There’s a lot that goes into creating marketing campaigns that see real results, but many marketers tend to forget that effective marketing requires two key preparation tools: a strategic marketing plan and a tactical marketing plan (TMP). At Sagefrog, we often roll these into one as an integrated marketing plan—the endearing IMP. A marketer might be tempted to jump straight into tactics to experiment with a new channel or satisfy a boss eager for quick wins. But with valuable money, time, and energy at stake, it’s risky to start implementing tactics without first thinking through the short- and long-term goals of a business and even its sales team.
We’ve already walked our readers through creating a sound tactical marketing plan, so we want to provide some clarity on what elements should be included in its higher-level counterpart, the strategic marketing plan.
What is a Strategic Marketing Plan?
A strategic marketing plan sets the groundwork for tactical marketing, taking a big-picture perspective to examine what your business is trying to accomplish in sales and how your marketing team will contribute to those goals with specific objectives of their own. It would include a comprehensive marketing situational analysis, a SWOT analysis, a list of marketing objectives, an overview of target markets, metrics to measure success, and any other pieces that help you make the most informed decisions on budget, tactics, and timing.
What is a Tactical Marketing Plan?
While a tactical marketing plan may incorporate strategy to give context to tactics, it’s really meant to break down business goals into channels and actions. It should detail, from month to month, what techniques and tactics you’ll use to reach audiences and what work is involved in executing them. It might include blog posts on your website and list specific blog topics or tentative titles for each week over a quarter or map out the specific landing page, social media posts, emails, and case studies you need to produce to kick off decision-stage content marketing campaigns throughout the year.
How Should You Approach a Strategic Marketing Plan?
Although a marketing manager might be at the helm of the strategic marketing plan, they really should collaborate with other team members, whether in-house or at a partnering marketing agency, to ensure the plan is truly strategic. This means meeting with copywriters or content marketers, graphic designers, website developers, and digital marketers to collect their input and determine whether your objectives make sense and some of the general tactics you might later explore are feasible and within budget.
A strategic marketing plan can be developed monthly or quarterly, but a plan that spans all four quarters of the year is ideal. Mapping out campaign goals and tentative concepts for the full year will prevent you from periodically scrambling to come up with new ideas. A strategic marketing plan is something you can always refer back to for a refresh on who you’re targeting and why. A tactical marketing plan is more flexible—something that you can adjust as data filters in from completed campaigns that may cause you to pivot to tactics that are likelier to produce results. As for where you can create your plan, it’s best to draft a strategic marketing plan in a format that’s easy to share across teams or present to management colleagues. An Excel document may be best for detailing specific channels and initiatives in a tactical marketing plan, and a PowerPoint might be better for housing the stats and insights that will make up a strategic marketing plan. Ultimately, whatever tool is the easiest for you to gather data and draw conclusions on the best path forward is what you should use to start planning.
Then you can break down the elements of a marketing plan into two general parts: a complete marketing situational analysis and an overview of the objectives and strategy you’ll use to guide all tactics.
Part 1: The Complete Situational Analysis
A full marketing situational analysis is essential for drafting a strategic marketing plan that takes into consideration your business’s place in the current market, among competitors, and in front of audiences. Exploring all of the elements below is important for gaining this valuable perspective, but don’t get too bogged down in the details that your plan becomes a 100-page document. Sagefrog has seen our share of long-winded marketing plans, and they only serve to overwhelm teams and make it difficult to compare information and create some sort of intelligent structure.
- Market Situation: Define your market size, growth and key segments
- Macro-Market Situation: Consider any relevant demographic, economic, technological, political, social, and cultural trends that have a direct impact on your company
- Product Situation: List your sales, profit, trends, cost-of-goods-sold (COGS), spend, and distribution history by product
- Competitive Situation: Research your major competitors’ size, share, strategies, spending, and comparisons (these can be direct competitors rather than larger players)
- Distribution Situation: Detail your distribution channel and its relative importance in terms of percent of total sales, volume, distribution costs, growth potential, and competitive status
- Target Market Situation: Get specific on your key audiences in terms of demographic, psychographic, and lifestyle factors, gathering actionable information such as buyer wants, needs, attitudes, perceptions, and segment growth or decline
- SWOT: Assess your internal strengths and weaknesses and external opportunities and threats, plus any important issues facing your organization
Part 2: The Core Objectives & Strategy
With the data you’ve collected from part one, you can finally move onto the marketing objectives you want to establish and the general strategy you’ll use to accomplish them. This will take some collaboration with your sales team so that marketing’s efforts throughout the year are aligned with what sales is trying to work toward. If they’re great, marketing qualified leads eventually find their way to sales, and there’s no point in wasting time and money on tactics that won’t bring in the types of buyers or brand advocates that your sales team wants to see.
- Marketing Objectives: Your sales, market share, and profit goals, which might include goals for your sales revenue, sales volume, market awareness, distribution channels, average client price, net profit, cash flow, or ROI
- Marketing Strategy: The approach to how marketing objectives will be achieved, which might cover how you’ll reach specific market segments or customers, which product lines you’ll focus on, and how you’ll handle the 4 P’s of Marketing (or the 7 P’s of Marketing)
- Marketing Programs: The details of what will be done, who will do it, when it will be done, and how much it will cost, including a marketing budget and general marketing calendar (which should be less detailed than a tactical marketing plan calendar)
- Marketing Analytics: The metrics you’ll use to monitor and measure the performance of your plan, which may include KPIs and reports for Google Analytics, Google Ads, email, public relations, SEO, SEM, social media, event performance, and a myriad of other tools.
It may seem like a lot to explore—and it is—but with the depth of insights you’ll achieve, you’re much better equipped to make the most of your marketing budget for in-house or outsourced efforts. As our CEO and Co-founder Mark Schmukler likes to say, “strategy without tactics is a daydream; tactics without strategy is a nightmare.” So embrace all things big-picture before you dive into the details with strategic marketing planning.