Back in the days, before CG Life, I was actually on the client side, heading up marketing for a specialty chemicals company. I know all too well the joys of managing creative and digital agencies, prioritizing random requests from the sales and executive management team, and trying to get the most out of my allocated budget. The reality is, the life of a marketing director is not easy. It involves constantly building consensus, adjusting and readjusting the marketing strategy plan, operating in a fluid environment, and meeting tight deadlines, every day. Oh, by the way, we’re also always justifying the marketing investment. It’s damn exhausting!
But there’s also the thrill of contributing to the bottom line. After all, marketing is an investment that should lead to sales. To partially quote John Hannibal Smith, “I loved it when a plan came together.”
Speaking of which……I always had a responsive plan. I built the plan knowing that things will change, and priorities will be shifted. And, I tried not to overthink it.
Critical Steps to Aligning Your Marketing Strategy With Goals
First, to level- set my approach, I went back to the basics. I did an audit of the current year plan. What was working? What wasn’t working? What were the outliers? Where can I assign a ROI? This gave me a baseline from which to work.
Second, I established realistic and quantifiable marketing strategy goals. The one issue most marketers have is not assigning real financial goals. Again, marketing is an investment, it needs to move the dial. Your plan, whether static or dynamic, needs to deliver a return. How else do you adjust your strategy and tactics for the following year?
Third, I did a lot of talking. The execution of the plan is dictated by a lot more people than those in sales and marketing. Often times, I got insights from product development and R&D team that put timing of product launches in greater perspective.
Fourth, I adjusted my strategy and tactics for conference, tradeshow and ad deadlines, ensuring there was marketing and business strategy alignment behind the reasons for every project we take on. I know this seems counter intuitive, but these hard deadlines were forcing me to think tactically, as opposed to strategically. I found that my plans were being dictated by external forces. I got so fixated at launching at tradeshows that I forget about the actual product; and ALL the other mediums available to me. Yes, there are other ways to “make a splash!” It’s true that marketing teams simply must consider deadlines, but the focus should be on capturing inflection points over living or dying by dates.
Fifth, I really got aligned with the sales function. I worked very hard to make sure that we were part of the same team. We went on sales calls and major business pitches. It was during these customer and prospect visits where I gained the most immediate feedback on any active campaigns and how to make a greater impact on our external marketing efforts.
What I learned and continue to learn, is that the marketing planning process doesn’t start in October and end in December. Sure, there are tactics such as media that need consideration early on. But true marketing planning shouldn’t ever stop. You are constantly collecting data points to help optimize the marketing spend to achieve business goals.
Marketing Strategy Planning Series
In the coming weeks, I hope you will join me for the blog series on creating your 2019 marketing strategy. We will touch on topics including key components of a marketing plan, goal setting and measuring success, defining core messages, core capabilities, (re)defining your target audiences, and more.