7 Steps to a strategic marketing plan

Creating a strategic marketing plan is a vital part of any marketing process because a good marketing plan brings a competitive advantage and leads to commercial success.

Of course, whatever your marketing goal might be — you won’t arrive there in a day. 

You need to invest some time into careful planning, and — most importantly — you need to maintain realistic objectives. 

Luckily, there are certain steps you should go through if you want your plan to be successful. 

So, keep reading, as in this blog post we’ll give you a quick overview of the 7 steps to creating a strategic marketing plan. 

7 Steps to a strategic marketing plan

What is a marketing strategic planning process?

The strategic marketing planning process is a procedure a company goes through to arrive at a practical marketing plan. 

In other words, an actual marketing plan is the output of a marketing process. 

One of the main characteristics of a strategic marketing process is that it should focus on pursuing a concrete goal. This makes the process more feasible in the long run.

Planning processes are usually 1–3 years long. However, the length of the process often depends on the size of your company. 

Usually, larger companies need more time to implement any changes. 

This is because these processes are often highly formalized at large companies — and need to go through several predetermined stages before they can take effect.

7 Steps to a successful strategic marketing plan

Achieving a certain marketing goal is possible only if you develop a step-by-step strategy, which should be based on detailed research and solid data.

Understanding the crucial steps of the planning process will improve your chances of creating a winning strategy. 

Here are the 7 steps to creating a successful strategic marketing plan:

  • Align your marketing goals with overall company objectives
  • Research the market 
  • Do the SWOT analysis 
  • Determine you “marketing mix”
  • Set a budget
  • Pick a PM tool 
  • Review and update

Step 1: Align your marketing goals with overall company objectives 

First and foremost, planning is all about creating a practical plan and pursuing a clear marketing goal. 

But, in order to do that, you first need to have a clear understanding of the company’s overall goals.

In the initial stage of your marketing process, you should determine your company’s primary mission, as well as the company’s values

If you’re not exactly sure how to do that, our advice is to start by answering some of these questions: 

  • What do we plan to achieve? 
  • What’s the purpose of our plan?
  • What values do we keep to?
  • What are our long-term goals and objectives?
  • What’s our corporate vision?

You need to understand your company’s overall goals so that you can align your marketing objectives with them.

In addition, according to Malcolm McDonald, you should think of the company’s plans for the future, including:

  • What the company will do,
  • What the company might do, and
  • What the company will never do.

💡 Plaky Pro Tip

If you want to find out more about setting goals in a company whose work involves project management, check out this blog post:

At this point, you probably have an overall idea of what you’re heading for. 

So, you can proceed to Step 2.

Step 2: Research the market

Having established your goals, it’s time to analyze external factors that could influence your marketing strategy — such as:

  • Business environment 
  • Market trends and consumer behavior
  • Competition 

When it comes to the business environment, you should be aware of the current:

  • Economic, 
  • Political, 
  • Social, and
  • Cultural climate.

These factors could have a huge impact on the final outcome of your strategy. 

Furthermore, by understanding the market trends and consumer behavior, you directly increase the chances of your marketing plan’s success. While trends indicate recent developments in the marketplace, consumer behavior helps you understand consumers’ buying decisions and what drives them. 

On top of all, market research should include a competitive analysis. 

This means — determining major competitors, as well as comparing their products, pricing, and strengths and weaknesses. 

When analyzing competition, try focusing on the following questions:

  • How much do they invest in brand positioning, promotions, and advertising?
  • What are their distribution channels?
  • What are their new or improved products?
  • What makes a competitor stand out from others?
  • How do you differ from competitors?

Having conducted the market research, you should be ready to take the next step — the SWOT analysis.

Step 3: Do the SWOT analysis

The SWOT analysis is a great way of analyzing your own company’s position by identifying internal strengths and weaknesses in relation to external opportunities and threats

Here’s how the SWOT analysis works on an example of a new type of branded sunglasses being introduced in the market. 

The brand in question, Isee, specializes in distributing eyeglasses. The brand has great online selling rates and wants to broaden its distribution to sunglasses. The demand for sunglasses is high, and the already-established famous brands, such as Ray-Ban and Oakley, are the main competitors. 

So, what does the SWOT analysis say?

The SWOT Analysis for branded sunglasses
– New production methods provide the potential for new designs
– Experience in online distribution channels
– Large market
– Consumer demand creates a demand for new products
– No experience in distribution to brick-and-mortar stores
– No experience in marketing sunglasses
– Strong competition
– Possibility of new market entries

The SWOT analysis should:

  • Contain just a few paragraphs, focusing on key factors only 
  • Include a summary of reasons for potential good or bad performance
  • Be interesting to read
  • Contain concise statements
  • Include only relevant and important data

We hope these tips have helped you paint a clearer picture of what the SWOT analysis should look like. 

If the answer is yes — we can move on to the next step — determining your “marketing mix”.

Step 4: Determine your “marketing mix”

After you’ve determined your company’s objectives, as well as gathered all the necessary data, you’re ready to proceed to the next stage of the marketing planning process — creating the marketing strategy.

A successful marketing strategy is concerned with the marketing mix — the so-called ‘four Ps

  • Product
  • Price
  • Place
  • Promotion

The four Ps represent the factors you should take into account when working on your marketing strategy.

P #1: Product

To create a marketing strategy, a marketer first needs to understand the product, as well as all information on the product’s:

  • Modifications, 
  • Additions,
  • Design, 
  • Branding, 
  • Positioning, and
  • Packaging.

P #2: Price

Marketers need to be well aware of the product’s price in relation to its value, so that they can justify it to potential customers.

When forming the price, you should consider the following:

  • Supply costs,
  • Seasonal discounts,
  • Competitor’s prices, and
  • Retail markup

P #3: Place

You also need to think about the best distribution channels for your product, i.e.:

  • Physical stores, and\or
  • Online stores.

Tip: Think of the place your product will gain the most attention, and reach its target audience — that’s the place you should provide.

P #4: Promotion

Finally, you need to think about how best to promote your product. 

You should determine the best communication channels with prospects, such as:

  • Advertising, 
  • PR,
  • Sales force,
  • Sales promotion,
  • Exhibitions,
  • Social networking, and\or
  • Digital marketing.

Determining the ‘four Ps‘ leads you one step closer to a strategic marketing plan completion — now, you’re ready to set the budget. 

Step 5: Set a budget

At this point of your strategic marketing planning process, it’s good to determine everything that has to do with your current marketing expenditures, including:

  • Advertising,
  • Digital assets (e.g. a website, content production),
  • Promotions,
  • Marketing events, and
  • Sponsorships.

Now is also the right moment to calculate the costs of the future marketing activities you’ve outlined in your marketing strategy.

Tip: Be especially careful when it comes to incremental marketing expenses, as those are all costs incurred after the product launch, other than those involved in its physical distribution. 

Most importantly, any form of discounting that reduces the expected gross income is considered an incremental marketing expense. 

This includes costs such as the following: 

  • Promotional discounts, 
  • Quantity discounts,
  • Sales commission, and 
  • Unpaid invoices.

After you’ve done the math — it’s time for the 6th step — picking a project management tool that will help you put your plan into motion.

Step 6: Pick a PM tool 

At this point, you probably think that managing a marketing plan is quite challenging. 

And, you’re mostly right. 

The marketing planning process requires you to stay on top of your tasks at all times. 

Apart from actually creating the strategy, a marketing planner should implement it — task by task.

Using a project management (PM) tool such as Plaky can make the entire process a lot easier. A project management tool is great for communication within your team, as well as managing and assigning individual tasks.  

Plaky also offers a pre-made marketing strategy plan template that can help you easily create your marketing strategy. 

This customizable template will save you valuable time and help you manage your strategic plan without having to start from scratch. 

Also, the template offers features such as: 

  • Person field, 
  • Status field, 
  • Date field, and 
  • Link field.

which will turn your marketing plan into an actionable plan.

An example of a Marketing Plan Strategy template in Plaky PM tool
An example of a Marketing Plan Strategy template in Plaky PM tool

In the Status field of the Plaky Strategy Plan template, you can manage tasks by priorities by assigning different statuses, such as: To Do, In progress, Done, and so on.

Also, you can assign tasks to one person or even add multiple people in the Assignee field

Moreover, the Due dates field allows you to track the progress of your strategic plan, as well as manage deadlines. 

The Tag field helps you manage your tasks by categories, while the Link field enables you to attach any files relevant to the marketing plan process.

Step 7: Review and update

The final step towards your marketing plan is quite simple — review and revise your plan, and be ready to make changes on the go.

As you’ve probably noticed, all the steps are tightly related to each other and shouldn’t be seen as independent, but as interconnected. This means they can and likely will affect each other.

Plus, it’s only normal that the external and internal factors change over time. 

That’s why it is important to update the plan when necessary.

It’s a good idea to do a monthly or quarterly review of your plan and make any necessary changes to prevent possible implementation pitfalls

As Nigel F. Piercy states in his book, Market-led Strategic Change, here are some of the things that could hinder the implementation of your strategy:

  • Strategic drift – losing the focus of where our strategy leads us may result in failure
  • Strategic ‘dilution’ – the lack of strong drive behind the strategy may cause managers to focus primarily on operational decisions rather than the strategic goals
  • Initiative fatigue – having too many ‘top priority ’ projects leads to failure
  • Impatience – expecting results too soon, and giving up, when we should’ve been patient
  • Not celebrating success – not recognizing and rewarding milestones

Conclusion: The best strategic marketing plan is flexible 

To conclude, a strategic marketing plan isn’t supposed to be followed word-for-word, but it should rather serve as guidance.

In short, this is what your strategic marketing plan checklist should look like:

A Strategic Marketing Plan ChecklistDone
Step 1: Align your marketing goals with overall company objectives
Step 2: Do market research
Step 3: Do the SWOT analysis
Step 4: Determine the “marketing mix”
Step 5: Set a budget
Step 6: Choose a PM tool
Step 7: Review and adapt

After you have checked all these boxes — congratulations, you should have your strategic marketing plan!

Last, but not least — don’t worry if everything doesn’t go exactly according to your plan, as here comes a final tip for all the perfections out there: the best strategic marketing plan is a flexible plan.

✉️ Can you think of any other important steps to creating a strategic marketing plan? If yes, feel free to contact us at blogfeedback@plaky.com, and we may include your ideas in this or any other future blog posts.

IsidoraDjekic Isidora  Djekic

Isidora is a project management author and researcher at Plaky. She graduated from the Faculty of Philology, University of Belgrade where she got her MA degree in English. Isidora’s guiding principle as a writer is to create reliable content enriched with both textbook and real-life examples.