As one of the largest expenses of any business, marketing demands disciplined planning to yield a positive ROI. Too many businesses shortchange themselves in the strategy stage, implementing tactics without direction or cohesion. In the end, they waste money on poor decisions and fail to generate consistent results.
To accomplish impactful marketing goals, making a marketing plan is non-negotiable. Businesses with solid marketing plans are better positioned to influence target markets, develop strong brands and earn more customers.
When you understand what a strategic marketing plan looks like, the prospect of creating one can seem overwhelming. Proper marketing plans possess an exhaustive level of detail and a comprehensive consideration of internal and external influences. They reconcile lessons from past data with current business conditions and market research to predict future results.
This guide will teach you the ins and outs of creating an effective marketing plan. We will explore what marketing plans are, tips on creating your own and examples of professionally finished products.
Table of Contents
- What Is a Marketing Plan?
- What Are the Types of Marketing Plans?
- Why Do I Need a Marketing Plan?
- Marketing Strategy vs Marketing Plan
- How to Write a Marketing Plan
- Marketing Plan Examples
What Is a Marketing Plan?
Marketing plans are strategic outlines, detailing the development, implementation and measurement of marketing strategies and campaigns. Plans are designed to cover a set period of time. For example, you may create a plan to execute a content strategy over a six-month period and measure the results.
A marketing plan can be laser-focused on a single marketing strategy or cover several strategies. Multiple strategies within one marketing plan are designed to work in concert toward a unified business goal.
A thorough marketing plan looks at the past, present and future. It takes market data and customer trends to predict the performance of a marketing program. Marketers make research-driven estimates to create reasonable goals while also planning for contingencies.
Marketing plans will usually include business goals, target customers, current market conditions, an implementation timeline and tracking methods. While these are pulled together to make the plan, they also take shape as the plan is developed. As you learn more about your competitors, for example, you may adjust your goals based on new information.
What Are the Types of Marketing Plans?
There are constant opportunities to create marketing plans because your business should always be moving and growing. New product introductions, advertising campaigns or any other marketing implementation deserves a marketing plan. Depending on your business goals, you can choose from a broad array of different marketing plans, including the following:
- Time-sensitive marketing plans: These can be quarterly or annual plans, containing strategies to execute over a particular time period.
- Social media marketing plan: This concerns the platforms, tactics, schedule and campaigns to use on social media.
- Content marketing plan: This is a growing concern for many businesses, involving ongoing, valuable content development to promote your brand.
- Product launch marketing plan: This is a guide to introducing a new product, complete with rollout schedules, pricing guidelines and advertising timelines.
Why Do I Need a Marketing Plan?
A marketing plan keeps your marketing efforts targeted, organized and unified. Businesses are able to stay on track, accurately measure the effectiveness of their efforts and make better decisions.
Taking time to develop a marketing plan ensures you consider every influential factor. It makes you answer critical questions involving competitive analysis and customer research, giving you insight into your plan’s practicality. As a result, you have a strategy better suited to the needs of your target market.
Marketing Strategy vs Marketing Plan
A marketing plan and marketing strategy are referenced in similar ways within many businesses. However, there are some important distinctions worth understanding.
A strategy refers to a collection of tactics that will be used to achieve a particular goal. Strategies involve different channels, content, imagery and technology working together.
In contrast, a marketing plan is the big picture containing several marketing strategies. It structures and connects all of the various strategies, showing how they contribute to achieving an overarching objective.
For example, let’s say you are developing a content marketing plan to raise awareness and broaden your reach. Your marketing department starts creating a blogging strategy, coming up with ideas for material and a schedule. Meanwhile, they draw up plans to promote content through a social media campaign. They use two strategies, blogging and social media, to use within a single marketing plan.
How to Write a Marketing Plan
How you delineate marketing plans and marketing strategies is completely up to you. Define these terms in ways that are consistent, agreeable and sensible for your business. Marketing plans can be broad, consisting of numerous strategies and larger goals. Or, they can be tightened down, including a single strategy and a smaller time window.
Regardless of how you choose to define your terms, creating a marketing plan involves particular actions.
Here are some of the steps in writing a basic marketing plan.
Review Your Industry’s Characteristics
Looking at the broad scope of your industry will help you understand its potential and your place in it. This includes not only looking at the competition but also industry associations, industry data and historical performance. How big is the industry, and is it growing, plateauing or shrinking?
Consider your industry’s health and the factors that influence it, such as the economy or government policies. Look into your major competitors and find the industry leaders. What are they doing to win customers and how are they making their money?
Being able to answer these questions will allow you to set reasonable goals and leverage your relative strengths. You will be more poised to distinguish yourself from the competition and take advantage of available opportunities.
Perform Market Research
Market research is how you gather valuable information about your target customers and their needs. This gives you insight into products to develop and how to promote them. An ideal way of organizing important customer information is through a buyer persona.
A buyer persona is like a customer profile, a detailed description of a customer in your target market. You may create and market products for one or several different personas. These descriptions are formulated through primary and secondary research methods.
Primary research is research you design and execute yourself. This research into the market can involve surveys, focus groups or interviews. Secondary research is existing information from public sources like government bodies, consumer research groups and trade journals. From your research, you should have a collection of demographic, psychographic, geographic and behavioral characteristics of your target customer.
When you know who your customers are, you can tailor messaging that aligns with their interests, values and needs. Furthermore, you can connect competitors to the market, looking at how they fulfill the needs of your ideal customer. This gives you guidance on developing a competitive advantage and unique value proposition.
Understand Your Target Market, Define Your Customers
The target market includes customers you want to engage, as they are the most likely to buy your product. Regarding the buyer personas created from your research, you need to focus on defining their needs. How prevalent is the need that your products solve? What are customers doing to fulfill the need currently?
Looking at your various market segments, you can gauge the sales possibilities for your product. Is there enough demand — enough buyers — for your product? This will keep your marketing focused on the right markets and set more appropriate marketing budgets. Your ROI will be much higher, as you avoid overspending or wasting time on segments with little purchase potential.
Perform a SWOT Analysis
SWOT: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats
A critical tool in advertising, the SWOT analysis considers internal and external factors that impact your business. It positions your business, clarifying its unique strengths and weaknesses and the market opportunities and threats.
- Strengths: What does your business do better than the competition? Do you have exclusive access to resources? Have you built a uniquely efficient process?
- Weaknesses: Where does your business lag behind the competition? What needs to be improved and what will improving it do for your business?
- Opportunities: Are there any consumer trends that are creating new needs? Is there a new market opening up? What external circumstances can you capitalize on to grow revenue?
- Threats: What is the competition doing that might steal market share? Are there new players entering the market and how do they put you at a disadvantage? What are the implications for your business?
A SWOT analysis grounds your efforts, giving insight into how you can improve and how you can succeed. You can make more realistic goals and develop strategies to position your product through your unique advantages.
Thoroughly Examine the Competition
Competitive analysis gives you a close look at the threats to your business. Who are your direct competitors, those who supply a similar product? How many solutions already exist on the market?
Comparing your marketing efforts to the competition is also beneficial for ideation. From your market analysis, you should be able to see the leaders in your industry and among your competitors. Use their engagement tactics for inspiration, borrowing channels and messaging tools that are most effective.
You also need to look at indirect competitors, how consumers satisfy the same need with a completely different product. For example, if you run a gym, your direct competitors may be other local gyms. However, customers may meet their fitness needs through at-home exercise products or free spaces, like a local park. Understanding all of these opportunities will help you proactively address concerns and formulate better persuasive messaging.
With a complete competitive analysis, you will be able to choose your tactics confidently. Your brand will have more clarity surrounding its place in the market. You will understand how aggressively you have to approach your marketing and how much you can expect to gain.
Establish Your Goals
When you can detail your business’s unique advantages, competition characteristics and market potential, you can set realistic goals. Goal-setting should start with long-term visions. How do you want to grow your business? What product lines or markets do you want to expand into?
Long-term goal setting is essential in ensuring your business’s sustained success through a singular mindset. Still, the big picture is daunting. Long-term goals can be overwhelming as centerpieces of a single plan.
Breaking big picture goals into smaller, short-term goals is more actionable. You gain predictability and control by focusing on immediate objectives that contribute toward the long-term goal. For example, instead of trying to expand market share over two years, focus on a three-month awareness campaign. There is less work involved, the market is more predictable and you still work toward the large goal.
Define Your Marketing Strategy
After outlining your objectives, review your short-term goals and start considering associated marketing activities. Think about the 4 Ps — product, price, promotion, place. What actions relate to your business and customers? Where and how can you reach your customers? What are they willing to pay for your product or service? How will you make your product available?
Your marketing mix should be cohesive, all working to reach and provide value to your target customers. This enhances your product’s benefits and creates a strong, more consistent brand image.
Figure Out Your Budget
Budgets need to be carefully considered before engaging in any marketing activity. Setting a marketing budget guarantees that you can cover all of the necessary steps in your marketing programs. Your campaign will only be successful if you complete each carefully designed stage. At the same time, stepping outside your means can put you at financial risk.
Spending needs to be limited to goal-oriented investments. Marketing is a massive expense, so you need to stick to the marketing channels that give you the best ROI.
Regularly Refresh Your Marketing Plan
Unexplained and unexpected factors can arise to affect your results. Sticking to a marketing plan for too long may leave you reacting to outdated, irrelevant market information. This is why you need to give yourself space to adjust your marketing plan at regular intervals.
Regularly measuring your results will show you how effective your strategy is in real-time. If you see stagnation or loss, you can responsively adjust your methods. You should see connections between market trends and results, giving you guidance on how you adapt your plan. By consistently tracking and tweaking your marketing plan, you will course-correct back toward your business goals.
Detail Your Marketing Plan’s Exclusions
As we have made clear, you need to accurately and exhaustively detail your marketing plan’s goals and actions. However, a truly complete plan also outlines its exclusions — what the plan does NOT focus on.
If you have other business teams or stakeholders who are left out, you need to make that apparent. Time, money and effort are wasted if there are too many people invested in the project. Justifying your goals, tactics and measurement devices is easier when you acknowledge who it is not meant to serve.
Marketing Plan Examples
Covering the varied aspects of a marketing plan may give you perspective, but what does it actually look like? Sometimes, learning from a great marketing plan example gives you the framework to make effective plans on your own. Let’s inspect two prime marketing plans that perfectly account for every crucial factor.
Spree Watch Marketing Plan
The marketing plan for the introduction of the Spree watch is a basic, formal layout. Note the attention to detail, the interplay of marketing tactics and specific courses of action based on unique results. The plan is realistic, thoroughly researched and carefully defined, free of ambiguity or guesswork.
The Spree watch marketing situation analysis answers important questions about the market. It explains who is buying their product, where they are located and their purchasing habits. They look at the competition and how they fit in the market given their strengths. All of this is supported by their own experience and their past data revealing growth trends.
The goal is specific, time-sensitive and measurable. They set a reasonable expectation and acknowledge the results as acceptable when measured against their investment.
Marketing strategies cover the marketing mix in its entirety. They blend pricing, promotion and distribution strategies into a holistic effort toward attracting their ideal customer.
The action plan provides the meat of the strategy. It contains the fine details about the product being introduced, exact price points, distribution and advertising. As campaigns progress, it explains any marketing transitions, such as regional rollouts.
FINANCIAL ANALYSIS AND EXPECTED RESULTS
You can see from the financial analysis that the watch introduction is one part of a long-term view. They keep the financial analysis limited to a year, reducing the chances of major market changes occurring. By keeping the timeframe short, they can change their approach depending on demand and keep track of industry innovations.
The marketing plan accounts for any potential circumstances that do not fit the plan. They acknowledge any threats and provide assurance that they will manage those contingencies.
Shane Snow’s Content Marketing Plan for His Book
Personal marketer Shane Snow lends his expertise and real-world example to give us an effective content marketing plan description. For his book launch, Shane used a technology-focused content strategy to raise awareness and fuel conversion.
His is a perfect example of how you can create modern templates that use visual diagrams to communicate concepts. As you read the details, you can see how he manages expectations and avoids making plans based on assumptions.
The marketing plan starts by defining the core, secondary and tertiary audiences — leaders, achievers and pop-sci readers. For each group, Shane created different business objectives to fill his sales pipeline.
The audiences are segmented according to their needs or reasons for buying the product.
For this content marketing plan, Shane needed to measure reach and conversion. He tracked subscriptions, click-through rates and sales.
Ultimate Business Goal
Shane positions his goal of selling 10,000 books as part of a larger goal. He wants to gain influence and build his brand. He is careful to underestimate performance, keeping his goal highly achievable to limit his spending and increase ROI.
Here, we see how the different target audiences will be reached. Social media factors in for each group, with leaders getting the most exposure through supporting TV and email ads. The plan goes a step further in describing how it will reach sales leads in each channel.
Process & Workflow
The process is where the marketing plan turns into action. With the strategies in this marketing plan, Shane was able to start creating content. He created an outline of each content idea, complete with its production schedule, release date and online placement.
Building The Team
To keep operations streamlined in the production, launch and management of recurring content, several key contributors were brought in. Shane had four team members manage video production, editing, posting and promotion.
Building The Workflows
Beginning-to-end processes were created for each content platform. Each team member fits into a specific role within each of the four workflows Shane developed.
Building The Campaign Calendar
Using an organized dashboard, all of the content is loaded into a schedule noting deadlines and post dates. The system automated the scheduling of edits and re-posts, saving Shane time to focus on managing his team.
Creating, Publishing, and Optimizing
Shane works marketing automation into his continuing measurement and optimization. He uses software to make content recommendations, improve search engine rankings and stay on task.
Publishing is executed with the next steps in mind. Shane adds CTAs for each piece of content based on their goals for each audience. He then uses advanced analytical software to track content performance, adjusting underperformers and repurposing and redistributing high performers.
The more effort you put into your marketing plan, the greater the return. By following the techniques and examples laid out in this article, you will be able to confidently and effectively execute any marketing initiative.
A marketing plan succeeds through the performance of individual parts. Business Marketing Engine can be the difference-maker in your next marketing plan. We provide proven social media and content management experience to drive engagement, increase conversion and stimulate growth. To learn more about how we can help you achieve your business goals, start the conversation today.