How to Build A Strategic Marketing Plan. Part 2: Focusing Your Marketing Approach

by Brie Stiens | April 16, 2020

Motivational speakers often tell us to “Think Big.” The same mantra can be useful in successful marketing. You may be surprised, however, that this second blog on strategic marketing planning suggests you think big in order to effectively focus your efforts.

Part 1 of this series covered the foundational items to set up a strategic marketing plan (SMP), including the need to set goals, identify target audiences, and develop buyer personas. It encouraged you to look for the differentiators from an internal and external perspective with competitor and SWOT analysis.

I’m sure it wasn’t a simple task, but it was worth it. So what’s next?

Thinking big. Or maybe you prefer to think broadly. Or holistically. It’s about stepping back from your goals, your brand assets, your company’s strengths and weaknesses, and picking your battles.

Getting a Bird’s Eye View

First, you’ll need to take a bird’s eye view of all the information you just gathered. Take everything from your research stage and identify the recurring themes. Then, once you have those big ideas identified, pore over all the information and review it to find the opportunities.

If you’ve done in-depth research, key themes will have already bubbled to the top. For instance, let’s say you surveyed 60 company employees for the SWOT analysis. Forty-five of them say that ease-of-use is a strength for your app. You know that should be incorporated into the strategy.

Though you’ll likely have identified some key points the real strength of the strategic marketing planning process is in finding the connections between those points and relating those to the goals again.

This stage identifies:

  • Strengths you can play to and still be authentic
  • Weaknesses you need to be aware of to avoid overpromising
  • Your value to customers — why will they give you a chunk of their budget for your product or service?

Beware: If you go into this stage with a set agenda, you’ll probably see what you want to see. It will turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy, and all of that research was for naught. Thinking big will force you to take all that work you did before from a fresh perspective.

Your Unique Selling Proposition

Your marketing strategy will be built around your “unique selling proposition” (USP), also known as a “unique value proposition.” You can’t decide this without first knowing your customers, how you stack up to the competition, and what strengths your brand can harness. All of which you’ve already discovered (if not, there are tips in the first blog).

Your USP establishes your point of differentiation in terms of perceived value for your target audience. This is how you stand out from competitors and start to build your brand promise to consumers. In almost all circumstances, you want this to be something other than price. Competing on price for one, isn’t something you can guarantee forever, doesn’t create any brand value, and doesn’t instill any customer loyalty. After all, retaining a loyal customer is a better investment than trying to recruit new ones.

It costs five times as much to attract a new customer than it does to keep an existing one.

When tooling around with value differentiations and USPs, consider car brands. Is a BMW really that much different from an Infiniti? Why do people see themselves as a “Subaru kind of person” or have their heart set on a Jaguar? Those companies have used their brand and consistency in messaging to establish trust, value, and affinity with customers. Each car brand embodies a different form of status or performance or worldview.

Key Messaging & Positioning

Great, you’ve identified what makes you stand out as a company and why people would want to buy your product! Now it’s time to build on it to create key messaging and define your positioning.

Your positioning defines where you stand in the market and how you compare to competition. It can be looked at two ways:

  1. First, on a two-by-two matrix that plots you against competition. The axis can be defined be things like local vs. global, status quo vs innovative, exclusive vs. accessible, or any attributes that are relevant to the market.
  2. Second, a positioning statement is always good to have for company alignment. It rattles off the points that define your position:
    • Target Audience
    • Category
    • USP
    • Benefit
    • Reason to believe

Good, clear key messaging needs to be:

  • Clear
  • Concise
  • Consistent

At Marketri, we recommend including at least two different lengths of key messaging. This will be helpful to have consistent messaging across different size and format collateral. One message should be several paragraphs long, to convey the values, expand on the key themes, and set a clear tone of voice. The second option should be more like your elevator pitch, more like two to three sentences long. 

For the longer message, you can go into more detail about what you do, why you do it, and who you do it for. Think of this as the two-minute elevator pitch.

For the short message, boil down the longer messaging into its key points. Maybe even focus on the single sentence that explains the buyer’s problem and how your service solves it. The goal in this short message is to strip away the excess, so your company can quickly convey its industry position and value. This of this version as the happy-hour answer to a waiter asking, “Where do you all work?”

Many companies will stop their messaging here. However, you also need to substantiate any claims with reasons to believe. Too many businesses jump over this part. They say “we’re trusted advisors and we have great relationships with our customers.”

That’s great, but the question to ask yourself is, “why would a buyer believe me?” Not everyone is as gullible as Will Ferrel’s character in Elf! He was quick to believe the shop’s slogan that it had the “world’s best coffee.” Any respectable coffee drinker is going to be more discriminating.

Just go ahead and check Google Maps for “best pizza in NYC.” On the first page of results alone, six of them promise they have the best. Do you trust them? Probably not. Similarly, just because you say you’re the best or most innovative, doesn’t mean consumers are going to believe you. You have to find a clear claim that is both true and verifiable.

Final Thoughts

One more piece of advice about the strategic marketing plan. Once you have your SMP, share it, and get buy-in. A lot of times marketing puts something together, and then a CEO or decision maker comes in and says, “I saw this new fancy thing, and we should do that instead!”

Strategic marketing plans offer an established foundation and guidelines. They keep marketing efforts honest and keep everyone headed the same direction, so you’re less likely to get distracted by the creative idea that doesn’t hit the right audience. This gives marketing an agreed-upon set of rules that new ideas can be evaluated against for fit.

This doesn’t mean the strategic marketing plan should be set in stone for years. It defines the long-term course for now. Be flexible and revisit it along the way as products change, new competitors enter the market, or customer needs evolve. 

There you go: how to build a strategic marketing plan. It starts with research. Then, think big to see what stands out. Work from there to focus your strategy, and develop your USP and messaging. Of course, Marketri’s happy to do all this for you too. Just reach out!

Want more?

Want to learn more about the ins and outs of creating a marketing plan for growth? Then get your free copy of 5 Benefits of Creating a Strategic Marketing Plan: