The strategic marketing planning process is an integrated process of combining the mission and vision with organizational strategy and objectives. Traditionally, this process was straight forward with few developments. The internet added a whole new dimension, and some feel that there should be a different marketing plan – an E-Marketing plan – if you will, to devise the digital strategy of an organization. One question arises from this theory…
Why use a separate document for E-Marketing planning?
Strategic Marketing Planning
The strategic marketing planning process starts when an organization defines its mission statement. The mission statement acts as an invisible hand that guides decision making throughout the organization.
The next step is to conduct a situation analysis or a PEST (political, economic, social, technological) analysis.
O.C. Ferrell and Michael Hartline (2014) suggest that three environments must be considered when conducting a situation analysis. They include:
- The Internal Environment
- The Customer Environment
- The External Environment
The internal environment includes reviewing current objectives, strategy, performance, resources, organizational culture and structure. The customer environment includes current and potential customers, product purchase locations, product usage, word-of-mouth (WOM) about the products, and why some customers do not purchase the products. The external environment is the competition, economic conditions, political trends, legal and regulatory issues, technological advancements and sociocultural trends (Ferrell & Hartline, 2014, p. 55).
Peter and Donnelly (2013) divide the situation analysis into six catagories:
- Cooperative Environment
- Competitive Environment
- Economic Environment
- Social Environment
- Political Environment
- Legal Environment
A complete financial anlaysis – ratio analysis – should be conducted comparing the firm against its five nearest competitors. This is useful information that is not discussed in many textbooks, but should be included as part of the situation analysis.
The entire situation surrounding an organization must be analyzed and understood. In terms of digital marketing, this could include an SEO audit of the site and competitors sites. An audit of paid search and paid social media campaigns. A review of historical metrics such as conversion rate, keyword performance and bounce rates. Possibly even a keyword audit to understand current keyword targeting strategies.
Keep in mind that the competitors online, might be completely different than the competitors offline, and as such a thorough investigation should be conducted in both situations.
Strauss and Frost (2014) suggest reviewing the “offline” marketing plan before starting the “online” marketing plan. While this may work, I believe this to be an incorrect strategy. The digital strategy should be encompassed from the beginning of the strategic marketing planning process. There is no reason why off-line and on-line situations cannot be analyzed in tandem.
SWOT Analysis: How to use it effectively
The SWOT analysis stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This analysis is simple, yet very effective. After conducting the situation analysis, the SWOT analysis can be prepared. The strengths and weaknesses are internal to the firm, while opportunities and threats are external to the firm.
The goal with a SWOT analysis is to convert weaknesses into strengths, threats into opportunities, and to match strengths and opportunities. There is a larger discussion surrounding effective use of the SWOT analysis, but we’ll save that for another post.
Developing a Competitive Advantage
The output of the SWOT analysis should provide the organization with a clear picture of its competitive advantages, and enable it to identify a strategic focus. This is the point when the firm differentiates itself from its competitors and leverages its core strengths to elevate the business.
Marketing Goals and Objectives
Goals and objectives are simple, yet difficult for many. Many struggle because their goals are vague, unattainable or time frame is not laid out correctly. The best formula for goal formulation is to use the SMART acronym. SMART stands for specific, measureable, actionable, realistic and time specific.
Whether offline or online, goals and objectives must align to the organizations mission, and must be derived from the competitive advantage or strategic focus. A good one for an SEO will be to increase the rank of a digital property in the organic search by 50% in the next two months [insert specific date].
Segmentation, Targeting and Positioning
The company is now ready to define the market, decide who it will target and how it will position itself to achieve the goals and objectives. Segmentation is the practice of segmenting the market into groups. Some useful tools include the VALS framework and the PRIZM zip code look-up.
Once the market has been segmented, target markets can be selected to be the focus of marketing activities. Targeting strategies include single segment targeting, selective targeting, mass market targeting, product specialization and market specialization (Ferrell & Hartline, 2014). Companies will want to target segments that are profitable and align to the core strengths of the business.
Positioning is the “act of designing a companies offering and image to occupy a distinctive place in the minds of the target market” (Kotler & Keller, 2012, p. 276).
STP Marketing for the Internet
Organizations can use keyword research in conjunction with segmentation, targeting and positioning to focus on consumers using digital assets such as the company website and social media. Tools such as Google Analytics or Omniture allow for segmentation of website visitors which can be used together with offline tools to create a more clear picture of market segments.
The Marketing Mix
The marketing program – or marketing mix – consists traditionally of the four P’s
Gilligan and Wilson (2009) suggest the marketing mix has evolved and now consists of seven P’s. They include:
- Physical Evidence
- Process Management
The marketing program is how the company executes. It is what the product or service is, how much it will cost, how it will be delivered to the end user, how the product/brand/features/benefits/uses will be communicated to or with the consumer. It also focuses on the people and processes implemented by the organization to ensure the mission is executed internally by all stakeholders.
In terms of digital marketing, the SEO, PPC, Social Media, Email, and Content tactics will fall under the promotion part of the mix. If the site is using e-commerce, this will fall under the place mix. Pricing might be adjusted for online vs. offline strategies; this should be reflected in the pricing mix. Again, there is no reason why both traditional and digital strategies cannot be encapsulated into the same plan.
The budget can be decided using a number of methods. Many of which extend beyond the focus of this post. Regardless, the financial numbers will come from financial forecasts based off the strategy devised. Advertising expenditure, capital investments, expansions, R&D, all these items must be accounted for in the budget. The budget will be used to measure the financial health as the plan is executed.
Implement, Monitor & Control
The strategic marketing plan must be executed with precision by all team members, in all divisions, at all levels…etc. It is important to conduct regular reviews [quarterly], to determine whether the plan is meeting goals, or whether adjustments need to be made to right the ship. If the execution is failing, or the plan is not achieving what it was designed to do, it’s important to increase the frequency of meetings to ensure proper attention is given to the plan and corrections can be made to prevent failure.
The line between offline and online marketing is almost non-existent. The thought of segregating the e-marketing plan from the marketing plan is just wrong. As companies continue to execute on all cylinders, their strategic marketing plans must reflect their intentions on all platforms. Having two documents only complicates the process of execution, monitoring and controlling. While some believe each are separate entities, I must respectfully disagree and suggest that integrating all marketing and strategy activities into one living document is the appropriate sequence of operations.
Gilligan, C., & Wilson, R. M.S. (2009). Strategic Marketing Planning (2nd ed.).
Burlington, UK: Butterworth-Heinemann.
Ferrell, O. C., & Hartline, M. D. (2014). Marketing Strategy (6th ed.). Mason,
OH: South-Western Cengage.
Kotler, P., & Keller, K. L. (2012). Marketing Management (14th ed.). Upper
Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Peter, J. P., & Donnelly, J. H., Jr. (2013). A Preface to Marketing Management
(13th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Irwin.
Strauss, J., & Frost, R. (2014). E-Marketing (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: