Strategic Marketing Planning Reviews – Using simple frameworks to answer ‘where are we now?’
The start to any strategic process must be an appraisal of the current state of play. When answering the ‘where are we now’ question, key activities need to take place. These activities have been enhanced through digital technology and the information explosion that has resulted from the valuable resource that is the World Wide Web. However at the same time, this availability of information and data does not necessarily mean anything unless you can use this information to create insight.
In this post, I will focus on 4 aspects of digital strategy that should be reviewed in the crucial first phase of strategic marketing planning. The majority of this activity you can argue would occur as part of any internal analysis, however in exploring opportunities and threats it is essential to consider these four areas in terms of the wider marketplace, competition and also best practice.
- 1. Review of central platform
Reviewing the central platform can be done through some simple frameworks such as the 5S’s or the 10C’s frameworks. Firstly, what is the site hoping to achieve? Is it grow sales, communicate with customers, add value to the customer experience, build brand values or save the organisation (and hopefully the consumer) money.
Appraise the site through its objective (s) and if you are new to an organisation use tools such as the wayback machine to help you view how the site has evolved over time. This historical perspective will allow you do see how not only the design and functionality of the site have evolved but also how priorities for the site have changed over time.
A focus on the 10C's framework at this early stage can help structure the review of a central platform.
The first thing to note with the 10C’s framework is that at the centre is the Customer, in digital terms I like to widen this to the term ‘ core user’ who is the core user of the site?
If you can develop an accurate profile across core criteria such as psychological, profile and behavioural variables then you can begin to understand the who, what, where, when, how and why questions. This in turn gives you a great starting point in terms of who the site is catering for.
It is interesting to then identify the Corporate culture of the organisation, and a key area to address here is market position and organisational responsiveness. A full Competitor analysis is then required to consider industry best practice and to review key areas of differentiation. Then come a group of C’s; Convenience, Communication, Consistency, Content, and Customisation.
In reviewing these elements of the framework, ensure that you do this from the customer perspective. One client of mine actually conducted a focus group with existing clients and prospects to get some genuine feedback across these areas. This practice was extremely useful and can yield some interesting results.
The final two C’s are Co-ordination and Control. These are extremely important and very simple things to monitor given the range and sophistication of the various analytical programmes and software that is available.
A key element in any structured development is to understand the starting point. Increasing co-ordination and control are areas that can be benchmarked and continuously monitored through an intervention programme. Key KPI’s in this area are the response rate, update rate and engagement figures.
- 2. A review of inbound tools
This aspect covers a review of inbound tools such as SEO and content based platforms including news sites, partner sites and social networks. SEO is, I believe, a specialist skill that should be left to professional SEO experts; however, key things that marketers must consider are keywords and how those keywords translate to traffic to (and conversion within) your site.
It is crucial that your site is working for you and that you analyse traffic using a variant of any of the analytics tools. Social networks although more varied are often more straight forward. Answer the questions which platforms are we using? Which platforms could we be using? And why and then how effective has this activity been? To answer that final question of course would suggest that your social media activity had objectives before you started it. In reality lots of organisations do not, if yours has not then consider what they should be and set SMART objectives for your social media activity.
- 3. Review of outbound tools
Outbound tools include email and traditional offline tools. Ensure that you review the effectiveness of your online campaigns. The technology to do this is widely used and extremely useful in terms of reviewing and measuring past performance.
Key things to consider are ‘opens’, ‘clickthroughs’ and ‘bounce rates’ for each sent communication. Clearly the aim is for better open and click-through rates and lower bounce rates, but even if this activity has not been measured up until now, getting an initial measure on these variables at the earliest point will give you a good base level to work from.
A key test for any online activity is to put yourself in the consumer’s shoes and consider the process of finding or being directed to the website and the process of not just the discovery of the site but also the journey within the site.
Key things to consider in this phase are consistency, clarity and competitiveness. Is the process consistent or are there issues in discovery and functionality? Is the site clear?
Clear in terms of how your journey as the viewer should be and also in terms of look, feel and key messages. This may involve an analysis of both the User Experience (UX) and the User Interface (UI).
Finally is your site different to the competition, this involves the leg work of reviewing the competition and getting to know ‘the way they do things’, but consider your processes in that context. Particularly consider ‘is there anywhere differential can be created?’ and ‘how can we add value to the customer experience?’.
If you conduct a thorough analysis of the above the next phase of the planning process – ‘where do we want to be?’ will become clearer and you will be able to develop some suitable benchmarks against which you can measure the performance of your strategic planning process going forward.