Strategic marketing planning process is a relatively new concept in a field that existed for over millennia.
One of the most basic—and successful—approaches to marketing is via trial and error. This is one of the better approaches if finance isn’t a factor and funds are abundant.
But let’s not forget one of the key tenants of project management: products, projects and objectives to deliver end results. Optimally, products should be delivered in the highest quality, with the most cost-efficient budget, and in the least time possible.
On paper, this is plausible. In reality, you can pick two of them most of the time.
You can have the product in high quality, delivered quickly – but it won’t be wallet-friendly. Or, you can deliver the product quickly and in a costly manner – but you’ll have to sacrifice that high quality. Finally, to have the best quality for a relatively good price, you’ll have to be patient to the point where the product could be deemed unfeasible.
Most managers are always struggling with one of these three elements.
What makes a good strategic marketing planning process? Before we answer that, here’s a brief refresher on the history of scientific marketing processes.
History of Marketing Planning in Companies
Marketing is the process of persuading the customer to purchase goods and services.
The process of marketing evolved into a sophisticated procedure. Nowadays, it’s a combination of science-tested techniques and creative, artistic approaches. These combinations ensure that the customer desires to buy the product, whether they know it or not.
Marketing planning and strategies are highly visible in today’s media. Marketing methods can be vividly clear and direct like TV ads. On the other hand, it can be subtle and indirect like product placement in shows.
But the real inception of modern marketing dates way back to the Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution marked the beginning of the paradigm shift in the mindset of communities in terms of economy and societal norms.
After the Industrial Revolution, societies shifted towards urbanization and a more industrious economy. Inventions such as railroads, electricity, telephones and others changed the shape of our lives.
At the dawn of the 20th century, the modern concepts of marketing started to take shape. The main reason for that is a new element in the business market: aggressive competition.
It’s tricky to try different methods for marketing in a cost-effective manner. Unplanned marketing can be very costly, especially over time, and may lead to undesired losses.
Companies began to develop marketing strategy techniques. Managers applied critical thinking in their planning processes when deciding their courses of action. These courses aim to minimize cost, take advantage of natural benefits and efficiently execute marketing tactics.
In short, managers aim to achieve their business goals in the most efficient and effective manner possible.
Risk comes with running a business, but with time-tested methods, risk can be minimal compared to the end result.
What is Strategic Marketing Planning Process?
Naturally, competition existed before the Industrial Revolution. Aggressive competition, on the other hand, was relatively new back then. Business owners and managers had to rely on alternate approaches to reach their end goals.
Managers would implement intuition, techniques, and sometimes even trial and error to market and promote their products in a competitive environment.
These methods and tactics became the root of what we know today as strategic marketing planning process.
A business has to be profitable to encourage the business owner to carry on with it. And a profitable business will prosper to encourage the customers to keep interacting with it.
Therefore, it’s natural for a strategic marketing planning process to aim for this end, directly and indirectly. Maximizing gain finds itself among the main goals of a strategic marketing planning process, especially in young businesses and startups.
A strategic marketing planning process is the journey of planning, implementing and adjusting tactics that distinguish the company from its competitors.
A solid strategic marketing planning process utilizes marketing concepts and business managements techniques, such as marketing mixes, critical thinking, markets research, etc. This ensures that the company’s products are reaching a wide range of customers, appealing to their demand. Sometimes it even creates a demand when needed, and in turn maximizes profits.
What Are the Seven Elements of Marketing?
Marketing mix, or once known as the 4p’s,is a mix of components of marketing for a brand or product. Seasoned marketers sometimes argue whether they are four or seven aspects forming the effective marketing mix.
The 7p’s consists of the classic four aspects besides the three additional contemporary aspects:
Pricing of the end product is one of the most vital elements in the marketing mix. A comprehensive strategic marketing planning process should consider the nature of the product:
Is it a Necessary or Luxury Product?
For basic products, the company may consider a cut on price in order to appeal to a larger demand. An attainable price means an appealing product. Usually, basic products’ sales surge and span for a long time in the product life cycle.
A proper pricing of the product allows the company to incur incremental gains in contrast to the high value of singular sales.
On the other hand, a luxurious product or service can maintain effective demand with a relatively high price. The scarce demand on such products makes it suitable to certain segments of the demand market. This makes the pricing strategy focus on less sales with higher values.
Sometimes, marketeers may need to mix and match with these different aspects to market for different models of the same product if needed.
For example, jewelry shops sustain themselves when it seems they are always empty. Usually, a one-time sale of luxury items provides a huge value sustaining the target revenue of the company.
Is the Product’s Demand High Enough to Raise the Price Without Impairing the Demand?
Sometimes, a product may maintain a high demand regardless of its level of luxury according to its price.
Return customers, and by extension return sales are valuable assets to any company. However, sometimes the merchandise could attain a higher value. The revenues that could happen in such a case are considered as a lost opportunity cost.
Marketeers, through strategic marketing planning process, assess the customer base purchase power. This makes the company benefit from the highest price possible without affecting the retention of customers.
A strategic marketing planning process considers the market segmentation, placement of the product and the reach and extensiveness of distribution. This happens through:
The company should always understand the nature of their customers and their positioning within society’s tiers.
Marketing for middle class differs from marketing to higher classes. The company must always understand the struggles their customer face on daily basis and how to adjust to it.
Placement of Products
Sometimes, the product can be perfect for the customer type but simply is in the wrong place. For example, you cannot market for jackets in countries with a high-temperature climate. The returns won’t be lucrative as it would be in countries with cooler climates.
Efficient and strategic placement of your products happen as a consecutive result of in-depth research. Thus, the company understands the nature of the customer and the general market.
A strategic marketing planning process can help analyze the type of distribution needed, whether intensive, exclusive, selective or franchise-based distribution.
Each type of distribution has special points of strength that distinguish it from the others:
Intensive distribution depends on saturating the market with the product through as many shops and outlets as possible.
The type of distribution aims to provide a wider frame for the customers to view the company’s products consistently on a daily basis everywhere.
Intensive distribution should be a part of the strategic marketing planning process if the product in question is of a high demand and a consumable product. This grants it the highest exposure possible and marketing that is adequate for such products, e.g., shampoos, soaps, soft drinks, etc.
Creating demand for these types of products is relatively easy compared to more long-term products.
Though it may seem paradoxical in naming, exclusive distribution can be effective in picking the right crowd.
Exclusive distribution is a distribution method wherein a business provides their products for sale via a certain exclusive retailer or store, granting them exclusive rights.
This strategy is prompt if the retailer’s marketing prowess is trusted. Thus, the process of advertising for the product is outsourced in a symbiotic relationship that benefits both parties, ultimately, benefiting the end customers.
A strategic marketing planning process may favor exclusive over intensive distribution if the product’s allotted budget for marketing is relatively less. Moreover, this marketing process promotes a more proficient, tailored customer service that may act as an additional incentive for the potential customers to buy the product.
Selective distribution is the fine tuning between intensive and exclusive distribution, begetting the best of both worlds.
This marketing technique focuses on more than one retailer. The only difference with exclusive distribution is that the process is strategically elected to certain retailers over others.
One of the benefits of this approach is that it still has wider exposure compared to exclusive distribution, yet considerably less costly than intensive distribution—mixing the best aspects of both marketing strategies.
This distribution method can be confused sometimes with exclusive distribution. To clear the mix up, it’s important to focus on what parties are created by a franchise agreement:
The franchiser is the business that wants to market their products. The business in this case looks for a qualified company that promises to promote, upkeep and improve the marketing process and sales of their products.
The franchisee in this case is the dedicated marketing agency or company that strives to maximize the exposure of the franchiser’s products.
The difference between franchise and selective distribution is that the earlier grants the franchisee rights and patents for the product, while the latter focuses on agency rather than partnership between both parties.
Additionally, the franchisee may pay an initial fee for the franchiser to gain the rights for the product, alongside following certain guidelines and rules provided by the franchiser.
The franchisee also can conduct business operations on behalf of the franchiser. It instills a sense of partnership rather than just agency or outsourcing.
On the other hand, in a selective distribution relationship, the agency retains its name and cannot conduct business operations in the name of the business marketing its products. The distributor merely charges for the products allocated for resale only.
A successful strategic marketing planning process must cover the aspect of placement of the product thoroughly. Most of the time, companies alternate between the different methods—sometimes on a yearly basis or based on renewable contracts. Marketing planning should account for the necessary changes should the need arise.
The product should be an ongoing and dynamic evolution tending to the customers’ needs, providing the services needed in a swift and prompt manner. This can be arranged through extensive, critical feedback from customers, thus upgrading the product when needed.
The promotion part of the marketing mix focuses on the used methods to advertise and market for the product. Whether through PR, magazines and newspaper ads, door-to-door sales, retail, etc., the marketing methods used—if not all—should be mixed according to the product’s nature.
Those are the main elements of a successful marketing mix. However, marketers worldwide agreed that the mix should be updated to keep up with marketing and trade evolution. The mix extended to include the other three p’s:
The people aspect in the marketing section focuses on making sure that the product is suitable to the people and treat the customer as human beings, rather than floating dollar signs. Also, it emphasizes employing the right people in the right place.
Certain individuals may excel in areas like back end tasks or organizing events rather than presentation and PR. While, on the other hand, other employees can be perfect in the aspect of delivery of the new product’s spirit and energy to the end customers in a manner that ensures the brand is everlasting with them.
It’s important to employ the right person at the right place and at the right time. Strategic marketing planning process trains marketing managers to have the proper assessment tools to scout for those people.
The processes aspect complements the relatively novel people aspect. The processes used in delivery of the final end product can be tweaked with.
Sometimes, the sale experience can be a patented experience itself and a part of the customer’s purchase as well.
7. Tangible Presence
Tangible presence is considered a physical presence of the brand and, thus, a telltale of the existence of the brand.
Tangible presence can be achieved in variable forms, whether in receipts designed to be of aesthetic value, souvenirs, or designed bags—which can contribute to the processes aspect of the marketing mix as well.
An example of tangible presence is gift bookmarks giveaways with purchased books.
What Are the Steps of Strategic Marketing Planning?
Like any planning process, the strategic marketing planning process consists of vital, consequent steps that lead to devising an effective and influential marketing strategy.
A proper strategic marketing planning process should start first with planning:
Planning is the essential inception of any planning process. It’s a broad and loose expression under which a multitude of functions and actions that shape the marketing plan and market approach exists.
Common actions and exercises that take place in the process of planning are as follows:
One of the common and basic exercises in which the ideas are flowing and bouncing within a large team—or even the entire company, as some companies’ practice in their marketing plan.
The goal of this exercise is to promote the creative ideas that could provide better and effective methods to address issues or overpass challenges.
There is a common image that is used in creative problems solving, wherein a ladder’s steps are made of knives. A detached mindset may approach the problem in a callous way, choosing to climb the ladder and enduring the pain.
However, another look on the ladder from some fresh perspective may lead to figuring out that the protruding handles are large enough to climb on whilst avoiding any injury.
On another note, someone may suggest that the ladder is flipped—if it’s light-weighted enough to be so—and to avoid or minimize the damage.
By applying this on a larger, diverse scale, this leads to various mindsets and mental states to approach the same problem and the team can pick up the most suitable and prompt solution towards the problem.
That’s why it’s preferred to brainstorm within a large number of people, the more, the merrier. Even though it’s possible for the marketing manager to brainstorm with a limited time of individuals if the issue is specific or technical to a certain field.
But it’s always better to utilize the multitude of approaches and diversity from different people’s mindsets.
Most individuals working in business and marketing are familiar of SWOT analysis. SWOT is an abbreviation for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. As a matter of fact, critical thinkers usually approach all dilemmas and challenges in such a mindset.
In order to devise an efficient plan, a strategic marketing planning process cannot do without a thorough, efficient SWOT analysis of the company’s current market share, financial status, and positioning within the market.
Strengths and weaknesses in this context are issues that stem internally from the company’s structure, management, customer base, etc. On the other hand, opportunities and threats are aspects that are evoked from external factors such as global economy, high rate of inflation, stock market changes and economic or political events that affect business and trade within the company’s spectrum of dealings.
Strength points are points of forte in the company. These merits are derived from the company internal structure or within its employees or affiliates.
For example, some enterprises may have a degree of monopolistic control over a natural resource or hold a patent for a high-quality, low-price product, thus allowing the company owning it a competitive advantage over other companies that have to struggle to avail such a product for higher cost.
These competitive edges formulate the company’s strength points. In accordance, a company’s strategic marketing planning process should account for these competitive advantages and employ them to counter any challenges or shortcomings.
Competitive advantages for companies, in terms of marketing and advertising, could be hosting a variety of products or harnessing a huge momentum on a certain product that trail blazes the market. The competitive advantage could be having a prodigy in a technical, financial, or marketing field within the rooster of the company.
There isn’t quite a definite set of rules that would shape how to assess a competitive advantage. Yet it’s safe to say that any point of strength within the company that would make an action—such as fundraising—abstractly easier—compared to a company without any advantages or disadvantages to consider.
Weakness points — as the name suggests — are aspects or facts in the company’s structure that invite challenges and shortcomings. As its counterpart, weakness points stem from the inner structure of the company.
Weakness points could be something like the depletion of a mine, a common fault in the production line, or any other factor that would be stemming from the challenges that the company faces within an intrinsic spectrum.
Opportunities are similar to points of strengths with the core difference between strengths and opportunities being that the first stems from the company’s intrinsic values whilst the opportunities stem from external factors.
An example showing what would be considered an opportunity is like, for example, a scenario wherein the government issues a legislation that subsides a raw material which is a part of the end product’s raw material mix.
Threats, naturally, are external factors that impair the company’s productivity and could hinder the process of production, financial growth, or any crucial aspect of the company.
Combining all the aspects of SWOT analysis and creative, out-of-the-box ideas through brainstorming sessions, the company is bound to tackle the main issues that would pose a challenge to the flow of the strategic marketing planning process.
Whether as individuals or organizations, sometimes we may fall into the trap of setting unrealistic goals. Realistic goals are essential for strategic marketing planning.
Not only does this waste resources, efforts and sometimes even precious funds, but the failure can be diminishing to the company’s morale and employees. It can even extend to impair the company’s image as well.
The strategic marketing planning process should be crafted in respect of at least the four p’s we discussed beforehand. It goes without question that extending the reach of the strategic marketing plan to span over the extended 3p’s is surely a bonus.
The strategic marketing goals should be designed to enhance and complement each of the marketing mix components:
Price Strategy Mix
A price strategy in a strategic marketing process focuses on the discounts, their range and the extent of the people eligible for them, the range of allowances or reductions, and credit benefits for long-term payments. The optimal price strategy makes sure that the product’s life cycle is extended as much as possible, maximizing the benefits from the products sale and exposure in the market.
Promotion Strategy Mix
The promotion strategy tier in the strategic marketing planning process focuses on the media tools that the company will use, the range and extent of utilization of media and the desired brand awareness goals.
The strategic marketing planning process should prioritize the most efficient media channels and distribution methods to ensure an effective exposure of the end product.
Product Strategy Mix
This focuses on the end product’s features. Design, packaging, delivery, customer service, and after-sales services – these are aspects that make it to the top of the product strategy’s agenda.
Placement Strategy Mix
Placement strategy is all about the localisation and the strategic placement of the products within the market regions and the desired and most optimal method of distribution for the product.
The strategic marketing process may address the mixes in phases, each phase providing a certain moveset that is building the foundation of it’s predecessor and testing the grounds of the market.
Once planning is adequately taken care off, the next step takes place: implementation.
The implementation step in the strategic marketing process counts as the operation actions that execute the marketing plan, focusing on the financial aspect of the marketing plan. The company’s management allot a marketing budget for the strategic marketing process which is used to fuel the process and delivering the marketing mixes properly.
Additionally, a chain of command is established to monitor the implementation and to ensure the plan is working smoothly.
Finally, when the marketing management is adamant that everything is in pieces and within acceptable parameters, the product is launched and the marketing process is kick started.
3. Evaluation, Control, and Adjustment
Control is a vital aspect in any strategic planning process. It’s no secret that the best laid plans often go awry. And though awry maybe a slight misstep that is insignificant, it can pile up and worsen if not taken care of.
Accordingly, a strategic marketing planning process should promptly account for adjustments and necessary changes post-launch of the marketing campaign to address any issues facing the company.
However solid the SWOT analysis, sometimes new, unexpected threats may surface. Natural disasters or unexpected political unrest can incite sudden market changes that—if not accounted for—may affect the company’s schemes badly.
On the other hand, should the chances avail additional opportunities, a strategic marketing process should do well to take advantage of them.
That is the why the control phase of the strategic marketing planning process is crucial, even if the initial kick off of the brand was a breakthrough.
What Are the End Goals of a Successful Strategic Marketing Planning Process?
In short, any business-related activity either aims directly or indirectly to maximize profit. This can be a series of meticulous processes and strategies woven together to implement this.
A successful strategic marketing planning process should enable the company to do the following:
1. Stand Away From Competitors
Marketing, especially branding, is all about making your company, and in extension, its products stand apart from other competitors. A successful marketing strategy should achieve this for the company, distinguishing it from others and make it retain its own personality amidst other brands.
2. Assess Your Company’s Positioning and How to Improve It
Positioning here has a duality to it: it specifies the company’s position in terms of market share and financial position and the brand’s position within the market.
It’s a common practice amongst marketeers to create the brand’s slogan after a strong positioning statement, establishing the points of strength that the company owns.
3. Give Insights about Marketing Segmentation
A strategic marketing planning process grants the company an in-depth insight about the market segmentation and whether the company is targeting it right. More importantly, a decent strategic marketing plan makes the company assess if the targeted segment is the right one.
4. Budget Accordingly
A solid marketing strategy gives management insights about the expected costs for a marketing campaign and how to cover for it. Naturally, this allows the management to allocate the appropriate budget for marketing, without over or under-doing it.
Some people would think that over-budgeting is a plus. But it affects overall efficiency for the company; the funding that is allocated for marketing could have been allocated to other departments in the company.
A strategic planning process will naturally help any company to face these challenges in a realistic, systematic manner and to account for all possible scenarios with the highest return possible.