ABCs of Creating a Strategic Marketing Communications Plan

A lot of brands do things out of order when it comes to their marketing communications. They will often choose a direction – like social media marketing, for example – instead of taking a step back, looking at their brand holistically and then planning a strategy for moving forward. For each of my clients at our integrated marketing agency in Scottsdale, I recommend creating a strategic marketing communications plan. Here is how that’s accomplished.

A, B, C, D, E, F, G …

Before you can begin the process of creating a strategic marketing communications plan, you have to take a step back and ask yourself if the product/service (P/S) you’re offering is even worth the effort. When we’re in the thick of things with a brand we’re passionate about, sometimes we forget that the things that matter to us don’t always matter to others.

In school, we were taught an alphabet soup of 4s to help us answer this question:

A compilation of frameworks for marketing communications.
Image Credit: compilation by the author of frameworks from McCarthy (1960), Lauterborn (1990), and Fetherstonhaugh (mid 2000’s).

Each of these letter groups presents a framework for deciding what is best when it comes to marketing. But they all boil down to one single thought — is there a worthy need for the P/S you offer?

Worthy Needs

To be a “worthy” need, we must be able to (objectively) answer the question, “Why should the customer care?” Are you providing something of inherent value? In asking yourself this question, you may find that your brand offers a solution only to a perceived need, or presents a solution looking for a need. If you don’t solve an actual, pressing need for a significant group of people, then selling your P/S will be an uphill battle.

Once you have determined that your P/S solves a worthy need, then, and only then, can you start creating your strategic marketing plan.

Three Hats

To develop a strategic marketing communications plan, you need to have an in-depth understanding of both your industry and your brand. To do this, you must put on the following, three hats:

  • Historian: What has happened in your industry/brand in the last 1-3 years?
  • Current Events Analyst: What is going on right now? Be sure to include any information you can gather on market share and opportunity size.
  • Fortune Teller: What is expected to happen in the next 1-3 years?

All of this information informs your narrative as you write a Situation Analysis, which provides a quick snapshot of past and present state of the industry and company. This snapshot enables you to:

  • Communicate the market landscape with C-suite executives
  • Define your “why” in the path you’re going to take with your marketing communications

Benchmarks of Success

Once we have the lay of the land, it’s time to look to the future, beginning with your brand’s overall business objectives. Business objectives can take many shapes. Although most are defined by revenue goals, they may include other things, including:

  • Expand geography
  • Introduce a new product/service
  • Increase customer count
  • Customer retention
  • Break into a new channel

These objectives help marketers know when they have achieved success. Oftentimes when relationships between clients and their marketing teams go sour, it’s because they didn’t clearly define their business objectives and benchmarks for success.

Set Those Goals

With your industry understanding and business objectives in place, you now effectively determine your marketing goals. These goals generally fall in one of three categories:

  • Create awareness: Let your audience know who you are and what you have to offer
  • Obtain trial: Secure first-time sales
  • Repeat purchase: Create loyal customers

Define Target Audiences

The more you can hone in on your core audience, the more targeted you can be when you implement marketing tactics. For example, if you’re doing a paid social campaign on Facebook, you can target people with specific demographic info, like their age, interests and the type of phone they use. The more info you know about your target audience, the more likely it is that you will choose the right marketing strategies for reaching them.

Show Us the Money

With so many ways to reach people these days, it’s easy to get carried away with visions of grandeur with our marketing strategies and tactics. That’s where the budget comes into play. Knowing how much money you have to work with saves a lot of time and effort in selecting viable strategies moving forward. Unfortunately, many clients don’t provide their budgets (or know what they should be) at this stage in the game.

A general rule of thumb for a solid marketing budget is five percent of a brand’s total revenue to maintain top-of-mind awareness and market share. If you’re looking to launch a new product/service or grow market share, generally a minimum of ten percent is reserved for marketing communications.

Staying on Track

With all of the research and context above, you now have all the information in place for your marketing team to create a strategic plan. So, we can dust our hands off and call it a day, right?
To make sure your marketing plan gains traction, develop a timeline to help you stay on track. Typically, a timeline overview is sufficient for the plan approval process, but once you have the green light, develop a detailed timeline with specific dates for each tactic to ensure you keep moving forward.

Let Us Help

Whew, sounds like a lot, right? But there’s no need to stress – that’s what we are here for. Contact us today to get started on your strategic marketing communications plan!