Content Marketing

How To Write a Marketing Plan in 8 Steps

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Published: September 9, 2021

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Whether you’re creating your first marketing plan or your hundredth, having a clear strategy can help you prepare for a campaign and marketing cycle. Understanding all the components of the plan—and why and how you use them—can make the campaign run more smoothly. A marketing plan can also help you track success and make changes for your next cycle.

What Is a Marketing Plan?

A marketing plan is a business strategy document to help prepare, organize, and implement marketing goals and tactics over a set period. It can include different strategies for multiple marketing areas or teams that share the same business goals. The purpose of a marketing plan is to record all of your tactics and strategies to keep them organized. This can help you monitor and measure the success of each campaign.

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Does My Business Need a Marketing Plan?

A plan that includes all the areas of marketing you cover—especially digital marketing items like social media, email, and search engine optimization (SEO)—can help attract customers. It can also help you keep existing customers and ultimately make more conversions. Taking the time to make a marketing plan makes it easier to ensure that you’re meeting your goals, using the available resources, and allocating the budget appropriately. These documents can help everyone in the department or company understand the focus of the campaign and the goals for it.

Parts of a Marketing Plan

A marketing plan has many parts so that you can address each aspect of your campaign strategies. Each marketing plan you make may not contain every part listed below. Instead, the components you choose may depend on your company and the specific marketing you’re doing at the time. Even if you consistently use all components in each of your marketing plans, expect things to always look a little different for each new campaign. The components of a marketing plan include:

  • Basic business information: This section contains your headquarters or office location, company mission statement, contact information, and any other basic notes that share who made this document.
  • Introduction and goals: This part defines the marketing goals, states what you want to accomplish, and communicates the marketing plan mission statement.
  • Competitive analysis: This section helps you understand the organizations you’re competing with for sales and the attention of the target audience.
  • SWOT analysis: This acronym stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. You can run this analysis on your own organization to understand more about where you succeed in marketing and where you can improve.
  • Target market: This section defines the audience to which you’re marketing. You can explain who they are and why you’re targeting them.
  • Buying cycle: Here, you describe how a potential customer enters your sales or marketing funnel. It also lists the steps they take from learning about your company to completing a purchase.
  • Selling proposition: This section explains why your company, product, service, or plan differs from other things that already exist in the market.
  • Brand: This section discusses your current brand perception and if there are any changes you’d like to make in this area through the campaign.
  • Website: Discuss your website and how it relates to the marketing campaign, or describe how you intend to make improvements so it better aligns with your current strategy.
  • Marketing channels: Add a list of all the marketing channels you intend to use and how to leverage them to achieve your goals.
  • SEO: In this section of the document, explain how you intend to use an SEO strategy in your campaign.
  • Key performance indicators (KPIs): Address how you intend to track the progress of your marketing plan to reach the campaign goals.
  • Marketing strategies and tactics: Share with the reader how you intend to execute your plan, through what means, and the intended outcomes.

Types of Marketing Plans

There are different types of marketing plans you can use depending on the size of your company, the industry, and your goals. Some types of plans to consider include:

  • Quarterly marketing plan: This type measures the strategies you put in place within a business quarter.
  • Annual marketing plan: This type measures the strategies you put in place within either a calendar or fiscal year. This may be more complex than a quarterly plan because it covers more time and can have more components.
  • Paid marketing plan: This plan may focus specifically on the types of paid marketing strategies you use at your company, such as pay-per-click (PPC) advertising or paid social media campaigns.
  • Social media marketing plan: This type may cover all strategies and campaigns that use social media platforms and content.
  • Content marketing plan: This plan may cover all strategies used in content marketing, such as content creation and promotion.
  • New product marketing plan: This type may help you create a full campaign around one type of product launch or promotion.

What’s the Difference Between a Marketing Strategy and a Marketing Plan?

A marketing strategy details the ways in which a company plans to reach its marketing goals. Types of strategies may include choosing the right campaign, planning the content, picking the marketing channels, and selecting software. The strategy is the actual steps you take and actions you complete as you work through the plan. The marketing plan, in contrast, may include more than one strategy. They may combine to create a framework for the department to reach a business goal.

For example, if your company plans to launch a new sneaker line with the business goal of making $500,000 in sales within the first quarter, that’s your marketing plan. The strategies you use to reach that goal may include securing an influencer to market on social media and sending emails to your current customers to let them know about the new line.

5 Planning Research Steps

There is a lot of research required to create a marketing plan. Before you write the document, there are steps you can take to prepare. This research can help you figure out exactly what you’re trying to market, why you’re doing it, and what challenges you could face as you execute the campaign. Use these steps to conduct your planning stage:

1. Review the Competition

Researching the competition can tell you what other similar products and services exist in the market. It can also help you prepare for the SWOT analysis. There are different tactics you can use to research your competitors online and see how they handle their marketing. It can also tell you more about the expectations of the industry. You can research your competition by:

  • Subscribing to other companies’ email lists
  • Following competitors on social media sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram
  • Reviewing the content other organizations produce and analyzing it for tone, style, target audience, graphics, and topics

2. Do a SWOT Analysis

This analysis can help you discover your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Examples of each of these categories include:

  • Strengths: These are things that your company does well with and succeeds at in sales, marketing, and related areas.
  • Weaknesses: These are areas your company could improve on or do better at to gain more customers, a better market share, or a better brand image.
  • Opportunities: These are external factors that give you the chance to expand your company or reach. They may include finding new niche markets, getting the chance to open a new store location, or being able to receive additional funding for a project.
  • Threats: These are external factors that may work against your success. They may include things like new regulations or the emergence of new competition in the market.

3. Create Buyer Personas

Buyer personas let you get more personal with your marketing. Rather than looking at a large demographic collective, you can pinpoint potential individual buyers. Creating personas can help you understand:

  • The people you want to reach with your marketing
  • What your target consumers need from the products and services they use
  • Where your target consumers get their information and see advertisements
  • Additional demographic information about your consumers like age, job title, and location

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4. Understand the Buying Cycle

Learn how the people your personas represent enter your marketing and sales funnel. Consider which elements help them decide to buy products, try services, or otherwise interact with your company. There are three main stages in a customer’s buying journey:

  • Awareness: Somebody has to know your company and products exist before they can buy anything from you. What are you going to do to get them to notice you?
  • Consideration: In this phase, the customer may do a lot of research and think about the commitment to a product or service. They may consider the options they have for meeting a need. They may also compare features, prices, reviews, and other information to decide on the right option.
  • Decision: In this stage, the customer chooses which product to buy or service to use. They may also get to this stage and decide to abandon the process.

5. Finalize Your Budget

Making sure your marketing budget is complete before creating the plan is important. It helps you know that what you want to do is workable. Finishing the budget first prevents you from having to revise the plan later. The budget can also tell you which strategies you can complete first based on when funds become available.

How Do You Write a Marketing Plan?

Use these steps to learn how to write a marketing plan for your company:

1. State the Plan Mission

Create a mission or goal statement for your marketing plan. This can help you understand what you’re trying to achieve while also incorporating company values. Mission statements may be moderately specific. This means that you don’t have to include exact facts and figures in the statement, but can share some of your broad goals.

For example, if you’re still working for the same fictional shoe company and promoting the sneaker launch, your mission statement may read: TreadRunner Shoes defines comfort and style for the average runner and hiker at affordable prices. With the launch of the AeroSoft 6100, we intend to increase sales and provide alternatives to higher-priced sneakers that can serve our customers on the mountain, on the court, and at home.

2. Determine the KPIs

Decide how you plan to track data to see if you meet the goals established in your mission. Setting the KPIs or benchmarks can help you measure the short-term milestones or the more tangible and specific goals of your campaign. To return to the sneaker launch example, your KPIs may include tracking the number of sales with each retailer or creating a hashtag to follow customer interest in your brand before and after the launch.

3. Identify Your Buyer Personas

Though you’ve likely identified your buyer personas in the research phase, you also add them to your marketing plan. You may have between two and five personas that reflect different niche areas within your target audience. These can help you come up with original ideas for content and strategies for reaching potential customers.

4. Describe Your Content Initiatives and Strategies

In this section, you discuss the exact types of strategies you’ll use to support your marketing plan and meet your goals. The strategies section may be the most detailed part of the entire plan. Explain which methods you’re choosing, why you’re picking them, and how you plan to use each one. In this section, you can include:

  • Types of content: Explain the content you expect to use in your strategies, such as blog posts, social media posts, articles, infographics, and videos.
  • Amount of content: This part tells how much content you plan to create and when you’ll share it. Are you going to make daily social media posts and monthly videos? How much content you make and when you post it may depend on your plan goals and how you intend to track KPIs.
  • Distribution channels: List the locations where you intend to share content. Channels may include social media outlets, email, your website, billboards, fliers, or TV ads. You may also consider content syndication, which you can learn more about from CopyPress.
  • Paid advertising: Though you may already include some of this information in other strategy categories, add any expected paid components. This can help you make sure you stay on budget and track if you’re getting a good return on investment (ROI) for the paid advertising you put out.

5. Define Your Plan’s Omissions

The section discusses all the information you use to execute your marketing plan. This one discusses everything you’re leaving out. There may be some areas of your business or marketing that you’re not using, or omitting, from a specific plan. You can use this section to justify why certain aspects don’t serve a particular audience or goal and why they’re not primary components of your marketing plan.

6. Define Your Marketing Budget

Even for campaigns that rely heavily on free channels like content marketing, you’ll likely still have a budget for your plan. Include a copy of the budget and line items of where you intend to allocate each part of the budget. Adding these figures into your marketing plan can help you make sure your spending stays consistent throughout the campaign.

7. Identify Your Competition

Use your competitive analysis and SWOT analysis to define your market competition. Include the products or services your competitors sell, how they sell them, how successful they are at it, and challenges you may face competing for the same target audience. You may find that you compete with different organizations in different areas. For example, one company may be your primary competition for web traffic, while another is your major competition on social media.

8. Outline Team Member Responsibilities

This section helps you understand how each member of the team will contribute to meeting the plan’s goals. You don’t have to make this part in-depth, like creating a daily calendar for each person. However, it should define the team leads and reporting structure. It may also explain who’s assigned to what group and summarize the aspects they’ll cover and monitor.

Tips for Planning Your Marketing Strategy

You may use many strategies within your marketing plan. Understanding how to structure them can be key to preparing a thorough marketing plan. Use these tips to help you set your strategies:

Learn How To Set Goals

Learning how to set good, valuable goals and KPIs can make executing your marketing plan easier. Some things to remember when setting goals include:

  • Review your market share and position to set goals that are realistic
  • Understand the process of scaling your business and how yearly growth can affect your goals
  • Link your goals to the overall business mission or values
  • Choose just a few goals for each plan, such as two major goals and between three and five supporting ones
  • Create goal milestones to help you track progress as you work to reach bigger goals

Focus on Branding

Your branding can affect your entire marketing strategy. Having a favorable brand image is always a goal, but having a consistent image is important too. The practice can earn you loyal customers. When trying to keep your brand consistent across all channels, pay attention to elements like:

  • Brand logo
  • Website layout and design
  • Display advertising
  • Print marketing materials
  • Business cards
  • Email signatures
  • Packaging design
  • Social media profiles

These are all areas where your customers encounter the brand. They work together to create a cohesive image to portray to the public.

Optimize Your Website

If you’re working with digital marketing or any materials that link back to your website, make sure these components are user-friendly. Consider if your pages have a logical flow, whether you’re complying with accessibility guidelines, if the links work, and that your copy is free of spelling and grammatical errors. When sending people to your site, you want them to have a pleasant experience and to find what they’re looking for so that they’re excited to use your site and your products again.

Develop Great Content

You may create the best marketing plan in the world. But, if you don’t have outstanding content to back it up, you might not get as many conversions as you expect. Content can be anything you’re putting out to advertise or draw people into your company. Some common elements may include:

  • Web copy
  • Landing pages
  • Blog posts
  • Articles
  • Webinars
  • Podcasts
  • Newsletters
  • Emails
  • Social media posts

Similar to branding, keep your content consistent. Use the same color schemes and images for elements that relate to one another. You may also consider creating a visual aesthetic for your social media pages or using the same tone and layout for your writing across channels.

Track Your Goals

You’ve set your KPIs, so don’t forget to track them. Use your digital tools, software, charts, and graphs to collect and display your data. You can also run tests throughout your campaign to see if there are certain elements that perform better than others. Consider setting a schedule to check your metrics and compare your numbers to get an accurate reading of your progress over time.

Marketing Plan Templates

If you’re working on your first marketing plan, or it’s been a few years since you’ve created one, you may want some extra help. Some templates and guide you can find online include:

Creating a marketing plan can help you and your department organize ideas for campaigns. If you have all the information in one location, you can reference it as you progress through each stage and have notes about what worked and what you can improve for your next venture.

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