Marketing strategy vs. marketing plan? Don’t get hung up on the theory and semantics, like the ancient theologians who debated questions like “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” into the wee hours every night.
Instead, let’s set out a working definition of each term and put both strategy and planning to work to boost your corporate bottom line.
Let Your Marketing Strategy Be Your North Star
My fellow DivvyHQ co-founder, Brock Stechman, puts it well, defining marketing strategy as a “guiding framework that accounts for each element of your [marketing] operations.” It always leads to a goal, he points out — one aligned with your company’s overall objectives.
So, start your marketing strategy research by meeting with the top executives in your company. Ask them where they want to go — and when they want to get there. Then, build your strategy around their goals.
Do they want to open up new markets in France in two years? Your strategy needs to include a path toward identifying your target customers, building buyer personas, and creating marketing content that appeals to people within that culture.
Are they looking to increase their ROI by 10% during the next year? Research ways you can tweak your current strategy to make that happen.
Similarly, if the C-suite wants to take your branding in a different direction to reach a younger demographic, you’ll need a content strategy that aligns itself with new messaging. Or, if it wants to capture a large share of your market from your closest competitor, you’ll need a strategy that focuses on researching the competition and finding ways to differentiate yourself from them.
Set Your Strategy into Motion with an Actionable Marketing Plan
Your marketing plan is a set of actions that get you to the goals you’ve laid out in your strategy. Like any roadmap, however, a well-constructed marketing plan should have alternate routes toward that goal. You never know when a roadblock will pop up, so always allow for contingencies.
Think of your marketing plan as your strategy in motion. So, instead of wasting time searching for the “perfect marketing plan” that doesn’t need alteration, execute on your “good plan” instead — and be agile enough to shift gears when you need to.
That’s the simplest approach: looking at the differences between content planning and strategy instead of seeing the whole picture.
But I’d argue that to win at the marketing game, you should stop thinking of marketing strategy and planning as opposites. Instead, think of them as a living relationship — one that you can leverage to better align your marketing efforts with your corporate goals.
Let’s call it praxis — the pairing of theory (strategy) with practice, carrying out your strategy through an actionable plan.
Leverage Praxis: A Synthesis of Marketing Strategy and Planning
Remember Philosophy 101? You know, that course you had to take to satisfy your liberal arts requirements. The one with the nerdy yet uber-cool professor that, for once, really made you think? That’s probably where you first encountered the concept.
Although Hegel — and certainly Marx — might frown on the denizens of capitalism co-opting their idea to market their wares, the concept of praxis is, I think, a better way to look at the divide between strategy and planning.
Praxis, as the University of Waikato’s Natalie Cowley defines it, is “the synthesis of theory and practice and the reciprocal relationship between them.” Far from its ivory tower origins, it has practical applications that can help you take your marketing game to a whole new level.
Content Metadata Brings It All Together
It all comes together in your content metadata and how you organize it. Metadata turns strategy into a plan of action. And the beauty of it all is that aside from setting up your content taxonomy, lots of the action happens through content automation.
As Claravine’s Zoë Randolph explains, your content taxonomy “should boil your content strategy down to a series of simple, universally understood tags.” Although these tags reflect your strategy, they suggest the actions your teams need to take to make your strategy work for your brand.
Let’s take Randolph’s list of tags common to most marketing teams to see how using content metadata blends strategy and action:
- Buyer persona: Strategy — and the research behind it — determines the persona. Your teams put this strategy into action by creating content that addresses this market segment’s needs, whether it’s decision-makers in a specific industry you’re targeting or an individual consumer.
- Stage in the customer journey: Although your strategy might provide your creatives with a customer journey map, your creatives fill in the details with personalized content that will likely move your prospects along in their journey. AI-powered content recommendation software, like MarketMuse, can even suggest possible topics and outlines, making your content teams’ lives even easier.
- Date of publication: Regular content audits are an essential element in keeping your content strategy current. Tagging your content with its publication date allows you to quickly identify possibly outdated content through a content audit, allowing you to update or repurpose it for another use.
- The product your content promotes: One of your company’s goals might be to increase sales of a particular product. This goal would end up in your content strategy — but it doesn’t become a reality until you put your plan in place to produce X number of blog posts that promote the target product.
- Region, culture, and language: If your content strategy is to put your corporate goal of expanding its market into France, for instance, your plan must include hiring the right people to translate your content into native French. Keeping track of how many pieces of content your French team produces — and how it performs among its target audience — is a critical ingredient in turning your strategy into reality.
- Distribution channels: While your content strategy might specify the channels each customer persona frequents, it’s up to your content teams to automate publication on those channels. It also pays to keep track of emerging trends, such as new social platforms that are likely to attract your target customers. That way, you can add those platforms to your distribution plan.
- Strategic alignment: Which corporate message or initiative does this content support? Documenting this information keeps your content teams on point to deliver messaging that aligns with your corporate and marketing strategy.
- Type of content: Your strategy might include increasing the number of videos your teams produce since video’s importance in marketing has exploded over the past few years. Keep your teams on track to achieve their goal by documenting — and tracking — their progress toward their goal.
Add metadata categories that can help you and your teams find past content to use as resources for new pieces, repurpose it in a new form, or review its performance against your strategic goals. Customize your metadata to your own content strategy for best results. Here’s a sample list of categories you might consider:
Image via Claravine
For the perfect balance between your marketing strategy and a plan that will maximize its impact, you need a content marketing platform capable of managing your content strategy metadata right out of the box. DivvyHQ is unique in its ability to put your strategy into practice, utilizing the power of customizable metadata fields to streamline and simplify the process.
Even better, you can try it free for 14 days with no obligation. Start your free trial today!