A few years ago Southwest Airlines offered some great deals on flights for their 40th anniversary. My group of friends decided that this was our chance to visit New York City.
There were 10 (yes, 10!) of us planning to go on this trip, so we had to be strategic if this was not going to be a disaster. We would buy the tickets the next day at the same time to make sure we got the same flight, and one person would book the hotel rooms.
With our flights and hotel rooms in place, two of us arranged our itinerary — carefully allotting time for everything on our must-do list: museums, a Broadway play, Fifth Avenue shopping, Rockefeller Center, Little Italy and much more.
By the end of it, we were exhausted and I thought my feet might fall off if I took one more step. But we had checked off everything from our list and had an unforgettable time.
Why you need a strategic plan
Building a website or marketing plan isn’t so different from planning a vacation. Just like a vacation with no itinerary means you might find yourself aimlessly wandering around in an unknown destination, a website or marketing plan with no strategy means you might be haphazardly completing tasks with no consideration of if it’s helping you achieve your goals or even appealing to your target audience.
For example, you might think you should be marketing your business on Twitter and blogging weekly, because it seems like that’s what everyone does. But with more research into your target audience, you realize your target audience spends more time on Instagram and Tumblr. Without a strategic plan, you could be wasting your time and money on the wrong marketing channels.
A website with no strategy poses the same risks. You may want your website to be designed with the most cutting-edge trends and techniques. But is your audience tech savvy enough to know how to use it? Without a strategic plan, you could be wasting your time and money on a website that doesn’t produce.
What makes a strategic plan?
A strategic plan can be as basic or in-depth as you want it to be, but even a little investment goes a long way. There are two key components that should be determined before you start any marketing project.
1. Determine your goals
Your goals will guide everything you do. Remember, the best goals are SMART:
- Specific – identify precisely what you hope to achieve
- Measurable – make it quantifiable
- Actionable – start with an action word
- Realistic – push yourself but use common sense
- Time-bound – have a date or timeframe associated with it
Using this criteria, set and track your business goals, so it’s clear how marketing efforts should feed them. For example your business goal may be “bring 8,000 visitors to the museum each month.”
With your business goals identified, you can set the marketing goals that will support them. To continue the above example, bringing in 8,000 museum visitors leads to the following marketing goals: sell 2,000 tickets online each month; build a base of 7,500 followers on Twitter by the end of the year; get 10,000 unique visitors to the website per month; increase the email list by 500 people each month.
Even if you don’t know exact figures you want to achieve yet, you should at least determine some broad goals for your website or marketing plans. Is the purpose of your website to generate sales leads, sell a product or service, educate people, or build a community? Is your marketing designed to grow your audience regionally or nationally, sell a product or service, or get people excited about a cause? As you can see, there are many diverse goals that an organization might have, and being clear about yours from the beginning can have a large impact on the direction of your website and marketing efforts.
2. Know your target audiences
If your marketing is going to succeed, you have to know your target audiences inside and out. What are their needs and wants? What do they care about? If you aren’t answering these questions, your message is going to fall on deaf ears.
First, think about your ideal customer.
Then, identify their outward factors: age, gender, marital status, income, location, number of kids, job title, etc.
Next, identify their inward factors: the problems you are solving, the complaints you can address, their motivations and desires.
Continue this process for each ideal customer for all of your product/service offerings. The more specific you can be, the better.
How to get a strategic plan
We begin all of our engagements with a strategic process. Ideally, that includes a dedicated Strategy Session.
A Strategy Session is a full or half day meeting where our strategic marketing team works closely with your stakeholders to get a thorough, in-depth understanding of your vision, needs and goals. Based on your needs, we address selected topics such as:
- Brand archetype – your “brand personality”
- Buyer profiles – audience analysis
- SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats
- Existing messaging and marketing review – what are you currently doing
- KPIs – key performance indicators and growth goals
- Competitor analysis – who are your primary competitors; positioning and differentiators
- Value proposition – your brand promise
- Workflow and data evaluation – what technology and sales/marketing systems are you using
Following the session, you’ll receive comprehensive notes and a recap of the session, as well as recommended next steps for marketing tactics and messaging.
Beginning with a Strategy Session puts us on solid footing moving forward. Any future marketing efforts — websites, email, social media, etc. — are based on a strategic understanding of your business, not simply guesswork.