Effective marketing begins with research and planning that ultimately result in a strategic marketing plan. Research includes a deep-dive into your firm as it exists today to understand how the firm is currently positioned, how clients and prospects view the firm, and which portions of your marketing efforts are working today. Competitive research is also an important step. Those firms you considered your primary competitors just two or three years ago may no longer be the biggest threat. Surveys and focus groups can provide valuable insight regarding current client opinions and market perceptions.
Once the results of the research have been analyzed, it’s planning time. What are your goals? Where do you want your firm to be in a year? Two? Five? Does the research show you are on-track? Does the market support your plans? The planning stage compares your goals to the results of the research and works toward integrating the two into a strategic marketing plan.
The overall strategic plan is supported by sub-plans for each functional area. The strategic marketing plan will define how the marketing department will support the overall plan and aid in accomplishing the stated goals. These sub-plans cannot be created in silos, but rather all departments must coordinate their efforts to ensure the plans are integrated and working toward the same end. The strategic marketing plan should include the following:
- Clearly defined target market(s)
- Detailed action items to accomplish the stated goals
- Budget information
- Responsibilities and due dates
- Measurement plans
Your strategic marketing plan should be a working document – one that is used and not filed away. If you have clearly defined goals, an action plan to meet those goals and a defined budget, you will be less likely to make impulsive decisions or follow paths that will draw you away from goal conversion.