Marketing & Strategy

An Insider Look Into the Strategic Planning Process

By: Brooke Snelling, Partner/Director of Client Services

The strategic planning process is a critical tool for campaigns, especially for larger ones that involve various channels and tactics. Sometimes companies we work with will want to bypass this process and go straight to execution — which is something we strongly advise against. We often find that companies will want to skip the planning process and start with implementation because they do not understand the value of the plan or even what the plan will include. Sometimes, they are under pressure to achieve a certain goal immediately, so they are in a rush to get things going.

But as the saying goes, ‘He who fails to plan, plans to fail.’ Informed by research and carefully developed with specific strategies, the plan serves as a roadmap to achieving a company’s goal. It helps prevent companies from aimlessly performing tasks without set priorities or a real purpose. The plan is usually a direct reflection of the process that generated it (input =output!), so the process is as equally as important as the plan itself. A planning process that allows for comprehensive research and thoughtful strategies, as well as collaboration and the exchange of useful ideas between team members will result in an excellent plan.

Read on for more information about the planning process. We’ll give you an insider’s look of the steps our agency takes when developing comprehensive plans for our clients, so you can see how it all comes together and why it’s worth doing.

When is an integrated strategic plan required and what exactly does it include?

You’ll want to develop a full-blown integrated plan when a client demonstrates a clear goal (especially one that is measurable) which requires support from multiple service lines to accomplish that goal.

The plan usually includes background (situation/assignment, goals, planning considerations, research and findings); target audience (profiles); strategic approach; creative ideas; strategies by channel or initiatives (tactics); KPI’s/reporting; timeline; and budget.

Who is involved in the strategic planning?

When it comes to planning, the key players are the client, the account services department, and the specialists that focus on a specific service (media buying, digital, public relations, grassroots/community integration, creative, etc.).

Everyone involved plays an integral role. For instance, the client is responsible for providing the necessary inputs such as the goals, target audience, budget, etc. that will serve as the foundation for the plan.

7 Phases of the Planning Process

Okay, now that we’ve gotten some of the background information out of the way, let’s discuss the different phases of the strategic planning process and why each phase is so important.

1. Client Discovery
This is probably one of the most informative phases of the process. We pick the client’s brain by asking insightful questions, aligning on their expectations, and discussing preliminary recommendations that will help to shape the plan.

2. Agency Regroup
After meeting with the client, we will usually regroup on our own in which we review the items discussed with the client to make sure everyone is on the same page. We will also discuss next steps and the timeline for the planning process.

3. Research
The account services department will work with the specialists to conduct additional research beyond what was discussed with the client. This could include research on the target audience and market, competitive landscape, etc.

4. Analyzation and Key Insights
After conducting research, account services and the specialists will circle back around to review it and discuss key findings that will be leveraged for planning considerations and will help to drive the strategic recommendations in the plan. During this time, we also like to conduct a SWOT analysis. SWOT is an acronym for strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats, and an analysis is often performed to help identify these elements to assist in guiding the strategy.

5. Development of Strategies and Alignment on Budget
Once we have the key insights, audience profiles and budget, our team will meet to discuss the overarching strategies that will deliver on the campaign goals and objectives and help to dictate the tactics. At this juncture of the process, we also determine how to segment the budget by channel or initiative.

6. Plan Kick-Off
This is the phase that requires the bulk of the work, especially for the specialists. During this phase, specialists are expected to:

– develop any supporting strategies required;
– detail all tactics that align with the strategy and drive towards the objectives of the campaign;
– determine how they will measure success of those efforts (KPIs);
– identify timelines for implementing against proposed tactics; and
– finalize budgets against tactics

7. Review & Refine
The last and final phase involves us perfecting our work. Team collaboration is critical to ensure an integrated approach is being taken and all strategies and tactics are in alignment, so we continue to meet to discuss the plan and refine it. Once the plan is final and run-throughs are complete, we are ready to present it to the client!

The experts at MassMedia are here to help lay the roadmap for putting your marketing spend to its highest and best use. Through a multi-channel marketing plan, we will help you maximize your marketing spend, achieve greater reach and frequency, build awareness and drive more qualified leads for your company. Contact us for more information!


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