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Strategic marketing plan

How do you set up a strategic marketing plan? Which analyzes are necessary for this and where can I save time and effort? The SMP method leads you clearly and graphically to your strategic marketing plan in seven steps. Using the best practice, combine marketing models and analysis to make it fit your business.

7 steps to a strategic marketing plan

Let's be honest: Marketing without a structure is a pure waste of time and money. With Plan, on the other hand, marketing is more efficient and a lot more fun. So you have a goal in mind, you can celebrate successes and inspire others with it. So you need a concept and ideally a proven structure. Our suggestion is the SMP method, which will take you to the strategic marketing plan in seven steps. SMP quite simply stands for Strategic Marketing Plan, because the end result of the SMP method is not blind actionism, but an operational marketing annual plan - derived from a sensible marketing STRATEGY.

As part of the SMP method, the marketing strategy, the appropriate marketing mix and finally the corresponding annual marketing plan are developed. You will receive a detailed plan of action to implement your marketing strategy. In seven steps you have a clear marketing concept.

Structure of the marketing plan

The steps of the SMP method are reflected in the table of contents of the marketing plan. You will make it a lot easier for yourself as the writer of the marketing plan if you really take it step by step. The marketing analyzes and models build on one another and are most effective when they are processed in the following order. A thoroughly coherent concept beckons as a reward.

  1. Statement of objectives
  2. Market research
  3. Business analysis
  4. SWOT analysis
  5. Marketing strategy
  6. Marketing mix
  7. Annual marketing plan

Steps 1 to 3 are collectively referred to as a situation analysis. During the situation analysis, you are only concerned with analysis and research. You want to know the facts, clarify resources and framework conditions.

Steps 4 to 7 structure the logical consequences that you derive from the situation analysis. The conclusions from the previous steps provide input for the following steps. Within the main steps - or chapters of the marketing plan - we use various marketing analyzes and marketing models. The result is an operational action plan to implement your marketing strategy.

Two-stage marketing concept

We distinguish between two phases when creating a marketing plan. The first phase is dedicated to market research. Thanks to this research, you will then have enough information about the market and the organization for the subsequent phase of marketing development.

The first phase is market research

The first phase is market research. In this phase you determine the important facts and check the market and company extensively. You analyze the current situation. This is why this phase is also known as a situation analysis. The situation analysis consists of the external analysis and the internal analysis.

Externally, i.e. in the market, you are looking for opportunities and risks. Internally, in the company you look for strengths and weaknesses. This analysis is commonly known by the abbreviation SWOT - from the English terms Strength, Weakness, Opportunities, Threats. The SWOT analysis is the indispensable core of any marketing plan. Here you confront the internal factors with the external factors in order to assess the marketability of a product, a service, a business unit or other strategic units.

Marketing development

After confronting the company's strengths and weaknesses with the opportunities and risks of the environment, the real work can begin. You have dealt with the strategic questions of market-fit: You know at which points you can improve the connection to the relevant market.

In this step you will develop a marketing strategy that reinforces promising topics and areas and intercepts negatively rated topics and areas. In this phase you have a lot of responsibility: This is where you make the groundbreaking decisions - based on the facts you have gathered during market research. That feels better and promises greater success with a conscientiously done market research. Go for it!

Statement of objectives

Determine ambitions

Why are you writing a marketing plan? Do you know what you want to achieve with your marketing plan? You probably already have a suspicion or a specific assignment. For example, your company should open up new markets. Or you would like to develop your existing online marketing further. Maybe you even have the ambition to open up markets abroad ...

Where do you want to go

The underlying ambition for a marketing plan doesn't always have to be growth-oriented. The aim of a marketing strategy can also be to maintain the current position. Sometimes we also work towards phasing out services in certain markets in a controlled manner. Whatever your reason for creating a strategic marketing plan, you are looking for the best path for your business, in the long run.

Set focus

You can develop this path for the whole company or part of the company. A “business unit”, a “strategic business unit (SBU)”, a “product-market combination” or a “department” can be such a part of the company. Before you lively analyze and juggle marketing models, it is advisable to focus the research effort on the right subject areas. You do that in this first step. What goal do you want to achieve with your marketing plan? This also includes a quick look at the current status, after all, you want to set realistic goals.

From daydream to realistic goal

In pictures: Imagine that you urgently want to go to the sea (= destination), but you are currently in Mainz - or another non-coastal town (= starting point). Your common sense (= quick scan) and a more detailed internet research (= market research) show: There are different routes (= marketing strategies) and ways of how you can reach your goal (= marketing models). What you decide also depends on whether you want to go to a certain sea (Pacific or is the Baltic Sea enough?) Or just put your feet in the water (= reason / ambition of the marketing plan). And then the available resources (budget, time, stamina) are of course also an important factor in keeping the travel plan (= marketing plan) realistic. Before you even set off, you already have a well-founded idea of ​​what you want to achieve and which obstacles (= marketing problems) you have to overcome. Good Trip!

A clear view and the goal in mind

In the first step, you determine the starting point and the goal of the marketing plan. With a clear definition of goals, you have the necessary orientation for the subsequent market research.

Fast scan

The quick scan (not to be confused with the well-founded market research in steps 2 and 3!) Gives you a broad overview of the company, market and development opportunities. Basically, you are trying to push the obvious marketing task (s) aside as far as possible. This means that you look at the company and the product-market combination as impartially and openly as possible. Is everything already going the way you want it to? What sales figures did you actually want to achieve? Take off the glasses of operational blindness and put yourself in the shoes of the customers. What obstacles can customers keep from buying? What bridges can you build to reach more potential customers? By perceiving product-market combinations and companies without entrepreneurial tunnel vision, you can also discover the hidden clues that point to strategic marketing tasks.

Excursus: Marketing Task

What is such a marketing task? Some also speak of the marketing problem or the marketing challenge. Basically, it is always about clarifying the gap between the target and the current situation. The task of marketing is then to guide the company towards the target state.

An example: The optician Supervision uses natural, fair trade materials for his glasses frames out of deep conviction. As a core target group, he has people with a pronounced social and ecological conscience (socio-ecological sinus milieu) in mind. He meets all possible quality requirements, but the customers stay away. The optician sets out to investigate the causes and asks passers-by what keeps them from visiting the store. From the numerous hints he learns, for example, that the five steps in the inviting shop prevent young mothers with prams from entering, but otherwise few people on the street are his target group. The marketing task to solve the problem could therefore be a barrier-free entrance on site and the establishment of an online shop in order to reach people living further away from the relevant target group and thus increase the absolute number of potential customers.

Marketing Problem Scan

The second step in determining the goal is the problem scan. After the quick scan, you will have a better awareness of the problem. The problem scan examines the symptoms for things that could be better. Ultimately, that certainly leads us to the strategic marketing task. It helps you to classify the symptoms systematically: Are these symptoms quantitative or qualitative in nature? Are they potential or urgent? What are the causes of these symptoms? For example, you want to export to the Dutch market, but the right sales channels to the Netherlands are missing. Perhaps the strategic marketing task is to build a Dutch sales channel.

Completion of goal setting

If you can clearly name at least one strategic marketing task and describe the associated symptoms, you have completed the first step. You have done an analysis of the visible and less visible symptoms and thought about what the causes could be. During the quick scan, you got an overview as neutrally as possible and without tunnel vision. Then you circled the strategic marketing task with the problem scan, which looks closely at the individual symptoms.

Market research

chances and risks

What opportunities and threats exist in your market? In step 2 we explore the market. This step is also known as external analysis. Because this analysis focuses on the external environment of a company and external factors. Think of changes and trends that your company cannot influence. You rate: Do these market conditions represent more of an opportunity or more of a threat to your company? The external analysis can include different levels and set different priorities. In the following we give a brief overview of terms and approaches.

External corporate environment

To describe the company and its environment, we orientate ourselves on the analysis levels of sociology. Here the levels of analysis are based on the degree to which an actor can intervene in developments. The micro level includes the company itself, changes can be controlled comparatively easily here. The external corporate environment is divided into the meso and macro levels. The corporate environment at the meso level includes a company's customers, competitors and suppliers. At least to a limited extent, companies can influence developments here (e.g. through strategic alliances). The macro level is completely beyond the scope of a company and includes the social, legal, technological and political framework. Note: In some textbooks, when describing the external corporate environment, a distinction is made between micro-environment (also task environment) and macro-environment (also macro-environment). With our explanation you will quickly see: The task environment is the external corporate environment at the meso level, macro environment and macro level match.

Study of the environment at the macro level

Various approaches support you in systematically mapping the corporate environment on the macro level. For example, the PEST analysis can be used to examine political, economic, socio-cultural and technological trends. Depending on the source or number of factors, this analysis is also referred to as a PESTEL or PESTLE analysis. This form of analysis breaks down the changes and trends to which a company is exposed according to subject areas (political, economic, socio-cultural, technological, legal, ecological).

Investigation of the environment at the meso level

Industry analyzes focus on a company's meso-environment. Porter's industry structure analysis, for example, combines five forces in one model that drive competition within an industry. For a complete description of the environment at the meso level, we recommend various sub-analyzes such as customer analysis, competition analysis, stakeholder analysis and sales analysis.

Classify market conditions as opportunities or risks

By the end of Step 2, you will know your surroundings and know what opportunities and threats are out there for you. You have completed half of the SWOT analysis after this step. Market research at the meso and macro level aims to identify opportunities and risks. Opportunities and risks cannot be influenced, therefore always outside the organization and therefore part of the external analysis. The better you know the realities of the market, the better you can react to it. However, in order to optimally prepare your reaction, you still lack the knowledge about your company that we collect in the internal analysis. In the next step you analyze the strengths and weaknesses.

Business analysis

Identify strengths and weaknesses

What are the strengths and weaknesses of the organization? In this third step of the marketing plan, you look for the company's strengths and weaknesses. Strengths and weaknesses always describe conditions inside the company. What is going well and where is there room for improvement? You may also discover deficiencies here that urgently need to be compensated for in order to continue to exist in the market. It is therefore advantageous to carry out this internal analysis only after the external analysis. Together with the opportunities and risks from step 2, the strengths and weaknesses from this step provide the input for the SWOT and confrontation matrix in step 4.

Create a profile of strengths and weaknesses

For a good overview of the company's own strengths and weaknesses, you must first define criteria that are relevant to the success or failure of the company. Then you look at each of these criteria and evaluate - for example on a 5-point scale, whether there is more of a strength or a weakness. Benchmark values ​​from your industry help with the assessment, for example from the market leader or from one or two of your most important competitors. If you list the criteria for describing the internal company situation one below the other, mark the relevant points on the rating scale behind them and connect these points, a relief is created - the company-specific strengths and weaknesses profile. For example, you can rate other companies with a different color and thus identify clear strengths and weaknesses at a glance where the lines drift apart.

Admittedly, criteria is a rather vague word. That's because companies are very different. The set of criteria that are relevant to the company's success is correspondingly different. In order not to forget anything, it helps to think of the company's resources, skills and knowledge. Because in order to approach the value creation process in a company, we have three different perspectives: Resource-based view, capability-based view and knowledge-based view. For a better understanding, we will briefly devote ourselves to each of these approaches.


The resource-oriented approach understands companies as an accumulation of different resources, i.e. available funds or (raw material) sources. There are material and immaterial resources. Material, also “tangible”, resources are the financial resources of a company (e.g. creditworthiness, cash flow) as well as physical resources (e.g. operating facilities, machines, location). Intangible resources include organizational resources (e.g. information system, CRM system), human resources (simply: the employees), and technological resources (e.g. brand reputation, quality standards).


When resources are the "building materials," the skills-based approach focuses on the ability to skillfully handle the building materials. Skills are complex patterns of interaction, coordination and problem-solving in an organization. For example, does your company have routines for certain situations? These routines count as an organization's capabilities. Company values, company mission statement and philosophy are also included in the skills.Are there any advantages or disadvantages compared to the competition? In contrast to many resources, skills cannot be easily transferred or simply bought. Skills, sometimes referred to as core competencies, are developed over the long term and are closely related to the organization and specific groups in the company.

Internal collaboration may also be an important criterion. Is the organization structured in such a way that employees can support one another? At this point you already notice that the transitions between the categories are of course not entirely clear: The entrepreneurial structures can also be covered under the (organizational) resources. But our goal is to give the broadest possible overview. You decide what is important for your company.


The knowledge-oriented approach is also based to a certain extent on the resource-oriented approach, but narrows the perspective. According to this understanding, knowledge as a resource is the decisive competitive characteristic of companies. What we pack under one roof under the term “knowledge” has not been fully discussed scientifically. To keep it practicable: Is there any special knowledge in your company that contributes to added value? Where does knowledge accumulate? How and where is knowledge created? Is existing knowledge used and exchanged? Is there a knowledge database or some other form of securing knowledge? If you deal with these questions, you can discover further criteria for identifying company-specific strengths and weaknesses.

On the trail of added value

The approaches described above all explain the above-average earnings of a company “from the inside out”. You look at the value creation and thus also at the value creation potential. To understand: If the output is more valuable than the input, we speak of value creation (the opposite would be value destruction). A company's own work creates added value. As an internal analysis, the company analysis represents the counterpart to the external analysis and examines the added value within the organization. The aim is to localize the strengths and weaknesses of the organization. This includes organizational policy, marketing policy and financial resources. For this purpose, it is useful to consider the company along the value chain, product portfolio analyzes, the analysis of the customer (relationship), an analysis of previous marketing activities and the financial situation and equipment of the company. The perspective can be more resource-oriented, more skill-oriented or more knowledge-oriented. The main thing is that at the end of the internal analysis you know the strengths and weaknesses of your company and have collected them in a clear presentation such as the strengths and weaknesses profile. Because now comes the next, exciting step: the confrontation of internal strengths and weaknesses with external opportunities and risks.

SWOT analysis

confront the organization with the market

How well does the company fit into the market in which it is positioned? The confrontation of the results from internal company analysis and external environment analysis is a very important step in strategic marketing. It is important to take this step very carefully, as misinterpretations and wrong conclusions can lead us completely astray. The comparison in the SWOT matrix provides the input for determining the marketing strategy.

Create a SWOT analysis

The strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and risks from the internal and external analysis are collected in the SWOT analysis and sorted according to importance. In fact, the SWOT analysis is nothing more than a summary of the results of the market research (step 2) and the company analysis (step 3) that we have already carried out before. You sort these pieces of information in the SWOT analysis according to importance and focus on the most important starting points in the SWOT matrix. The detailed analyzes beforehand were by no means in vain: If you have decided on a strategy based on the SWOT matrix, the details will help you design the marketing strategy.

Decide what is important with the SWOT matrix

Feel free to view the SWOT analysis as the heart of your strategic marketing plan. It is the turning point: while up until this point you were mainly occupied with analyzing and describing facts, from now on you will interpret information in order to make decisions. In the SWOT matrix you can see where strengths meet opportunities - great, expand! You can see where weaknesses meet risks - oh, better secure survival here. It is also clear that you basically have an advantage if you take advantage of opportunities by mending weaknesses. Or use certain strengths as a defense strategy against risks. But where do you start For this decision you evaluate the interactions of each individual strength with each chance and each risk. Do the same with weaknesses. The result is a valuable overview that presents the central marketing tasks to you on a silver platter, so to speak.

Formulate a strategic marketing task

The company's confrontation with its environment reveals areas for action. Some will be more urgent than others. You are interested in the discrepancies between the market and the organization. How well does the company meet the requirements and needs of the market with its performance? In the clear matrix representation, you can see at a glance where the central marketing tasks are. These marketing tasks, which are also referred to as marketing problems in the literature, should be captured in a few sentences, which you can also formulate as a question. Because basically it is like this: The SWOT analysis as a summary of the external and internal analysis raises strategic questions. The right answers are provided by the marketing strategy that you define in the next step.

Marketing strategy

Find solutions to problem areas

The time has come: At this point you know enough about the position and situation of your company and, above all, about the most important fields of action to make good and far-sighted decisions for the company's success. Now you can develop a marketing strategy in which specific problems are resolved and potential is expanded. This strategic decision in turn sets the direction for the next step, the marketing mix.

Why do I need a marketing strategy?

How a company is perceived on the market and by its customers depends on the interplay of numerous individual activities. Success can only be secured in the long term if this appearance is reliable and pleasant. The marketing strategy provides the framework for entrepreneurial behavior on the market and thus secures awareness. How do you best manage it now?

Market choice and market cultivation strategy

First of all, it is a matter of determining the right market or the right (sub) markets for your company. Depending on the size of the company and the scope of the offer, it is necessary to consider strategic business areas and strategic business units individually. A market segmentation helps to take into account the different needs of the customer groups in the strategy and, if necessary, to treat them differently. After you have determined the markets in which your company should be active, you determine the market cultivation strategy: niche specialization, product specialization, market specialization, selective specialization, overall market coverage or segment-of-one strategy (basic forms of market cultivation according to Abell 1980).

Consider market participants in the strategy

In the rarest of cases is a company the sole supplier in a market. That is why the perspective of numerous market development strategies is oriented towards the market participants. When it comes to exploiting competitive advantages, the basic concepts of competitive strategies according to Porter (2013) provide orientation for strategic decisions. Most of the time, however, the competition is already on its heels, so that a marketing manager should also provide a strategic thrust for this front: Looking for a conflict, cooperating, evading or adapting? In addition, you should specify in your marketing strategy which market position is to be aimed for. If there are powerful middlemen, you need to strategically consider this group as well.

Instrumental strategies

The instrumental strategies take a different perspective within the market cultivation strategies. They do not focus on the market participants, but anchor fundamental decisions about the use of the marketing instruments product, price, communication and sales. This is where the smooth transition from strategic to operational marketing planning begins, which takes place in step 6.

Examination and selection of the strategy

When developing the right marketing strategy, various analytical instruments will help you to set the focus of market cultivation based on facts. Life cycle analysis, positioning analysis and portfolio analyzes such as BCG matrix and McKinsey matrix are tried and tested here. And how much has to happen within your company so that you can successfully implement the marketing strategy? We check this with a strategy-potential-fit analysis. 6 out of 7

Marketing mix

choose the appropriate marketing tools

Which marketing tools bring your company closer to its marketing goal? The timing of the marketing strategy is long-term (usually 5 years or longer). The tactical decision-making level is designed for the medium term and is hierarchically subordinate. That is why you determine the marketing mix, your market cultivation tactics, with a slightly shorter time horizon (usually 2 to 5 years). When it comes to tangible implementation, shorter planning times are simply the better choice.

What's the Marketing Mix?

As a marketing mix, we mean a balanced combination of the various marketing instruments that are available to a marketer. To name a few examples: product innovation, range planning, packaging, price, terms of delivery and payment, sales promotion, trade fairs and exhibitions, employee communication, sponsoring, logistics systems, customer clubs ... the list could go on and on. Basically, these are all tools that your company can use to shape markets.

P, C, R and helpful additions

Scientists and practitioners have developed several approaches to clean up this toolbox. Therefore, the individual instruments are packed into different categories depending on the perspective and objectives and then referred to as “the 4Ps”, “the 7Ps”, “the 4Cs”, “the 3Rs” or similar. Lots of abbreviations, different focal points, no need to break a sweat: Overall, the variety helps you to pick the right models and tools for your marketing task.

P - the classic

The marketing mix is ​​a balanced combination of the various marketing instruments. The best-known composition is based on the principle of the 4 Ps according to McCarthy: product (product policy), price (price and condition policy), place (distribution policy) and promotion (communication policy). For companies in the service sector, Magrath added three more P: people (personnel policy), processes (service creation process), physical facilities (premises, rooms).

C or R - The customer is king

The criticism of the P-approach is that this model is too little customer-oriented and too much designed from the point of view of the organization. As an alternative, Kotler introduced the 4 Cs: core benefit (added value / benefit for the customer), cost to the customer (costs for the customer), convenience (convenience: how easily does the customer find information / does the purchase process?), Communication (Communication). Representatives of relationship marketing criticize the transaction-oriented approach of the P approach and therefore prefer to classify the marketing instruments according to the 3 Rs: If a company primarily wants to win new customers (recruitment), retain satisfied customers (retention) or keep or win back dissatisfied customers (recovery) ?

Customer journey, sales funnel and marketing funnel

The customer journey, also known in Germany under the English term customer journey, offers useful starting points for determining the marketing mix in customer-oriented marketing mix models (C and R). On a map (customer journey map) you draw the path of a customer (to your company) and discover which contact moments you can perhaps add or optimize. Similar models for viewing customer contacts are the sales funnel and the marketing funnel. Models that have emerged from practice and are increasingly seen as indispensable in a company's sales process. A well-optimized sales and marketing funnel lures latently and specifically interested parties to buy and converts them into (returning) customers.

Annual marketing plan

Plan the operational tasks

What specifically needs to be done to implement the strategy and tactics that you have developed step by step? And how can we monitor success? Without this last step, all of the work on the marketing plan so far is nice and enlightening, but it hasn't happened yet. At this point comes the marketing action plan, which sets out the specific actions for the coming year in line with all the strategic and tactical decisions.

literature: Bruhn, M. (2016). Marketing. Basics for study and practice. Springer Gabler, Wiesbaden. | Gelbrich, K., Wünschmann, S. & Müller, S. (2018). Success factors in marketing. Franz Vahlen, Munich. | Müller-Stewens, G. & Lechner, C. (2016). Strategic management. How strategic initiatives lead to change. Schäffer-Poeschel, Stuttgart. | Peuser, M. (2018). Marketing knowledge for studies and practice. Erich Schmidt, Berlin. | Schaper, T. (2016). Strategic Marketing Management. Introduction to theory and practice. Duncker & Humblot, Berlin.

Quote: Beck, Anke (2021, May 5). Strategic marketing plan. Marketingbright, the marketing and business encyclopedia.