Building a marketing roadmap can save your sanity as a marketer. It allows you to visualize your thoughts, create a structured content calendar, and show other departments (cough, cough, sales, cough) that you’re following a clearly defined path. The best roadmaps are built using strategic thinking as opposed to tactical thinking.

There is a shift that happens when thinking strategically and as opposed to tactically – it’s almost like thinking in reverse order. Thinking tactically typically goes like this:

Applying strategic thinking to marketing can take a lot of forms, but  it always starts with the big picture in mind, then works backwards to fill in smaller supporting details. For the sake of math, here’s a high-level example:

So, when thinking strategically you start with your company’s strategies and marketing goals in mind – this way, decision making is simplified as you work off of your ultimate strategy.

The hard part of thinking strategically is when something that is unexpected or unplanned comes up. Maybe a sales rep stops by your desk and informs you he found a trade show he really wants to go to. It’s targeted to the sports industry, but it’s in London. Or a partner asks the marketing department to spend 20 hours over the next month on a campaign. These things don’t immediately fit into the strategy laid out above.

Will detouring towards those things pull time, focus, and resources away from the original roadmap?

Some of these discussions will bring to light a new business case, help mold and shift the strategy, or remind the company where focus should be. Those thoughtful discussions are important to have because we need to be informed, thoughtful, and purposeful when moving focus away from the original strategy.

That’s why you often hear marketing directors or CMOs ask, “What’s the audience/purpose/message/goal of this campaign/blog/asset/idea?” If we don’t have these answers, we can’t be sure the ideas do (or don’t) fit into our strategy.