How to effectively communicate your strategic marketing plan

Let’s face it, everyone thinks they are a marketing expert.

Everyone knows what the marketing department should be doing.

But do they truly understand what marketing is and how it helps your company?

Your strategic marketing plan is only as a good as it can be successfully articulated, communicated and executed.

Clearly and concisely communicating a strategic marketing plan is just as important as creating it.

Without effectively communicating your marketing strategy and plan, and executing it across a companies’ multiple divisions, organizations run the risk of not delivering on their company’s goals, slowing progress against their company’s strategy, creating an inability to profitably deliver on the value proposition, and stunting the growth of the business.

Communicating your strategic marketing plan is part style and part content. It is about communicating what needs to be communicated to your company about marketing vs. what dilutes your message or confuses your company.

A good chief marketing officer (CMO) and marketing team need to convince its stakeholders or community on how their company’s strategic goals and supporting strategic marketing plan drives top line revenue growth.

With more CMOs being elevated to president or chief executive officer (CEO) roles, it is a critical time where marketing needs to get buy-in from all lines of business on its marketing strategy, smoothly transition from plan to execution, and lead the business toward meaningful growth.

If your stakeholders or community don’t understand the direction of your strategic marketing plan, what’s the point of creating one?

It is critical to get everyone on board and communicate your strategy more effectively.

To communicate your strategic marketing plan more effectively, you should communicate it with the three Cs in mind: context, content, and community.

1. Context

In the military, they have something called an operations order (OPORD). It is a plan that helps units conduct military operations and describes the context on how the unit is organized for the operation to ensure success.

An OPORD organizes its operations into five key paragraphs:

  1. Situation
  2. Mission
  3. Execution
  4. Sustainment or Admin & Logistics
  5. Command and Control

Just like the military puts their plan into the context of their situation and mission, your strategic marketing plan should be put into the context of your business. See how the OPORD translates into business terms.

Successful marketers today are viewed as business people, not marketers.

Marketers are chief storytellers for their organizations and they need to provide the context of the marketing strategy and plan.

Seth Godin Quote

They need to help everyone tell their individual story and the collective story of his or her company better.

We are all marketers now.

Successful companies are redefining the traditional marketing organization and in the new era of engagement that requires a commitment from the entire organization.

Here are some things to questions to ask you, your team and your company as you provide the context of your strategic marketing plan to your organization.

How will marketing help your company make its numbers?

If your company is not doing well, what is marketing going to do differently or do more of? If your company has healthy growth, how is your marketing strategy and plan enhancing those successes and are those successes documented? If your organization is doing well or not doing well, how will your marketing department be judged for its success or failure? What does marketing do or don’t do?

Understand the return on marketing investment expectations. If you asked your CEO or chief financial officer (CFO):

“What are the top 3 most important metrics you use to evaluate marketing’s effectiveness?”

What would they say?

How does marketing fit into the bigger picture of your company?

Marketing should be an integral part of your business to be successful. Marketing department should not be viewed as a separate division from the rest of business units. It should be a part of strategic meetings in day-to-day activities and provide value that positions marketing more as a strategic contributor.

Marketing department should not be viewed as a separate division from the rest of business units. It should be a part of strategic meetings in day-to-day activities and provide value that positions marketing more as a strategic contributor.

Inter-departmental communication is one of the more important forms of organizational communication and becomes most evident when communications break down.

Therefore, marketing should be viewed as a revenue-driver, not a cost center.

How will you unveil your strategic marketing plan?

Avoid the big unveil.

Why? Because your strategic marketing plan will become “open season” for everyone thinking they are a marketing professional and how they know your strategic marketing plan better than you do.

Because your strategic marketing plan will become “open season” for everyone thinking they are a marketing professional and how they know your strategic marketing plan better than you do.

Make sure you talk to people in one-on-one settings and small groups. Don’t dole out information in large groups who have different priorities. It is important to tell specific information, as needed, and customize your strategic marketing plan to different audiences.

It is critical to ensure the creation of your marketing strategy and plan is a process so people are on the same page every step of the way.

Your strategic marketing plan is a journey and your strategy evolves over time.

Who are your internal allies?

It is critical you find people that align with marketing and your marketing leadership team. As a marketer, it is important that you are not going to your CEO or CFO, saying “let me do this!”

As a marketer, it is important that you are not going to your CEO or CFO, saying “let me do this!”

Find the line of business leaders who have similar goals and challenges as marketing so you can team up with them to tell your mutual stories and co-evangelize your messages.

What happens when things don’t go well?

The marketing budget is one of the most vulnerable budgets when an organization is not doing well. The complexities of your organization can’t be underestimated.

The complexities of your organization can’t be underestimated.

Everything relies on hard skills for the planning and soft skills for the implementation. If you prove to people once the value of marketing, they typically are then on board for the rest of the marketing plan.

What are some pitfalls of a poorly communicated plan?

It is important to understand what could go wrong if your strategic marketing plan is not communicated well.

For example, your marketing team may operate in a silo. Marketing would not be looked as a revenue generator but a cost center. Marketing would be looked as glorified event planners. Marketing would be viewed as bad storytellers.

It is important to understand the assumptions about marketing and your organization’s culture.

It is critical to understand the assumptions about marketing and your organization’s culture. Error in the form of over-communicating than under-communicating.

George Bernard Shaw Quote

What is your message framework?

Not all messages are created equal. They need to be prioritized based on the audience. And you need messages that inspire, educate and reinforce.

Inspiration messages are important when you are sharing accomplishments or launching a new initiative that backs a strategy. Once your audience is energized, make sure you provide detailed information that can be customized into daily responsibilities.

Next, you need to reinforce your messages to increase understanding and lead change over time. These messages should be integrated with your training and human resource initiatives so they become part of your organization’s culture.

2. Content

After your strategic marketing plan is created, it is important to figure out the content to best communicate it.

For example, you should ask these types of questions.

What pieces of content should you create to be the most effective? What channels should you use to communicate the content? Who should communicate this content?

Answer your most frequent questions

Content should answer the top questions of your community or stakeholders have about your strategic marketing plan.

Just like people search Google to find answers to their questions, can your stakeholders or community find answers to their marketing questions? Is your marketing team collecting those questions they are getting and how are you addressing those questions?

You may want to launch an internal “marketing concierge” program. For example, if people have questions at Forsythe, they can email an email account that can be found in corporate directory their questions. The email account is set up to go to a handful of marketing people who can answer their questions. This can also be done on your intranet or even your company’s blog or website.

This concierge approach can also be done on your intranet or even your company’s blog or website.

Determine the content delivery mechanisms

The way people communicate today has changed with the rise of social media, instant messaging, blogs and, for some organizations, the reliance on email. You should catch people with your messages in a place where it is least expected or in a subtle way.

It is important to have the plan in different formats such as PowerPoint slides, videos, blog posts and emails.

When you communicate your strategic marketing plan, you should not forget about your external audience.

Your plan should be communicated in industry publications and other media outlets. It should be communicated via questions and answers (Q&A) formats, interviews with your senior marketers, and members of your senior leadership team should be able to communicate it externally.

Keep your messages simple and deep

Companies who understand the “why” behind messages can better implement and execute on those messages.

What is your company’s purpose? What are your core beliefs? What is your north star?

It is important that your organizations care about all your communications.

Do your stories have metaphors where employees can communicate messages to their friends and family? Are your employees proud and inspired to work at your company? Do they believe in the direction of your company?

Marketing is now at the spear of the message.

If you were a new employee to your company, would you understand your marketing?

Sand it down. Cut the fat. Act as if you saw your messages for the first time.

Your messages may have some fluff or may not be clear enough in the beginning, especially when written down.

Make sure your communications stand out.

Also, organizations get caught up in their company or industry jargon or acronyms (here are 25 of the worst). Does everyone understand what the jargon or acronyms mean?

Be real with your communications. Provide authentic messages so your employees care about the direction of your company and how marketing is helping your company get there. And try to do it in a fun way.

Tell a memorable and visual story

Stories and experiences are remembered more so than stats and facts.

Bring in the human part and the emotional part of stories to help them understand the relevance of your strategy, real-life examples of what is working and what is not working and the challenges in the industry, the country or even the world.

People can only remember three things at a time.

Do you have your top three messages that can be communicated as analogies or in short stories?

Use the rule of 3.

Also, make sure that the content is visual. Visual content receives 94 percent more views than text-based content.

Communicate your strategy in one slide

An effective way to communicate your strategy is by putting it on a single slide or single page.

The Corporate Executive Board (now owned by Gartner) has a good template.

Strategy on a Page - CEB

This one slide or one-page document should have the following:

  • Strategy timeline (in years)
  • Strategy statement (one to two sentences max)
  • Current state of marketing
  • Top five initiatives
  • Top 5 underlying beliefs and assumptions
  • State of marketing in one to two years

One of the most important parts of the slide or one-page document is the underlying beliefs and assumptions. You should limit it to no more than five.

These beliefs and assumptions will be some of the biggest challenges you are going to have to overcome as you communicate your strategic marketing plan. For example, marketing is currently viewed as a glorified event planner or your company is not a data-driven company.

3. Community

After context and content are created, it is important to engage and empower your community.

Your community is your employees, your partners, your customer or clients, your advocates or influencers. Basically, your community is anyone who impacts your company.

The Netflix example

A good example to describe your community is how Netflix got started.

Netflix

In the beginning, they conveyed mission and strategy to people that bought in at a grassroots level before expanding their marketing mission. Netflix relied heavily on public relations by running very targeted campaigns to show their community what their mission and strategy was.

They pulled back the veil. They invested in their community.

Netflix went extremely personal with cinema meet-ups and customers became huge advocates of Netflix. They recruited tens of thousands of people that were grateful that a company was paying attention to them.

Netflix didn’t have retail locations so they offered subscriptions, which eliminated annoying late fees. Customers could watch a video for as long as they wanted or return it and get a new one. Netflix had a disruptive business model because Blockbuster would have to alter its business model to compete with Netflix.

Culture is critical to success

With your strategic marketing plan, it is important to constantly remind others of your values, your mission, and what marketing is bringing to the table.

The culture of your community is critical. Your marketing strategy and plan be believed in by your community. It should be rolled out slowly so you can build momentum and energy.

Don’t just do the big launch event and then disappear.

Your efforts with your community are critical in inspiring, educating and reinforcing your strategic marketing plan.

Again, don’t just set it and forget it.

Your strategic marketing plan must be done right the first time but the follow-up communication and reinforcement is just a critical as the launch.

It takes more energy to rebuild after it deflates than it does to get everybody on board in the first place. Don’t risk losing your reputation because your community doesn’t buy into your strategy. Get them to buy in.

Train, train, and train

One of the best ways to get buy-in from your employees is to train them. Train people on your brand’s story, your elevator pitch, and your value proposition.

Get everybody onboard by socializing your strategy, plan, and ideas. Build advocates across your company in various departments such as finance and sales.

They should all want to be an advocate for your business. Get them all on board and educate them about marketing so they can help promote marketing and your company.

Make the investment in your employees, first. If you don’t succeed with them, you won’t succeed in winning with your customers. Your employees control the relationship with your customers.

It is also critical that each team member on your marketing team understands the role they are playing in the implementation of your strategy and plan. Does each person know how they will contribute to its success?

There will always be adoption issues so take out the complexity for those that are implementing it, as much as possible.

Build an effective feedback loop

Build in a strong feedback loop so you can receive information regarding whether your strategic marketing plan is working or not. And quickly adjust accordingly.

This feedback loop will help you manage and enable your community so you limit shadow marketing.

When the community is doing something rogue that doesn’t align with the overall story of the company. If you have a strong community, the community will police itself.

Show the community how they are helping your company. Help your community informed decisions by providing updates and sharing data.

Mold the right behavior based on the right insights

For your community to fully understand how your strategy is different and better, they need to understand the competition and how your company competes against them.

By using the right market and customer insights, you can bring your strategy to life for your community.

It is important for your community to generate innovative ideas and new behaviors based on what they have learned.

Conclusion

Keep the three 3 Cs of context, content, and community in mind when you communicate your strategic marketing plan.

By using the strategies and tactics I’ve recommended in this article, you can help you communicate your marketing strategy and plan more effectively.

These techniques are sure to help you make progress against your company’s strategy and goals, deliver on your value proposition, and grow the business.

Clearly and concisely communicating a strategic marketing plan is as critical as creating it.

Invest more effort in communicating your strategic marketing plan as actually developing it.

What tips would you add to this list?

How have you successfully communicated your strategic marketing plan? What worked for you or didn’t work for you?

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