How to lay the foundations for a marketing strategy that works

Every start-up entrepreneur sets out, armed with flip chart and pens, on a mission to draw up the perfect business plan. This often starts with a grand vision, and is accompanied by the financials to get there. But what continually surprises me, is just how few businesses, big or small, consider the customer drivers that will achieve those numbers, nor incorporate an up-to-date marketing strategy to reach those customers. Your plan cannot be articulated without demonstrating that you understand who your customers are, how you plan to reach them and what your proposed sales activities will be. Thus a business plan lacking these elements remains unachievable.
Successful growth businesses evolve too quickly for static ‘shelved’ plans – which is why we never use them. But without a blueprint for your marketing strategy you risk becoming a reactionary business that commits valuable time, money and resources on fleeting projects of fancy. To make it an effective part of your business plan your marketing strategy needs to be a living breathing document that the whole business is part of – so here are my 5 top tips on laying the best foundations:
1. Embrace it, commit to it, co-create it
We all know companies where new policies are dreamt up, emailed around and then sit collecting dust on the shelf or unread in the inbox. You may spend weeks or months developing the most brilliant plan under the sun but the reality is that it’s worthless if it’s not acted upon.
So, first and foremost you need to ensure that you are committed to developing and working to the strategy you implement, and that your team fully understand and support the plan. The best way of course it to ensure that you have all the best and most relevant minds working and contributing to the plan from the outset.
2. Intrinsically link it to your business growth drivers
All too often marketing is seen as a periphery function or department when actually, as the key representatives of the customer in the business, they should be the leaders of the growth plans.
Marketers need to help themselves as much as anything here by speaking the business language and rooting all activities in the business growth drivers that each activity or campaign will deliver against: Marketing strategy development should begin by focusing on the key business goals, opportunities and risks; utilise market, competitor and consumer insight to identify new opportunities; and present future plans in the context of what they will deliver for the brand P&L with operational and financial plans to deliver them.
3. Make it achievable, motivating and measurable
Anyone who has worked on a project, big or small, knows that managing it effectively is a skill and the same is true when developing your marketing campaigns. Be sure to avoid the temptation to set overly generalized or unrealistic objectives. Instead be as specific as possible and keep your customers front of mind. An objective that is described in terms of the change you are creating for the customer is much more motivating than one that is generic.
Ensure you have clearly identified means of measuring success versus the strategy and that when you set out your goals you are transparent and clear in what you want to achieve. This helps manage expectations and is integral to generating the belief within the team that will deliver the strategy.
4. Assign responsibility and ensure accountability
The success of a marketing strategy is based upon how well it is implemented. It is therefore vital that the team responsible for delivering it are involved in creating the associated action plan.
Long-term goals should be broken down into short-term objectives and projects – with individuals made responsible for individual streams of activity. Through the implementation phase, these individuals should then be accountable for measuring and reporting back on the progress and results in their particular area.
5. Review and revise
As a growth business that is continuously evolving and developing a degree of flexibility is needed to adapt to changing market conditions. For the marketing strategy this means when opportunities or threat pop up a strong marketer will return to the core business growth drivers and assess these opportunities versus the strategy – pivoting or continuing accordingly.
A good way to keep dynamic is to place the marketing action plan on the agenda for every senior team meeting and use that opportunity to review and revise versus the market and the actual results so far – enabling swift action to be taken if needed.
 
Written by Christina, a business marketing specialist and founder of The Nurture Network: The on-demand marketing department for ambitious start-ups, and entrepreneurial SMEs  – bringing great marketing people into your team just when you need them.