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July 20, 2022 (Updated: March 8, 2023)
A marketing plan is a document that helps your team prepare, organize, and implement your marketing goals over time. It’s a place to record all your tactics and strategies for the year or quarter to take the guesswork out of what comes next in any campaign phase. The document has many sections, but what is the most important part of a marketing plan? We’re exploring this question with topics like:
So what is the most important element of your marketing plan? Before you can figure that out, you have to know what sections to add to your document. Each marketing plan is unique and won’t always include all the parts listed below. You may choose the ones that fit based on your current brand positioning or the type of campaign you plan to run.
We’re ranking the sections you could add to your marketing plan on a scale of one to 10 to decide which piece is the most important. To determine a ranking, we considered how likely it is you would include that section in every marketing plan. We also considered if the section serves as a pillar or reference for another, and if omitting any sections would prevent you from carrying out your marketing strategy or campaign. Take a look at the importance of each section of a marketing plan, from least to greatest:
If you work with contractors, freelancers, or anyone who works outside your traditional office location, this section gives them more information about the origins of the document. It includes things like the address for your headquarters, the company mission statement, or your contact information. It also helps your report look professional, too.
This section is more of a formality rather than a requirement. It’s branded for distribution to team members outside your office. The plan would have little to no change if this section didn’t exist.
Branding is one of the sections that you may leave out of your marketing plan if it doesn’t suit your current campaign strategy. You may combine this information into another area, like the goals category. But if you’re working toward getting back in good standing with your clients and customers or are in a rebranding cycle, it’s worth a section all its own.
Because this section doesn’t appear in every marketing plan, it’s not as important as some others. How much it matters for your particular company could be higher if it’s one of your primary marketing goals.
You’ll likely reference these channels in other sections of the marketing plan, like the strategies and tactics portion. It’s helpful to have a list for the team to look at so they understand why you’re using each channel and how it affects the greater marketing strategy.
You don’t really need a separate list of all your marketing channels unless it provides some other value to the plan. For example, if you’re trying a new channel for the first time, you may want to explain why you chose it and what results you expect to see from using it. Otherwise, you could incorporate this information into another section.
Your website is one of the most important tools for any kind of digital marketing. It serves as your content hub and provides a trusted source for information about your company, products, and services. For those reasons, your website plays a large role in all your online marketing efforts. That makes it worth discussing in its own section of the marketing plan.
Though your website is integral to digital marketing, you might not need to include it in every marketing plan. If you’re not making any significant changes or updates to your online spaces, you could include this information in another section. You may mention your website in the channels or strategies parts of the plan.
When creating content, your top focuses are your audience, search engines, and your business goals. These pillars are similar for any marketing campaign because they’re areas that help you get the most traction, sales, and goals. Especially if you’re doing any type of digital marketing, it helps to include how search engines and optimization factor into your plans.
Not every marketing campaign is going to take place online, even when you have content involved. While it’s important to consider how SEO affects your online strategies, it could fit just as well into another section, like the tactics part of the plan.
Related: Family Tree: How Are SEO and SEM Related?
This section helps explain how you expect your marketing efforts to work. It’s a prediction of the perfect customer journey that takes your brand from unknown to one of your client’s favorites. IT lists the steps they take to get from the top of the funnel—with brand awareness— to the bottom where they’re paying customers. There may be multiple points of entry into the buying cycle you can cover.
Did you expect this rating to be higher? The information in the buying cycle section is just a prediction. While you think you’re setting everything up a certain way to flow through the funnel, it might not work exactly as you plan. It’s important to have an idea of how things will work, making this a meatier section of the overall document. But human behavior is unpredictable. You may have to adjust this part of the document if things aren’t going as planned in the middle of the campaign or cycle.
Marketing doesn’t exist in a vacuum. You aren’t the only company in your niche. Even if your products or services are unique, there’s likely something else out there similar enough to pull away some of the market share. It’s important to be aware of what’s going on in the industry around you. Then you can learn how to become the top performer and grab the attention of your biggest audience with your campaign efforts. Adding this section to your marketing plan lets you see how your competitors change from cycle to cycle, based on the products and services you push.
If you’re not paying attention to what else is going on in your market, you might as well be trying to market under a rock. In the dark. In the desert. With nobody else around. Ignoring what other companies do and what competing materials your target audience sees can only hurt your own efforts over time.
CopyPress has a tool to help with your competitive analysis. Request your free content marketing analysis report today. This report shows how your content compares to that of your top three rivals. It also produces a list of gap data that shows you topics your competitors cover in their content that you don’t. Knowing this information can help you create more well-rounded pieces to pull back some of the market share from your competitors.
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The unique aspects of your brand do the most work to get customers to see why you’re a better choice than anyone else in the market. Putting them in your marketing plan helps keep them top of mind when you’re implementing strategies.
There’s always something unique you can share about your products or services. Whether your items have special features or your brand is local, there’s always a way to give your brand an individualized spin. These features guide the decisions you make throughout your entire campaign. They stress what makes you the best, so it’s important to record them for reference.
Related: Unique Selling Proposition: What It Is and Why Make One
The acronym SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. This type of analysis helps you look at more than just your brand versus your competitors. It lets you understand where your own company excels and has setbacks. It also looks at things like the market, society, and political climate to determine new footholds for your brand, or elements that could throw off your plans.
The world outside your industry can affect your business, marketing, and sales. Just as you have to be aware of your competition, you also have to be aware of the state of things outside your niche bubble. Is there a recession happening? What about a war or a recent natural disaster? Have people’s views on specific social issues or trends changed?
These things affect how you market your products and services, and how you speak to your clients. It’s important to include them in your marketing plan to show the current climate during development. These factors could change from one plan to the next.
SWOT analyses are all about being aware. When you know what could happen to your brand, both good and bad, you can be better prepared to adjust your efforts. For good things, it might allow you to scale up your marketing efforts and get more sales. For bad things, you might have to scale back. Either way, if you know what might come, you can face it head-on, and with confidence.
It’s important with any type of plan to understand what counts as progress or success. That’s how you’ll know if the plan is working. It’s also how you can identify setbacks and make necessary realignments to any campaign or strategy if one happens. Listing the key performance indicator (KPI) mini-milestones you plan to hit with your marketing campaigns helps you see if you’re on track to hitting those larger, more lofty marketing goals.
Everyone wants to reach their goals. But goals can be loftier and sometimes idealistic. They’re not always things you can achieve right now. KPIs are tangible, data-based concepts you can track to see if you’re on the path to meeting those larger goals. The data you collect from every campaign feeds right into these and it affects other marketing decisions you make moving forward in each campaign or cycle.
If you don’t have any goals in mind, why would you create a marketing plan in the first place? The purpose of doing any marketing activities is to reach a goal. Since the plan details all the steps you intend to lay out to make them happen, it’s important to define the goals within the document, too.
Anyone reading the plan wants to know the expected outcomes. Having them as a reference helps focus and refocus efforts if things change throughout the campaign.
This section is the step-by-step guide for your marketing plan. It tells the team what type of campaign you plan to run and how you’re going to carry out each phase. This is likely the longest and most in-depth section of the document. It’s what the team follows to bring your marketing vision to life.
The reason you’re creating a marketing plan in the first place is so that you have steps and strategies to follow. It takes your ideas from brainstorming sessions and turns them into a functional campaign. Without the strategies and tactics, all you have is the idea. Thoughts are great, but with no plan behind them, they become nothing more.
Related: 22 Types of Marketing Strategies for B2B Companies
You have to include your target market or audience in your plan because they’re the people you’re trying to charm. Similar to including your goals, this section helps put every strategy into focus. Considering you may use multiple strategies within one plan, it’s important to define each niche audience in addition to your broad target market.
It doesn’t matter if you or your team like your marketing messaging and strategy. Of course, you do. You came up with it. You’ve likely heard the saying, “the customer is always right” in industries like retail. In marketing, the audience is always right. They walk away if they don’t like what you’re saying, selling, or doing. And that means no leads, no sales, and eventually no company.
Related: Target Market and Target Audience: What’s the Difference?
Your target market and audience is the most important section of your marketing plan. Is this analysis subjective? Possibly. There are likely arguments why anything rated an eight or higher could actually be the most important part of the plan. Anything with that rating is a section you’ll most likely include in every document, no matter your industry, brand, or campaign. What is it about the audience section that makes it so crucial? It brings four things to each document that you need to help you execute your marketing strategies and plan follow-through. These include:
Determining which part of the marketing plan is most important helps you prioritize that section during document preparation and creation. Your target market and the audience are where you want to do the most research. If you have to prioritize time and resources in one section over another you want to know which one that is.
Ranking steps in the marketing plan creation process make things move more quickly and smoothly. The faster and more efficiently you make the plan, the sooner you can implement it. And the sooner you implement it, the faster you can bring in new leads, make more sales, and grow your business.
It’s important to remember that the marketing plan is just a preparation document. It’s the beginning of your campaign or vision journey. But what matters most is putting that plan into action. That’s how you’re going to see the results you crave and be able to check off those KPIs to reach lofty goals. But how? The tools you pick and the partnerships you make are key. You do the prep work to make your life easier. The execution phase is where you let all that upfront planning shine.
CopyPress is your perfect partner for executing all content phases of your marketing plan. We specialize in a variety of content types for industries like health, retail, and travel. No matter your needs, we help you put your marketing plan into action. Ready to get started? Schedule your free content strategy call with our team today.
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