How to Make A Marketing Plan
Without marketing, most businesses would fail. But many small businesses don’t take the time to create a comprehensive marketing plan.
These businesses will try different marketing tactics ad hoc, with only minor to moderate success. Or they’ll score a big win by chance but find themselves unable to properly scale their tactics, goals and strategies.
Using a marketing plan will help you create a data-driven blueprint that’ll deliver you the results you want.
In this post, we’ll outline what a marketing plan is and how to create one that’s both actionable and accessible–even if you’ve never written one before–so you can deliver on your business’s larger goals.
What is a marketing plan?
A marketing plan is a report that outlines your marketing strategy for the coming year, quarter or month.
Typically, a marketing plan will include these elements:
- An overview of your business’s marketing and advertising goals
- A description of your business’s current marketing position
- A timeline of when tasks within your strategy will be completed
- Key performance indicators (KPIs) you will be tracking
- A description of your business’s target market and customer needs
Learning how to write a marketing plan forces you to think through the important steps that lead to an effective marketing strategy. A plan will also help keep you focused on your high-level goals.
Whether you’re a team trying to set smarter marketing goals, a consultant trying to set your client in the right direction, or a one-person team trying to introduce structure, a solid marketing plan shows that your marketing strategies are backed up by research.
How to create a marketing plan:
The scope of your marketing plan varies depending on its purpose or the type of organization it’s for. For example, you could create a marketing plan that provides an overview of a company’s entire marketing strategy, or simply focus on a specific channel like SEO, SEO writing, social media marketing, content marketing.
Let’s look at how to create a successful marketing plan :
- Write a simple executive summary
- Set metric-driven marketing goals
- Outline your user personas
- Research all of your competitors
- Set accurate key baselines & metrics
- Create an actionable marketing strategy
- Set tracking or reporting guidelines
- Make it look professional with a marketing plan professional document
Simple Executive Summary
Starting your marketing plan off on the right foot is important. You want to pull people into your amazing plan for marketing domination. Not bore them to tears.
One of the best ways to get people excited to read your marketing plan is with a well written executive summary. An executive summary introduces readers to your company goals, marketing triumphs, future plans, and other important contextual facts.
Basically, you can use the Executive Summary as a primer for the rest of your marketing plan.
Include things like:
- Simple marketing goals
- High-level metrics
- Important company milestones
- Facts about your brand
- Employee anecdotes
- Future goals & plans
- And more
Try to keep your executive summary rather brief and to the point. You aren’t writing a novel, so try to keep it under a three to four of paragraphs
The executive summary is only two paragraphs long–short but effective.
The executive summary tells readers about the company’s growth, and how they are about to overtake one of their competitors. But there’s no mention of specific metrics or figures–that will be highlighted in the next section of the marketing plan.
An effective executive summary should have enough information to pique the reader’s interest, but not bog them down with specifics yet. That’s what the rest of your marketing plan is for!
The executive summary also sets the tone for your marketing plan. Think about what tone will fit your brand–friendly and humorous? Professional and reliable? Inspiring and visionary?
After you perfect your executive summary, it’s time to outline your marketing goals.
This is one of the most important parts of the entire marketing plan, so be sure to take your time and to be as clear as possible.
As a rule of thumb, be as specific as possible. The folks over at VoyMedia advise that you should set goals that impact site traffic, conversions, and customer success–and to use real numbers.
Avoid outlining vague goals like:
- Get more Twitter followers
- Write more articles
- Create more YouTube videos
- Increase retention rate
- Decrease bounce rate
Instead, identify key performance metrics you want to impact and the percentage you want to increase them by.
They not only identify a specific metric in each of their goals, they also set a timeline for when they will be increased.
The same vague goals listed earlier become much clearer when specific numbers and timelines are applied to them:
- Get 100 new Twitter followers per month
- Write 5 more articles per week
- Create 10 YouTube videos each year
- Increase retention rate by 15% by 2020
- Decrease bounce rate by 5% by Q1
- Create an online course and get 1,000 new leads
You can dive even deeper into your marketing goals if you want (generally, the more specific, the better).
Now, this may not seem like the most important part of your marketing plan, but I think it holds a ton of value.
Outlining your user personas is an important part of a marketing plan that should not be overlooked.
You should be asking not just how you can get the most visitors to your business, but how you can get the right visitors.
Who are your ideal customers? What are their goals? What are their biggest problems? How does your business solve their problems?
Answering these questions will take lots of research, but it’s essential information to get.
Some ways to conduct user research are:
- Interviewing your users (either in person or on the phone)
- Conducting focus groups
- Researching other businesses in the same industry
- Surveying your audience
Then, you will need to compile your user data into a user persona guide.
Taking the time to identify specific demographic traits, habits and goals will make it easier for you to cater your marketing plan to them.
Here’s how you can create a user persona guide:
The first thing you should add is a profile picture or icon for each user persona. It can help to put a face to your personas, so they seem more real.
Next, list demographic information like:
The user persona example above uses sliding scales to identify personality traits like introversion vs. extroversion and thinking vs. feeling. Identifying what type of personality your target users tend to have can influence the messaging you use in your marketing content.
But if you don’t want to go into such precise detail, you can stick to basic information if you need to.
Most businesses will have a few different types of target users. That’s why it’s pertinent to identify and create several different user personas. That way, you can better segment your marketing campaigns and set separate goals, if necessary.
The important thing is for your team or client to have a clear picture of who their target user is and how they can appeal to their specific problems.
Next, on the marketing plan checklist, we have the competitor research section. This section will help you identify who your competitors are, what they’re doing, and how you could carve yourself a place alongside them in your niche–and ideally, surpass them.
Competitor research is also incredibly important if you are starting a blog.
Typically, your competitor research should include:
- Who their marketing team is
- Who their leadership team is
- What their marketing strategy is (this will probably revolve some reverse-engineering)
- What their sales strategy is (this will probably revolve some reverse-engineering)
- Social Media strategy – (this will probably revolve some reverse-engineering)
- Their market cap/financials
- Their yearly growth (you will probably need to use a marketing tool like Ahrefs to do this)
- The number of customers they have & their user personas
Also, take as deep a dive as you can into the strategies they use across their:
- Blog/Content marketing
- Social media marketing
- SEO Marketing
- Video marketing
- And any other marketing tactics they use
Research their strengths and weaknesses in all parts of their company, and you will find some great opportunities. Bookmark has a great guide to different marketing strategies for small businesses, if you need some more information there.
You can use this simple SWOT analysis worksheet to quickly work through all parts of their strategy as well:
Since you have already done all the research beforehand, adding this information to your marketing plan shouldn’t be that hard.
It can also be helpful to divide your competitors into Primary and Secondary groups. For example, Apple’s primary competitor may be Dell for computers, but its secondary competitor could be a company that makes tablets.
Your most dangerous competitors may not even be in the same industry as you. Like the CEO of Netflix said, “Sleep is our competition.”
It’s pretty hard to plan for the future if you don’t know where your business stands right now.
Before we do anything at Think Mad, we find the baselines so we can compare future results to something. We do it so much it’s almost like second nature now!
Setting baselines will allow you to more accurately track your progress. You will also be able to better analyze what worked and what didn’t work, so you can build a stronger strategy. It will definitely help them clearly understand your goals and strategy as well.
TIP! Because data can be intimidating to a lot of people, visualizing your data using charts and infographics will help demystify the information.
After pulling all the contextual information and relevant metrics into your marketing plan, it’s time to break down your marketing strategy.
Once again, it’s easier to communicate your information to your team or clients using visuals content.
Mind maps are an effective way to show how a strategy with many moving parts ties together.
However you choose to visualize your strategy, your team should know exactly what they need to do. This is not the time to keep your plans hidden
Your marketing strategy section may need to take up a few pages to explain
Breaking your strategy down into tasks will make it easier to tackle.
Another important way to visualize your marketing strategy is to create a project roadmap. A project roadmap visualizes the timeline of your product with individual tasks. Google tools for this we have used are Trello and Zoho Projects to create a simple calendar based timeline for your marketing plan
Top Tip: A simple “Next, Now, Later” chart can help visualize your strategy:
Close your marketing plan with a brief explanation on how you plan to track or measure your results. This will save you a lot of frustration down the line by standardizing how you track results across your team.
Like the other sections of your marketing plan, you can choose how in-depth you want to go. But there need to be some clear guidelines on how to measure the progress and results of your marketing plan.
At the bare minimum, your results tracking guidelines should specify:
- What you plan to track
- How you plan to track results
- How often you plan to measure
But you can more add tracking guidelines to your marketing plan if you see the need to. You may also want to include a structured template that your team or client can follow, to ensure that the right metrics are being tracked.
Use a checklist maker like Zoho Projects to not only track marketing results but also noting down tasks, important milestones or tracking your day to day workload
A few more marketing plan design best practices:
Here are a few quick tips to keep in mind when start designing your marketing plan.
Keep your design elements like fonts, icons and colors consistent
While it’s good to switch up the layout of your pages to keep your marketing plan engaging, it’s important to keep your design consistent. That means:
- Using the same font styles for your headers, body text, and accent text (generally, try to stick to only using 2-3 different font styles in one report)
- Using the same color scheme throughout your plan, and using the same colors for specific types of information (ex. blue for “social media goals” and green for “SEO goals”)
- Using the same style of icons throughout your report, like flat icons, line art icons, or illustrated icons
Download your marketing plan as a PDF
It’s important that your team is on the same page. Sharing your marketing plan via Google Docs or a file sharing service can be unreliable. In most cases, it’s easier to simply download your marketing plan as a PDF and share it with your team that way.
Include a table of contents to make it easy to find specific information
This tip is pretty self-explanatory. Even if you’re putting together your marketing plan as a presentation, a simple table of contents at the beginning will give your audience an idea of what they can expect.
Now that you have the basics for designing your own marketing plan, it’s time to get started: