Skip to main content

Many companies complain that they don’t see results from their marketing activity, yet they treat marketing differently to other parts of the business where careful planning is standard practice. In research we conducted among 102 small to medium-sized companies, 56% did not have a documented marketing plan. As they say, you can’t manage what you can’t measure! But what are the building blocks of a strategic marketing plan?

Firejuice SME Marketing Survey Results Summary

Defining the business brand identity

It sounds obvious, but most businesses still need to define who they are, what they do, who they do it for and why it matters. It is about taking an inside-out view of the world – “based on what we know; who we think we are”. Putting this in writing ensures that everyone in the company is – quite literally – on the same page.

In our experience, speaking to several managers and employees individually is the best way to achieve alignment. People tend to talk more freely when alone, giving insight into the company’s culture, vision, strengths and weaknesses. Following such interviews, it is often best to prepare a guideline that can be workshopped among a core group of executives in a type of brand identity workshop. The workshop’s outcome should be a positioning statement that captures the overall value proposition the business seeks to deliver.

Crafting customer personas for targeted impact

Once the business has a clear sense of who it is or wants to be, it should take an outside-in view by defining the ideal customer. Who do we want to work with? Where are they? Who are the people we should talk to? How do they currently make decisions? Building a customer persona and journey map allows for better, more relevant marketing.

Understanding the customer landscape differs between business and consumer markets. In business-to-business (B2B) markets, customers base decisions on predetermined measures and make them as a team. Business-to-consumer (B2C) decisions are mostly made by the individual end-user and tend to be more emotionally driven. A good marketing strategy should account for these differences by, for example, mapping out the decision-making unit of a typical business customer or the emotional drivers of a shopping decision. Engaging in customer research, such as one-on-one interviews and observation, should form part of a marketing planning process.

From strategy to communication plan

Once a review of the company, customer and competition is completed, a compelling marketing message should be defined. A strong message has several layers, namely:

  1. An attention-grabbing headline
  2. A benefit statement
  3. Proof points
  4. Call to Action

We prefer to consolidate the messaging into a dummy “magazine advert” to bring it to life in combination with visuals. This “ad” can form the foundation of a creative brief or outline for marketing suppliers, such as a digital agency. A communications plan can now be developed to promote the message in supporting the business objectives.