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What Is a Marketing Plan?
Understanding marketing plans, how to write a marketing plan, marketing plan vs. business plan.
- Marketing Plan FAQs
The Bottom Line
What Is a Marketing Plan? Types and How to Write One
James Chen, CMT is an expert trader, investment adviser, and global market strategist.
Pete Rathburn is a copy editor and fact-checker with expertise in economics and personal finance and over twenty years of experience in the classroom.
Investopedia / Zoe Hansen
A marketing plan is an operational document that outlines an advertising strategy that an organization will implement to generate leads and reach its target market . A marketing plan details the outreach and PR campaigns to be undertaken over a period, including how the company will measure the effect of these initiatives. The functions and components of a marketing plan include the following:
- Market research to support pricing decisions and new market entries
- Tailored messaging that targets certain demographics and geographic areas
- Platform selection for product and service promotion: digital, radio, Internet, trade magazines, and the mix of those platforms for each campaign
- Metrics that measure the results of marketing efforts and their reporting timelines
A marketing plan is based on a company’s overall marketing strategy.
- The marketing plan details the strategy that a company will use to market its products to customers.
- The plan identifies the target market, the value proposition of the brand or the product, the campaigns to be initiated, and the metrics to be used to assess the effectiveness of marketing initiatives.
- The marketing plan should be adjusted on an ongoing basis based on the findings from the metrics that show which efforts are having an impact and which are not.
- Digital marketing shows results in near real-time, whereas TV ads require rotation to realize any level of market penetration.
- A marketing plan is part of a business plan, which describes all of the important aspects of a business, such as its goals, values, mission statement, budget, and strategies.
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.
Types of Marketing Plans
There are a variety of different marketing plans that suit different businesses and different business needs.
New Product Launch: This is a marketing plan that outlines how a new product will enter the market, who it will target, and in what way advertising will be done.
Social Media: A social media marketing plan focuses on the advertising strategies on different social media platforms and how to engage with the users on these platforms.
Time-Based: Time-based marketing plans, such as those that are executed quarterly or annually, focus on the time of the year, the current condition of the business, and the best strategies in that period.
Mission and 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.
Establishing your key performance indicators (KPIs) will allow you to measure the success of your marketing plan in relation to your company's value proposition. For example, if your goal is to engage with a certain demographic in a certain region, you can track social media and website visits.
The most effective digital marketing techniques in 2020 according to marketers are content marketing and marketing automation.
Identify Your Target Market
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, on social media, through online ads, or on regional TV.
Knowing who you want to sell to and why is an extremely critical component of any business plan. It allows you to focus your business and measure its success. Different demographics have different tastes and needs, knowing what your target market is will help you market to them.
Strategy and Execution
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. For example, will you advertise on the radio or on social media? What time will you air advertisements if they are on the radio or TV?
Set Your Budget
A marketing plan costs money. Knowing your budget for a marketing plan will allow you to create a suitable plan within that context, stick to it, and prevent runaway costs. It will also help you allocate to different areas of your marketing plan.
Adjust Your Plan
A marketing plan can be adjusted at any point based on the results from the metrics. If digital ads are performing better than expected, for example, the budget for a campaign can be adjusted to fund a higher-performing platform or the company can initiate a new budget. The challenge for marketing leaders is to ensure that every platform has sufficient time to show results.
Without the correct metrics to assess the impact of outreach and marketing efforts, an organization will not know which campaigns to repeat and which ones to drop; maintaining ineffective initiatives will unnecessarily increase marketing costs.
Digital marketing shows results in near real-time, whereas TV ads require rotation to realize any level of market penetration. In the traditional marketing mix model, a marketing plan would fall under the category of "promotion," which is one of the four Ps , a term coined by Neil Borden to describe the marketing mix of product, price, promotion, and place.
A business plan details how a business will operate and function in its entirety. A business plan is a roadmap for a business. It will cover the goals, missions , values, financials, and strategies that the business will use in day-to-day operations and in the achievement of its objectives.
A business plan will include an executive summary, the products and services sold, a marketing analysis, a marketing strategy, financial planning, and a budget , to name but a few items.
As mentioned, a business plan will include a marketing plan, which focuses on creating a marketing strategy on how to bring awareness to the public of the company's product or service, how to reach the target market, and generate sales.
Example of a Marketing Plan
John came up with a new business idea that he believes is a niche offering in the market. He decides to start a business and his first step is creating a business plan that outlines all of the objectives, goals, values, pitfalls, and finances of his company.
John is able to raise enough capital from friends and family to get started, hires a few employees, and eventually creates his product. He now has to start selling his product and generate sales to keep his business operating.
To achieve this, John, with the help of a marketing company, creates a marketing plan. The marketing plan consists of market research that details the target market for John's product, which is recently retired men.
The marketing plan then comes up with the best methods of reaching this target market. The marketing plan stresses radio and television as opposed to social media as older, retired men use social media less than traditional forms of media, according to the market research that was conducted.
The ads are tailored to the target market, showing how John's product will benefit their lives, particularly when compared to market alternatives. Once the marketing plan has been executed, the marketing team analyzes how the efforts translate into sales.
What Is a Marketing Plan Template?
A marketing plan template is a document that an individual can use to create a marketing plan. The marketing plan template will contain all the important elements and the various needed language with blank sections. A user can insert their own information related to their business in the blank sections to ultimately create their own marketing plan.
What Is an Executive Summary in a Marketing Plan?
The executive summary of a marketing plan provides a brief overview of the entire marketing plan. The executive summary will contain the key findings of the market research, the company's objectives, marketing goals, an overview of the marketing trends, the description of the product or service being marketed, information on the target market, and how to financially plan for the marketing plan.
What Is a Top-Down Marketing Strategy?
A top-down marketing strategy is a traditional marketing strategy. This is where a business determines who it should sell to and how, and the customer base is largely passive and spurred to take action once they hear the advertisement. For example, a top-down marketing strategy would include ads on radio or television. Top-down marketing strategies are usually determined by the executives of a firm. It usually consists of what a firm desires to do and then determining a way to do it.
What Is a Bottom-Up Marketing Strategy?
A bottom-up marketing strategy focuses on discovering a workable strategy and then building on that strategy to create an impactful advertising campaign. Today's consumer wants to relate to a product or service in a meaningful way and a bottom-up marketing strategy is better suited to this. A bottom-up marketing strategy should focus on the target market and how better to create value for them.
How Much Does a Marketing Plan Cost?
The cost of a marketing plan will vary based on the company, the complexity, and the length of the overall strategy. The cost can range anywhere from $10,000 to $40,000.
A marketing plan is the advertising strategy that a business will implement to sell its product or service. The marketing plan will help determine who the target market is, how best to reach them, at what price point the product or service should be sold, and how the company will measure its efforts.
Constantly monitoring and adjusting a market plan is an important part of running a business as it shows what are the best and worst ways to generate sales. Without a successful marketing plan, a business may not be able to continue operating for very long.
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A document that lays out the marketing efforts of a business in an upcoming period
What is a Marketing Plan?
A marketing plan is a document that lays out the marketing efforts of a business in an upcoming period, which is usually a year. It outlines the marketing strategy, promotional, and advertising activities planned for the period.
Elements of a Marketing Plan
A marketing plan will typically include the following elements:
Marketing objectives of the business : The objectives should be attainable and measurable – two goals associated with SMART, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
Current business marketing positioning : An analysis of the current state of the organization concerning its marketing positioning.
Market research : Detailed research about current market trends, customer needs, industry sales volumes, and expected direction.
Outline of the business target market : Business target market demographics.
Marketing activities : A list of any actions concerning marketing goals that are scheduled for the period and the indicated timelines.
Key performance indicators (KPIs) to be tracked
Marketing mix : A combination of factors that may influence customers to purchase products. It should be appropriate for the organization and will largely be centered on the 4Ps of marketing – i.e., product, price, promotion, and place.
Competition : Identify the organization’s competitors and their strategies, along with ways to counter competition and gain market share .
Marketing strategies : The development of marketing strategies to be employed in the coming period. These strategies will include promotional strategies, advertising, and other marketing tools at the disposal of the organization.
Marketing budget : A detailed outline of the organization’s allocation of financial resources to marketing activities. The activities will need to be carried out within the marketing budget .
Monitoring and performance mechanism : A plan should be in place to identify if the marketing tools in place are bearing fruit or need to be revised based on the past, current, and expected future state of the organization, industry, and the overall business environment.
A marketing plan should observe the 80:20 rule – i.e., for maximum impact, it should focus on the 20% of products and services that account for 80% of volumes and the 20% of customers that bring in 80% of revenue.
Purpose of a Marketing Plan
The purpose of a marketing plan includes the following:
- 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.
Structure of a Marketing Plan
The structure of a marketing plan can include the following sections:
Marketing Plan Objectives
This section outlines the expected outcome of the marketing plan with clear, concise, realistic, and attainable objectives. It contains specific targets and time frames.
Metrics, such as target market share, the target number of customers to be attained, penetration rate, usage rate, sales volumes targeted, etc. should be used.
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.
A SWOT analysis will look at the organization’s internal strengths and weaknesses and external opportunities and threats. SWOT analysis includes the following:
- 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.
The correct marketing mix is determined by the target market. The most expensive options are advertising, sales promotions, and PR campaigns. Networking and referrals are less costly.
Marketers also need to pay attention to digital marketing strategies that make use of technology to reach a wider market and have also proven to be cost-effective.
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.
Other strategies within the marketing strategy include pricing and positioning strategy, distribution strategy, conversion strategy, and retention strategy.
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.
The effectiveness of the marketing plan depends on the budget allocated for marketing expenditure. The cost of marketing should be able to make the company break even and make profits.
Performance analysis aims to look at the variances of metrics or components documented in the marketing plan. These include:
Revenue variance analysis : An analysis of positive or negative variance of revenue. A negative variance is worrisome, and reasons should be available to explain the cause of deviations.
Market share analysis : An analysis of whether the organization attained its target market share. Sales may be increasing whilst the organization’s share of the market is decreasing; hence, it is paramount to track this metric.
Expense analysis : An analysis of marketing expense to sales ratio . This ratio needs to be compared to industry standards to make informed comparisons.
The ratio enables the organization to track actual expenditures versus the budget. It is also compared to other metrics, such as revenue analysis and market share analysis. It can be dissected into individual expenditures to sales to get a clearer picture.
Administration of a Marketing Plan
The marketing plan should be revised and adapted to changes in the environment periodically. The use of metrics, budgets, and schedules to measure progress towards the goals set in the marketing plan is a continuous process by marketing personnel.
There should be a continuous assessment to verify that the goals of the marketing plan are being achieved. The marketing manager should be able to review if the strategies documented are being effective, given the operating environment.
It is irrational for the marketing manager to notice anomalies and wait to review at year-end when the situation might have already deteriorated.
Changes in the environment may necessitate a review of plans, projections, strategies, and targets. Therefore, a formal periodical review – such as monthly or quarterly – may need to be in place. This may mean preparing an annual marketing plan but reviewing the plan quarterly to keep targets and plans aligned closely to environmental changes. It goes without saying that plans are as good as their feasibility to succeed in the given environment.
Thank you for reading CFI’s guide to Marketing Plan. To keep learning and advancing your career, the additional CFI resources below will be useful:
- 4 P’s of Marketing
- Market Research
- Return on Ad Spend (ROAS)
- Competitive Advantage
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Marketing plan component of your business plan
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The marketing portion of a business plan addresses four main topics: product, price, promotion, and place.
A business plan is a blueprint for taking an idea for a product or service and turning it into a commercially viable reality. The marketing portion of the business plan addresses four main topics:
- Product: What is the good or service that your business will offer? How is that product better than the competition? Why will people buy it?
- Price: How much can you charge? How do you balance sales volume and price to maximize income?
- Promotion: How will your product or service be positioned in the marketplace? Will your product carry a premium image with a price to match? Will it be an inexpensive, no-frills alternative to similar offerings from other businesses? What type of advertising will you use? When will ads be run? How will the product be packaged?
- Place: Which sales channels will you use? Will you sell by telephone or will your product be carried in retail outlets? Which channel will let you economically reach your target audience?
The marketing portion of a business plan addresses how you will get people to buy your product or service in sufficient quantities to make your business profitable. It consists of:
- Market analysis, which assesses the market environment in which you compete, identifies your competitors and analyzes their strengths and weaknesses, and identifies and quantifies your target market.
- Marketing strategy, which explains how you will differentiate your business from your competitors' businesses and what approach you will take to get customers to buy from you.
- Marketing and sales plans, which specify the nature and timing of promotional and other advertising activities that will support specific sales targets.
How do you determine if there are enough people in your market willing to purchase what you have to offer at the price you need to charge to make a profit? The best way is to conduct a methodical analysis of the market you plan to reach. The market analysis presents your conclusions regarding external market factors that will affect your business. It examines the totality of the business environment in which you will compete.
Topics addressed in the market analysis include the existence and type of competitors, the characteristics of your target customers, market size, distribution costs, trends in your industry, and in the market in general. Much of the information that will be included in the market analysis will be derived directly from the SWOT analysis that you performed early on in the planning process. The purpose of the market analysis is to set the stage for presenting your marketing strategy. That strategy sets forth your plan for successfully competing in your selected market.
The marketing strategy portion of your business plan presents the approach you plan to take to provide products or services to your customers. It explains, at a high level, what you are going to do to get your customers to buy in the desired quantities. Someone who reads your market strategy should come away with a "big picture" view of how your business will present itself to the market segment in which you will compete. You should assess both the merits and the risks of your enterprise in the marketing strategy.
In the marketing strategy section of your plan, you'll address issues such as:
- Identification of your target buyers.
- The market segment in which you'll compete.
- The reasons why the product or service you offer is unique.
- Your pricing philosophy.
- Your plans for market research.
- Your ongoing product or service development plans.
You'll find it useful to keep in mind the 4 Ps of marketing (product, price, promotion, and place) as you define the scope of your marketing strategy. Be sure to stress what is unique about your business.
Marketing and sales plans
Your marketing and sales plan explains how you will reach your targeted customers and how you will effectively market your product or service to those customers. For example, the marketing plan specifies the types of advertising you will use and the timing of those advertisements. In essence, the marketing plan takes the marketing strategy that you developed to a tactical level. It sets forth the specific steps you will take to sell your product or service and provides a timetable for those actions to occur.
For example, how will you advertise your business? If you decide on radio ads, which stations will you choose, and at what times of day will you run ads? Can you afford enough repetition of the ad to make it memorable? How will you assess whether you're getting your money's worth from the radio spots?
The marketing and sales plan usually includes a calendar that ties marketing and sales activities to specific operational events. For example, an advertising campaign may begin some months before a new product is ready to be sold. As the date of the new product introduction approaches, the ad campaign would be stepped up. Once the new product hits the market, additional advertising is used to support specific sales objectives.
Sales plans. An integral component of any business plan is a strategy for getting your product or service to your targeted customers. There are many ways to reach your customers. One challenge in developing your business plan is selecting the sales channel that is most effective. For instance, if you're in a business where you provide services personally, your participation in the sales process can be extensive.
Many good home improvement contractors make all their sales pitches in person, and they count on referrals from satisfied customers to generate new sales prospects. It would be difficult to rely on a separate sales organization when the essence of the job includes creating estimates and selling the prospective customer on your ability to deliver what the customer wants.
In contrast, if your business deals in the sale and production of large quantities of product with little associated service, you will face a different challenge. Customers may not know or care who you are.
A coffee distributor roasts and grinds coffee for resale to a number of local convenience stores. The stores brew and sell the coffee by the cup. The people who buy and drink the coffee are the end-users of the product. But the convenience stores are the target market for the distributor's product. The sales plan must address how to reach them, as intermediaries between the producer and the end-user.
Sales plans are based on the particular mix of goods and services that you plan to offer and on the way you intend to reach potential customers. If you are going to have a sales force of some kind, be sure you know what you will expect them to do. When making hiring decisions, do your best to find people who can do what you want. If you will be the entire sales force, try to quantify the activities and time involved.
For example, a remodeling contractor won't spend all of the time actually working on houses. In addition to back-office tasks, the contractor will also spend time meeting with potential customers, discussing the job, preparing and submitting bids or estimates, etc. These are vital sales activities and are essential to keeping work lined up.
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How to structure an effective marketing plan
What are the essential parts of a marketing plan template?
A marketing plan is a strategic document that specifies your organization’s target markets, marketing objectives, programs and activities to achieve them, expected timescales, resources to be utilized, according to defined budgets, and how success will be measured.
What is the purpose of a marketing plan?
The purpose of a marketing plan is to define strategies to engage audiences in order to achieve business objectives.
The goal of a marketing plan is to ensure marketing activities are structured, relevant, and timely to achieve an organization’s objectives.
It’s a plan defining your company's sustainable competitive position, structuring and setting marketing goals, and defining the resources necessary to achieve your business vision.
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Did you know - nearly half of companies don't have a clearly defined digital marketing strategy ? These companies are missing opportunities for better integration and risk losing customers due to out-of-date processes.
Savvy marketers and Smart Insights members already recognize that a practical, integrated marketing plan is essential for business growth in 2023 and beyond.
If you're looking for a quick marketing plan structure to hone your performance and strategize your approach to marketing, why not download our free RACE Growth System template ?
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Context of a marketing plan
Here’s another way of understanding the context of a marketing plan, to put it into context with other types of plan, as shown in this table:
When to use a marketing plan?
The process of marketing planning within an organization will differ, depending on whether a strategic marketing plan or an operational marketing plan is utilized. Here are the differences between the two:
- A strategic marketing plan outlines the overall strategy within a market, connecting customers, competitors, and what the organization is capable of achieving. It is typically created at divisional or company level.
- An operational marketing plan outlines the marketing mix strategy that will be used to gain an advantage in the market. It typically focuses on products; market segments and how marketing communications and campaigns achieve targets defined in the strategic marketing plan. It usually has separate sections covering tactics for customer acquisition and retention which will sometimes be covered in separate plans in larger organizations.
In an organization’s planning process, marketing links:
- Customers’ needs and wants
- Competitor value proposition and actions
- Strategic direction
- Organizational objectives
What should be included? / How should a marketing plan be structured?
A marketing plan should include:
- The current position, priorities, and direction of your organization
- Its position in relation to external environmental factors
- A critical analysis of your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats
- Clearly defined objectives and a way to benchmark their success
- The means by which to achieve those objectives
- Relevant and timely actions and responsibilities by function, product or service, and market segment
- The finances and resources required and forecasted revenues
- Regular measurement of progress and outcomes against benchmarks
A solid marketing plan has:
- Clear, realistic goals which you can be confident of hitting
- The best strategy to achieve these goals against your competition
- Sufficient details of the tactics and actions needed to translate the strategy into action
- A method to check you are on track with your plans
Check out the 18 most important digital marketing techniques to make sure you're not missing any opportunities.
Which types of businesses use marketing plans?
Marketing planning will assist in the day-to-day running of any size, type or age of business. The targets and milestones set will help organizations, from small start-ups to large corporates, to effectively:
- Allocate resources and budget
- Motivate teams
- Manage the performance of staff members and marketing efforts
Marketing plans for small businesses
In smaller businesses, the scope of a plan is typically annual and for the whole business. Typically, SMEs are working with smaller budgets and tighter turnaround times.
A marketing plan for a small business typically looks to identify where to prioritize the investment of time and available budget to generate results.
Smaller organizations typically have:
- Small market shares
- Owners involved in all aspects of strategic and operational management
- A high degree of uncertainty
- Difficulty innovating owing to limited resources
Such differences between large and smaller organizations tend to be reflected in the development of marketing plans.
When establishing a small start-up, marketing planning is an essential element. A small number of these businesses launch and grow, but for those that are successful, a strategic marketing approach will ensure continued development.
Marketing plans for large organizations
In large organizations, its focus will change, depending on the type of organization. A separate marketing plan might be:
- Business unit based
- Focused on segmentation
A marketing plan in a large organization may integrate a number of plans, specific to individual parts of the business. It is practical planning that takes place at a divisional, business unit, or individual company level.
Larger organizations with clearly defined management structures and a wealth of resources will make use of marketing principles very differently from smaller organizations.
RACE marketing planning
Although the techniques for marketing planning may vary between different sizes and types of organizations, the outcome is always the same: to implement the objectives, strategies, and activities in order to gain an advantage.
That's why our RACE Growth System is structured across a simple 5 step marketing and sales funnel which can be applied to every size of business from startups to multinational corporations.
How does a marketing plan relate to other plans?
The plan should not be formulated or used in isolation; it should be informed by the corporate objectives identified in your organization’s business plan .
Integrated with a marketing plan may also be a digital plan, multi-channel plan and campaign plan, for example. The marketing plan informs these plans and vice-versa.
An effective marketing plan will ensure the integration of activities, the scheduling of requirements, distinguishing responsibilities and the provision of benchmarks for measuring success. Different organizations will utilize differing plans, covering different areas and timeframes. What is crucial in a business is that the plans being utilized, the timeframes allocated, and how they integrate with each other are collectively established.
Structure your marketing plan around a funnel proven to boost performance. Join Smart Insights as a Free Member for instant access to our free RACE Growth System template to hone your skills and drive the results you need.
By Sarah Lindley
Thanks to Sarah Lindley for sharing their advice and opinion in this post. Sarah, Managing Director at The Yorkshire Marketing Agency, is an award-winning Chartered Marketer. Sarah holds over 10 years’ experience in implementing results-driven marketing and communications strategies, plans and campaigns. You can connect with her on LinkedIn .
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What is a Marketing Plan & How to Write One [+Examples]
Published: December 08, 2022
For a while now, you've been spearheading your organization's content marketing efforts. Your team's performance has convinced management to adopt the content marketing strategies you’ve suggested.
Now, your boss wants you to write and present a content marketing plan, but you've never done something like that before. You don't even know where to start.
Fortunately, we've curated the best content marketing plans to help you write a concrete plan that's rooted in data and produces results. But first, we'll discuss what a marketing plan is and how some of the best marketing plans include strategies that serve their respective businesses.
What is a marketing plan?
A marketing plan is a strategic roadmap that businesses use to organize, execute, and track their marketing strategy over a given period. Marketing plans can include different marketing strategies for various marketing teams across the company, all working toward the same business goals.
The purpose of a marketing plan is to write down strategies in an organized manner. This will help keep you on track and measure the success of your campaigns.
Writing a marketing plan will help you think of each campaign's mission, buyer personas, budget, tactics, and deliverables. With all of this information in one place, you'll have an easier time staying on track with a campaign. You’ll also discover what works and what doesn't. Thus, measuring the success of your strategy.
Featured Resource: Free Marketing Plan Template
Looking to develop a marketing plan for your business? Click here to download HubSpot's free Marketing Plan Template to get started .
Keep in mind that there's a difference between a marketing plan and a marketing strategy.
Marketing Strategy vs. Marketing Plan
A marketing strategy describes how a business will accomplish a particular goal or mission. This includes which campaigns, content, channels, and marketing software they'll use to execute that mission and track its success.
For example, while a greater plan or department might handle social media marketing, you might consider your work on Facebook as an individual marketing strategy.
A marketing plan contains one or more marketing strategies. It is the framework from which all of your marketing strategies are created and helps you connect each strategy back to a larger marketing operation and business goal.
For example, your company is launching a new software product, and it wants customers to sign up. This calls for the marketing department to develop a marketing plan that'll help introduce this product to the industry and drive the desired signups.
The department decides to launch a blog dedicated to this industry, a new YouTube video series to establish expertise, and an account on Twitter to join the conversation around this subject. All of this serves to attract an audience and convert this audience into software users.
To summarize, the business's marketing plan is dedicated to introducing a new software product to the marketplace and driving signups to that product. The business will execute that plan with three marketing strategies : a new industry blog, a YouTube video series, and a Twitter account.
Of course, the business might consider these three things one giant marketing strategy, each with its specific content strategies. How granular you want your marketing plan to get is up to you. Nonetheless, every marketing plan goes through a particular set of steps in its creation. Learn what they are below.
How to Write a Marketing Plan
- State your business's mission.
- Determine the KPIs for this mission.
- Identify your buyer personas.
- Describe your content initiatives and strategies.
- Clearly define your plan's omissions.
- Define your marketing budget.
- Identify your competition.
- Outline your plan's contributors and their responsibilities.
1. State your business's mission.
Your first step in writing a marketing plan is to state your mission. Although this mission is specific to your marketing department, it should serve your business's main mission statement. Be specific, but not too specific. You have plenty of space left in this marketing plan to elaborate on how you'll acquire new customers and accomplish this mission.
For example, if your business's mission is "to make booking travel a delightful experience," your marketing mission might be "to attract an audience of travelers, educate them on the tourism industry, and convert them into users of our bookings platform."
Need help building your mission statement? Download this guide for examples and templates and write the ideal mission statement.
2. Determine the KPIs for this mission.
Every good marketing plan describes how the department will track its mission's progress. To do so, you'll need to determine your key performance indicators (KPIs) . KPIs are individual metrics that measure the various elements of a marketing campaign. These units help you establish short-term goals within your mission and communicate your progress to business leaders.
Let's take our example of a marketing mission from the above step. If part of our mission is "to attract an audience of travelers," we might track website visits using organic page views. In this case, "organic page views" is one KPI, and we can see our number of page views grow over time.
These KPIs will come into the conversation again in step 4.
3. Identify your buyer personas.
A buyer persona is a description of who you want to attract. This can include age, sex, location, family size, and job title. Each buyer persona should directly reflect your business's current and potential customers. Therefore, all business leaders must agree on your buyer personas.
Create your buyer personas with this free guide and set of buyer persona templates.
4. Describe your content initiatives and strategies.
Here's where you'll include the main points of your marketing and content strategy. Because there is a laundry list of content types and channels available to you today, you must choose wisely and explain how you'll use your content and channels in this section of your marketing plan.
A content strategy should stipulate:
- Which types of content you'll create. These can include blog posts, YouTube videos, infographics, and ebooks.
- How much of it you'll create. You can describe content volume in daily, weekly, monthly, or even quarterly intervals. It all depends on your workflow and the short-term goals you set for your content.
- The goals (and KPIs) you'll use to track each type. KPIs can include organic traffic, social media traffic, email traffic, and referral traffic. Your goals should also include which pages you want to drive that traffic to, such as product pages, blog pages, or landing pages.
- The channels on which you'll distribute this content. Popular channels at your disposal include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram.
- Any paid advertising that will take place on these channels.
5. Clearly define your plan's omissions.
A marketing plan explains the marketing team’s focus. It also explains what the marketing team will not focus on.
If there are other aspects of your business that you aren't serving in this particular plan, include them in this section. These omissions help to justify your mission, buyer personas, KPIs, and content. You can't please everyone in a single marketing campaign, and if your team isn't on the hook for something, you need to make it known.
6. Define your marketing budget.
Your content strategy might leverage many free channels and platforms, but there are several hidden expenses a marketing team needs to account for.
Whether it's freelance fees, sponsorships, or a new full-time marketing hire, use these costs to develop a marketing budget and outline each expense in this section of your marketing plan.
You can establish your marketing budget with this kit of 8 free marketing budget templates .
7. Identify your competition.
Part of marketing is knowing whom you're marketing against. Research the key players in your industry and consider profiling each one.
Keep in mind not every competitor will pose the same challenges to your business. For example, while one competitor might be ranking highly on search engines for keywords you want your website to rank for, another competitor might have a heavy footprint on a social network where you plan to launch an account.
Easily track and analyze your competitors with t his collection of ten free competitive analysis templates .
8. Outline your plan's contributors and their responsibilities.
With your marketing plan fully fleshed out, it's time to explain who's doing what. You don't have to delve too deeply into your employees' day-to-day projects, but it should be known which teams and team leaders are in charge of specific content types, channels, KPIs, and more.
Now that you know why you need to build an effective marketing plan, it is time to put on the work. Starting a plan from scratch can be overwhelming if you haven’t done it before. That’s why there are many helpful resources that can support your first steps. We’ll share some of the best guides and templates that can help you build effective results-driven plans for your marketing strategies.
Ready to make your own marketing plan? Get started using this free template.
Build out your marketing plan with this free template.
Fill out this form to access the template., types of marketing plans.
Depending on the company you work with, you might want to leverage various marketing plans. We compiled different samples to suit your needs:
1. Quarterly or Annual Marketing Plans
Forbes published a marketing plan template that has amassed almost 4 million views. To help you sculpt a marketing roadmap with true vision, their template will teach you how to fill out the 15 key sections of a marketing plan, which are:
- Executive Summary
- Target Customers
- Unique Selling Proposition
- Pricing & Positioning Strategy
- Distribution Plan
- Your Offers
- Marketing Materials
- Promotions Strategy
- Online Marketing Strategy
- Conversion Strategy
- Joint Ventures & Partnerships
- Referral Strategy
- Strategy for Increasing Transaction Prices
- Retention Strategy
- Financial Projections
If you're truly lost on where to start with a marketing plan, this guide can help you define your target audience, figure out how to reach them, and ensure that audience becomes loyal customers.
2. Social Media Marketing Plan
This type of plan highlights the channels, tactics, and campaigns you intend to accomplish specifically on social media. A specific subtype is a paid marketing plan, which highlights paid strategies, such as native advertising, PPC, or paid social media promotions.
Shane Snow's Marketing Plan for His Book Dream Team is a great example of a social media marketing plan
A successful book launch is a prime example of data-driven content and social marketing. Using data to optimize your social strategy spreads more awareness for your book, gets more people to subscribe to your content, converts more subscribers into buyers, and encourages more buyers to recommend your book to their friends.
Snow wrote a blog post about how the waterfall's content strategy helped him launch his new book successfully. After reading it, you can use his tactics to inform your own marketing plan. More specifically, you'll learn how he:
- Applied his business objectives to decide which marketing metrics to track.
- Used his ultimate business goal of earning $200,000 of sales or 10,000 purchases to estimate the conversion rate of each stage of his funnel.
- Created buyer personas to determine which channels his audience would prefer to consume his content.
- Used his average post view on each of his marketing channels to estimate how much content he had to create and how often he had to post on social media.
- Calculated how much earned and paid media could cut down the amount of content he had to create and post.
- Designed his process and workflow, built his team, and assigned members to tasks.
- Analyzed content performance metrics to refine his overall content strategy.
You can use Snow's marketing plan to cultivate a better content strategy plan, know your audience better, and think outside the box regarding content promotion and distribution.
3. Content Marketing Plan
This plan could highlight different strategies, tactics, and campaigns in which you'll use content to promote your business or product.
HubSpot's Comprehensive Guide for Content Marketing Strategy is a strong example of a content marketing plan
At HubSpot, we've built our marketing team from two business school graduates working from a coffee table to a powerhouse of hundreds of employees. Along the way, we've learned countless lessons that shaped our current content marketing strategy. So, we decided to illustrate our insights in a blog post to teach marketers how to develop a successful content marketing strategy, regardless of their team's size.
In this comprehensive guide for modern marketers, you'll learn:
- What exactly content marketing is.
- Why your business needs a content marketing strategy.
- Who should lead your content marketing efforts?
- How to structure your content marketing team based on your company's size.
- How to hire the right people for each role on your team.
- What marketing tools and technology you'll need to succeed.
- What type of content your team should create, and which employees should be responsible for creating them.
- The importance of distributing your content through search engines, social media, email, and paid ads.
- And finally, the recommended metrics each of your teams should measure and report to optimize your content marketing program.
4. New Product Launch Marketing Plan
This will be a roadmap for the strategies and tactics you'll implement to promote a new product. And if you're searching for an example, look no further than Chief Outsiders' Go-To-Market Plan for a New Product
When you're looking for a marketing plan for a new product, the Chief Outsiders template is a great place to start. Marketing plans for a new product will be more specific because they target one product versus its entire marketing strategy.
After reading this plan, you'll learn how to:
- Validate a product
- Write strategic objectives
- Identify your market
- Compile a competitive landscape
- Create a value proposition for a new product
- Consider sales and service in your marketing plan
5. Growth Marketing Plan
Growth marketing plans leverage experimentation and data to drive results, like we see in Venture Harbour’s Growth Marketing Plan Template
Venture Harbour's growth marketing plan is a data-driven and experiment-led alternative to the more traditional marketing plan. Their template contains five steps intended for refinement with every test-measure-learn cycle. The five steps are:
This is a great option if you want to experiment with different platforms and campaigns.
Marketing Plan Examples
- Visit Oxnard
- Safe Haven Family Shelter
- Wright County Economic Development
- The Cultural Council of Palm Beach County
- Cabarrus County Convention & Visitors Bureau
- Visit Billings
1. Visit Oxnard
This marketing plan by Visit Oxnard, a convention and visitors bureau, is packed with all the information one needs in a marketing plan: target markets, key performance indicators, selling points, personas, marketing tactics by channel, and much more.
It also articulates the organization’s strategic plans for the upcoming fiscal year, especially as it grapples with the aftereffects of the pandemic. Lastly, it has impeccable visual appeal, with color-coded sections and strong branding elements.
2. Safe Haven Family Shelter
This marketing plan by a non-profit organization is an excellent example to follow if your plan will be presented to internal stakeholders at all levels of your organization. It includes SMART marketing goals , deadlines, action steps, long-term objectives, target audiences, core marketing messages , and metrics. The plan is detailed, yet scannable. By the end of it, one can walk away with a strong understanding of the organization’s strategic direction for their upcoming marketing efforts.
3. Wright County Economic Development
It includes key information such as marketing partners, goals, initiatives, and costs. The sections are easy to scan and contain plenty of information for those who’d like to dig into the details. Most importantly, it includes a detailed breakdown of projected costs per marketing initiative — which is critical information to include for upper-level managers and other stakeholders.
4. The Cultural Council of Palm Beach County
This marketing plan presentation by a cultural council is a great example of how to effectively leverage data in your plan, address audiences who are new to the industry, and provide extensive detail into specific marketing strategies. For instance, an entire slide is dedicated to the county’s cultural tourism trends, and at the beginning of the presentation, the organization explains what an arts and culture agency is in the first place.
That’s a critical piece of information to include for those who might not know. If you’re addressing audiences outside your industry, consider defining terms at the beginning, like this organization did.
5. Cabarrus County Convention & Visitors Bureau
Carrabus County’s convention and visitors bureau takes a slightly different approach with its marketing plan, formatting it like a magazine for stakeholders to flip through. It offers information on the county’s target audience, channels, goals, KPIs, and public relations strategies and initiatives. We specially love that the plan includes contact information for the bureau’s staff members, so that it’s easy for stakeholders to contact the appropriate person for a specific query.
6. Visit Billings
Visit Billing’s comprehensive marketing plan is similar to Carrabus County’s in that it follows a magazine format. With sections for each planned strategy, it offers a wealth of information and depth for internal stakeholders and potential investors. We specially love its content strategy section, where it details the organization’s prior efforts and current objectives for each content platform.
At the end, it includes strategic goals and budgets — a good move to imitate if your primary audience would not need this information highlighted at the forefront.
Sample Marketing Plan
Let’s create a sample plan together, step-by-step.
Follow along with HubSpot's free Marketing Plan Template .
1. Create an overview or primary objective.
Our business mission is to provide [service, product, solution] to help [audience] reach their [financial, educational, business related] goals without compromising their [your audience’s valuable asset: free time, mental health, budget, etc.]. We want to improve our social media presence while nurturing our relationships with collaborators and clients.
For example, if you wanted to focus on social media growth, your KPIs might look like this.
We want to achieve a minimum of [followers] with an engagement rate of [X] on [social media platform].
The goal is to achieve an increase of [Y] on recurring clients and new meaningful connections outside the platform by the end of the year.
Use the following categories to create a target audience for your campaign.
- Pain points:
- Social media platforms that they use:
- Streaming platforms that they prefer:
For more useful strategies, consider creating a buyer persona in our Make My Persona tool .
Our content pillars will be: [X, Y, Z].
Content pillars should be based on topics your audience needs to know. If your ideal clients are female entrepreneurs, then your content pillars can be: marketing, being a woman in business, remote working, and productivity hacks for entrepreneurs.
Then, determine your omissions.
This marketing plan won’t be focusing on the following areas of improvement: [A, B, C].
5. Define your marketing budget.
Our marketing strategy will use a total of [Y] monthly. This will include anything from freelance collaborations to advertising.
6. Identify your competitors.
Use the following questions to clearly indicate who your competitors are:
- Which platforms do they use the most?
- How does their branding differentiate?
- How do they talk to their audiences?
- What valuable assets do customers talk about? And if they are receiving any negative feedback, what is it about?
7. Outline your plan's contributors and their responsibilities.
Create responsible parties for each portion of the plan.
Marketing will manage the content plan, implementation, and community interaction to reach the KPIs.
- Social media manager: [hours per week dedicated to the project, responsibilities, team communication requirements, expectations]
- Content strategist: [hours per week dedicated to the project, responsibilities, team communication requirements, expectations]
- Community manager: [hours per week dedicated to the project, responsibilities, team communication requirements, expectations]
Sales will follow the line of the marketing work while creating and implementing an outreach strategy.
- Sales strategists: [hours per week dedicated to the project, responsibilities, team communication requirements, expectations]
- Sales executives: [hours per week dedicated to the project, responsibilities, team communication requirements, expectations]
Customer Service will nurture clients’ relationships to ensure that they have what they want. [Hours per week dedicated to the project, responsibilities, team communication requirements, expectations].
Project Managers will track the progress and team communication during the project. [Hours per week dedicated to the project, responsibilities, team communication requirements, expectations].
Get started on your marketing plan.
These marketing plans serve as initial resources to get your content marketing plan started. But, to truly deliver what your audience wants and needs, you'll likely need to test some different ideas out, measure their success, and then refine your goals as you go.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in April 2019, but was updated for comprehensiveness.
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Outline your company's marketing strategy in one simple, coherent plan.
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What is a marketing plan and why is it important?
Before you spend a cent on marketing, you first have to understand the market and your customers.
Companies of all sizes have one thing in common: They all began as small businesses. Starting small is the corner for those just getting off the ground. Learn about how to make that first hire, deal with all things administrative, and set yourself up for success.
A marketing plan is a blueprint for launching new products, understanding the intricacies of your market, growing your audience, and promoting your company to customers who want what you’re selling.
With a well-designed marketing plan, you can design more effective promotions and impactful campaigns, reach your customers with targeted advertising, and track your business success with analytics. Without one, you might as well throw your marketing budget down a well and hope for the best.
If you’ve been tasked with creating a marketing plan for your company, there are some basic elements to keep in mind. Though every marketing plan will reflect the specific business and industry it’s been created for, most share a few common features and can be boiled down to just one or two simple objectives. In this article, we’ll outline some of the basic elements of a marketing plan and how to write one.
When you’re ready to put the plan into action, WeWork All Access and WeWork On Demand are there to support you with hundreds of dedicated workspaces around the world, so you can seamlessly collaborate on marketing strategy in a professional and stylish office space.
What is a marketing plan?
A marketing plan is a document outlining a company’s future marketing efforts and goals. It can be as short as a single page or made up of many smaller campaign plans from different marketing teams.
However large and complex those plans are, the idea remains the same: A marketing plan is created to organize, execute, and eventually measure the success of a business’s marketing strategy .
Types of marketing plans
Marketing plans come in as many different shapes and sizes as there are different kinds of business, but they can be broadly placed into one (or more) of a few different categories. Here are some of the most common you’ll encounter.
- Annual marketing plans. These types of marketing plans arrange campaigns according to when they’re expected to launch, rather than the content of the campaigns themselves. It’s a useful way to get an overview of a marketing strategy for the upcoming year, and to measure success continuously as time passes.
- Content marketing plans. This is a more content-focused way of approaching a marketing strategy, and highlights the specific channels and audiences you want to reach. Content marketing plans can look very similar to annual marketing plans, but are less concerned with the “when” and more with the “what” and the “how.”
- Product launch plans. Launching a new product or service requires a specific kind of marketing plan. The main goal is to successfully introduce the new product to the market. But these plans also include the strategies, tactics, and content needed in the buildup to the launch itself.
- Social media marketing plans. Social media channels are such a vital part of a company’s marketing goals that it’s often wise to create a separate social media marketing plan dedicated to creating advertising and promotional content on these platforms.
What is the purpose of a marketing plan?
A marketing plan lays out your business strategy for acquiring new customers and selling more products and services. But it also serves as a way of analyzing exactly how successful your marketing efforts have been so far. Knowing this information helps steer ongoing campaigns in the right direction, aligns your marketing with your company’s values, and ensures that future campaigns are better targeted and more effective.
To understand why a marketing plan is important, just consider what would happen without one. Your advertising budget would be spent based entirely on guesswork about where your potential customers can be found and what they’re looking for. You’d have no idea which of your campaigns contributed to increased sales figures. And you’d have no baselines from which to build more effective campaigns in the future.
How to create a marketing plan
Elements of a marketing plan.
The basic building blocks of any good marketing plan are focused on objectives, research, competitors, and content. These objectives should be clearly defined and easily measurable goals —ideally no more than two or three—and informed by as much consumer research as you can reasonably gather.
Whether your goal is increasing your Instagram followers, driving traffic to your site, or attracting more cheese fans to your cheese store, set a specific target by which to monitor the performance of any campaign. As you develop your marketing plan and learn what’s effective and what’s not, you can set more accurate targets and begin to hone in on the strategies that really work for your company.
A marketing plan should also describe your brand’s biggest competitors and the campaigns they’re running, as well as identify any openings in the market that would allow your company to grab market share. This is where SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis comes into its own, enabling a company to shape its marketing plan around its own strengths and weaknesses.
Lastly, a marketing plan should outline the content of each campaign. Will your pre-roll video content use animation or live actors? Can you offer discounts and voucher codes to new customers? Will you leverage your mailing list to notify existing customers of a new product launch?
Define a marketing plan strategy
If your marketing plan is a roadmap, then your marketing strategy is the road. The strategy describes which tools you’ll use to hit the targets laid out by the main marketing plan document, and how they’ll be applied.
Here’s where you get down to the fundamentals of selling. Depending on who you ask, there are as many as seven P’s of marketing, though most agree on four core elements: price, product, place, and promotion.
What are you selling? How much are you charging? Where will your customers see it? And how will you promote it to them? Marketing gurus will promise you that if you can answer all of these questions correctly, you’ll be guaranteed boundless success.
Of course, in the real world it’s not quite so straightforward. But the four main P’s are an ideal starting point for anyone creating a market plan from scratch.
How to measure the success of a marketing plan
An enormous amount of effort and investment is poured into monitoring the effectiveness of advertising campaigns, but at some level, consumer behavior becomes what’s known as a black box. You can measure what goes into it and what comes out the other end, but what happens inside the mind of a consumer can ultimately only be guessed at based on outcomes. Even the shoppers themselves can’t reliably report on why they choose certain products over others.
That’s why tracking a marketing plan’s performance alongside more specific KPIs (key performance indicators) is crucial. Advertising spend and sales figures aren’t linked in a simple or obvious way, so measuring success on a more granular level—such as increasing conversions or returning customers—helps create a much clearer picture of how well your marketing plan is doing.
Final thoughts on creating a marketing plan
Marketing plans need to be squarely outlined and adhered to, but they shouldn’t be set in stone. You need to be able to course-correct when something isn’t landing, or lean more into campaigns when they’re working well.
Quick aside: This is particularly true when it comes to the content of social media marketing plans, which are truly effective only when they’re timely and topical. Memes are a perfect example of this: How often have you seen a promoted tweet deploy some forgotten joke from months ago, presumably because it had been left in somebody’s annual marketing plan?
But while it’s useful to have a flexible approach , it’s important that your marketing plan is resilient and doesn’t flip-flop or bounce wildly between ideas. Move the goalposts too much and your plan will quickly fall apart, leaving your campaign in chaos. Allow your strategies some time to settle in, and even if you don’t reach success, you will gain invaluable performance data for future projects.
Steve Hogarty is a writer and journalist based in London. He is the travel editor of City AM newspaper and the deputy editor of City AM Magazine , where his work focuses on technology, travel, and entertainment.
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6 Tips for Creating a Great Business Marketing Plan
Marketing is a key component in the success of every small business. Use these six tips to create a plan that works for you.
- A marketing plan identifies your target audience, the most effective channels on which to engage with them, and analytical insights to guide future strategy.
- Businesses need a comprehensive marketing plan to coordinate their campaigns and properly measure their impact.
- Marketing is a cumulative effort, and a unified plan maximizes the value of every campaign toward a cohesive strategy.
- This article is for small business owners looking to build an effective marketing plan that achieves higher engagement and fuels business growth.
Every successful company needs a well-thought-out business plan to outline its course of action. A marketing strategy is one key part of that plan: It spells out critical information, including how a business will distinguish itself from competitors and what the team will aim to achieve.
While marketing plans don’t always produce immediate results, they are still a crucial aspect of a business plan and should be given a considerate amount of attention. A complete and effective marketing strategy can reveal opportunities through new audience segments, changes in pricing strategy or by differentiating the brand from the competition.
Here’s how to create an effective marketing plan for your business.
How to develop a business marketing plan
A focused marketing plan sets two goals. The first is to maintain engagement and customer loyalty , and the second is to capture market share within a specific audience segment of your target audience.
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.
Marketing is a science-driven commitment that typically requires months of data to refine campaigns, and an interconnected marketing plan keeps your business committed to its long-term goals.
All marketing guidelines will circle back to the four P’s: product, price, place and promotion. The following tips are starting points that will ingrain the habit of continually returning to these four P’s.
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.
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.
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.
When developing your marketing plan, you should know why a customer would use your product, differentiate your brand from competitors, and audit your product offering and message to ensure consistency.
Channels to include in your marketing plan
Once you know the elements of your plan, the next step is to develop the blueprint of how you will reach your target customers. Aside from traditional print and broadcast media, here are three digital marketing channels that many business owners utilize.
Social media is an essential part of businesses’ marketing plans, because every type of customer is on some type of platform – such as Facebook , Twitter or LinkedIn . You may feel overwhelmed at the possibilities, but focus on the sites that can benefit your business the most.
Brett Farmiloe, founder of internet marketing company Markitors, advised companies starting out in social media to get to know their customers and the platforms they use.
“Figure out where your customers are spending their time, and set up shop on those platforms,” he told Business News Daily. “Develop a content strategy that can be executed internally, [and then] execute your strategy by posting branded content on your selected platforms.”
Though email marketing is not as new as social media marketing, it is an effective and popular choice for small business owners. Companies can implement email marketing techniques in many ways, including newsletters, promotional campaigns and transactional emails. For instance, Mailchimp and Constant Contact help companies manage their email drip campaigns .
Farmiloe added to set your email marketing efforts apart from the others by segmenting your markets.
“Not all subscribers want to receive the same blast,” he said. “Smart email marketers take the time to segment subscribers at the outset, and then continue to segment based on subscriber activity. Through segmentation, companies reduce the amount of unsubscribes, increase open rates and, most importantly, increase the amount of actions taken from an email send.”
The popularity of smartphones and tablets has changed how companies target consumers. Since people have these devices with them nearly all the time, companies are looking to implement strategies that reach customers on their gadgets.
“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.”
Use digital marketing channels – such as social media, email and mobile – to reach customers, but only after researching each channel in depth and developing a strategy to capture consumers’ interest.
Well-defined budgets, goals and action items – with appropriate personnel assigned to each – can make your marketing plan a reality. Think about how much you’re willing to spend, the outcomes you expect and the necessary tasks to achieve those outcomes.
Analytical tools that track customer behavior and engagement rates can serve as a helpful guide for your marketing strategy . Unlike billboards or commercials, digital channels allow you to assess each step of the customer journey and gain insights on the individual patterns and intent of prospects. Intention can soon develop into prediction, empowering your marketing team to develop campaigns that consistently reach target audiences at the right time.
You can find more tips for measuring your marketing ROI here.
Jordan Beier and Adryan Corcione contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.
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Marketing Plan – Purpose, Elements, and Design
Marketing is a cornerstone in the success of any organization. However, successful marketing is not as wide spread in large part due to the lack of a marketing strategy and marketing plan. To ensure marketing is successful for an organization, companies need to compose long-term marketing strategies promoting their goals with specific actions. A short term marketing plan is also necessary to ensure actions taken are consistent and effective in achieving the long-term marketing strategy. Here we will be discussing the purpose of a marketing plan as well as key components of the design and elements of a good marketing plan.
Most entrepreneurs could argue that a marketing plan is time-consuming and unnecessary, simply because they need to spend more time and effort running their business, which is an unfortunate mistake. A well-written marketing plan helps organizations remain focused in building the organization in a focused direction, and guides the stakeholders involved in helping to achieve its short term goals. Overall, the marketing plan is essential in supporting short-term business success and long-term business growth. Without this plan, short-term actions may not be compounding in the desired long-term direction, resulting in a sub-par performance.
Elements & Design
While the design and elements of a marketing plan will be focused on the unique desires and needs of each organizations’ goals, there are some aspects that are similar across all marketing plans. They should be driven by the long-term vision and strategic marketing goals. These elements are the marketing mix, also known as the 4 P’s of marketing: Product , Price , Place and Promotion . This marketing mix acts as a guide to help marketing managers create products, pricing, distribution and promotional campaigns for their products and services in a strategic manner. In order to create the right combination of the 4 P’s, the marketing plan focuses on the following elements:
2. Target market : Find the target market through research and an understanding of the organization’s products and overall goals. This helps to focus and optimize efforts towards a particular customer.
3. Brand/Product Positioning : Here a perception of the brand or product is formulated for the target market. This is important as the perception of the brand/product will have an effect on sales and methods of marketing.
4. Competitive analysis : Similar to market research, this element helps to understand the competition within the market place. By doing so you identify the threats and opportunities your organization has relative to your competition.
5. Budget/Sales Forecast : Here a detailed month-by-month plan and tracking of actual results is done. This allows for decisions in financing, marketing and logistics to be made to better the return on investments.
6. Metrics for Evaluation : Finally, a method to evaluate the plan and efforts made to execute the plan are necessary. Specific metrics such as House hold penetration or more broad metrics like Return on Investment may be used to keep track of the organizations operations. Ultimately aiding in day-to-day decision making.
The Great Marketing Plan
Using these basic elements for a marketing plan, organizations can shape and execute a marketing mix based on their long-term marketing strategy. The format in which the marketing plan can be written and presented is all that remains. While this may seem a rather unimportant matter, the format is critical in the effective communication of a marketing plan. Communication is key, as having team members on the same page allows for a superior execution of the plan. Once again, each marketing plan will have a unique format based on business needs, however there are some common format features of a good marketing plan:
2. Short-term Marketing Strategy : Here, a discussion on the target market and efforts made to communicate with them are discussed. In addition, positioning remarks are also covered in this part of the written plan. It is vital to understand that this plan compounds on itself, therefore these discussions should be done with the previous situational analysis in mind. It is through this that an effective plan is created and executed.
3. Budget and Forecast : Here a detailed discussion on the financials related to the plan and forecasts based on the plan are made. Often it is recommended that a best case, worst case and most likely scenario be presented to give an understanding of all scenarios and the areas most sensitive to the success of the plan.
4. Controls and Evaluation : In this final section a discussion on the metrics for evaluation are made and the method of evaluation. It is also recommended that a risk and mitigation plan is detailed in this section to reduce the risk of failure.
All in all, a marketing plan plays a crucial role in the short-term success of any organization and ultimately the successful execution of the long-term marketing strategy. By understanding the elements of a marketing plan and communicating the plan through a well thought out design, the chances of success are elevated. When all members of the organization understand the marketing plan this leads to a higher likelihood of a successful execution.
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