February 24, 2020 (Updated: May 4, 2023)
Are you struggling with implementing a key marketing strategy for your business? Marketing plans can help boost your advertising efforts and guide your entire team through each stage of the marketing process. Understanding what a marketing plan includes and how to build and implement one yourself can help your business grow and develop. In this article, we discuss:
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A marketing plan is a document that outlines a business’s marketing strategies for a certain campaign. It typically follows a specific period, such as a business’s quarter or fiscal year. The plan includes information about the company’s resources, goals, and step-by-step instructions to implement the campaign successfully. The format is flexible and adjustable to meet the needs of your marketing team or to fit developing strategies and best practices.
A marketing plan and a marketing strategy aren’t the same thing. A marketing plan contains many marketing strategies within it. The general outline of the plan stays the same, no matter what initiatives you use. The marketing strategies change based on your industry, goals, and products. For example, if you’re trying to increase your brand recognition online, you may use social media or a content marketing strategy to make it happen. But if you’re running a sweepstake, you might instead mail scratch-off tickets to customers’ homes for them to find out if they’re winners.
There are a variety of individual pieces you can include in a marketing plan. Each one outlines a different crucial piece, like the duration of the campaign, team roles, and types of marketing. The strategies you include in your plan depend on your company’s industry, business goals, and products or services offered, but there are key components that go into every plan, such as:
The executive summary is the clearly stated overview that describes your entire marketing plan. It’s like the abstract of an academic paper or the blurb on the inside of a book cover. The summary gives a brief description of the more detailed sections within the marketing plan. This section is short, with only three or four 100 word paragraphs.
Marketing plans include measurable, well-defined goals about the results you expect from your campaign. Your goals and objectives list the intended outcomes after implementation if everything goes according to the plan. Consider using SMART goals, which stand for:
Marketing strategies are the tools and processes you use to achieve your marketing goals. They are the foundation of your marketing plan because they’re the actionable steps that release your product, service, or message into the world. Examples of marketing strategies include:
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KPIs are part of the “measurable” tier of your goal-setting process. They are the actual metrics you track to see if you’re meeting the objectives and if your marketing plan is working. It’s important to define them in the plan because then every member of the team knows exactly what to measure and how those measurements affect the rest of the project.
Read more: 7 Content Marketing KPIs to Track
Marketing plans also define the target market for a product or service. This is the group of people at whom you’re aiming the plan. You make all decisions for the campaign with them in mind and try to predict how they complete certain actions or react to the situations you introduce. Marketing teams use consumer data from previous campaigns to help pick the right demographics and audience for a specific plan. They may also create buyer or consumer personas to get more information about the people within their target audiences.
More than just defining your target audience, it’s also helpful to include an overview of the market itself. This includes areas such as:
Including market research helps you and your team better understand where your product, service, and campaign fits into the larger landscape of the industry and how that affects your marketing efforts.
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Explain what product or service your plan is promoting. This can include talking about how it fits into the current market, why there’s a need for it, and why now is the time for promotion. You can also tie the particular product or service to the goals of the plan for what you’re trying to achieve.
Use the mission statement to explain why you’ve settled on this marketing plan. A mission statement guides a group toward common values. For a company, it helps team members understand what the organization strives to achieve. For your marketing plan, the mission statement helps guide your marketing department to reach the goals of your campaign. Consider writing one or two sentences that address:
This section determines how you’re going to get your product or service out into the world and how people are going to perceive it. It’s important to define the pricing based on the market research you’ve done. This is good data for future analysis, especially if you find that you’re too high or low when calculating your price point. Branding describes how you want people to view your product and company within the market. What type of image do you give off? Positioning is explaining where within the market your product fits and why.
It’s helpful to define your budget within the marketing plan. This keeps the plan in perspective and gives additional information on how and why the team chose certain strategies. You can section out areas for items like paid advertising, labor, and in-house vs. outsource services.
Within the plan, you can describe which team members handle which responsibilities. This may be important if you have a large marketing team with many employees or smaller specialty groups. Role definitions give everyone involved an idea of what they complete to make the plan successful. It can also show which team members or groups interact with each other and how to prioritize tasks to complete them on time and within budget.
Most marketers prefer to define the expected timeline for your campaign in the marketing plan. Because your goals and the campaign itself are time-bound, creating a schedule can help team members prioritize what to do and when. This can also aid in monitoring, measuring, and tracking KPIs if you’ve defined certain deadlines for completing tasks.
A marketing plan helps outline overall goals and objectives for a marketing campaign. It gives a detailed schedule for all team members to follow to understand the sequence needed to reach the marketing goals. The plan provides clear timelines for departments and team members to meet their goals. It also ensures that everyone is on the same page for the project and that it aligns with the company’s vision.
Creating a marketing plan can help you determine if certain strategies, or even entire campaigns, are the right opportunities for your company. They let you look at all the details as a collective, rather than individual pieces of information, to determine if the project is achievable, fiscally sound, and an asset to your organization’s overall goals. Creating a plan also helps you define your measurable metrics to track progress and success over time.
Read more: How to Create a Marketing Plan Template
Marketing plans originate in the marketing department, but business or organization leaders use them to decide how to proceed with different tasks within the company. Other personnel that benefit from marketing plans include:
All these sectors may benefit from a marketing plan for a campaign because it serves as the playbook for an entire project for anyone involved. Each group or individual can use it to make sure their efforts are on track and meet the expectations and needs of the greater campaign.
You can adjust each section of a plan to fit your own marketing needs. Use these steps to understand the basic framework for creating and using a marketing plan:
When writing the executive summary, think about the parts of your marketing plan that are unique. What are the key points you want others within the company to understand about it? Give background information about the creation process for the product or service. You can also include information about how the product or service solves a problem for users or consumers. Start with a strong purpose statement and summarize all other sections in the plan.
Set goals you can measure before, during, and after the campaign. Creating objectives this way can help illustrate the timeline for your marketing plan. Listing your goals in the plan helps everyone reading it understand the expected outcomes. Consider looking at your current data before setting goals to ensure all goals are realistic and aren’t too far of a reach based on previous marketing efforts.
Using the goals as a guide, you can set the timeline for your marketing plan. This timeline determines the start and end dates for the campaign. Plans commonly cover periods such as a month, quarter, or year. Other factors to consider when planning your timeline include resource and staff availability.
Research the marketing and leadership teams of your competitors to understand who’s behind their campaigns. Review the marketing strategies they use, like social media or content marketing. You can also look at competitor organizations’ revenue, annual growth, budgets, and target audience. Reviewing all this information lets you understand what’s working for your competitors and how you can adapt these successful strategies to work for your own company. Adding this section to your marketing plan can help frame the context of your strategy choices within the market.
Describe the consumers within your target audience. Focus on who you’re trying to reach with your product or service. Include demographic information like age range, income, or employment industry. You can also add information about the target market’s needs. This gives a second opportunity to explain how and why your product or service provides value to the audience. Consider answering some common or expected questions the audience could have about the campaign. Ask for help from your sales and customer service teams to understand more about customer pain points, needs, and concerns.
This is where you list the primary marketing strategies you intend to implement. You can use visuals in this section, like charts and graphs, to show how you intend to implement the strategies. You can also list how the audience and your business may benefit from the variety of approaches. Consider focusing on two or three key strategies to reach different audience members in different ways without overwhelming your company and team.
List the KPIs and metrics you intend to track to determine if your campaign is reaching its goals. They give insights into what strategies work and which ones need improvement. Metrics and KPIs can also help you adjust a campaign in progress or make changes for future campaigns. Set the guidelines for how you intend to track each metric, so it’s done consistently across departments.
Be sure to include the marketing budget in your plan. Some companies set the budget before creating the plan, and some use the plan to create the budget. Either way, including the finalized figures in your plan can serve as a guideline for implementation. Include the anticipated operational costs and expenses for the entire campaign. Keep in mind that sometimes marketing campaigns cost more than you expect to pay, so anticipating this and adding in a cushion for unexpected line items is a good idea.
After you’ve finished creating the plan, inform all staff members who use it that it’s ready. You may do this through an email or meeting where you can distribute copies. Both options allow you to share information about how the marketing plan fits with the company’s business goals and priorities. Meetings may give room for discussion about the skills to execute the plan and opportunities that may become available by running this particular campaign.
Prior to implementation, consider situations where your plan may not work as you expect. This may be because of unforeseen circumstances, such as a social media outage, supply and demand issues, or a political or social change that counteracts your initial research. Create a few contingency plans that you can use if an issue arises to keep your plan on track and make it possible to meet your goals.
As the plan progresses, if you’re not getting the type of traffic, attention, or response you expect, make changes. Because the plan is a basic framework outline, there is the ability to change it while it’s in progress. Depending on what channels you use, you may update and change content or other factors in real time. Constant adjustments can help make sure you’re doing everything to hit your goals.
While you can implement a marketing plan at any time, there are some situations where starting one can be most beneficial to business growth. These include:
Creating and sharing a marketing plan with your team can help everyone understand the purpose and goals of a campaign. Understanding the steps and research necessary to make one can help you feel more prepared for the process and create a more comprehensive document.
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