Strategy & Planning

Build your foundation for success.

Look before you leap.

Those who jump headfirst into promotions and posts without a marketing strategy may wind up with something that looks good, but won’t perform well.

Why? Because it lacks a distinct, authentic, and sustainable brand “voice” to cut through the clutter. In other words, it misses the mark.

At Incite Creative, we encourage our clients to invest some time up front to make sure marketing messages and creative solutions stem from a strategic foundation.

This foundation takes the form of an omnichannel marketing plan. With such a plan in place, solutions not only look great but also perform well.

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It’s all part of the plan.

Below is a list of initiatives we include as part of our marketing strategy and planning phase:

  1. Benchmarking and goal setting
  2. Gain internal and external perspectives
  3. Competitor analysis
  4. Brand and message audit
  5. Persona building
  6. Customer journey mapping
  7. Marketing technology
  8. Budgeting
Failing to Prepare

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Benchmarking and Goal Setting

There are lots of ways you can measure success.

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are common indicators of how different marketing initiatives are performing. But often these reports that include email open and click-through rates, Google Analytics data that shows page and behavior trends, etc. while great, don’t always tell the full story. Moreover, they may not be tracking and measuring the critical determinants of success. Only you can answer that, with our help, of course.

We’ll work with you from the beginning, evaluate your digital metrics, your product inventory, service trends, cost of customer acquisition, revenue, and profitability, as well as your customer satisfaction, to name a few. We’ll then establish a timeline to measure against these same metrics to see how our collective efforts measure up.

Perceptions Help Position Your Brand

You only have one chance to make a great first impression, and your brand is only as strong, positive, or accurate as its perception — both internal and external. Pushing messages out to your target audiences that have not first been weighed in on by your internal team will quickly become vulnerable.

By gathering baseline perceptions from internal and external sources, we can shed light on obstacles as well as opportunities.

At Incite Creative, we gather these valuable perceptions from:

  • Internal Positioning Workshop
  • External Audience Interviews

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Positioning Workshop:
What's the internal team's perception?

You only have one chance to make a great first impression, and even the most exceptional salesperson has to deliver on what he/she is pitching. A consistently delivered positioning statement, targeted to each intended audience, will improve the results you get from your website, social media, and other marketing tactics. It will improve your close ratio and provide a far better return on investment.

That said, your brand is only as strong, positive, or accurate as its perception — both internal and external. Pushing messages out to your target audiences that have not first been weighed in on by your sales team will quickly become diluted. Our positioning workshop allows the sales force and other team members to participate in developing a unique value proposition that they can fully support. This process is the first step in creating a sustainable brand and positioning you as a contender in the marketplace.

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Customer Interviews:
What's the external audience's perception?

Do you know how your company, products, or services are perceived? By conducting external interviews with your existing customers, we become your unbiased eyes and ears and report back candid, yet essential information that will ultimately drive your outgoing message. Audience research obtained through open-ended questionnaires or focus groups will help inform messaging and positioning insight that might otherwise be overlooked. Our research goes far beyond surveys. The perspectives we gather during the audience analysis phase is essential to building a credible brand message.

Audience research is an essential step in effectively positioning your brand. The external input would either confirm internal perceptions found during the positioning workshop or raise a flag that, together, we need to reevaluate your message.

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Competitor Research:
How do you measure up?

We're consistently amazed at how many business owners admittedly don't know who their competition is, or go to the other extreme and claim that they have none. If that's the case, you should have 100% of the market share, and that’s never the case.

Everyone has competition, even if indirect (in-house services, online services, economy, fear, etc.) The best way to counter it is to identify who or what it is, what they're claiming, and ask yourself, "How do we do things differently and better?"

At Incite Creative, our team has the resources to conduct extensive competitive research that will help you make informed decisions about your position and market your business in relation to your competition. Being aware of what they're doing will enable you to confidently create your business strategy in turn, be the one that customers seek out most.

Brand & Message Audit:
What are you claiming?

Once we've heard from the internal team, heard from your customers, and checked in on the competition, it's time to evaluate your brand and determine if it's in harmony with how you want to be perceived, or if it needs to be re-tuned.

A complete brand audit involves more than a facelift. It includes evaluating your sales and customer service team, sales process, and current marketing tools (brochures, sales kits/folders, email marketing, website, social media pages, etc.). If there's a disconnect between these brand touchpoints, we can help you uncover it, realign them with your marketing goals, and get everything in perfect pitch.

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Persona Building

When it comes to marketing, you can’t get too far in the conversation without talking about target audiences. Who are you trying (or hoping) to reach with your message and materials?

To help you figure out your target audience, we help you build out personas to help you describe customers or user segments. Beyond just demographics, creating personas can lead to new insights and things you haven't thought of and help you better understand what makes your target audience tick. Personas will help you determine who your customers are and why they are using (or should be using) your products or services.

Customer Journey Mapping

Once you have a clear understanding of your customer personas, you’re ready to map out each customer journey. 

Every client and industry is unique. However, we can safely assume that there are two overarching phases (pre-purchase and post-purchase) with several stages

For instance, seldom does someone say to themselves, "I need an electrician, and I'm going to call XYZ Company and hire them on the spot." Instead, we naturally go online and conduct research, consider reviews, ask friends and family, obtain a few estimates, procrastinate a while, and then decide to buy. Once they buy, you hope they refer you for years to come. But are you prepared to nurture your prospect and customer relationships consistently through each stage? If not, we can help.

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Marketing Technology

Depending on the industry you serve, your marketing technology stack will vary. Generally speaking, however, there are five key categories that nearly every business tends to start with: email marketing, social media, CRM, analytics, and collaboration.

However, marketing technology can quickly get overwhelming and expensive. That’s why we include an assessment in the strategy and planning phase. We document the need and implementation plan for any new marketing technology before investments are made. We will collaborate with your internal or outsourced CIO, CTO, CISO, or IT department to make sure our collective recommendations work in harmony.

Budgeting your Benjamins

As you can see, we need to address several factors before we can put together an accurate marketing budget.

That said, if you’re looking for some general guidelines, our marketing team has been in business for over 20 years and has a firm grasp of different initiatives cost. You can also refer to The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) recommends small businesses with revenues less than $5 million should allocate 7-8 percent of their revenues to marketing to keep their current market position. Companies looking to grow or increase market share should budget a higher percentage—usually around 10 percent. 

As your CMO, our role is not to sell you a website, PPCs, earned media, or otherwise. We are not paid on the “products” we pitch. We are paid a monthly retainer to advise you what mix will provide the best return on your investment. 

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Now it’s Time to Develop Your Marketing Plan

Our marketing action plan is a road map to success.

With the information above as our guide, we can now compile a plan that succinctly summarizes the research gathered to date, articulate your company or organization's unique value proposition, document benchmarks, and marketing activity, and clearly outlines the tactics taken to help you achieve them.

Having the opportunity to first learn about your team, your products, or services, your target audiences, and competition enables us to provide results-oriented recommendations that work within your budget.

You’ll appreciate knowing that what we propose and estimate is what you'll invest, with no big monetary surprises.

Our strategic process is particularly welcomed by small businesses and enterprises alike that submit and work from an annual budget. Engaging us to develop your 12 to 18-month marketing plan sets the course for your fiscal year projections. Banks and loan officers also find our strategic process to be a valuable tool when evaluating business plans and approving lines of credit.

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At Incite Creative, we’ll put everything we created into action. Pieces won't work in silos. They'll join forces. They'll be pushed, pulled, marketed, measured, and evaluated independently and as a whole. We have the skills, the technology, and the resources to effectively evaluate your marketing initiatives so that together, we can make informed decisions and take proactive measures to boost your brand.

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It wasn't until we experienced Incite's CMO services that we realized what we had been missing. As attorneys, we were too busy to manage our own marketing and nor were we able to do it effectively. But having a trusted partner in Incite gives us the extra bandwidth we need and the confidence to know that the firm's brand is in very capable hands. We were most impressed by Incite's process. At the onset, they provided a unique perspective that helped us position our firm from the inside-out. They have since helped us build on that strategic foundation and as a result, our message is more focused, we have a clear plan from month to month, and the quality of our leads has increased. We are very pleased!
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Mary Ellen Flynn
Principal, Andalman & Flynn