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Think you don’t need a written marketing strategy? Think again.

The Content Marketing Institute puts out an annual study, revealing that only 32% of companies surveyed actually have a written content marketing strategy. 20% have either no written marketing document or are not sure if one exists. (Note: If you don’t know if you have a marketing strategy, you probably don’t.)

What I found most surprising is that 48% of the survey pool claimed that they have a marketing strategy, but it’s “not documented.” This number is unchanged since last year.

Humphrey Bogart Treasure of the Sierra MadreSo, I guess that one of two things is happening:

1 – Chris from marketing has this great memory for what worked in the past and continues to keep all the plates spinning in the air. Plan? She don’t need no stinkin’ plan. (Bonus points if you know I sort of cadged this line from Treasure of the Sierra Madre…but I digress). Better hope that Chris doesn’t leave (or get hit by a bus) because your entire marketing plan is locked in her head.

2 – Chris from marketing responds to all the requests from whatever departments want her attention and she just throws out random blog posts, Tweets, LinkedIn posts, and whatever else comes her way. This means that Chris is in perpetual motion – but probably not moving forward.

Neither way makes much sense.

Sure – some people who think Chris is a genius and you shouldn’t interfere with a system that “works.” Keep Chris safe and happy. If she walks out the door, your marketing goes with her.

And people who don’t like plans say that not having a plan leaves Chris free to react to the market and hit on hot, trending topics and new apps without all that planning getting in the way. Sometimes she hits, and sometimes she misses…but who would know because no one is keeping track.

Why should I have a plan? Our marketing is working.

Is it? How would you know?

Guessing that your audience is on Facebook rather than Pinterest isn’t a solid strategy. Thinking that you want to drive traffic to your blog with posts…is that the best way to reach your audience?

Ready to create a plan?

Let’s look at a broad plan that will get you started. You can iterate and refine as you understand better what works.

Step One: Where are you now?

Your first stop on the way to a marketing plan is to do a full overview of where you are right now. Write a short analysis with your focus on what is working – and what is not working.

  • What are your company strengths and weaknesses?
  • What is opportunities are coming up?
  • What does your company do best?
  • Who are your customers? Why do they buy?
  • Is your product marketing expanding or stable?
  • Who are your competitors?
  • Are there threats to your company, industry, or product?

Step Two: Define your audience

Next step is to understand your customer.

  • Who is your current buyer?
  • Why do they buy from you?
  • How do they buy from you? Seasonally, monthly, one-time?
  • Who is NOT buying from you? Why?

Step Three: What are your goals?

  • What are your 30-day, 90-day, 6 month, and 1 year goals.
  • How will you measure if you meet the goals?
  • Are all departments on board with how the plan will be implemented?

Step Four: What is your budget?

  • What can you handle internally and what will you need to hire out?
  • Can you allocate a percent of sales to marketing?
  • If you don’t have much of a budget. what are some low-cost alternatives?

Step Five: How will you implement this plan?

  • Who is responsible for what?
  • Do you need to focus on customer acquisition or general marketing awareness?
  • What is the timeline?
  • How are you handling cold and warm prospects?

Step Six: Are all your assets ready to go?

  • What is your social media plan? What platforms reach your ideal customer? Go deep into a couple of platforms rather than scatter your efforts everywhere.
  • What is your email plan? Do you have a email sales funnel to warm up leads? Are you segmenting your list to deliver relevant messages?
  • Is your website up to date? Is it mobile-friendly? About 1/3 of all traffic is coming from mobile – and that number is increasing every year.
  • Are your marketing materials – both physical and digital – updated? Do they match the look and feel of all your other assets?

Step Seven: Automation

  • Here is where the magic happens. By employing smart email funnels and social bots, you can ramp up the engagement cycle.
  • Does your email funnel segment your list so you are delivering the right content to the right audience? Are you moving them along the sales cycle?
  • Are you using social messaging bots to engage clients immediately? Have you set up effective logic so that the audience self-segments?
  • Are you testing and tweaking the funnels and sequences?

Creating a plan is the foundation for your marketing.

Without a plan, Chris is still spinning those plates and putting out fires instead of aligning your marketing with your sales goals. Take the time to plan, enlist the help of not only your sales department, but other customer-forward departments.

In the end, understand that EVERYONE who works at the company needs to be invested in marketing.

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