Depending on your marketing strategy and how granular you would like your marketing plan to be, you can either create a marketing plan for the whole year’s strategy or one separate marketing plan for each channel you would like to target.
Understanding Marketing Plans
The terms marketing plan and marketing strategy are often used interchangeably because a marketing plan is developed based on an overarching strategic framework. In some cases, the strategy and the plan may be incorporated into one document, particularly for smaller companies that may only run one or two major campaigns in a year. The plan outlines marketing activities on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis while the marketing strategy outlines the overall value proposition.
A marketing plan considers the value proposition of a business. The value proposition is the overall promise of value to be delivered to the customer and is a statement that appears front and center of the company website or any branding materials.
The value proposition should state how a product or brand solves the customer’s problem, the benefits of the product or brand, and why the customer should buy from this company and not another. The marketing plan is based on this value proposition to the customer.
The marketing plan identifies the target market for a product or brand. Market research is often the basis for a target market and marketing channel decisions. For example, whether the company will advertise on the radio, social media, through online ads, or on regional TV.
The marketing plan includes the rationale for these decisions. The plan should focus on the creation, timing, and placement of specific campaigns and include the metrics that will measure the outcomes of marketing efforts.
How to Create a Marketing Plan
1. Conduct a situation analysis.
Think about how other products are better than yours. Plus, consider the gaps in a competitor’s approach. What are they missing? What can you offer that’ll give you a competitive advantage? Think about what sets you apart.
2. Define your target audience.
Your buyer persona should include demographic information such as age, gender, and income. However, it will also include psychographic information such as pain points and goals. What drives your audience? What problems do they have that your product or service can fix?
3. Write SMART goals.
For example, your goal could be to increase your Instagram followers by 15% in three months. Depending on your overall marketing goals, this should be relevant and attainable. Additionally, this goal is specific, measurable, and time-bound.
4. Analyze your tactics.
For example, if your goal is to increase your Instagram followers by 15% in three months, your tactics might include hosting a giveaway, responding to every comment, and posting three times on Instagram per week.
5. Set your budget.
While you’re writing out your tactics, be sure to note an estimated budget. You can include the time it’ll take to complete each tactic in addition to the assets you might need to purchase, such as ad space.
Marketing Plan Timeline
A marketing plan timeline allows your team to view all projects, campaigns, events, and other related tasks in one place — along with their deadlines. This ensures everyone on your team knows what’s due, when it’s due, and what’s up next in the pipeline. Typically these plans cover marketing efforts for the entire year, but some companies may operate on a bi-annual or quarterly basis.
Once you’ve completed your analysis, research, and set goals, it’s time to set deadlines for your assignments. From new blog posts and content initiatives to product launches, everything will need a deadline. Take into account any holidays or events taking place over the course of the year.
While setting deadlines for the entire year may seem daunting, start by estimating how long you think each task will take and set a deadline accordingly. Track the time it actually takes for you to complete similar types of projects. Once you’ve completed a few of them, you’ll have a better idea of how long each takes and will be able to set more accurate deadlines.
- Brainstorming: This is the first phase where your idea comes to life in a project outline. Decide what you want to achieve and which stakeholders need to be involved to meet your goal. Set a due date and set up any necessary meetings.
- Planning: This can include determining the project’s scope, figuring out how much budget will be allocated for it, finalizing deadlines and who is working on each task. Map out any campaigns needed for each project (social media, PR, sales promotions, landing pages, events, etc.).
- Execution: This third phase is all about your project launch. Decide on a date to launch and monitor the progress of the project. Set up a system for tracking metrics and KPIs.
- Analysis: In this final phase you will analyze all of your performance data to see whether or not your marketing efforts paid off. Did you meet your goals? Did you complete your projects on time and within budget?
All projects and their deadlines should be in a central location where your team can access them whether that’s a calendar like HubSpot’s tool, shared document, or project management tool.
7 tips to keep in mind while you’re creating your marketing plan
1. Identify, describe and illustrate your target audience
Knowing your target audience is one of the most fundamental steps that every marketing team should take before making any marketing decisions. So by the time you begin writing your marketing plan, you should have your target audience identified.
To help keep your target audience top-of-mind when planning and executing your marketing strategies, it can be helpful to visualize your audience personas. Faux images of your personas, illustrations and icons are all great ways to put a face to your personas’ “names”.
2. Visualize important process flows and strategy roadmaps
3. Emphasize important statistics, metrics, and numbers in your marketing plan
4. Use your main marketing goal to guide your design
One of the main goals of your marketing plan is to identify your high-level marketing goals. Your marketing plan design should be driven by this goal–in your page layouts and in the design elements you use.
You can do this by picking a design motif that reflects your goal and using that throughout your marketing plan. This could be a particular shape or item (for example, using images of plants in a work plan to represent growth) or a color scheme that reflects the mood of your mission.
5. Vary your page designs to make your marketing plan engaging
That’s why while you could use the same page layout throughout your whole plan, it’s a good idea to vary your page design. Mixing up your design will prevent your plan from being too predictable. Plus, you will have more flexibility to visualize information creatively.
6. Visualize your top channels using charts, icons, and pictograms
It’s important for your team to understand your highest-performing channels. That way, you can identify areas you may want to funnel more resources into, whether it be social media, paid ads, mobile app advertising, organic or referral traffic.
7. Use borders or color blocks to organize your pages into sections
That being said, you may want to put more than one topic on the same page, like if both topics are directly related. In that case, you can organize the page into sections using borders or blocks of background color.
A few more marketing plan design best practices:
Keep your design elements like fonts, icons and colors consistent
Download your marketing plan as a PDF
It’s important that your team is on the same page. Sharing your marketing plan via Google Docs or a file-sharing service can be unreliable. In most cases, it’s easier to simply download your marketing plan as a PDF and share it with your team that way.
Include a table of contents to make it easy to find specific information
This tip is pretty self-explanatory. Even if you’re putting together your marketing plan as a presentation, a simple table of contents at the beginning will give your audience an idea of what they can expect.
“Mobile marketing is interruptive,” Farmiloe said. “It’s because of this power that a marketer has to let the consumer determine how and when to receive marketing material. That’s why almost every app comes with the option to turn notifications on or off. The consumer has to hold the power with mobile marketing.”
How to develop a business marketing plan
Your marketing plan outlines the strategies you’ll use to achieve both goals and the specific actions your marketing team will employ, such as the specific outreach campaigns, over which channels they will occur, the required marketing budget and data-driven projections of their success.
1. Create an executive summary.
Marketing campaigns should not be considered individual functions. Marketing is the story of your brand as told to customers; like any narrative, its tone and characters should remain consistent. An executive summary details your marketing goals for the next year and helps tie each campaign together.
When establishing your marketing goals, they should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound – or SMART. These goals should work together to achieve both internal and external harmony, telling a consistent story that informs customers of your exact message while building on its previous chapters.
For example, you may set a SMART goal to increase your company’s social media traffic by 15% in a 90-day time frame, and plan to achieve this by creating four relevant, informative and high-quality posts per week on each platform, using your company’s brand kit.
2. Identify your target market.
Before you write a marketing plan, you need to find and understand your niche. Ask yourself who the specific demographic is that you’re targeting. For example, if your business sells 30-minute meals, then those who work traditional 9-to-5 jobs are likely in your market. Study that group of individuals to understand their struggles and learn how your business can solve the problem.
FYI: Targeting your audience can drastically improve the effectiveness of your marketing efforts and help you avoid wasting resources on fruitless campaigns.
3. Differentiate your brand with inbound marketing.
Inbound marketing utilizes internal tools – such as content marketing, social media activity and search engine optimization (SEO) – to attract a customer’s attention primarily through online communication. Content marketing can include informative blog posts, interviews, podcasts with relevant industry figures or supplementary guides on how to best use your product. For example, if you sell cooking supplies, consider posting several fun recipes around the holidays that your tools can help prepare.
Each of these strategies empowers the others in a loop to achieve greater customer attention. A strong content offering can improve your search engine ranking, which brings more people to your website and social pages. You can then share those developed content pieces to that wider audience, who will again improve your search engine rankings. All of this can be done without the expense of a famous endorser or commercial advertising campaign.
4. Identify competitors that also target your customers.
No matter how original your product or service may be, there is always competition for your target customer’s dollar. Small business personnel seldom take the time to study their competitors in depth or pinpoint companies outside their industry that are just as capable of luring customers away. Knowing who your competitors are, their core competitive advantages, and how they might respond to your offerings – like price cuts or increased communication – helps you devise strategies to combat such losses.
By seeking out these competitors, you can develop ways to differentiate your business by providing consumers with the things they may be lacking from your competition. Observe how your competitors operate to find ways in which you can stand out and steer your target audience toward your business.
Did you know? According to SmallBizGenius, 19% of small businesses fail because of their competitors.
5. State your brand position for your target customers.
Ultimately, your brand – and what it symbolizes for customers – is your strongest advantage. You should be able to write a simple declarative sentence of how you will meet customer needs and beat the competition. The best positioning statements focus on solving a problem for the customer in a way that promotes the best value.
6. Budget the plan.
When implementing a strategy, consider the marketing budget you will allot. Marketing requires money for various reasons, including paid promotions, marketing software, events and outsourced costs. Consider your budget when creating the plan so that there is money available to spend on marketing tactics to achieve your goals.
While drafting the plan and evaluating your course of action, note the estimated cost, assets, and time required to achieve the stated goals; this will help when it comes time to set the actual calculated budget. Any goals that you create should be realistically achievable within the budget you have set.
Purpose of a Marketing Plan
- To clearly define the marketing objectives of the business that align with the corporate mission and vision of the organization. The marketing objectives indicate where the organization wishes to be at any specific period in the future.
- The marketing plan usually assists in the growth of the business by stating appropriate marketing strategies, such as plans for increasing the customer base.
- State and review the marketing mix in terms of the 8Ps of marketing – Product, Price, Place, Promotion, People, Process, Physical Evidence, and Performance.
- Strategies to increase market share, enter new niche markets, and increase brand awareness are also encompassed within the marketing plan.
- The marketing plan will contain a detailed budget for the funds and resources required to carry out activities indicated in the marketing plan.
- The assignment of tasks and responsibilities of marketing activities is well enunciated in the marketing plan.
- The identification of business opportunities and any strategies crafted to exploit them is important.
- A marketing plan fosters the review and analysis of the marketing environment, which entails market research, customer needs assessment, competitor analysis, PEST analysis, studying new business trends, and continuous environmental scanning.
- A marketing plan integrates business functions to operate with consistency – notably sales, production, finance, human resources, and marketing.
Marketing Plan Objectives
Market Research – Market Analysis/Consumer Analysis
Market analysis includes topics such as market definition, market size, industry structure, market share and trends, and competitor analysis. Consumer analysis includes the target market demographics and what influences their buying decisions – e.g., loyalty, motivation, and expectations.
This defines the target customers by their demographic profile, such as gender, race, age, and psychographic profile, such as their interests. This will assist in the correct marketing mix for the target market segments.
- Strengths are the organization’s competitive advantages that are not easily duplicated. They represent the skills, expertise, and efficiencies that an organization possesses over its competitors.
- Weaknesses are impediments found in the operations of an organization, and they stifle growth. These can include outdated machinery, inadequate working capital, and inefficient production methods.
- Opportunities are prospects for growth in the business through the adoption of ways to take advantage of the chances. They could include entry into new markets, adopting digital marketing strategies, or following new trends.
- Threats are external factors that can affect the business negatively, such as a new powerful competitor, legislative changes, natural disasters, or political situations.
The marketing strategy section covers actual strategies to be included according to the marketing mix. The strategy centers on the 8Ps of marketing. However, firms are also at liberty to use the traditional 4 P’s of marketing – product, price, place, and promotion. The 8 P’s are illustrated below.
Digital marketing channels, which became popular in the early 21 st century, may eventually overtake traditional marketing methods. Digital marketing encompasses trending methods, such as the use of social media for business.
The marketing budget or projection outlines the budgeted expenditure for the marketing activities documented in the marketing plan. The marketing budget consists of revenues and costs stated in the marketing plan in one document.
It balances expenditures on marketing activities and what the organization can afford. It’s a financial plan of marketing activities to be carried out – e.g., promotional activities, cost of marketing materials and advertising, and so on. Other considerations include expected product volume and price, production and delivery costs, and operating and financing costs.
10 Marketing Plan Templates to Get You Started
1. Restaurant Marketing Plan Template
This marketing plan features stock photos of food that you can replace with your own. It also has a versatile design that can be tailored to your own brand style and even an entirely different industry.
2. Real Estate Marketing Plan Template
3. Content Marketing Plan Template
4. Social Media Marketing Plan Template
5. Digital Marketing Plan Template
6. Product Marketing Plan Template
7. Personal Marketing Plan Template
8. Marketing Plan Presentation Template
9. Retail Marketing Plan Presentation Template
Customize this marketing plan template online and download it in PDF or PowerPoint format, or save the slides separately in image format. You can also present this presentation online using a link — no downloads needed!
10. Marketing Plan Infographic Template
Ultimately, you want marketing that provides a consistent flow of high-quality leads to help fuel new sales opportunities and drive growth. You want your technical target audiences and customers to be happy to hear from you and not dread it. And you have a limited budget and tight bandwidth.
5 Critical Steps to Developing a Marketing Plan
Marketers have a saying: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” Without planning and a sound strategy, how can you know where you are going or what you need to do to get there? Here are five steps to develop your marketing plan.
Before jumping into the tactics and execution, your marketing team should ask the leadership team to define their business goals for the next 1-3 years. Your goals can be externally focused, internally focused, or perhaps a mix of both.
When developing goals (at the business level or otherwise), write them in the SMART format that ensures accountability. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound and represents business goals such as:
While you are setting business goals, be sure to also set a marketing budget for the year. A good rule of thumb for setting a marketing budget is 6-to-12% of gross revenue with higher spending in the early phases as you establish your marketing foundation.
7 marketing plan examples and templates
1. Visit Baton Rouge
Baton Rouge positions itself as “An Authentic Louisiana Experience” by fostering a rebirth of local passion and enthusiasm. From a detailed SWOT analysis to a well-defined target audience, there are plenty of takeaways you can apply to your marketing plan.
2. University of Illinois
In this high-level overview of the marketing strategy for the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and its 2021 recruitment cycle, the University of Illinois maps out a detailed marketing plan. One thing that stands out in this marketing plan is the approach of defining objectives, tactics, and success metrics for every segment.
If you want to put together a plan that already lives in a project management tool, this one from Monday.com can come in handy. Using this template, you can track all of your marketing initiatives, strategies, business goals, budgets, and marketing campaigns. The best part is you can transform data with a variety of data visualizations, including kanban, calendar, timeline, gantt, map, form, workload, and more.
Evernote is another great example that can help you outline your marketing plan and keep track of your progress. The template is broken down into seven main sections: Details, Research, Goals & Objectives, Buyer Persona, Calendar, Evaluation, and Sign Off. For each section there is an explanation to lead your next step.
This guide from G2 takes you step by step through creating a marketing plan, with well-defined sections and examples to ease the process. It covers every critical aspect of a marketing plan, and you can easily edit and customize it for your business.
With this pre-built marketing plan template from Smartsheet, you can outline the purpose of your business, its strategic goals, its target market, and its standards of performance, ensuring you have a thorough plan of action. If you want a detailed marketing plan, this editable PDF will guide you through the process.
Get market ready
A great market strategy sets the stage for future marketing success. Whether you are seasoned marketing pro or a budding entrepreneur, develop your marketing prowess with Developing a Winning Marketing Strategy from the University of Illinois. Considering a career in social media marketing? Build job-ready skills from the industry leaders with the Meta Social Media Marketing Professional Certificate or Google Digital Marketing & E-commerce Professional Certificate.
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