Imaginasium | Marketing Communications | 10 minute read
11 Strategic Steps to Stop the
‘Good Idea Fairy’ from Derailing
Your Marketing Plan
We’ve all met a Good Idea Fairy before. Also known as “The Big Idea Person” or “Now Go Make It Happen McGee,” they are well-intentioned, eager to help the company, and invariably ready with an inspired marketing idea – which they expect your department to bring to life.
Sometimes the Good Idea Fairy is feeding their own ego (“I’m doing a webinar and need to boost attendance”) but sometimes they’re trying to assist others (“I promised Bill we’d help him out”). Soon, marketing departments find themselves throwing up a blog post when they have time, trying a few LinkedIn ads, and generally jumping around from one idea to the next — abandoning each tactic in turn when it doesn’t yield results.
The trouble is that these Good Ideas are almost always on a short timeline and invariably do not take into consideration your workload, team capacity, and budget. Even worse, these ideas are sometimes out of alignment with your overall business goals.
We get it, we get you. After all, you’re a marketing professional, not a task rabbit. And these random acts of marketing drain resources and hamper your ability to create real impact.
The solution is simple, but not always easy to implement. It’s simple because it hinges on getting serious about your strategic marketing plan; it’s not always easy because it sometimes requires saying “No,” or “Not right now,” in service of the company’s greater good.
The “Kill ‘Em With Your Professionalism” Strategic Marketing Plan Template
Not sure where to get started? We’ve put together 11 steps to creating a business-driven, data-centric plan to reach your audience and influence their buying decisions – which also serves as a filter to help you determine which projects are a priority (and which are not).
If you’re looking for a helpful way to organize your thoughts and evolve them into a useful plan, this Strategic Marketing Plan template is a great starting point; it helps ensure that you aren’t missing key opportunities, provides structure, and serves as a communication tool to build buy-in.
After all, the point isn’t to silence Good Idea Fairies. It’s to take their ideas, align them with strategic objectives, and make them even more powerful.
11 Steps to Develop a Stellar Strategic Marketing Plan
1. Link to the Bigger Picture
Every project you undertake should align with your company’s overall strategic priorities and goals – whether that’s pioneering a new market, defending against competitors, or owning the customer experience.
Look at where your organization is going and how that will impact your marketing mandate. Ask yourself:
• What are your company’s growth plans?
• Is the company targeting specific markets?
• Are their objectives beyond revenue growth (i.e. recruiting job applicants, employee engagement) where marketing could play a role?
When you can clearly articulate how your marketing efforts match with those plans, you’ll have the support of the executives at your company, as well as building collaboration and confidence among your team members.
2. Put Your Ear to the Ground and Listen for Customers
Listen to your customers, for trends and shifts that help you have a deeper understanding of your company’s positioning in the market. Here are a few prompts, to help make sure that you’re engaging in effective marketing:
• Send a short customer survey to your existing email list. Note: it’s okay to ask for a favor, but even better to offer an incentive for their input
• Hop on a call or in the car with a sales rep, for a Voice of Customer interaction
• Monitor online forums and listen to what would-be customers care about
• Audit your competitors’ marketing channels and messages
• Set up user testing, popup surveys, or chatbots on your website
• Mine customer service emails for insight into what customers want
• Set up social listening to find out what people are saying about you online.
Market listening enables you to discover what truly matters most to customers and shape your messages accordingly.
3. Identify Your Buyer Personas
Fictionalized profiles can help you understand your most valuable prospective buyers – their challenges, motivations, and how they move through the sales cycle to become customers.
Remember, B2B personas are different from B2C personas. Your B2B buyer may actually be more of an influencer – someone who has to convince a larger team, or authorized decision-maker, that their recommendation is the right one. (If you’re in manufacturing, read our full post on buyer personas in a manufacturing B2B environment.)
4. Stake Your Claim
If you ask a business leader what sets her company apart, she’ll probably say things like “Customer service,” “Product quality,” or “Our people.” But when everyone is saying the same thing, is it really differentiating?
The real magic is to find a unique reason that customers choose your company over any other. What makes you stand out from the crowd? The answers should come from the market research you conducted in step two.
Once you know your point of differentiation, you have amazing fodder for marketing. Make sure your customers know what makes you special. It makes it easier to get noticed and answer the all-important question: “Why should they buy from you?”
5. A Marketing SWOT Analysis
At this stage of the strategic marketing planning process, you know 1) what your company wants, 2) what your customers want, and 3) where your organization shines in the marketplace.
Now, a Marketing SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Threats, Opportunities) can be a valuable exercise. You may be used to thinking about SWOT as an overall business analysis, but it can be an eye-opening tool when used at the level of your marketing department… just think in terms of team capabilities, target audiences, messaging, marketing channels, etc.
6. Set Marketing Goals
Now that you have the big picture in front of you, take time to set goals that are specific, measurable, and achievable. Beware of vague goals like “Improve brand awareness” or “Increase customer engagement.” At this stage in the game, you’re setting goals that you can actually track and quantify.
These are some examples of realistic, measurable marketing goals:
• Launch a new product line with X product inquiries, X online reviews, and X new sales within X months
• Grow SEO traffic and leads by 20%
• Cross-sell and expand sales to existing customers with a 10% uptick
• Increase website conversions (leads/sales) by 5% each month
• Double your contacts/lead nurturing list
Remember, to tie your goals back to your business strategy, prioritizing the ones that will have the most meaningful impact on the business. This will keep you from being a Good Idea Fairy, yourself!
7. Plan What You’re Going to Do…and How You’re Going to Pay for It
Now comes the fun part: the specific tactics you’ll use to put your Strategic Plan into action.
This is a great time to reach out to your Good Idea Fairies. Find out what they think works and how they'd like to reach customers. While random acts of marketing are not good, collecting all those ideas can help you make sure that your plan is as cohesive as possible; having a list of potential tactics is critical.
Of course, cost and capabilities will also influence the tactical part of your plan. Think about what you can do in house and where you’ll need expert consultants and freelance support.
One rule of thumb suggests established companies should allocate between 6 and 12% of their gross revenue on their marketing budget. And remember: the better you’re able to demonstrate a solid plan with quantifiable results, the easier it will be to secure more money.
8. Define What You're Leaving Out
It’s also critical to know what kind of messages and tactics fall outside your plan. If you no longer want to spend your budget on full-page trade ads, or customized sell sheets, or panicked paid search campaigns, then clearly establish your parameters and the reasons that you’re saying “No.”
Talk with sales about what’s working and what isn’t. Plan some temporary compromises, if necessary, as part of change management. And get buy-in from leadership who will help you defend your new, smarter marketing plan.
9. Execute and Follow Through
Planning is important, but in the end, you need to execute. The trick behind getting things done is defining what specifically needs to be done, by whom, and when. If you're not already using a project management platform, here is a selection of Word and Excel action plan templates that might work for your team.
Choose a template that helps you track process/task, ownership, status, and target date. You might also want to track priority, project notes, and resources required.
10. Talk It Up
When it comes to any long-ranging marketing plan, regular check-ins are essential. Touch base with your stakeholders. Get buy-in that the plan aligns with company goals and is the best use of marketing dollars. Hopefully you’ll have vocal advocates down the road when a Good Idea Fairy wants to co-opt your time and budget.
11. Power to Your People
All your marketing is for naught if the one-on-one customer experience that your employees bring falls short. Employees should understand the brand promise and their role in delivering on it.
When you share customer insights company-wide, you help create a consistent customer experience at every point of contact. Outreach to the employee team is how you, the marketing team, helps deliver a world-class customer experience, how you increase customer lifetime value, and how you help generate customer referrals.
You Imagine It; We Make It Real
If you want to be a strategic marketer and own the conversation about marketing in your organization, it’s time to start planning. Marketing takes more than good ideas. It takes a commitment to the customer and a willingness to follow the data.
You can do this! If you’d like some help at any stage in the process, just reach out. Whether you need some coaching on your Good Idea Fairy’s latest “gift,” help building leadership buy-in, or support to execute the plan, we’re here.