“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

Abraham Lincoln


Marketing from your gut today is like trying to hit a target in a blacked-out room. If you hit anything it’s probably by accident.


Marketing strategy tells you what trees need to be in the forest and what it’s going to look like in the end.


“The new battleground is going to be owned media.”



“Strategy is not about doing things…it's about doing things deliberately.”

Buffi Neal

Decoding Modern Marketing


  • Marketing is too complex today to operate without a plan.
  • Your planning should be as comprehensive and evidence based as possible.
  • Your plan should produce a marketing strategy designed to accomplish business goals.
  • Your strategy should be translated into a tactical Playbook, for the short and medium term.
  • You should also develop a Roadmap showing how your long term marketing vision will be accomplished.


The following ten steps will result in a comprehensive, actionable marketing plan:

Step 1. Business Goals

Be clear about what business goals marketing has to accomplish, so you can measure performance.

Step 2. Knowledge Gathering

Make sure you know everything about the competition, your consumer and the marketplace.

Step 3. Gap Analysis

If you don’t know something important, find out with original research.

Step 4. Segmentation & Personas

Define your target consumers and zero-in on the segments that are most important. Turn them into personas so you are marketing to people, not numbers.

Step 5. Consumer Journey Mapping

Find out what happens when each key persona takes the journey to purchase and beyond.

Step 6. Channel Strategy

Find out which media channels, from digital to traditional, to use for each persona at different steps in their journey.

Step 7. Messaging Framework

Develop a clear set of messaging parameters for the brand, the personas, channels and contexts.

Step 8. Content Strategy

Develop a comprehensive content strategy, which tells you what to say and how to say it to each persona at each interaction point.

Step 9. Tactics

Select tactics that are aligned with the needs identified and that are most likely to accomplish business goals.

Step 10. Playbook and Roadmap

Translate tactics into a 12-24 month Playbook, which acts as the execution guide; also produce a Roadmap laying out the long term course for your brand.

The new marketing landscape, just like the consumers who inhabit it, is much more complex than it used to be. Instead of just the four big outlets of the past - TV, radio, print and billboards - today you’ve got the whole digital world.

You also have demanding, digitally-savvy consumers with very high expectations, and an unforgiving power to punish brands that manipulate, deceive or just fail to please. This requires that companies move in a very thoughtful, careful way, based on data and evidence vs. their experience or intuition, which is probably already out of date or wrong. Marketing from your gut today is like trying to hit a target in a blacked-out room. If you hit anything it’s probably by accident. And for those whose cry is that creativity is the answer, the question is: What happens when the world’s best creativity isn’t pointed in the right direction?

The strategic marketing planning process that I am going to outline in this first chapter, assumes you have already done basic business strategy work. You should be confident that you have the right products, enough potential demand and that you can get the price you need. This work includes determining your optimum product or service offering mix, distribution strategy and pricing strategy. Building on that foundation, your marketing mission is to get the consumer to buy your product by saying the right thing, to the right person, at the right time, in the right way. That’s a lot of “rights,” but it illustrates how informed and precise modern marketing needs to be. It’s not rocket science, but there’s much more science to it than there used to be. The exciting potential, however, is that you can build an integrated system that can do this, which can even become self-sustaining over time.

In the old marketing model, most of your company’s marketing dollars went to pay 3rd party media, like magazines or TV, to carry your message to consumers. It really was the only way, except for perhaps direct mail, for a brand to tell their story to a lot of prospects. Today, digital channels are direct to consumer. That allows a company to connect one-to-one and have a two-way conversation with their prospects and consumers. This sets up the potential for creating a new formula that relies less on renting 3rd party vehicles and more on your own proprietary communications infrastructure. We call this Owned media. It includes things like your website, mobile sites and email. Paid media, like, TV advertising and banner ads, still has a role in the new marketing, but its responsibility is less than it used to be. Instead of doing all the work of connecting, cultivating and converting, it instead becomes a spark that gets the process going. Earned media is the final kind of media we use. It’s denotes the word-of-mouth exposure a brand earns from consumers, customers and press. This includes social media, commentary, ratings & reviews and PR. All three types of media are necessary today, but the opportunity is to focus more on Owned and Earned media and less on Paid media.

Marketing strategy tells you what trees need to be in the forest and what it’s going to look like in the end. It shows you how to construct your marketing system so that each piece supports the others and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Of course you need a website, but what do your consumers need it to do? What content should it have and what functionality? And how should it work with your social media websites or your email? Your marketing plan tells you what to say, when, in what channels and to whom? It tells you how to grow share of wallet, where to find more prospects, and even what products to develop. All of this comes from a methodical process, which delivers a detailed execution plan and a roadmap for building your system; all designed to accomplish business goals.


This is a fundamental mistake that comes from the pressure of the moment, “We don’t have time; we have to do something!” or being enticed by the latest fad. However, strategy is simply a plan to achieve business goals, which uses many tactics. It shows you what to do and how tactics should work together, synergistically, to move your organization forward towards your goals. There is no shortcut. Even if you are a midsize company you need the same quality of planning for your marketing that you would demand if you were building a factory.

The approach that is outlined in this chapter recognizes the central importance of the consumer in the new business equation, which is why many of the planning activities are organized around understanding the consumer’s behavior and attitudes. It is also why you have to answer five critical questions:

  1. WHO are our best prospects?
  2. WHERE are the right media channels to connect?
  3. WHEN are the right moments to connect in each journey?
  4. WHAT should we say at every interaction?
  5. HOW should we say it?