As we near 2018, budgets are being examined and few departments are entirely at ease. We’ll leave the other departments to a different columnist, but for marketing professionals the tension around budgeting can be mitigated substantially by creating a researched and documented marketing plan. Even when a well-researched plan is not documented with metrics in place, marketers experience difficulty in demonstrating their return on investments. Instead of running back to your desk for extra antiperspirant during your next budget meeting, simply know your plan and be able/willing to speak its worth.

In this column we’ll discuss the four major steps for creating your marketing strategy:

1. Set S.M.A.R.T. goals. While creating a marketing plan is certainly smart, the goals are actually to maintain a clear focus on the desired outcome of the business. S.M.A.R.T. goals stand for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound. An example of such a goal would be to see a 3 percent increase in online sales revenue from your website by the second quarter of 2018.

2. Know your audience! To assume that you know everything about your highest-quality client might be leaving room for cracks in the foundation of your marketing plan. Perform market research to ensure that you understand not only who your target clientele are, but where their pain points exist and how to effectively reach them through the marketing clutter.

3. Know your brand. What is your competitive edge? We believe that competition can be positive in that it encourages a more spectacular outcome for the consumer. Take a look at your company the way you would a person. Each business contains its own unique personality. What are the positive traits that help you to stand out from competitors? What traits are you lacking, and why?

4. Put measurement systems in place. Remember that your S.M.A.R.T. goal is time bound. Having measurement systems in place will communicate to you what may be a profitable marketing investment. Discernment when it comes to spending marketing money should be primarily based on researched methods. In both digital and conventional marketing practice, there are more metric systems available than ever before.

A common misnomer is that a marketing strategy is static. We find that many companies fear the time investment; because the marketing arena is often fluid, some companies are hesitant to put the time into a plan that they feel might soon change. What they don’t realize is that by not sitting down to research and document a plan of action, they could end up creating chaos instead. As long as you can type, write or dictate, the plan can always change. However, without a plan at all you have no concrete way to prove your department’s worth and chance for growth in the coming year.

While the process may be tedious, that’s why researchers and strategists exist. Our sole purpose is to empower other marketing professionals to connect the dots between valuable services and goods to a consumer in need.

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