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When launching a new product or venturing into a new market, it’s crucial to have a plan in place for all teams involved in the marketing campaign to guide everyone through each stage of the process. Implementing a marketing plan that describes what your business is doing to achieve its goals can help you develop effective strategies for reaching your target audience and growing your business.

What is a Marketing Plan?

A marketing plan is a document that businesses use to outline their marketing strategies and determine how they plan to spread the word about their products or services. It’s usually outlined according to a specific time period, like a quarterly strategy or for a specific fiscal year. Typically, a marketing plan covers outlines for a business’s resource expenses, short-term and long-term goals, and the steps the business plans to take to successfully implement a marketing campaign.

Generally speaking, a marketing plan can be flexible and can be adjusted based on the needs of the marketing team. As social media and other online platforms keep evolving, a solid marketing plan will usually evolve along with the methods and strategies that businesses use to build awareness about their brand.

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What to Include in a Marketing Plan

The contents outlined in a marketing plan typically cover things like a marketing budget, actual costs of a marketing campaign, a specified time period of action, and the goals and actions a marketing team will take. It can also cover what outlets or advertising a marketing team will do during the specified campaign period.

Also, many marketing plans outline what kinds of marketing will be used during a given campaign. While the aspects included in a marketing plan can depend on the industry, overall business goals, and product or services offered, there are generally several key components of a marketing plan. These key aspects include:

  • A clear executive summary
  • Specific goals and objectives
  • A set timeline
  • Details about competitors
  • Marketing strategies
  • KPIs and metrics
  • Target audience and market need
  • A marketing budget

It’s also important to note that a marketing plan is not the same as a marketing strategy. While a marketing plan contains marketing strategies as part of the plan’s execution, the strategies used don’t outline the overall marketing plan. The marketing strategies a business uses also depend on the type of marketing campaign it launches. For example, if your marketing campaign consists of mailing white papers to gain market interest in your business’s products or services, it wouldn’t make sense to make social media presence a marketing strategy in your plan.

If, however, your business advertises online, it would make sense to utilize a social media or even a content marketing strategy within the advertising campaign. Really, it can depend on the whole of the marketing plan a business puts in place that can determine the strategies it will use to track, execute and evaluate the success of its marketing campaign. Even though the type of marketing plan can help you determine what strategies you would implement, there are several key items that most marketing plans include.

Executive Summary

The executive summary is a clearly stated overview of what’s described within the entire marketing plan. You can use the executive summary to give a brief description of each section you detail within your marketing plan. It’s best to keep this section no more than three to four short paragraphs, or about 300 to 400 words.

Specific Goals and Objectives

A solid marketing plan should have specific and measurable marketing goals regarding the results you expect from advertising and the overall marketing campaign. This is where you determine what you want to gain or see happen at the end of the specified period. For instance, if your business needs to increase its total sales to turn a profit, your marketing plan should have this objective outlined clearly. The overview of advertising and marketing goals should also be measurable, so you can implement the appropriate strategies to monitor and track quantifiable results.

Marketing Strategies

Your marketing plan should also give an overview of your business’s current marketing strategies, any results from those strategies, and any new strategies you have recently implemented, like implementing Facebook ads to generate traffic to your business site. Marketing strategies also serve as the foundation of your marketing plan, and there are many methods of developing an effective strategy to achieve business goals.

Key Performance Indicators

An effective marketing plan will also look at the key performance indicators (KPIs) that the marketing team will track and evaluate. Having KPIs in place makes the marketing plan more effective by setting measurable objectives that you can analyze to tweak other elements and strategies as needed, which can have a positive influence on the success of your marketing campaign.

Target Market and Need

Successful marketing plans also look at the overall target market and describe how its products or services will fill the market’s needs. Using marketing strategies and consumer data from previous periods, this aspect of a marketing plan researches the demographics of a target market, the characteristics and personas of the audience and what their needs are.

Why Create a Marketing Plan?

Creating a marketing plan can help a business outline its overall goals or objectives that it wants to accomplish through its marketing campaign. Following a marketing plan is essential in laying out tasks, measuring completion of the tasks, and monitoring progress toward the end objective by combining the use of marketing strategies and various performance metrics like tracking response rate to a sponsored ad. Marketing plans also give each department or team involved in a project clear timelines and objectives to follow during working hours.

Whether you’re a part of a larger company, a small business, or a sole proprietor, creating a marketing plan can guide you through outlining, organizing, and launching your campaign.

Where is a Marketing Plan Used?

From the marketing department to the finance department, there are many places within a business that a marketing plan can be used. Typically, though, marketing plans are created and used within the marketing department to direct project teams in completing tasks, applying strategies, and creating promotional outlets that move the business toward its goals. The marketing team might work alongside other departments, like the sales and finance teams, to collaborate on the best course of action to take when following the overall marketing plan.

As an example, a marketing team could create a plan with the goal of increasing the total number of paying subscribers to a web-based service. The marketing team might bring the marketing plan to the finance and sales teams to share ideas for creating sales ads and implementing a budget for the plan. Marketing plans might even be based on overall sales or financial goals to begin with, and using the plan in other departments within the business can ensure everyone is on the same page with the goals, strategies, and project guidelines they’re expected to work with.

How to Create a Marketing Plan

You can create your own marketing plan by adding the basic elements that are outlined below. As you detail each component of your plan, you can tweak it to suit your specific marketing needs. You might also think about how much of your marketing will take place online and how much of it will be done using offline avenues. Determining these details ahead of time can help you figure out what marketing strategies you might implement in your plan.

Here are the steps:

1. Start With Your Executive Summary

Every effective marketing plan starts with an executive summary. When writing your executive summary, think about key points that will make your plan unique. You might include some background information on how the product or service you are promoting was created, or you might include information about how you will solve a specific problem with your offer.

Starting with a strong statement of purpose can help gain the reader’s interest (in the event you are seeking investment opportunities or funding), as well as providing a clear overview of what your marketing plan consists of. For instance, you might start out with the business background, what you hope to accomplish through the current marketing campaign, how you plan to stand out from the competition, and any other information that can help give readers the idea of what’s behind your plan.

2. Set Specific Goals and Objectives

Next, set goals that can be measured before, during, and at the end of your campaign, and let these objectives help you plan a realistic timeline for your marketing plan. You might set a goal for increasing total traffic to your eCommerce store, for instance, and this can help you figure out how long you will plan to run your campaign. You could also use the SMART goal method for setting objectives within your marketing plan so you have a clear outline for creating goals that each team involved with the project can realistically achieve.

3. Use Your Objectives to Set a Timeline

Once you have determined the goals you want to achieve, create a timeline for your marketing plan. The timeline will provide a set period that your plan will operate in. You can set your timeline for a month, quarter, half a year, or for the year. It really depends on the nature of your business and what you think your team will need to successfully and reasonably reach business goals.

4. Research Your Competitors

As you work through your marketing plan, take some time to actively research your competitors. Take note of the marketing and leadership teams, the marketing strategies your competitors use (like social media, content, and other marketing strategies), revenue and marketing budgets, annual growth, and the target audience that your competitors market to.

As you delve into the strategies that your competitors use, think about how those strategies might be working to influence the number of customers your competitors have. Evaluate strategies like blogging, content marketing, and social media marketing. You can analyze each channel to determine whether they focus on SEO, video content, or audio/podcast content. Look for the biggest strengths and weaknesses. Researching your competition thoroughly can give you valuable insight into what you might do to create a marketing plan that is effective and gives you a competitive advantage when launching your campaign.

5. Describe Your Target Market and Its Needs

After analyzing your competitors, it’s time to analyze and describe your target market. Think about the audience you are trying to reach with your product or service. Describe your target audience within your marketing plan by visualizing different aspects of a persona like an ideal age range, income bracket, job industry, interests, and other details that describe the ideal customer. Along with this information, you might also include details about what your target audience needs. If there’s a common problem that your offer solves, describe that in this section of your marketing plan. If there’s a recurrent question that keeps popping up, provide the answer as it relates to serving your market.

6. Determine Your Key Strategies

In this section of your marketing plan, you’ll want to describe the key strategies that you will implement in your marketing campaign. It can help to outline this section using visuals like a chart or graph. When organizing your key strategies, consider how your business will benefit from a variety of different approaches.

Sometimes it can be more effective to implement two or three strategies rather than to approach your marketing campaign with too many. Think about where your audience spends most of its time. Implement marketing strategies that utilize this. For example, in the case of an eCommerce store, you might choose social media, content marketing, and sponsored ads to promote your products.

7. Identify the KPIs and Metrics to Track

After determining the strategies you plan to implement, you will need to identify and outline a section devoted to the KPIs (key performance indicators) and metrics you will be tracking during the campaign timeline. In order to determine what metrics to track, think about the goals of your plan as well as the strategies you’re implementing.

As an example, if your goal is to increase product sales, you can identify metrics like the number of online sales, in-store sales, and credit sales. Then, you can describe the KPIs you will track to ensure each objective is being met. For instance, a KPI in the case of increasing product sales could be tracking the time it takes for a user to purchase a product after landing on the website. Information from your KPIs and marketing metrics gives insight into what strategies are working and which ones are not so the marketing team can make changes as needed.

8. Set Guidelines for Tracking KPIs

As you come to the final sections of your marketing plan, it’s important that you have a set guideline in place for how each KPI, metric, and strategy will be tracked and recorded. If your overall goal is to increase sales through online marketing channels, you could identify which sales came from social media specifically or track the number of sales coming from your email marketing campaign. Your KPI would consist of identifying a specific strategy you are using and recording the data to interpret what’s increasing sales, decreasing sales, and how effective the specific strategy you’re measuring is. You can use a number of analytics tools to track and record your KPIs.

9. Set the Marketing Budget

Once you have finalized the marketing plan, it’s time to set a budget. Discuss with business finance teams, the marketing teams, and any other individuals that will play a key role in driving the marketing campaign. A marketing budget will describe anticipated operational costs and expenses the business expects to take on for the duration of the campaign, as well as the final budgetary cost of running the full marketing campaign.

Who Uses a Marketing Plan?

Usually, leaders of a business or organization are the ones that use a marketing plan (along with financial plans, sales plans, and other business plans) to make decisions regarding business processes. Business and team leaders will typically work together to bring the plan into motion. A business’s marketing team will be the professionals who create and use the marketing plan to make decisions based on the outlines of the plan, which leads to meeting the objectives the business leaders want to achieve.

In the case of extensive and complex marketing plans, other individuals can be involved in the process. Marketing managers, project managers, team leaders, financial officers, and accountants might all have a hand in reviewing and offering feedback on the marketing plan. Commonly, the following individuals may be involved with planning, budgeting, and finalizing a business’s marketing plan:

  • Marketing professionals
  • Finance and accounting teams
  • Project managers
  • Sales team

Essentially, it’s usually the business leader or executive that sees a need for a marketing plan and then communicates with marketing professionals to build on and implement their ideas. The other departments of an organization follow by collaborating on projects as they move through the time period outlined in the marketing plan.

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When to Implement a Marketing Plan

Typically, marketing plans can be used when a business wants to take action to promote awareness and drive traffic (consumers) to its product or services. When brainstorming ideas, a marketing team will create a plan of action that outlines the tasks and projects that need to be completed in order to meet a business goal. A marketing plan essentially comes as a result of this stage of business development.

An example of an effective time to implement a marketing plan could be when an online business goes through a rebranding phase and implements a content marketing strategy to strengthen its online authority in its niche. The business would need to reevaluate their marketing needs and create a new plan that describes the activities and processes involved with its rebranding. Other times when you might consider implementing a marketing plan include:

  • Adjusting objectives to reflect new trends, information, or data
  • Implementing a new marketing strategy mid-campaign
  • Introducing a new strategy at the beginning of a period
  • Making changes to the marketing budget
  • Using new platforms to sell products
  • Moving in-store inventory to online availability
  • Rebranding a business or organization
  • Entering new markets
  • Networking with other businesses
  • Updating or revising outdated plans

A marketing plan can also be reviewed and revised on a continuing basis. A lot of companies review and make changes to their marketing plans every year to three years, and keeping a regular review schedule can help keep every department on track to meet objectives.

Online and Offline Marketing Strategies

You can choose to implement a variety of marketing strategies that can help your business achieve its goals. However, the strategies you implement will depend on the results you are looking for. For instance, if the goal of your marketing plan is to increase online sales of a specific product your business supplies, it would make sense to consider strategies that use an online avenue for marketing. Conversely, offline marketing uses other media outlets to market products and services. The following types of marketing strategies can help you determine the path for your own business marketing plan, including internet marketing strategies and offline strategies.

Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing uses platforms like Facebook and Twitter to reach audiences. Some social media platforms offer ad services, where businesses can create an ad and run it for a specified period of time. During that time period, the ad can be viewed, shared, and commented on to drive traffic (or leads) to a product, service, or landing page. Typically, social media marketing may be used alongside email marketing to grow a list of people who have shown interest in the business through their social media posts.

Content Marketing

Content marketing can consist of producing web content like content writing, blog posts, and social media writing to drive traffic to a website, blog, or other online product or service page. Content marketing can overlap with social media marketing and email marketing because all three types consist of writing to an audience. Businesses who have blogs or websites commonly implement content marketing strategies.

Landing Pages and Funnels

Landing pages can be used along with content marketing and social media to drive traffic to a call to action. This call to action typically gets the reader to enter their email address (the funnel) in exchange for a download, webinar, trial, or other low-cost or free product or service. The funnel eventually builds a list of email addresses for leads who expressed interest in the business through the landing page.

Email Marketing

Email marketing uses email messages to entice readers to perform some kind of action, whether that’s purchasing a product, subscribing to a newsletter or scheduling a meeting. Email marketing is commonly used with social media, as social media can be a powerful tool in gaining and communicating with subscribers. Email marketing is also considered to be the digital version of mail advertising.

Sponsored Ad and Ad Campaigns

When a business runs an ad campaign as one of its marketing strategies, it can employ sponsored ads where the organization pays a larger and more authoritative company (in the same industry) to advertise its products or services on the larger company’s website.

Affiliate Marketing

Businesses who depend on affiliate marketing to promote and sell products may take advantage of this marketing strategy to network with other businesses in order to promote each other’s products or services. Additionally, affiliate marketing can be combined with social media strategies to drive traffic to affiliate products and services, making this a viable approach to promoting and growing a business.

Direct Mail Marketing

Direct mail marketing may be the most common offline marketing strategy. Businesses pay for mailing lists of people who are likely to be interested in their products or services. The mailing lists that businesses use are compiled from demographic data that can give insight into how consumer need and demand can lead to interest in a specific good or service. Some common advertising methods used in direct mail marketing can include newsletters and flyers, postcards, and other promotional materials used to elicit a response from the consumer.

White Papers

White papers are marketing tools that can be used in an offline environment but are growing in the digital marketing sphere. They still prove effective, though, especially in business-to-business applications. White papers use persuasive and authoritative approaches to delivering in-depth reports about a specific subject such as with products or services businesses want to provide to another business. The white paper presents a problem and offers a solution based on evidence, facts, and sound research. It’s effective because it can elicit a response or interest in how a business can benefit its audience.

Referrals and Customer Reward Programs

Referrals can also be a powerful tool in creating repeat and new business. Many businesses use this strategy to retain their customer base and increase sales from new customers. When a business offers a referral program, repeat customers receive rewards, points, or other bonuses by referring others to the business’s product or service and that person makes a purchase from the business. Customer reward programs also work by offering bonuses to customers, however, instead of being rewarded for referring other people, they receive bonuses from being repeat purchasers, subscribers, or otherwise loyal business to the company.

Promotional Events

Promotional events can be highly effective for creating awareness and getting responses from interested customers. Many businesses use promotional events to get customers in the door, where they can continue to learn about the business and move from interested prospects to paying customers. Promotional events can work effectively to offer discounted prices, clearance items, special pricing for seasonal events and products or services, or even to launch a new product or service.

Cold Calling

Cold calling uses data-generated phone lists based on broad demographics of a population and existing cold calling strategies. Typically, cold calling strategies involve sizing up the prospects based on broad information like income bracket, job industry, age, and gender. Based on this information, telemarketers and other cold callers can form a strategy to communicate with only the prospects that appear a good fit for eliciting a response. Cold calling is generally used for product and service sales.

Warm Calling

Warm calling might not be as common as it was before online marketing became available. However, calling prospects can create opportunities for building relationships with your target demographic. Warm calling involves communicating with prospects who are familiar with a business or brand and have expressed interest in learning more about the thought process, values, and eventually the business’s products and services. Warm calling can offer a higher yield of conversions than cold calling, too, especially when paired with other marketing strategies from this list.

How to Develop Effective Marketing Strategies

The development of an effective marketing strategy begins with setting an objective and then analysis of the target market, setting up monitoring and recording guidelines, and using this information to measure the results. The following steps are a general strategy development outline that can help you when implementing your own.

An effective marketing strategy can have a lasting impact on the marketing plan’s success. Where a marketing plan gives an overview of the business processes moving toward the goal, an effective marketing strategy is a key action a business takes to reach its target market and meet its objectives. An effective marketing strategy might last long-term, while the plan can be reviewed and adjusted on a regular basis or whenever a company decided to make a change. The marketing strategy essentially drives the marketing plan.

1. Set a Marketing Goal

Your strategy development starts with setting a marketing goal. Think about what it is you want to achieve. If, for instance, you want to increase the revenue your online magazine subscribers generate, you might set a goal to increase the percentage of subscription renewals for a  quarterly, semi-annual, or annual time period. Starting with the end in mind gives your strategy a result it needs to produce.

2. Analyze Your Current Marketing Channels

The second step in developing a solid marketing strategy is to analyze what you’re currently doing to create revenue and lasting business. Think about the methods you use to introduce your products or services to new customers. The key to developing an effective marketing strategy is using the appropriate channels for promoting your business. Finding the channels that work best for your business starts with analyzing what channels you have used in the past, which ones were more successful than others, and how they will be an advantage to meeting your business goals.

3. Analyze and Focus on Your Target Market

This is probably one of the biggest aspects influencing a marketing strategy’s effectiveness. The whole of the marketing strategy that you develop for your campaign relies on your market to be successful. Whether you’re selling a product or service, analyzing your target audience can give you an understanding of what motivates them to make purchases, what their interests are, how their income affects their buying decisions, and any additional demographic and buyer persona information that an effective marketing strategy needs. Apply your analysis by keeping your strategy customer-focused and using methods to keep informed of changes in the market.

4. Determine the Strategy

Once you’ve analyzed your current strategies and your target audience, you should be able to choose the best strategy that you will use to achieve your goal. Think about where your audience spends their time, and take note of preferences to platforms. You might also combine two related strategies, like SEO content marketing and social media marketing. The important thing is to be consistent. Once you and your team have collaborated and agreed on the marketing strategy, you can set up parameters for measuring its effectiveness.

5. Set Monitoring and Recording Guidelines

Now that you have your strategy in place, it’s time to set guidelines for how the marketing team will monitor performance and record results. You can implement a variety of tools for tracking progress and setting parameters for productivity and the overall effectiveness of your marketing strategy. Think about the key indicators of each aspect of the strategy as well as which tools you will use to track those KPIs. This can show you the overall effectiveness of your strategies, and your team can use the data to adjust tasks and projects accordingly.

6. Use KPIs to Measure Results

Key performance indicators like response rate, subscription sign-ups, or other specific methods of determining a strategy’s success are crucial in measuring the performance and effectiveness of the marketing strategies you use. Depending on your final goal, your KPIs should be specific ways that help you determine how well your strategy is performing.

For instance, an entrepreneur with a Ph.D. in chemistry who creates and sells online video courses might implement social media marketing as a strategy to drive traffic to their course site, where users can purchase courses. The entrepreneur might measure the difference in conversion rates between paying customers directed from social media and those from other sites. This KPI could show the entrepreneur how effective their social media strategy is.

Marketing Plan Template

The following template serves as a basic foundation for expanding and detailing your own marketing plan development.

template for Marketing Plan Example

In conclusion, developing an effective marketing plan relies on collaboration, consistency, and communication between teams to ensure the effectiveness of each action that’s taken to move closer to the business’s goals. Using the information gathered through your analyses can help you create a unique and comprehensive approach to growing and developing your business.

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