Marketing strategy and strategic planning have much in common, and when combined they have exceptional power to enhance the overall control and success of your business or organization.
We became enamored of this combination years ago after a financial institution hired us to do a comprehensive marketing plan. They were pleased with the results and asked us if we could take a similar approach to help them prepare a new strategic plan. This led us to undertake an intensive study of strategic planning as we discovered we had a real passion for the subject and the process.
We have also conducted an in-depth study of the success secrets of market-leading companies which we adapted into a Total Business Success System™ for small to mid-sized businesses and organization. Let’s explain how all this is related, and how you can use it to further your business goals and aspirations.
Here is the underlying logic:
- Every organization is composed of people (employees, associates, managers etc.) and things (offices, equipment, money etc.).
- Every organization engages in activities which are internal and external.
- Every organization has a focus or purpose (like making money or serving the public).
5 Key Success Factors
To maximize the success of your business, you need to manage all of these key success factors. In business terms, they can be combined into 5 major categories:
- Finances (“things,” money, offices, equipment)
- Operations (internal activities)
- Marketing (externally oriented activities)
- Strategy (focus, purpose, management, planning)
Now if you’ve done much reading of business books in recent years, you’ll notice the similarity of these success factors and those which were originally used by the authors of The Balanced Scorecard, Robert Kaplan and David Norton. But before then and since then many other consultants, authors and academics have explored this topic, each one using slightly different language. We have chosen 5 words that are simple, easy to remember, and backed by underlying logic as noted above.
So what does this have to do with combining marketing and strategic planning? We have found through years of experience with many different businesses and organizations that the best marketing strategy is developed in a strategic planning context that considers all 5 key success factors. You don’t have to probe each one in equal depth, but you do need to think about what’s working and not working in each case, what can be done better, and how all 5 are connected into a whole system.
We begin each client journey with a Strategic Marketing Analysis, which asks these important marketing strategy and strategic planing questions – usually in a half-day, mini-retreat group setting:
Marketing Strategy and Strategic Planing Questions
- IMPROVEMENT HISTORY—What steps or actions has your company taken in recent years to improve its success in the marketplace? This can be any type of planning, marketing or other external-oriented strategy designed to increase your success.
- HIERARCHY OF PURPOSES—What are you trying to accomplish moving forward? Start with the company as a whole, work down to include your marketing objectives, then what you want to achieve personally. For every purpose you give, ask yourself, “Why are we trying to do that?” This will get at other underlying purposes.
(The following are marketing strategy questions)
- PROCESSES AND PRODUCTS—What are the primary processes or activities which the company uses to create value for customers, including the main products or services you sell?
- CUSTOMERS—Divide your existing customers into the segments or groups which you commonly use to describe them, or which would be logical divisions. Describe the characteristics of each segment specifically enough that someone outside of the company can understand. Be specific enough that it’s also clear what groups you are not interested in.
- PROSPECTS—Describe the market segments which you would like to have as customers but do not have now. If the target market segments are the same as your customer market segments given already, clearly explain what is different about the prospects, and why they are not already customers, to the best of your knowledge.
- OTHERS – Are there any other groups of people who can or might influence your success that you want to communicate with as a part of this plan?
- CUSTOMER VALUE PACKAGE—Describe what your primary customers want from you in their own language. Try to use the words your customers would use themselves.
- DISTRIBUTION CHANNELS—Describe how and where your product or service is distributed or delivered to your customers. It may be your place of business, or you may have outlets all over the world, or you may have a network of distributors who are not part of your company but distribute your products for you, etc.
- PRICING – How do you price your services, and how does that compare to your competition?
- COMMUNICATIONS – What forms of communications and marketing have you tried in recent years, and what have the results been, positive and negative?
(The following questions constitute a strategic SWOT analysis)
- POSITIVE INTERNAL FACTORS—What are the company’s strengths or advantages from an internal standpoint? Do not include anything outside the walls of the company.
- NEGATIVE INTERNAL FACTORS—What are the company’s internal weaknesses or things which need to be improved? Do not include anything outside the walls of the company.
- POSITIVE EXTERNAL FACTORS—What are the company’s strengths, advantages or opportunities in the external marketplace? Consider customers, prospects, competition, the industry, the operating environment, technology, the global economy etc.
- NEGATIVE EXTERNAL FACTORS—What are the company’s weaknesses, disadvantages or threats in the external marketplace? Consider customers, prospects, competition, the industry, the operating environment, technology, the global economy etc.
(Back to marketing strategy)
- COMPETITIVE POSITIONING—How does the company want to be perceived in the marketplace versus your competitors? This has two dimensions:
a) Your desired image; use adjectives to describe the image you want.
b) The most positive statement you can make about your company which is literally true, so true that even your competitors would not disagree about the statement. Obviously something like “we’re the best” is too simplistic. Be very realistic.
(More strategic planning to wrap it up)
- CRITICAL ISSUES—Based on the information you have provided above and related facts, identify the issues which are critical to your success. An “issue” is something that is unresolved or undecided. If a critical issue goes one way you succeed, if it goes another way you do not succeed.
- VISION ELEMENTS—Describe the ideal future for your company, the way you would like it to be if your vision came true, 5-10 years from now.
- ROUGH GOALS—Identify some concrete, measurable goals which you would like your company to achieve in the next 1-2 years. Be very specific and realistic. List things which people will commit to, not “dreams or visions”.
- NEXT STEPS—What are the next steps you would like to take in the next 1-6 months to move you in the direction of your rough goals?
- IMMEDIATE ACTIONS – What are you going to do in the next few days to get this process moving? Who’s going to be responsible for what?
These 20 questions have proven to be highly productive with a wide range of businesses and organizations, from a few people to an entire multi-county area. They lead to strategic marketing plans that are highly effective at making a difference. Contact the Lawrimore team today to discuss your questions and needs or call us at 704-332-4344.