While successful marketers place a lot of focus on the execution of marketing strategies, they also know that the underlying foundation for success is ongoing marketing planning and research. As marketing becomes increasingly complex and digitized, the need for well-thought out planning and in-depth research only continues to increase. Still many marketers make the common mistake of “winging it” and not investing sufficient time in the essential preliminary work and then are dismayed by disappointing results.
A clear roadmap to marketing success hinges on ongoing planning and research. Guessing on what’s really happening in the marketplace or assuming how customers feel is a surefire way to miss the mark. The first step is making this preliminary work an organizational priority. This can often require a very real shift in mindset and processes. However, once the commitment has been made, you can begin to take the necessary steps to make it happen.
Use the Right Set of Marketing Planning Tools
Strategic planning involves evaluating both internal and external impacts on your organization and developing a roadmap for dealing with them. Fortunately, there are useful tools for creating this plan of action. You may remember the tried and true SWOT analysis from Marketing 101. While basic, it remains an incredibly useful tool in strategic planning and prioritizing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Conducting a SWOT analysis involves brainstorming to engage participants to create a list for each of these areas based on gathered information and data. Other useful tools include mind maps, that visually show how pieces of a plan work together, and balanced scorecards, that are used to track progress on strategic planning goals across various categories and are balanced against each other to ensure sufficient focus is placed on each area. Fortunately, there are many digital versions of these tools that can make them faster and easier to develop and manage.
Find Out What You Don’t Know
There is a direct correlation between research and business growth. When organizations are guided by data rather than just assumptions and hunches, they can make accurate decisions that drive results. Gathering this data can be as simple as interviewing a cross-section of customers or as complex as hiring a market research firm to undertake a large-scale survey across multiple market segments. Not only will this information be beneficial in driving marketing planning, it can also help improve customer service and even guide decisions on products and services.
Don’t Waste Money
With a better understanding of your customers and market, you can begin to determine what actually works and what doesn’t. Imagine the budgetary savings when you’re now only investing in what has been shown to be successful. It will be much easier to nix efforts with lackluster results or aren’t hitting the mark and move to strategies that are aligned with your findings. With the right information, you won’t be tempted to invest in a marketing channel that has proven to produce poor results. You may also be willing to try an unproven one that shows clear promise based upon your research.
Measure, Adjust and Repeat
There are many marketing planning and analytics tools out there to enable you to access real-time metrics and quickly understand your rate of success. This gives you an unprecedented view to make decisions and try new approaches when needed. Test different approaches and dump poor performing strategies quickly before they become costly mistakes. Double-up on those that have proven their ROI.
Get Help When It’s Needed
Through research and planning, you may find that you don’t have the bandwidth to do everything effectively. This is when it makes sense to call in a professional team of marketers who can align with your goals and help guide your success.