How to gain a competitive edge with long-term planning

by The Salmat Team
09 March 2017
How to gain a competitive edge with long-term planning
We speak with Ben Hillman, Head of Marketing at Salmat about what holds marketers back from setting up long-term strategy and the significant business argument for investing in future planning. 

In today’s fast-paced digital market, there’s often great value in reactive marketing that allows brands to jump on trending events, viral memes and topical subjects. 

This can be a constant hampster wheel.

Planning marketing campaigns without setting up a longer-term strategy means that companies are sacrificing the potential for longer-term buy-in and more committed relationships with their customers over time, Hillman explains. 

It’s a common practice he says needs to change if marketers truly want to achieve their business objectives. 

The Salmat Mid-tier Marketing Index found that mid-tier companies are overwhelmingly increasing their marketing spending year-on-year. While one third (36.9%) intends to maintain the same marketing budget in 2017, one in two marketers (59.8%) said they intend to increase their marketing budgets in 2017. 

And they are largely mature and savvy in their approach to marketing. 

Most said they have a well-defined marketing plan; in fact, a third (31.7%) said that their plan was very well defined.

However, despite an increased spend and focus on defining their marketing plan, long-term planning is still not a priority for mid-tier marketers. The majority (73.5%) say that they are planning their marketing less than six months ahead. And 30% said that they plan their marketing less than three months ahead. 

Should this surprise us? 

Yes and no, says Hillman. 

“On the one hand, considering that most organisations (61.4%) have a dedicated person or team in the company looking after marketing, strategy should be central to a well-thought-out campaign,” says Hillman. “However, there are many good reasons we don’t see an overwhelming amount of strategic long-term planning occur in mid-tier companies.”

Salmat Mid-Tier Marketing Index 2017

Why isn’t there more long-term planning?

The high degree of focus required for the execution of campaigns, and short time frames available to get things into market in order to effectively react to competitors are some of the reasons marketing teams often don’t have the time to deliver high-level strategic insights to their businesses, according to Hillman. Other issues that continue to hinder marketers include a lack of collaboration between marketing and sales teams, and the fact that for many businesses, strategy and planning are stuck in the short term. 

“It's a case where you are unable to step back and take another look at your campaigns and activities, because you are always going through the motions of putting the next one in place.” 

Hillman believes the way companies receive and interact with data is also playing a big part in the way companies are behaving. 

“Marketing departments are being squeezed into a more reactive mindset, mainly because the influx of data that’s accessible means you can theoretically turn on a dime any activity you do from one week to another.” 

The pace of disruption has also changed behaviours, he says. Companies no longer feel safe within their niche as more and more small business innovate outside of their traditional markets, meaning companies are constantly forced to react to these competitors. 

For example, The Dollar Shave club was purchased by Unilever for $1 billion after the startup upended the razor industry by offering a vastly cheaper product directly to the customer. At the other end of the scale, Amazon’s invasion of the book industry is an example of what The Harvard Business Review calls ‘big-bang’ disruption. Without any knowledge of the publishing industry, the company innovated by applying the e-commerce tools it already possessed to a new market. 


What is lost in the process?  

It’s a mindset shift that Hillman suggests will hurt companies in the long term. 

By being reactive, companies lose the ability to see through programs with a clear objective, and strategic planning. “Marketing campaigns require reinforcement and customer engagement over an extended period of time. By constantly switching and changing directionss, you are throwing away the value of good ideas that take time to be rolled out successfully.” 

What needs to be done to solve a perpetual planning rut?

Companies need to ensure that they set up an overarching series of themes or objectives each year. This way, marketers can ensure that campaigns are given enough time to deliver the insights required to feed into the next campaign. 

It’s about developing a two-track approach, says Hillman. Companies need to plan far enough ahead to give themselves the capacity to be reactionary when required.

Concluding thoughts

Long-term strategy isn't about the execution or the tactical components of a marketing plan, Hillman says.  

These things will change and shift over time.

What is of most importance is having a clear idea of who your clients are; what their drivers and needs are; and what solutions you are providing that they find value in. 

Dedicating the time upfront to planning means that:

a) Your execution is smoother because you've clearly mapped out the course
b) You can begin having a clear view on performance and improvement over time 
c) Your insights improve and feed into the tweaking of the campaign – and ongoing campaigns. 

“From those details, you can craft stories and messages that can be implemented in numerous different ways and still get to the heart of what will resonate with your customer,” Hillman says.  

“Strategy is about being clear about where the company will grow, the value it will deliver, where your clients are and the means with which to engage with them.”

Contact Salmat today to learn more about our marketing solutions or call 1300 725 628.

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About the author
The Salmat Team

Salmat is a leading Australian marketing services provider. We help clients connect with their customers, week-in, week-out. Salmat's unique combination of targeted letterbox and online marketing channels enables clients to Reach, Convert and Serve their customers. We also provide a wide range of back office solutions, through our Philippines-based Managed Services business.

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