Strategy Starts With Knowledge

The other day I saw a post for a workshop labeled something along the lines of, “How to Write a Marketing Plan in a Day”.  Now, truth be told, I have not sat through the workshop, nor have I seen an agenda, but just the title itself got me a little hot under the collar.  As I have said before, if you want to be successful, you need to plan your work and work your plan and I’ve also said that any plan is better than no plan.  But!  Strategy starts with knowledge and if you want to hit your target you need to know where you are aiming.

Hitting Your Mark Takes Work

Whether you are a nonprofit trying to increase your donations, or a social enterprise working to do good by providing a product or a service, developing a successful plan takes work.  A good plan takes research into your competition and your audience.  You have to know how your product or service benefits your end users, the target at which you are aiming.  You need to understand what touch points are best suited to your audience, learn what language motivates them, and have a thorough understanding of why they should give you any money.  It is not something you can just slap together and hope that it works.

There is no one size fits all marketing plan.  They consist of many different variations and depending upon your strategy, they can be lengthy and detailed or focused upon a specific set of actions.  To do it right, plan on many hours of research and test marketing to get your mix right and recognize that a carefully detailed implementation can be the difference between good and great.  To help you get started, consider employing this four part process:


This situation analysis is the most time consuming and important component of planning.  But, if you have done your homework for your strategic plan, then you are well on your way to developing your strategy for a successful marketing plan.  You should already know your competitors’ and your own strengths and weaknesses.  With a solid strategic plan, you have a plan to grow your organization through a set of initiatives.  You should have a thorough understanding of who your donors and prospects are and why they will want to fund your organization or purchase your products or services.  You should have a well-developed value proposition, pointed and interesting tag lines, elevator speech, and either product features and benefits, or impact statement associated with your programs.  This step is a calculated effort in understanding your market and how you go about growing that market.


Your planning process should engage your stakeholders and identify the critical elements necessary for implementation. Essentially there are three parts, tactics, budget, and measurement.  But, if your plan is necessary for investment capital or other funding, it may need to be fairly formal and in this case your plan should include several of the following topics:  Executive Summary, The Market/Target Audience, Marketing Strategy (Value Proposition and Positioning), Marketing Mix (Price, Product, Promotion, Place) Communications Plan, Budget, Goals, Measurement and finally an addendum with Marketing Materials.  On the other hand, if your plan is focused on a specific campaign, you may only need a few smart objectives.


Your process must keep your strategy at the forefront of your discussions, your plan off the shelf, and in front of your stakeholders.  Try to get everyone on board and remember a successful plan includes accountability.  Who will implement each set of those tactics you have decided will reach the largest audience?   Just like a SMART objective, it is important to have your timeline in order, with your tactics scheduled to coincide with any specific targets, like a year end campaign, specific fundraiser, or special promotions.


Here’s where many marketing plans go wrong.  For nimble, growth oriented nonprofits and social enterprises, measurement is a critical element to understanding the effectiveness of your message.  There are many channels through which you can spread your message and it is important to know which are best for you by tracking your progress and performance.  Is your message being heard, is it resonating?  Do you know if the tactics and language of your marketing efforts are having the intended effect?  Are you hitting the right touch points?  Are your goals realistic?  To ensure responsiveness to your campaign and marketing message make sure to track your progress with metrics and KPI’s.

Short cuts are rarely an effective route to excellence.  If you’d like help with your marketing strategy, direction, or efforts give us a call.