Objective, strategy, plan, implement – in that order

October 2014

The last 6 months or has seen me working on an especially diverse mix of marketing projects, with these including products such as smoked salmon, industrial sliding gates, street furniture, beef jerky, kitchens, bathrooms, bird food, holiday cottage rentals and industrial supplies. I’ve also worked on an especially interesting project which has essentially been to support another consultancy business which is helping independent high street retailers to embrace our digital age.

Given this mix of products and services and in both B2C and B2B markets, there hasn’t been too many things to link them together. But there has been one: the need to work through a logical order of objective, strategy, plan and implementation. And if that seems obvious to you, then, in my experience, you’re in the minority. What’s more, there seems to be a modern-day tendency to confuse a strategy with a plan, and indeed the two words are often seen as interchangeable.

So here’s my simple take on things…

1. Objective

This isn’t a marketing objective, it’s a business objective. So let’s pick an obvious one – ‘increase sales’.

2. Strategy

The marketing strategy to increase sales could involve a host of different things, but it isn’t about listing actions – that’s the next bit. Typically, a well thought-through marketing strategy will be no more than a sentence or two, and for our objective here it might be: ‘Based on new consumer research, increase the level of market segmentation and with clear product alignment.’ So what that basically means is that if you conducted market research which revealed relatively distinct consumer groups for your product category (based on factors such as gender, age, location and socioeconomic classification) then target these differently and with specific product brands.

3. Plan

The marketing plan is entirely driven by the strategy, and sticking with our example the sort of plan you might end up with could include improved search engine optimisation (and this based on key phrase research and analysis to determine what the different market segments were searching for online), a PPC (pay per click) campaign to help dominate search results (so along with the SEO effort), traditional magazine advertising but very targeted (so a magazine you know one of your segments reads), plus PR, social media, radio or whatever. The important thing is that the tools you pick are a) appropriate to delivering the strategy, b) fully integrated (e.g. hear the radio ad, go to the Facebook page and see the same message, click through to the website for all the info) , and c) represent the best value for money for your available spend.

4. Implementation

This one is pretty obvious, but a fundamental question to ask and especially if you’re an SME, is what do you handle in-house and what do you contract out.

Obviously I’ve simplified the story to make the point, but actually the principle itself is a simple one and if you follow it then you can’t go far wrong.

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