders and their teams should be aware of:
- Assumptions without validated backup: There’s an old saying about making assumptions, and when it comes to your strategic marketing process, that adage is definitely true. It’s important not to assume anything – from the needs of your target audience to the internal resources and capabilities of your own workforce. Back everything up with research and due diligence to avoid putting you and your team on the wrong track.
- Unclear plans, lack of well-defined strategy: One of the only things worse than assumptions is ambiguity. Those spearheading the creation of the strategic marketing process should be sure that all included elements are well defined in detail, and that factors like goals aren’t confused with objectives, for example.
- Lack of resources: Remember when we (just) talked how not making assumptions extends to the abilities of your own internal team? Realizing you don’t have the resources that you thought you had can really put a damper on your efforts and impact the entire strategic plan. However, creating your marketing process provides the perfect opportunity to identify any areas in which you’re lacking internally, as well as the strategic ways you’ll bridge these gaps.
Breaking it down: Steps to success
Because every company and the needs of their target audience are unique, it’s essential for marketers to keep in mind that no two strategic marketing processes will look the same. However, there are a number of general lessons you can apply to your unique marketing concept. Yours may involve a few extra steps given the nature of your customers or the products and services you’re offering.
However, here are a few important steps that are critical to any effective marketing process:
Step one: Plan your mission, goals and objectives
Before doing anything else, your marketing leaders and stakeholders must sit down and define your business’s mission, and the goals and objectives that will propel your strategic marketing.
If your company already has an established mission statement, congrats! You’re ahead of the game.
Your mission statement should touch and be incorporated into every move you make as a company, and that definitely includes your marketing. If you don’t yet have a mission statement, now’s the time to create one. It should explain why your organization exists, why it does business and how it supports and benefits its customers. Some mission statements are aspirational and motivating, some are more formal in their approach. Be sure that your mission statement matches the intent and culture of your company.
Next, you should map out the goals and objectives that will become the spokes in the wheel that is your marketing process. These should always be aligned to your ideal customer life cycle. As you’re planning these elements, remember, be SMART about it: That is to say, your goals should be:
Step two: Analyze industry positioning
With your mission statement, goals and objectives mapped out, it’s time to turn an eye outward to see where your company lies in terms of the overall industry, as well as how it’s positioned with current customers. Now it’s time to conduct some market research. This step includes two essential strategies: SWOT analysis, and a look into market positioning.
SWOT stands for:
- Strengths, or the things your company does well in comparison to its competitors.
- Weaknesses, or the factors that may hold your organization back from market success.
- Opportunities, including the external elements like trends that could create the potential for new business or revenue streams.
- Threats, or the external factors (economical, political, technological, etc.) that might create obstacles for your company.
Where SWOT focuses on internal factors and external market elements, positioning seeks to better define the ways in which the brand is perceived in comparison to its competitors through the lens of the customer. As Brafton’s own Dominick Sorrentino explained, brand positioning focuses on creating a compelling brand identity that establishes a memorable impression for customers in your target demographics.
A high-end car dealership that wants to position itself as a seller of luxury vehicles, for example, will look to use certain words and imagery in its marketing to craft a specific value proposition for its target audience. It’s important to consider how your current and potential customers perceive your company, and if there are any changes you should make in order to create your ideal brand image.
Step three: Establish marketing tactics
Put in the effort ahead of time to plan out your mission, goals and objectives, as well as your place in the market and the ways in which you’re perceived by customers. This will put you on the right track to establish the actual tactics and campaigns you’ll use to propel your brand marketing.
During this stage, your marketing team should be sure to keep in mind your marketing mix, based on the 4 Ps of marketing from E. J. McCarthy. While these were first created back in 1960, they’re still very relevant today. They include:
- Product: The items or services your brand offers in response to customer wants and needs.
- Price: The cost of the product and the value provided to the customer.
- Promotion: The marketing efforts you use to support the product, including messaging specific to your target market.
- Place: Here’s where your distributed channels come into play. This P refers to the physical and digital distributed channels that provide access to your promotional materials, marketing messaging and enable sales.
Considering your distribution channels is an imperative step, particularly within the current social media marketing landscape. For example, certain types of content are more appropriate for an email marketing campaign, while others are better suited to your company blog. The right mix will depend on your market segments. Your situational analysis and positioning inform your product and messaging, and your marketing team should also ensure that they select the right channel for distribution according to:
- Your brand image,
- Target audience needs, and
- The specific marketing tactic being carried out as part of the current campaign.
Step four: Put your process to work
With all the necessary planning in place, it’s time to put your tactics and process in action. This step will see you and your content marketing team:
- Obtaining resources, including the required financial backing and subject matter experts, when necessary.
- Developing schedules for each tactic and campaign. Be as specific as possible with these tasks to ensure they can be accomplished effectively.
- Executing the process.
You did your due diligence, now it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work!
Step five: Evaluate, modify, repeat
This phase is where many organizations make a critical misstep. It’s important to keep in mind that your strategic marketing process will be an ongoing effort – you should continually look for places to improve and enhance the plan.
Once you’ve executed your marketing strategies and tactics, it’s time to take a look back at your defined goals and objectives, and the metrics you created along with those according to your SMART planning. These will be crucial in helping you gauge the overall success of your efforts according to your mission statement and goals.
Tips to guide your efforts: Final thoughts
As you and your team work your way through the above steps, here are a few handy tips to keep in mind:
- Don’t skimp on the research. The importance of elements like market statistics, business cycle details and well-defined customer personas cannot be understated.
- Consider the short term, plan for the long term. Quick wins can be important to garner the attention of your target audience and to motivate your internal team. But you should also incorporate long-term goals and objectives that align with the main concepts of your mission statement.
- Be simple and precise. Include all the pertinent details team members will need to carry out the activities and tactics you create as part of your strategic marketing process. Work to ensure that there’s complete clarity, and no room for misconception.
- Be feasible and reasonable. This is where considering the capabilities of your internal team comes into play. If you don’t have the internal resources or expertise needed to support your plans, it might be time to consider partnering up with an expert to make sure your expectations can match your goals and eventual achievements.
Your strategic marketing process provides the roadmap necessary to cultivate valuable connections with customers and cement your brand in the perfect niche in your marketplace. Don’t waste another moment floundering with undefined and indecisive marketing initiatives – go forth and conquer your industry.
Editor’s note: Updated October 2020.