The Connections Between a Strategic Plan and a Marketing Plan

by Jeff Sears
Are you creating a long-term strategic plan or marketing plan this year? We explain the differences between them, which plan should come first, and how an outside facilitator can help you maximize your efforts.
As our VP for strategic marketing, I’m often asked to explain what I do. I respond, “I help companies find the best approaches (or strategies) to reach their goals.” Most of the time, those efforts are within the marketing realm. But one thing that sets Meld apart is our business consultation services. This includes strategic planning facilitation, change management consultation, and other valuable services. Most agencies don’t delve into those areas, but they’re important for ensuring business success.

Meld starts all projects with discovery. During our discovery process, we ask for background information, guiding documents, and other resources to help us get up to speed on your business. One of the items we will likely ask for is your strategic plan, along with your current business plan and annual goals. If you have one, we’ll also ask for your most recent marketing plan. 

Which Plan is Which?

A strategic plan is a guiding document focused on the future of the business or organization. It includes prioritized strategic focuses your organization wants to achieve within a time frame. Each strategic focus includes different initiatives (tactics) that will contribute to the strategy. Other content captured can include initiative ownership, timelines, tactical integration, and progress tracking. The strategic plan helps us understand the long-term goals—ultimately where you want to be in three to five years.

Business planning for the year may also generate operational and financial goals that connect up to the larger strategic plan. These are typically short-term based (annual goals), but they should contribute toward the strategic goals. While your partner agencies may serve as a participants in this process, this is typically internally focused and led.

A marketing plan looks at how marketing can help support both the company’s short-term and long-term goals. We need to know what you are trying to do immediately, but also your higher-level plan. This allows all of your marketing efforts to be more focused, strategic, and aligned with what you are trying to achieve.

So which comes first? The ideal order would be:

  • Strategic planning (long-term vision)
  • Business planning (goals for the year)
  • Marketing planning (to support both the strategic plan and business goals for the year)

So, Where Does Meld Come In?

We can serve as an outside expert to help your business or organization prepare your strategic or marketing plans. An external facilitator allows all of your staff, volunteers, and other stakeholders to be equally and actively engaged. 

1. We can facilitate your strategic planning process. 

We have experience helping both large and small companies and organizations generate their strategic plans. This is an inclusive and established process that sets the vision for the future and how the group plans to get there. The organization’s team members (and sometimes volunteers) are responsible for enacting the plan and reporting on progress.

2. We can partner with you to generate a marketing plan (or build one for you). 

A well-developed marketing plan should be your playbook for the year’s marketing efforts. From the insights gathered and goals determined in the strategic plan, we identify how marketing can best support those goals. This includes key marketing focuses, relevant tactics and channels, building a calendar, and marketing budgets for the upcoming year. We also help mitigate potential risks that may occur and identify ways to measure success. 

3. We can help you execute your marketing plan. 

You may have staff or volunteers who are more than capable of supporting specific tactics from the marketing plan. Partnering with an agency provides greater access to a wide range of skill sets and best practices. We can help plan and execute your tactics, or even provide audits of your efforts. Combining your industry knowledge and our marketing expertise, you will have the best chance of being successful.

4. We can help you monitor and measure your progress. 

Whether you choose to execute the plan on your own or want us to partner for execution, measurement is essential. When we identify your key performance indicators (KPIs), we build in a measurement plan. This allows you to see if you are on track to meet your goals for the year. We recommend meeting quarterly to review your progress, analyze results, and discuss challenges. We also help you ideate solutions and provide recommendations to improve. 

5. We can help you collect and analyze end-of-year metrics.

You should always start next year’s marketing planning by reviewing the results of your previous year’s efforts. Poet Maya Angelou once said, “I have great respect for the past. If you don’t know where you’ve come from, you don’t know where you’re going.”

When you begin building your next marketing plan, it’s essential to look at how your past tactics performed. Otherwise you might plan to use the same tactics that didn’t generate the results you expected. Or you might not focus future budget or efforts where you saw the greatest response. 

What’s Your Plan?

If you’re looking to build both a long-term strategic plan and a marketing plan this year, it’s valuable to have a consistent, third-party partner who can maximize both efforts. Check out our previous blog post on marketing plan mistakes so you know what to avoid and our multi-post series on building a marketing plan. Then reach out and let’s discuss how Meld can help you build your plans!

 

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