Strategic planning is the voice of the customer. And strategic planners help our team uncover insights about our target audience. Those insights are catalysts for our account and creative teams, powering their brilliant, original work. And when executed, that work drives behavioral change in our clients’ customers and, ultimately, the results our clients are looking for.
Just like magic, right?
A lot of hard work goes into that magic—and you might wonder how we do it.
“The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.”
— John Maynard Keynes, Cambridge macroeconomist
The first step in uncovering customer insights is to open our minds. We come into our job with preconceived notions about the customer that are hard to recognize, much less shake. We may assume our target audience is a lot like us, for example. (This is one good reason to promote diversity in advertising.)
The job of strategic planning requires a curiosity about people. We slake our curiosity with tools like:
- Primary research, including:
- Qualitative/quantitative studies and surveys
- In-depth interviews
- Focus groups
- Social media monitoring
- UX testing
- Secondary research, which for us includes:
- CMIOnline—A repository of current thinking and research curated by IPG
- Mintel Comperemedia
- And many others
After gathering all this data, we go into analyst mode. Sometimes things pop out quickly. Sometimes it takes a group brainstorm to tease out the important nuggets of truth.
In the end, this brain work provides useful tools, such as audience personas, customer journey maps, messaging frameworks and knockout creative briefs for the rest of the team. We use this information to define behavioral triggers, expectations, relevant offers and key channels for our clients’ products. And those nuggets of truth help the creative team develop messaging and creative that breaks through in the marketplace.
Strategic planning, then, is foundational to everything we do as an agency. By helping our messaging resonate with our target and produce sales for our clients, it’s pretty magical after all.