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marketing plan

Creating A Strategic Marketing Plan

By Christopher Hosford on August 05, 2021

You want your business to be a success. You’ve already thought about key tactics to help gain new business and retain the business you already have—things like good website design, email blasts, social media posts, and so on. But have you stepped back a bit, and taken the time to examine the overarching strategies that will give these tactics the punch they require?

Strategic planning is the process of gaining insights into your market. What are the trends that can affect your marketing? How have you coped with those trends internally to meet them head-on? And what is your true market potential, in particular given an increasingly competitive landscape?

Here we’ll take a brief look at the tools and resources you can use to develop a sound strategic plan, one that will establish a base for refocusing the tactics that can be most successful.

External forces and your strategic plan

Let’s first take a look at external forces that can have a big impact on how your strategic plan is developing. For one, the economic situation in the U.S. is ever in flux, but currently is enjoying growth as we emerge from the pandemic. You’ll want to keep a close eye on news sources such as the Commerce Department, reporting that the economy grew at an annual rate of 6.4% between January and March 2021. This could very likely be a good time to include an aggressive agenda in your strategic plan to take advantage of economic growth nationally.

But all areas of the country are not the same. You’ll want to access sources of economic conditions in the areas you do business in, such as the data offered by the University of Wisconsin. If your key geographic market areas are economically stagnant, your strategic plan may well include a concerted effort to find new markets. By the same token, if your research reveals new geographic areas that are really booming—you can glean this information from local economic development organizations—your plan may include a big marketing push in those areas if the scope of your business will permit it.

Technology and marketing shifts

Another external issue is technology. You’re already ahead of the game in using Canon’s powerful digital ink jet technology. Whether it’s cost, print accuracy, quick turnarounds or the wide variety of surfaces on which you can print, digital is where it’s at today. Along with the strong economy, the global digital printing market size is also growing, valued at $25.7 billion in 2019, but projected to reach $35.7 billion by 2028.

Keep an eye on these trends. Whatever other technologies you’re currently using as a print service provider, your strategic plan may well include doubling down on the digital printing revolution.

Another thing the digital revolution has shaken up is how your audiences use print in the first place. Your strategic plan must recognize that the heritage of your customers’ print needs must connect them with the digital world in which they do business. There are multiple insights that offer insights on how to do this, including creating augmented reality experiences with print; driving digital engagement through print, and vice versa; and integrating physical and virtual interactions with your brand.

And consider this: When direct mail is paired with digital ads, conversion rates are 28% higher, according to a Data & Marketing Association report. These days, your strategic plan must include a commitment to linking print with digital on behalf of your customers. Seek out other ideas about print-digital convergence—don’t be afraid to search the internet with other similar keywords—and match these ideas to your clients’ needs.

Be mindful of internal conditions

In structuring your strategic marketing plan, consider what’s happening inside your four (or more) walls. Here I’d like to talk about people, a k a your marketing operations team. Who are the folks who can manage or implement the key marketing elements to sustain and grow your business? They may be employees or contracted from outside, but if you don’t have your marketing team sorted out your strategic plan may be crippled from the start.

For your strategic plan, focus on just three internal functions: 1) a highly creative thinker and writer; 2) someone who can analyze key customer data; and 3) a person who can handle your essential digital technology.

  • Your ultimate marketing tactics will rely on creative “juice,” that is, developing compelling content that attracts attention and business. Find a team member who can speak intelligently and enthusiastically about great case studies to disseminate on social media, and who can write fun and educational blogs about things your customers need to know.
  • Identify the person who understands customer data and how it supports marketing. This person uses data to discern why people buy what they buy, what messages they respond to and the types of companies (versus others) that should be your primary targets.
  • Get a guy or gal who can determine which tech platforms to invest in, and (just as importantly) who can use them effectively to support your marketing. Technology research company CabinetM notes there are thousands of platforms out there, and this savvy employee can sort them out for you.

Find your ideal market size

You may be small, you may be big or you may be somewhat in between. Your strategic marketing plan must encompass your geographic market size and your total market potential for serving it.

For your strategic plan, first acknowledge your geo areas that already experience performance success. Look outside the printing industry to understand how other verticals are doing this. You can’t serve everyone everywhere. Focus on your market geographic area, not just where you’d like to sell to, but where you can actually deliver.

  • Who are you current customers? Wherever your existing customers are, theres also a concentration of other potential customers.
  • Follow your inquires. This will define your geographical areas where companies have an interest in printed products.
  • Locate non-customers. Identify areas with companies that have the attributes of your current customers but who dont yet buy from you. That’s called look-alike prospects, those possible customers who have the same characteristics of your current best customers.

What’s the other guy doing?

Any strategic plan that doesn’t take into account those you’re competing again is bound to fail. Examine the number of competitors on a local and, if relevant, national scale. Study their strategies and operations. Your analysis should supply a clear picture of potential threats, opportunities and the weaknesses and strengths of the competition that are eying your new business prospects.

When looking at the competition try to see what trends have been established in the industry and whether theres an opportunity or advantage for your business. Use the internet and other secondary research sources to research competitors. One of the best websites for researching the competition is Hoovers Online, which for a fee provides in-depth profiles of more than 85 million companies.  There's also free content available, plus you can sign up for a free trial subscription.

If you complete most of these steps in filling out your strategic marketing plan, youll be well prepared for what comes next: setting your marketing objectives and measurable goals.

Want to learn more? Register for the thINK Academy marketing course.