Woman holding a pencil creating a strategy

As marketing professionals, we’ve likely all experienced the unfortunate result of a reactive marketing approach. This is the type of marketing that feels right in the moment, but usually ends up falling flat —and wasting valuable resources such as team bandwidth and budget. And because these things unfortunately don’t come with an unlimited supply, it can be frustrating (at best) for teams to tirelessly dedicate their talents to an approach that isn’t producing the results senior leadership is seeking.

But if we know that a reactive approach to marketing is ineffective and can drain our resources, why do we find ourselves becoming repeat offenders, leaning into these poor marketing behaviors time after time?

It’s not that entire marketing departments intend to implement a “shot in the dark” approach. Most of the time, reactive marketing is the result of:

  • Distractions in the industry
  • The latest social media trends 
  • Competitor insights
  • Unforeseen or sudden shifts in business focus or priority
  • Lack of internal alignment on “big picture” goals
  • Misunderstanding of industry trends and audience behaviors

The truth is, a reactive approach to marketing tends to be accompanied by chaotic planning and a constant pressure to get things done yesterday, which often results in frazzled teams producing mediocre work. As the cycle continues, our margin for planning ahead gets smaller and smaller. We need to get back to the basics, i.e., your marketing needs a strategy.

The Benefits of Strategy

It doesn’t take too much convincing to know that strategy is important for most any goal to come to fruition. But because marketing often feels like a fast-moving machine that we’re just trying to keep up with, it’s hard not to get caught up in the aforementioned never-ending cycle of poor marketing behaviors. But what if we slowed that machine down long enough to develop a well thought-out marketing plan that proved to save internal resources while maximizing performance goals?

Unfortunately, many marketing professionals trust in the value of strategy but are so concerned with what it means to “slow down the machine” that they end up sacrificing a sustainable, value-adding approach for instant gratification and quick wins. But let’s look at some of the benefits to slowing down just enough to build in a solid strategic foundation.

Let’s Talk About Data, Shall We?

Without a plan, data is often the first thing to go. Sure, we ‘measure’ performance analytics, but what do we do with that data? Without a strategy in place, data measuring becomes a box we check so we can issue our monthly reporting and get back to tactics.

But what if you used data the way it was intended? If you know your plan — your end game — then data becomes something you can leverage through smart analysis, testing and refining. It becomes a tool that will tell a broader story of how your brand is impacting its industry and how your target audience is responding. But most importantly, it can show how you’re going to leverage your industry insights to problem-solve, address the needs of your audience, and better anticipate future business challenges. The analysis of data over time also allows us to foresee opportunities to scale and innovate more effectively.

Maximize Your Marketing Resources

We’ve all felt the weight of missed deadlines and thinning bandwidth, but one of the biggest benefits of a strategic marketing approach is the efficiencies it offers to our limited supply of resources. In order to make a positive impact on our resources, however, we have to start at the beginning and look closely at the makings of a strategic plan.

Effective strategizing must begin with aligned messaging and a solid understanding of your target audience and their purchasing behaviors. Developing a strategy without these key ingredients is like making bread without yeast. You can use all the right tactics and even put a lot of money, effort and time behind it, but ultimately the approach won’t even come close to your potential. This type of busy-work is what leads to wasted resources.

Knowing Your B2B Audience

Understanding a target audience, especially in the B2B space, is an ongoing job. Why? As technology advances, your target audience’s needs are always changing. And with digital marketing constantly evolving, it’s important for marketing professionals to have a strong pulse on how, when and to what prospective buyers are responding.

If you have a strong grasp on your audience insights, you can thoughtfully align your messaging and develop an integrated strategy that puts the right information in front of the right people at the right time.

Developing a 12-Month Integrated Marketing Plan

Some of the best marketing strategies include a high-level, 12-month integrated plan that factors in the business goals, quarterly priorities and budgets. 

Here are a few things you should consider in the early stages of developing a 12-month strategy:

  • Product/service launches
  • Features and updates
  • New releases
  • Special events/trade shows
  • Holidays that impact communication and business efforts

Building Your Tactical Approach

Once these components have been considered, you can start mapping out your tactics and determine how, where and when you plan to reach your audience. The best part about tactical planning in this way is that you’ve already done the legwork of narrowing in on your audience, understanding their purchasing behaviors, and factoring in the journey you’re going to take them on. Throughout this process, strategic thinking has been set in motion; the tactical planning will start to align with your target audience and how they’re going to respond.

You can likely already see how this tactical approach can offer efficiencies and even empower marketing teams to be thinking on a more strategic level. Instead of reacting to a need with a frantic task-oriented response, they can answer questions such as:

  1. “How does this solve a problem in my industry?”
  2. “What challenges are potential customers up against?”
  3. “How is the industry landscape changing, and how can we be prepared?”
  4. “What need am I meeting for my potential buyers?”
  5. “What tactic and approach will best resonate with our audience and why?”

And if you’re wondering, “Should I really plan 12 months out?”, here’s our take:

If you’ve done the work of understanding your audience and aligning your messaging, there’s no reason you can’t devise an integrated marketing plan a whole year in advance. This can allow your team to think creatively, strategize, and refine their work as they get ready to deploy.

It’s best to stay focused on the high-level priorities and not get too far into the weeds when looking at the year in its entirety, though. Yearly plans don’t get too granular when initially conceptualized but tend to be refined and further fine-tuned quarter-by-quarter as certain details arise and priorities shift throughout the year. Stay focused on the main goal and be flexible as the particulars become clear.

When Strategy Gives Way to Alignment

The benefits of having a strategy far outweigh the alternative, i.e., taking a reactive marketing approach. 

Having a strategy not only offers higher return on your marketing initiatives, but it also provides more bandwidth and encourages collaboration, strategic thinking, smarter decision making, and develops a road map that will align your marcom teams. And I think we can all agree that an aligned approach is what’s going to produce the buy-in and impact you’re looking for in your marketing.