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Strategic Planning: How to Start, What to Avoid, and
Where Social Media Comes in

September is a month for taking stock. For getting organized. For—to put it bluntly—getting your shit together. But what does that mean in the world of healthcare marketing? It means if you haven’t started your strategic plan already, you’d better get to it. Because a marketing plan isn’t something you can just slap together. We held a Q&A with our VP of Client Services, Amanda Biedess, so we could share some insights into developing a successful plan.

How do you start the strategic planning process?

There are 3 questions I need answers to before I build a marketing strategy:

  1. Who is their customer? I want to know what they value and what they need to accomplish. I also want to determine who their stakeholders are and what they value and need. This can be achieved with formal voice of customer studies (VOC), but interviewing and building a relationship with the sales team are imperative to understanding what they experience on the front lines.
  2. What are the data? Where is our client in the market and what are their competitors doing? I also want insight into their revenue commitments, budget restraints, and contracts in play to get a complete picture of their current situation.
  3. What are their business goals? Or more simply, what are we playing for (market share, increased sales, competitive conversions, brand awareness, protect share)? If we don’t know where they want to go, how can we help them get there?

What are some pitfalls people encounter when
approaching the strategic planning process?

In my experience I find that people sometimes confuse strategies and tactics. A plan needs to be backed by a strong strategy that articulates the objective, defines the customer target, and outlines how to achieve the objective. It’s from this strategy that the tactics are generated. On the client side, there are 2 things to keep in mind:

  1. The strategy that you’ve painstakingly developed should be able to be articulated by everyone on the team. It’s important to ensure that the entire team (executive leadership, finance, operations, sales and marketing) is aligned. The strategy is your guidepost for all decision making, so nonmarketers need to participate in its development and have buy-in along the way. That said, you need to start early, be ready to socialize and debate ideas, not make assumptions, and keep an open mind.
  2. There has to be an element of pragmatism. Does the culture support our ability to deliver on the strategy? At one point in my career, we had a killer strategy, an amazing team, and a fantastic product backed by VOC data to support that the market wanted our product and would pay for it. We also had a culture problem. The strategy and our marketing plan would’ve been dead on arrival unless we could fix the culture and mindset of the larger team. As Peter Drucker famously said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” and he was 100% on point.

How important is it to factor in social media and SEO/SEM in strategic planning?

Content development is king, as it ultimately feeds all the stages of the marketing funnel in a variety of tactics. And to develop content that is strategic, wanted, intentional, and smart requires social listening. The use of SEO and SEM then becomes important to how your content is used in both awareness and interest tactics to reach your audience.

And because content is so critical to any marketing plan, SEO/SEM and social listening are table stakes. (And for what it’s worth, so is ongoing VOC, a select number of tradeshows, key customer engagements, product launch activities, and building strong content for use in multiple channels.)

As for social posts, you have to match your strategy to the situation. When you have the web content and evidence to support the readers’ interest and research, you’ve struck gold! But don’t feel the need to be on all channels all the time, and don’t post just to post. Followers appreciate thoughtful and well-timed posts more than quantity.

Any final thoughts?

I know it’s not conventional thinking, but we don’t have to measure everything. We don’t need focus groups to make every decision. When you hire really good people, develop a great strategy, and give your team the freedom to try new things, the whole can end up being greater than the sum of its parts.

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