The difference between marketing and strategic marketing is sort of like the difference between a piece of cheese and using that piece of cheese to make some delicious lasagna – while the former may be great on its own, it’s nothing when compared to its use as part of an overall plan that makes the best use possible of all the parts involved.

Strategic marketing is making sure that each one of your marketing efforts (e.g., e-newsletters, advertisement in magazines, websites, direct mailers and so on) aligns with your overall plan for connecting the information you have to provide with the audience that needs to hear it for you to succeed. The key to understanding and creating an effective strategic marketing campaign is developing a comprehensive strategic marketing plan that allows everyone in your organization to understand what your marketing goals are and your plan for accomplishing them.

The key sections of a strategic marketing plan include:

1. Audience Identification and Analysis – Always start at the end: Who is your audience? What information are they looking for? Where would they look for this information? How often are they looking?

2. Competitor Analysis – Look at what “they” are up to: Where is the competition spending their marketing dollars? Where are they ahead and where are you ahead? Which types of clients are they attracting that you want to go after? Are you looking to pull even with them or pull ahead?

3. Opportunity Analysis – On the lookout for possibilities: Where are we looking to grow our business? Where is the biggest profit opportunity? Where is the biggest volume opportunity? What capabilities do we have now that we didn’t have a year ago? What action steps are needed to go after these opportunities?

4. Message Analysis – Figuring out what you’re saying, what you need to be saying, and how best to say it: What messaging is currently out there about your company? How did it get there? What is the “elevator speech” version of what you want your customers to know about your company? What are the three most important pieces of information that will attract new business? What messaging drew current customers to you and not to your competition?

5. Marketing Tactics – Connecting your clients to your message: What is the most effective use of your marketing budget? What mediums (e.g., website, print materials, branding materials, mobile applications, social media, etc.) are the most effective for reaching your target customers? What is your month-by-month strategic marketing plan for the next year to attract new business and retain current customers?How can you leverage existing clients to attract new clients? How can the tactics be interlinked to improve the overall performance of each piece?

A comprehensive and accurate strategic marketing plan, assuming that you have the dedication and commitment to follow it, will open new doors with potential and existing clients and connect them with the information that they’re looking for. This type of dedication is the difference between companies that are “players” in a given sector and those that are “winners” in their sector.