One proven way an organization can differentiate itself from its competition is by creating a brand-marketing program that is far and away better than anyone else’s. And the best way to do that is by integrating both print and digital media in new ways that others haven’t. For the past centuries the printed word has announced world wars, new companies that changed the world, and defined how businesses should be run. Today, the digital signature of an organization can have 100 times the impact in a fraction of the time because new digital media moves so quickly.

If you think strategic market planning isn’t essential, think again.

A to Digital Buzz, the popular E-zine that reports online news published, “700 Billion minutes a month are spent on Facebook alone, 20 million applications are installed per day and over 250 million people interact with Facebook from outside the official website on a monthly basis, across 2 million websites. Over 200 million people access Facebook via their mobile phone. 48% of young people said they now get their news, not from the major news channels. Meanwhile, in just 20 minutes on Facebook over 1 million links are shared, 2 million friend requests are accepted and almost 3 million messages are sent.”

This should tell you that you couldn’t run your marketing program the same way you used to. That will not bring the positive happy results you are looking for. So what are some key essentials that you can employ? Here are a few ground rules that I have found very useful when designing a strategic marketing program.

1. Employ a focused financial management to everything you do

The importance of a Return On Investment (ROI) cannot be stressed enough. In order to deliver a strong ROI requires a total commitment to spend budget on items that will either produce a direct or at least in-direct benefit to the bottom line. Examples of this financial acumen should be instilled into all aspects of your strategic planning process.

2. Provide consistent innovation

The primary driver here is creative ideas. We are not talking about cute taglines or one-off headlines that are stand-alone ideas that lack the ability to provide the cover to launch a multi-media and multi-messaging campaign. The good news is you can test your ideas very inexpensively using the web and go to full launch once you are certain your campaign is a winner.

3. Bring your customer’s knowledge into all of your decisions

It’s often difficult for many organizations to keep themselves out of the equation. The primary question to ask yourself is “Do you fit the profile of your most typical customer?” Characteristics to look for are age, gender, education, lifestyle, and a myriad of parameters that makes you, you.

4. Realize you don’t need a ‘Facebook Strategy’

What you need is strategic market plan that might utilize Facebook along with many other digital media such as Linkedin, YouTube, Twitter and Flickr, SEO, SEM, PPC, PPI, etc. The choice of what to leverage should only be driven by what media your key customers use.

5. Don’t operate in a vacuum

Realize there are many departments, services, competitors, etc. that you need to weigh and balance when designing your strategic plan. Frankly, think more like a CEO who sees the big picture than a marketing director who focuses on what is ‘creative’ and will make the biggest impact.

6. Quality should have no fear of time

What I mean by this is, you should not allow yourself to be pushed into a corner to produce and launch ideas that you know aren’t going to make the big difference that is required. You can’t hurry success. It’s a process that requires time to germinate and bear fruit. Producing ideas is much the same. All too often marketing directors operate under a false set of timelines, learned from bad management they’ve experienced, and force ideas out the door that frankly not ready for prime time.

Unfortunately, there are few places you can learn the art and science of brand marketing. Universities don’t offer this specialty despite the fact it’s one of the most important dimensions of any company’s growth. Would Apple or IBM have been as successful with limited or poor marketing? I don’t think so. What we can learn from them is it takes more than a glossy brochure or a flashy website to build a successful marketing program. It takes a concerted integration of many disciplines and types of media that have been developed and tested over many months and then years to be successful today.