Effective strategy, be it marketing related or otherwise, is what really sets one company apart from another. I’m not really saying that every successful company plans and implements better strategy; in some cases strategy just happens because a market and a product find each other and grow organically.
However, small businesses that understand the power of an overarching marketing strategy, filtered and infused in every tactical process, will usually enjoy greater success.
The problem with strategy however, is that most people don’t really know what it is or, if they do, hobble its effectiveness by viewing its creation as something of a linear event – hold a planning retreat, decide on everything in a vacuum, report back next year.
I don’t think strategy works well like that. Strategy planning is an essential first step, but at best it’s guesswork. You’re obligated to do it to get the ball rolling, but not as some sort of final destination to act rigidly against. The value of a marketing plan and strategy comes into focus through the process of planning coupled with real-world analysis and a willingness to shift your thinking as you go.
Strategy is more circular than most people view it. In fact, the upward spiral might actually be the best metaphor.
In my experience there are about seven steps in the ongoing planning and execution of a marketing strategy. When effectively viewed as a tool, these steps are never done, they are just waiting around for the next cycle. These cycles happen for one reason primarily – the market tells you the answer.
That answer can come in the form of growth, an opportunity to seize, or even an economic downturn. Either way, the circular motion needs to stay intact.
I believe business owners need to continuously monitor these seven elements of the marketing strategy circle.
Who – Are you attracting the ideal customer and can you more narrowly define who that is?
What – Do you have a clear core point of differentiation? What is it and how are you communicating it?
The Plan – What action steps do you need to take today and tomorrow to bring your marketing strategy to life? What goals have your set for success of the strategy?
Execute – Are you executing against the plan?
Measure – What indicators need to be tracked and captured to allow you to determine your success?
Analyze – How will you analyze the data you collect to determine if you are on course, need to make alterations, or even move towards a new opportunity?
Shift – How will you change course? How will you start the cycle over again?
Holding the guess, test, and realign state of mind when it comes to marketing strategy is the one of the surest ways to successfully tap the power of effective growth by way of planning.