Marketing Plan Template: A Complete Guide to Create ROI
There’s just one problem: now you have to write a marketing plan and you have no idea what you’re doing.
There’s good news. Creating a marketing plan isn’t rocket science, and we’ve got all the information you need to put together a plan that’s actionable, based on accurate data, and moves your organization forward toward key goals.
Marketing Strategy vs. Marketing Plan: Understanding the Difference
One thing that trips many people up is confusion surrounding two similar-sounding terms: marketing plan and marketing strategy. What’s the difference?
A marketing plan usually takes the form of a roadmap (or even a product roadmap) that takes the company from point A to point Z in whatever it is they’re attempting to accomplish. Even if it’s just to inform your advertising.
Getting from point to point requires the use of marketing strategies. So, in essence, your marketing plan will contain all the marketing strategies that you’ll use, such as organic social media, paid ads on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, email marketing, SEO, and all the rest.
Put another way, you can think of marketing strategies as how you will accomplish a particular goal or mission, broken down into actionable steps. Those steps are contained within the overall marketing plan.
Of course, making your marketing plan work will require the right people in the right positions. Ideally, your team should be structured to fit the company’s size, and each member should be responsible for a certain type of content. It’s also important that your efforts are branded appropriately. Content marketing strategy without at least some element of branding will dilute your efforts.
Obviously, you need to tailor your branding efforts to the medium and channel – a guest blog with a brief author bio can’t have the same level of branding as a downloadable eBook, for instance. Branding also goes deeper than slapping the company’s name and logo onto a piece of digital content. Brand language includes everything from logo placement to font choices, color options, and even the very phrasing in your content marketing.
Marketing Plan Types: Many Different Solutions to Fit Your Needs
There’s no single type, size, or scope of marketing plan that will fit every need within your business. Thankfully, there are multiple types of marketing plans that can be used to achieve strategic goals. Some of the most commonly used types include the following:
Paid Marketing Plan: Paid marketing is generally separated from organic marketing (blogs from PPC, organic social from paid social, etc.) because they operate very differently and often have different budgets. A pain marketing plan should highlight the strategies that you’ll use to ensure you’re reaching the right audience segments, the platforms and channels you’ll use to achieve this, and of course, clicks.
Content Marketing Plan: Content strategy plays a role in all marketing, but content marketing as an initiative in its own right requires its own plan. What types of content will you use? Who will create it? Where will it be used or shared?
Social Media Marketing: Social media is a world unto its own and requires a dedicated team to handle it accurately. Your social media marketing plan should highlight the channels you’ll use, the marketing campaigns you anticipate using, and what strategies you’ll use to engage your audience.
Product Launch Marketing Plan: Launching a new product? You’ll need a plan to support the launch, define marketing tactics and methods, and track results. Your product manager will love you for it.
How Do You Create a Marketing Plan?
Creating a marketing plan can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to make you lose sleep. Before you write an executive summary, we’ll walk you through what you need to know. First, we’ll provide a basic outline, and then we’ll break each outline point down into actionable information to help you get started.
Explain and embody your business’s mission.
Analyze your data to surface critical insights about customers.
Outline your plan’s contributors and their responsibilities.
Determine the KPIs for this mission.
Interview Questions and Surveys
Identify your buyer personas.
Describe your content initiatives and strategies.
Highlight the omissions in your plan.
Set a marketing budget. (even small businesses)
Explore your competition.
SWOT analysis, mostly to capture potential opportunities.
With that information in mind, you can clearly see the elements that go into creating a successful marketing plan. Now, let’s break those down and see what they’re all about, how they connect, and, ultimately, how they drive your organization to marketing success.
Explain and Embody Your Business’s Mission
What’s your mission? This is the driving force behind not just your marketing department, but the entire organization. It should provide the overarching vision for all of your efforts.
For instance, Apple’s mission is “to bring the best personal computing products and support to students, educators, designers, scientists, engineers, businesspersons, and consumers in over 140 countries around the world.”
Brooks Running’s mission is “to inspire everyone to run and be active. We do this by creating innovative gear that keeps them running longer, farther, and faster.”
What’s your mission? How does it drive you? That should affect your marketing by informing your marketing messages, your audience, how you position yourself in comparison to competitors, and so much more.
When formulating your mission statement, be specific, but try not to be ultra-specific. Both Apple and Brooks have good examples of hitting that middle ground. What should you avoid? The nuts and bolts of how you’ll accomplish the goals.
Don’t be afraid to go with something high-level, like Brooks, but don’t go too far down that particular rabbit hole. There’s plenty of space left in your marketing plan to start elaborating on the specifics of how you’ll do that.
Outline Your Plan’s Contributors, Stakeholders, and Their Responsibilities
This step should be pretty simple – who’s contributing to the plan? This should include all the members of your marketing team, but it goes further than this. Make sure to include any C-suite champions, as well as anyone who might offer cross-department contributions (think about the folks in the design department, as an example). Any other stakeholders should also be noted.
Once you’ve got a list of all those who will be contributing in some way, it’s time to start getting more specific. What does each person bring to the table? What are their responsibilities? Who is in charge of what and who answers to whom? What sort of workflow will be followed?
Hammer this out now. Without a clear understanding of workflow, control, and responsibilities, accountability within your marketing efforts will be nil. You can’t afford that.
Determine Your KPIs
One of the most critical elements of your marketing plan is to define the key performance indicators (KPIs) you’ll be tracking. These are metrics that allow you to measure how your strategies (and the overall marketing plan) are performing. Some of the most commonly measured KPIs for marketing include the following:
Marketing revenue attribution
Customer acquisition cost (CAC)
Mobile traffic, leads, and conversions
Customer lifetime value (CLV)
Digital marketing return on investment ROI calculations
Landing page conversion rate
Social media traffic and conversion rate
Top 5 entry pages
Page engagement time
Organic traffic flow to the website
Social media follower engagement level
Website bounce rate (by page)
Cost of Goods Sold – to factor into the true ROI
KPIs should be used in two ways. First, they allow you to set short-term goals. For instance, you could set a goal of improving your landing page conversion rate by 20% within 30 days. This gives you something concrete to work toward and against which you can benchmark progress.
Second, they provide you with a way to communicate progress to business leaders. With firm numbers in hand, you can send a clear message that what you’re doing is working, and this is how.
Identify Your Buyer Personas
You need to know your audience before you can market to them. It’s amazing how many businesses attempt to reach a target market they know very little about. Of course, it’s impossible to get to know many of your customers on a personal basis, so how do you hone your marketing message so that it resonates with your target audience?
You do it with buyer personas.
What’s a persona? You can think of these as cardboard cutouts that represent your target audience, as well as smaller subsets of your audience. For instance, if you’re marketing a new pair of running shoes for women, then you already have your primary persona – women interested in health and fitness and who might find running shoes valuable in their quest for self-improvement.
You can take things further, though. For instance, identify key elements of your shoes that make them a good fit for different parts of your audience.
Is it comfortable but supportive? That might make it a logical choice for older women.
Is it colorful and stylish? A younger audience would appreciate those qualities.
Does it deliver best-in-class performance? Experienced runners might find this valuable.
You get the idea. Buyer personas represent your audience or a segment of your audience. You use them to create customized marketing messages. However, you need to take care when you create those personas. There are a few rules you’ll need to know.
- Accuracy: Your personas should be direct reflections of your existing customers or new customers. To use the women’s running shoe example again, children would not be part of your audience, so you should not use child personas.
- Agreement: Business leaders must agree on buyer personas. You should have buy-in from the C-suite here. It’s important to help ensure that you are accurately targeting the right customers or potential customers. Getting agreement between everyone can involve some back and forth and a good deal of discussion. Don’t shy away from that, as it will help ensure better reach and resonance.
- Visualize: Finally, visualize important process flows and strategy roadmaps. How will you speak to each demographic? What are the pain points of each? How will the uniqueness of each audience segment affect how you speak to them via marketing content and even the point at which they enter the sales funnel? Using the shoe example once more, you would use very different marketing tactics to speak to a senior who wants a supportive shoe for walking than to a woman in her mid-30s who has completed a half-marathon and is training for a full marathon.
As a caveat, it’s also important to realize that your personas are not static. Your audience’s needs and goals will change over time. You must adapt your marketing tactics as things evolve. Otherwise, you’ll find that you’re increasingly irrelevant and out of touch with your own potential customers.
Describe Your Content Initiatives and Strategies
Now we get to where the rubber meets the road, to some extent. It’s time to start talking about content – what will you create? How will it be used? Where will it fit within your wider marketing plan? There’s a lot to consider at this point in your plan development.
- Types: What content types will you develop? Are you going to focus on email marketing and social media marketing? How lightly or heavily will you be using promotion CTAS? What about blogging? Downloadable content like reports? Loss leaders and incentives like eBooks and whitepapers? What about PPC campaigns and paid social ads? Video content?
Content marketing is a vast world and each type has a potential role to play. With that being said, not all types are right for every company. It’s important to go into this process with a good idea of the most relevant and appealing content types for the audience and then experiment with others down the road.
- Volume: It takes time and money to produce marketing content. How much will you produce of each type? Will your production be weighted more toward one type of content than another? Is that decision backed up with evidence or is it based on sentiment or guesswork? You must put your efforts into content that will have the most impact, but it can be challenging to gauge impact, because some types of content generate immediate results (PPC, for instance), while others generate results much farther down the road (an email nurture sequence, for example).
- Tracking: How will you track the performance of each content initiative? What KPIs will you use with each type? Who is in charge of tracking each content’s KPIs and how will those be reported? Remember that KPIs can be both marketing goals and evidence of progress toward larger objectives. In addition, they can be signs that your content marketing objectives need to be adjusted, or that other elements need to be refined to better resonate with your audience.
You’ll also need to make wise, timely choices about how you’ll distribute content. It’s very easy to be overwhelmed with the number of distribution channels available today. It’s also easy to be swayed one way or another because one company had great results from this channel or other.
Understand from the outset that what works for one company may or may not work for yours. For instance, Twitter can be a valuable tool for some firms. For others, it won’t generate much return, and they will be better served using LinkedIn. Some will find a lot of value in offering incentives like free eBooks and guides, while others are better served with high-quality video content.
How do you determine which is right for your needs? It comes down to one thing: knowing your audience. Where do they congregate online? It’s pointless to go to the trouble of marketing on a platform if your audience members aren’t there in numbers sufficient to justify the investment.
Highlight the Omissions in Your Plan
No marketing plan can cover absolutely everything, nor should they. They’re not a one-size-fits-all vehicle for all aspects of the business. Determine what you’re going to focus on and then highlight what will be omitted – anything that falls outside of your focus area.
This is important because it will help to justify the results you achieve, the KPIs you use to track your efforts, the content that you create, and even the buyer personas that you use. No marketing plan can fit everyone’s needs, so determine what your plan will NOT do and make that clear. This way, you’re not on the hook if the plan fails to generate a result that someone else might be looking for but wasn’t part of the plan in the first place.
Set a Marketing Budget
Before you create a piece of content, understand that content marketing always comes at a cost. It doesn’t matter if you’re using free channels and platforms, there is a cost involved. For instance, it might cost you nothing to host a blog post on your site, allow downloads of your new whitepaper, or post an infographic on Facebook, but it takes money to create all that content. It also takes money to track the KPIs associated with your efforts, communicate with leads, and more.
However, few companies today use only free marketing tools. The additional reach and refinement available through paid tools like Facebook Ads, Google Ads, and the like make them invaluable additions to your marketing arsenal. All of this means that you need a budget based on your anticipated costs (which makes accurate planning essential).
Explore Your Competition
No company operates in a vacuum. No matter how new your service or how innovative your product or services might be, you have competitors. You must know who they are, what they’re doing, even their weaknesses and how they’re engaging with their audience (because those group of people are also your audience).
How do you get access to that information? Some marketing segment data is available right out there for anyone to see. A quick Google search can yield rich results. Do the same thing on social platforms and you can start to see what your competitors are doing, but if you really want to kick things into high gear, you should sign up for competitor’s email deals and newsletters, explore their blog posts, and subscribe to their YouTube channels.
Look for challenges that each competitor poses to your organization. What are their strengths? How do those compare to your company’s? Where can you outperform them? Use this information to inform your marketing plans.
However, in today’s world, you must look farther afield for competitors. Take Netflix’s CEO Reed Hastings statement in an interview with Fast Company for instance. Hastings spoke of how his team has started looking beyond the norm to identify competitors.
Sure, they still compete with the likes of HBO, Hulu, Disney+, and a growing number of streaming services, but they also compete with other things that wouldn’t naturally occur to some people. Technically, anything that could take a viewer away from Netflix can be considered a competitor. That includes the likes of:
Video game consoles
The nightly news
Basically, anything that might come between a viewer and their Netflix account must be considered a competitor. While that might sound a bit Orwellian to some, it’s an example of the forward-thinking necessary to really stand out and dominate within an industry today.
Putting It All Together
Creating a marketing plan is not a simple thing. It requires a great deal of time, effort and resources, combined with a deep understanding of your company, audience, competitors, and so much more. Thankfully, there’s help available.
If you’re struggling to put all these pieces together into something coherent, we can help – explore our Data Matrix, which can put together a complete marketing plan for you including an executive summary and budgeting expenses. Let us take your data and create a marketing plan that will guide your growth.
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