By Kristin Golliher, WildRock PR & Marketing Founder and CEO
Marketers wear many hats—perhaps it’s their knack for efficiency that draws more and more to their plate. Or the fact that everything in an organization typically needs a marketer’s touch. Like the drawer in your kitchen that’s expected to organize all loose ends, marketers often find themselves overwhelmed. They’re stuck in the tactical mode of just checking things off the list. When buried under fast and furious deadlines, it can feel impossible to take time for marketing strategy development. Additionally, your team may not be wired to think strategically. Whether you pause as a team to plan or enlist outside strategic support, building a calculated and cohesive plan that gets your team out of the tactics and thinking bigger picture will yield the best return on your marketing investment.
Why Build a Communications Plan and Drive Marketing Strategy Development?
For even the most strategic marketers it’s easy to fall into tactics quickly. Things just need to be done – like posting on social media, for example, or sending a press release. Instead of viewing tasks as a chore to check off, each marketing activity should be carefully selected as a strategic tool to meet your larger organizational goals. Whether you are the head of your company or department, or an intern starting your first career in marketing, it’s important to first understand why marketing strategy development and communication plans are critical.
YOU CAN DO MORE WITH LESS
With a well-crafted strategy, you and your team can achieve more results with the same or less effort and budget. While it may sound counterintuitive, here’s a real-world example, a client we were working with was sending multiple emails per week to their database. This resulted in tons of unsubscribes, low click-through rates and a mountain of work in production with content and assets for their team. We recommended a relational-focused approach. What means more to a consumer – a barrage of messages or a meaningful interaction that leaves a lasting impression? The result? Fewer but more targeted emails, less work for the marketing team and stellar KPIs.
With a strategic marketing and communications plan that aims to authentically connect with your target audience, you can accomplish more with less activity. There is no gold medal for being “busy”. Heed this advice — doing fewer things but doing them well is step one to being more strategic. As you look at marketing efforts for the upcoming year, what is moving the needle? What excess effort can be cut so you and your team can accomplish more with less?
MARKETING STRATEGY DEVELOPMENT MAKES TIME FOR THE RIGHT THINGS
Time is a currency and a well-thought-out marketing strategy lets you budget your efforts and dollars more effectively. Truth serum – developing a strategy is time-consuming but taking the time to develop a strategic plan can actually save you time (and money) in the long run.
If your team is more tactical, then a lot of their energy is likely going to the wrong things. It doesn’t mean they are doing poor work. However, If energy is used on creativity that doesn’t move the needle for your organization, then there is no energy for the right things such as driving revenue and landing new customers.
It’s important to note that a strategic marketing and communications plan cannot live in a business strategy. Period. There are too many details and nuances that a higher-level plan cannot capture. What a successful marketing and communications plan needs to do, however, is complement that business strategy. When done correctly, it illuminates activities that create the most return on your investment (ROI) and company-wide results.
As you look at this upcoming year, evaluate all your marketing activities. Better yet, look at the hours required to accomplish them. What may have worked five years ago, may not continue to work this year. Gaining visibility for you and your team is incredibly helpful to shine a light on what matters.
STRATEGIC MARKETING UNIFIES YOUR TEAM
Marketing strategy development builds a framework to:
- Align your team, moving everyone in the same direction toward a singular goal. If everyone runs in a different direction, even great execution won’t yield substantial results. But with a coordinated effort on an agreed-upon roadmap, momentum to reach goals builds exponentially.
- Remove duplication of efforts, providing transparency across team members. Delineate roles and responsibilities according to each team member’s strengths and bandwidth. With a cohesive strategy and clear roles and responsibilities, your team’s efforts are maximized.
- Provide a litmus test for team members to know what’s a priority and what is not. What might be a passion project for your direct report may not be moving the needle on your brand. This is a tough conversation, but once your team members see the value of their efforts and how they can contribute, they quickly learn how to manage themselves more effectively, self-correcting when a task doesn’t fall into strategic priorities. This removes you as a constant micromanager because nobody likes that.
- Build non-defensive accountability. Does your team react with defensiveness during moments of accountability? Or perhaps you avoid correcting one another altogether? A strategic marketing and communications plan allows everyone to agree on a goal, strategy and execution before work begins. This provides your team with non-emotional and objective accountability to adjust and stay on course.
How to Tell if Your Team is Strategic
So, we’ve talked about why marketing strategy development is important but you’re probably still wondering why some team members shine at tactical execution and others eat, think and sleep vision and strategy. Perhaps you’re somewhere in the middle. The truth is—you can’t succeed without both. We need all these gifts in the room!
Knowing yourself is a valuable tool so you can establish mutual language with your direct reports or supervisors. Take an honest look at your relationship to the following items remembering there is no correct answer and responses will fall on a continuum. The more honest you are, the more you will enjoy the work assigned to you as a result!
- Risk & Uncertainty: Do new possibilities excite you, or do you thrive in the predictability of routine? Does the idea of risk leave you ready to jump or with sweaty palms?
- Moving Pieces: Does juggling multiple variables energize you, or does a laser focus leave you feeling accomplished?
- Thinking Process: Do you bring linear and methodical thinking to your team? Or do you enjoy long leaps in ideas and thought?
- Opportunity: Do you mostly see all the work a new opportunity will require? Or does opportunity bring excitement at new possibilities?
It should be clear where you fall after reflecting on these questions. If your team trends towards the tactical (less risk-averse, likes moving task to task, is more methodical, etc.), it’s important to remember you can’t make chasm leaps like “go be strategic!”. Rather, you’ll need to bring them along in your thinking. A term I love is “paint the vision,” where you very clearly communicate the goal and expectations so they can see where you are headed and can help execute for you.
We have found success in working with teams of all aspects – with our strategic and visionary leaders, for example, we help focus the dreams and take execution off their plates. With leaders who fall somewhere in between, we support the planning process to generate strategic thinking and point teams in the right direction.
Now It’s Time to Plan
IT’S A RISK TO NOT TAKE A RISK
While it can feel safe to continue with the status quo and check things off the list, your marketing team might miss opportunities for growth by continuing with the tactics without the development of marketing strategies. A rock-climbing instructor once said, “I would rather have the illusion of danger than the illusion of safety.”
Embarking on the strategic planning process can feel a bit like dangling securely in a harness on the edge of a cliff. It might feel precarious, but in reality, your organization will climb to new heights of success, clarity and direction with a strategy in place.
MARKETING STRATEGY DEVELOPMENT CONSULTATION
Need additional help developing a strategic marketing and communications plan?
Our team can develop a plan for you to run with. We can also take a lot off your plate as needed. WildRock specializes in PR research, PR materials development, media outreach, media training, media events, press room development, influencer marketing, ambassador programs, advertorials, reputation/crisis management, digital advertising, website design, website development, SEO, email marketing strategy development, copywriting, blog management, editorial calendar development, social media management, marketing materials creation and more.
Contact us for a free discovery call to see how we can help. We’d love to hear from you!