5 Steps For Strategic Planning

For organizations with full plates, the thought of strategic planning might seem overwhelming. Although many corporate teams know that it is an essential part of the work, it is often pushed to the bottom of the To-Do List. The truth is, the process can actually be fairly easy!

In essence, a good strategic plan identifies the best route for an organization to advance its mission.  An ongoing commitment to data analysis and research forms the foundation of the strategic plan as a multi-step process that provides a clear picture of what the organization wants to achieve in the context of its market. Here are a few steps to take to ensure that every marketing dollar is spent wisely toward achieving your unique goals.

1. SWOT 
Looking at the various strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the organization allows you to see where you are today and how you are perceived by external stakeholders. Begin by reviewing the organization’s environment – political, technical, social, economic, or all of the above – and consider all the various driving forces such as changing demographics and increasing competition that can impact success.

Email blasts, social media and email surveys, Google and social analytics allow organizations to gain a firm understanding of audience perceptions and behavior which can significantly help to advance the process of planning. Insights gained through data analysis can help uncover so much more than you ever knew (or assumed!) about the how, when and why of your engagement with markets. Applying this data to research of overall market trends, regional shifts and industry competition will ensure better outreach and help to identify channels to be amplified or improved.

After thorough analysis you will gain more detailed insight regarding your audience’s behavior and mindset as you begin to craft messaging, content and a holistic plan which integrates the most compelling characteristics of your market. The key here is to consider the most effective ways to maximize engagement and to keep your brand “top of mind” across a diverse array of channels through content which literally speaks to audience expectations, perceptions and needs.

A clear and well defined content strategy can ensure your organization develops solid relationships with a large network and establishes relationships within your industry. Think about your brand “pillars” (mission, values, purpose, positioning) and how these attributes are impacting your community in a measurable way. Tell your story and share information in unique ways that create meaningful and positive engagements. Analyzing which content performed best will help guide you in your efforts to create more of what truly resonates with your target market.

Developing a plan in many regards is the easy part; the more challenging aspect will be the implementation. However, it can be achieved successfully. Sharing of the vision and a team approach which clearly articulates the expectations, responsibilities and key objectives to each and every member of your organization will accelerate the realization of the plan. By identifying both your baseline (where you are now) and your benchmarks (where you want to be), everyone involved will have the opportunity to share in the success as the plan evolves and benchmarks are met.

There is no one perfect model in the strategic planning process. Many times the idea of “doing it wrong” can hold organizations back from starting at all. Know that you can customize your approach for your specific organization to suit your current situation and company culture. Just get started and see what a difference the process makes!