Marketing Strategy: What It Is, Why It’s Important, and How to Create One

A marketing strategy is a plan to achieve a defined marketing goal to reach consumers and convert them into customers.

CMOs Respond to Economic Uncertainty in a Variety of Ways

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Build a Marketing Strategic Plan That Works — Even in Volatile Times!

Effective marketing strategic planning connects your enterprise strategy to specific initiatives for your function. Done well, your marketing strategic plan should provide a clear roadmap to deliver on your business goals.

Use this one‑page marketing strategic planning template to:

  • Build a clear, measurable marketing strategic plan aligned to your organizational goals 
  • Combat 7 costly planning mistakes to develop a robust and agile strategy for your marketing department 
  • Capture and communicate your marketing strategy to stakeholders with an exclusive one-page template

The core components of a marketing strategy

The most effective marketing strategies are built for a dynamic environment to drive the business forward. 

Build resilient marketing strategies aligned to enterprise goals

For CMOs, the challenge is not just to “do more with less” but rather “do the right less” due to unpredictable macro forces and pressure from new, wide-ranging and ambitious enterprise objectives. CMOs must focus on resilient methods for strategy development that help them define and communicate marketing’s contributions to organizational objectives.

Four themes are essential for marketing leaders to implement in their marketing strategies this year and beyond:

  1. Customer journey orchestration

  2. Marketing’s shifting role in the enterprise

  3. Strategic brand management

  4. Change and volatility management

Developing a succinct and compelling strategy also requires a balance between a high-level vision that captures stakeholders’ attention and tactical guidance for the marketing team. CMOs must articulate their marketing strategy by sharing highlights without overwhelming business stakeholders with too much information.

A common marketing strategy structure is to nest business objectives, marketing objectives, marketing initiatives and related marketing measurements. But this approach has gaps in each area and leads to wasted resources and a misalignment of business objectives. It may look tidy and organized, but it’s masking underlying problems. A successful marketing strategy is cognizant of potential gaps and addresses them by:

  • Probing for the drivers behind business goals and identifying issues both inside and outside of marketing that must be solved for you to achieve your goals

  • Selecting the right marketing initiative to support business objectives

  • Selecting key performance indicators that accurately show the impact of marketing initiatives and connect back to the business goals they are designed to support

Reduce, protect and invest to drive growth and efficiency

CMOs must prepare for the tough decisions required to address the economic headwinds that lie ahead. Even the most optimistic CMOs should be ready to make some tough cost decisions, especially in a volatile and changeable environment. To survive and thrive in the face of budgetary challenges, CMOs need marketing spend strategies that optimize costs, strengthen their ability to meet evolving business goals and deliver maximum business value. 

By cost optimization, we mean a continuous business-focused activity to drive structured spend optimization while maximizing business value. When done effectively, it seeks to improve efficiency and productivity, shifting spend from lower-yield programs to those that can deliver greater return.

For marketing, that means assessing your spend in key areas such as agencies, media, martech, operations, digital commerce, campaigns, marketing analytics and projects — exploring how each one supports (or hinders) the customer journey and influences business revenue. Consider what programs actively create marketing value versus those that merely support it. 

Take action now, even if your CFO has yet to start talking about reducing costs. The marketing spend playbook you must adopt has to reflect the specific challenges that lie ahead. These essential steps should be part of your playbook to navigate economic headwinds:

  • Step 1: Benchmark your budgets to identify how your current budget and spending stack up against peers and competitors.

  • Step 2: Build your understanding on the changing behaviors of your customers and consumers. Build your VoC capabilities to track how economic uncertainty is impacting your customers.

  • Step 3: Shore up your scenario-planning capabilities to build agile, adaptive marketing strategies.

  • Step 4: Make an assertive case for the value of marketing investments. Invest in marketing because it is essential to delivering results today and keeping your brands top of mind as buying cycles elongate and spending power is challenged. It also maximizes the chances of accelerating out of the economic headwinds tomorrow. Rather than accept that cuts are inevitable, make a confident and assertive case for strong and continued investment.

  • Step 5: Cut marginal marketing costs. Build a cost management plan that balances potential fiscal benefits with risks.

  • Step 6: Refocus your investments in media, agencies and technology. Identify the investments across marketing’s operating model that enable you to deliver efficiency today and growth tomorrow.

For more on marketing spend, download: Marketing Cost Optimization Framework

Define the performance metrics that link strategy to execution

Marketing has traditionally been seen as a cost center rather than a revenue-generating function, which has led to CMOs having to justify investments and keep costs in check. This is happening even more now, as CMOs seek to restore their postpandemic marketing budgets.

To position marketing as a value creator, strategies need to be informed by data and the use of consistent measurement frameworks. This prevents the cherry-picking of results, helps connect activities to the business and therefore helps articulate value to others.

However, calculating how marketing creates value can be elusive when trying to make a direct connection between a marketing activity (such as a digital campaign) and a business outcome (such as a sale). To show value, it’s imperative to deliver marketing metrics based on the roles and decisions supported — from the CEO, who needs to know about business outcomes, to campaign managers and analysts, who leverage granular metrics to optimize marketing tactics. Establishing a clear hierarchy of marketing metrics ensures the right people see the right measures at the right time — and are using those metrics for the right purpose.

If ROI cannot be easily measured, CMOs must frame marketing activities by the value they will deliver to business objectives. The key performance metrics for a demand generation program, for example, are more leads, higher-quality leads and an increase in funnel velocity. The value of these metrics collectively can be measured as return on objectives (ROO). ROO is an alternative way of measuring value when marketers are unable to show the return on investment (ROI) either directly or indirectly. 

Using the right KPIs with the right people also helps drive more confident decision making, making it easier to evaluate activities, understand when and where to shift direction, and respond to new changes and challenges.

Build capabilities that enable agile execution

CMOs naturally assess the readiness of their teams to quickly adapt to waves of change. But too often they turn to the extremes of full-scale reorganization or isolated, role-based hiring tactics to alleviate short-term pressures. Rather than focus on jobs or reporting structure, CMOs should focus on sourcing the mix of capabilities they will require to adapt and execute their strategic initiatives in the mid- to long term.

Accurately assessing capabilities and capacity requirements is a key component of strategic planning and is critical for proper execution. To develop adaptive marketing capabilities to deliver on your strategic objectives, implement these four major steps:

  1. Identify capability gaps.

  2. Source capabilities.

  3. Align capabilities to structure.

  4. Evaluate impact and emerging needs.

Identify capability gaps

Develop your own capability assessment to think about what capabilities your team will need to execute against your strategic plan. Collaborate with your leadership team and identify larger functional groupings of related job roles and specific skills or expertise, that will support the deliverables you require, create scenario plans for changes you anticipate, and address how to resource or align those capabilities.

Source capabilities

Determine how you will resource missing capabilities or capacity. You may invest in upskilling current employees, acquire the capability by hiring or merger/acquisition, or partner to access the capability through agencies, freelancers, services or vendors.

Align capabilities to structure

Decide how to fit the desired capabilities for internal staff into your current organizational structure. Adding capabilities or redeploying talent doesn’t require a full-scale redesign. Instead, think about ways to incorporate them with the least impact to the existing organization. This will reduce disruption and the likelihood of change fatigue.

Evaluate impact and emerging needs

No matter how carefully you craft your organization design, it will need to adapt as your strategy changes. Rather than seeing organization design as a single project, you need to view it as an ongoing process that’s necessary to ensure that the capabilities of your team continue to adapt to support the requirements of your strategy.


Optimize the channel strategy with a holistic approach

Marketing channels, both online and offline, play a vital role in spreading the word about a brand and reaching potential customers. Marketing leaders realize the importance of a clear and cohesive cross-channel experience, but too often they struggle to break their marketing channel strategies out of organizational silos.

Our research shows that across industries, customers reported using an average of four unique channels throughout their interaction with a brand, such as a company’s website, email, SMS and social media, during their customer buying journey. To build an effective channel portfolio, successful brands first gather insights to identify target customer groups and establish key leadership priorities. These insights include:

  • Top marketing goals and how they can be supported across channels

  •  Personas or segments that define the brand’s target customer

  • Brand research on customer sentiments and economic opportunities or threats

  • Existing customer journey map(s)

  • Ideal customer actions across the journey that would help meet the brand’s objectives

A thorough understanding of the target audience, business goals and available resources enables a brand to establish its overarching strategy across channels, versus at an individual channel level. An optimized channel strategy should:

  1. Put the customer first. Brands that consider their target customers’ channel preferences and how they use those channels are less likely to invest in experiences that don’t align with customer expectations.

  2. Factor in existing channel strategies. Achieving the right channel mix requires an honest look at a brand’s experiences to ensure they drive ideal customer actions. Successful marketers take an active approach to fine-tuning versus a “fix and forget” approach.

  3. Prioritize. Every organization has its unique resource constraints. Having a thorough understanding of customer needs and how the existing channel strategy is (or isn’t) performing will help ensure that investments fuel the channels most likely to drive returns.

Improve performance, optimize investments and quantify marketing’s impact

CMOs are under tremendous pressure to prove the impact of marketing. But incomplete data across an ever-growing mix of marketing activities, channels, devices and touchpoints can lower trust in their performance metrics.

Marketing mix modeling (MMM) is a technique used to evaluate how the different elements of a marketing mix affect overall performance. By using MMM to identify which tactics have the strongest impact, CMOs can make data-driven decisions about their marketing strategies, track the return on marketing investments, allocate resources more effectively, and optimize their tactics to achieve their objectives successfully.

Marketers still struggle to answer foundational questions about the impact of marketing on the business. The goal of MMM is to determine the incremental impact of marketing activities and use those findings to answer strategic marketing questions. The details of the modeling approach differ, but most forms use aggregate (not user-level) data. As a result, MMM can consider a wide range of channels and external influences, including:

  • Digital media (e.g., social media and banner ads)

  • Traditional media (e.g., broadcast television, out-of-home and radio)

  • Company factors that can impact conversions (e.g., inventory levels, staffing or geographic footprint)

  • Market forces (e.g., relative price, competitive media spending and share of voice)

  • External factors (e.g., weather, seasonality, economic conditions or consumer confidence)

MMM has a long history, and it continues to evolve. If you looked at marketing mix a decade ago and dismissed it as “insights only at the channel level” or “results only updated quarterly,” you may want to reconsider. Recent improvements in MMM include faster turnaround times, greater depth of insights and more prescriptive recommendations.

In short, successful CMOs use MMM to ease challenges and uncertainty around marketing’s growing complexity.

To maximize the effectiveness of your marketing mix model, adopt these three practices:

  • Prioritize insights. Rank the outputs that will bring the most value from your marketing mix model. Then lean into scenario planning and model validation to improve program effectiveness.

  • Build trust through validation. Our research showed that marketing leaders with higher trust in their MMM were more likely to describe insights delivered by marketing analytics as “essential to our organization’s success.” But MMM findings often challenge conventional wisdom. Treat your marketing mix model as a credible suggestion, not a mandate.

  • Plan and optimize. Engage in what-if scenario planning to create resilient, higher-performing marketing plans over time.

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Frequently asked questions

A marketing strategy is a plan designed to achieve a defined marketing goal, generally to reach a particular audience of consumers and convert them into customers.

A good marketing strategy is succinct, compelling and balances a high-level vision that captures stakeholders’ attention with tactical guidance for the marketing team. A good marketing strategy must also be built for a dynamic environment to drive the business forward.

A marketing strategy is important because it defines what the function will do to help the enterprise be successful — how it plans to compete and win in its chosen markets or deliver expected services to consumers and fulfill its public mission.

Drive stronger performance on your mission-critical priorities.