Ahh.. the joys of assembling a strategic marketing communications plan. For those of us who have the ability to think big picture while executing at the daily level, this becomes almost as natural as breathing. It is a tool that we rely on, especially when there are multiple initiatives involving different parts of a corporation and their various customer bases. This post will focus on the process, key elements to include, adjusting/incorporating some flexibility, and why the customer(s) need to be kept in mind both in the planning and execution of a successful strategic marketing and communications plan.
Whether it is a nonprofit, trade association, agency, mid-size company, or the marketing and communications departments of a multinational corporation, everyone needs to be working from the same playbook. For that to occur, some planning, discussion, and clear understanding of the end goals needs to be reached.
Very similar to planning a trip, you need to know where you are going, how to get there, what you want to see/experience, and how it compares to other vacations.
Before jumping into the key elements that should be included, let’s take a step back and discuss the actual planning process.
For anyone who has ever experienced creating a strategic plan, either individually or as a team, you are aware that it can be a simple and straightforward process or the equivalent of planning a Griswold vacation; lots of input, no clear purpose (“Clark, is this really necessary?”), and unrealistic expectations.
At the other end of the spectrum are the organizations that decide to just “wing it” with one or two items that “should cover marketing and communications items” in the company’s overall business plan (and yes, this happened but that is a post for another time).
So, what is the solution? Before starting the actual plan, do some homework. Find out what worked, what didn’t, and how the best results were achieved. I have found that talking to other departments informally, evaluating data (including lead generation), and reviewing past messaging will provide a valuable starting point. If clients are available to speak to or their feedback is available- even better!
Simple and Straightforward
The strategic document itself needs to present an overview that is concise, effective and measurable. It is easy to get caught up in too much detail, formulas, analytics, and before you know it, the “plan” has become a book! The goal is to have team members, management and leadership understand and support marketing and communication efforts without having review pages of details. There are an endless amount of templates available online to help create the best marketing and communications strategic plan that works for your team, department and company.
A comprehensive, concise and effective and strategic marketing communications plan will communicate:
- objectives and how they tie in with the growth initiatives for the overall organization
- time frame (usually broken out by quarter)
- targeted customers/market segments
- the platforms and content that will be used to reach and engage with target audiences
- timing for each component (i.e. email marketing, social media, online advertising, etc.
- types of measurement tools and analytics to be used in tracking results
Two other areas that should be considered, but tend to be overlooked, are:
- how will the sales team be advised of ongoing efforts, messaging, and potential opportunities?
- response by targeted accounts – are they current and potential to messaging? Is it resonating with the respective audiences? If not, why? Are their needs being met, and if not how can we help?
If 2020 has taught us anything, flexibility and the ability to shift directions are critical. So while a plan can be as comprehensive and as detailed as needed, keep in mind that it is a framework. Similar to a football game, it will need to be monitored and adjusted and course corrections are made as things move forward. That doesn’t mean throw out the entire playbook but give some thought as to what happens if the industry/economy/country is impacted by something that is happening worldwide. How will you adapt and communicate with internal and external customers and the marketplace? How will current and new customers engage with your organization?
Marketing and communications play a crucial role in attracting customers, generating sales leads, and impacting the bottom line- key factors in determining a business’s success. And, done properly, it provides insight as to what your customers are saying about your brand, their needs, and their buying decisions.
A simple strategy with proactive planning is easy to implement. It needs to be in writing, (not on sticky notes attached to the side of a computer – you would be amazed), and distributed to team members so everyone is on the same page! Give it some thought, do some homework and it will pay off!
In my next post, I will explore how to differentiate messaging and storytelling through unique and effective content that will give a voice to your organization and help it stand apart AND meet the needs of clients.
Author: Gwendolyn Wright
Gwendolyn Wright is a marketing and communications professional who specializes in creating, implementing and managing strategic high-impact programs that draw on social media, digital marketing, public relations, event marketing, and analytics to advance brand awareness, increase visibility to key audiences and maximize business initiatives.