The world of business has never been more competitive. Over the last two years, we have seen many companies fold due to unexpected circumstances around the world. But, we have seen more businesses pop up to take their place.
So, whether you run a new business, work at an established small business, or work for a larger company – how do you make sure that you stand out from the crowd? How do you let potential customers know that you exist? How do you build a loyal customer base that will come back to you time after time?
Well, the answer to all of these questions is – marketing. More specifically a marketing plan. The only thing worse than having no marketing strategy is a marketing strategy that is inconsistent and doesn’t line up with the brand and what it stands for.
A marketing plan ensures that no matter how big (or small) the marketing team or the company is, everyone is on the same page. We have noticed over the years that many small businesses think they are too small to need a marketing plan.
Well, this is far from the truth, even if you are the only person working for your company, you can benefit from creating and implementing a marketing plan. What can a well thought out marketing plan bring to a business?
Well, aside from making sure the company has a cohesive vision, a good marketing plan can open your eyes to new opportunities, generate organic sales, introduce you to long term customers, and even help you to strengthen your brand identity within the company.
When it comes to doing new things for our business, we like to draw up a pros and cons list to work out if it is a beneficial activity for us.
A marketing plan is one of the few activities that has had no cons on our list. The only downside to making a marketing plan is the initial investment of time to make it, but the returns you will get from creating a marketing plan will make this time well worth it.
Making a marketing plan will require you to pull together a lot of different information from different sources. To successfully put together a marketing plan you will need to have a good understanding of what your company does and what it stands for.
You will need to understand your company’s goals and what a successful marketing campaign looks like for you. It is best to set out your plans before you start writing, as these documents can get quite complicated – particularly if you work for a large company.
Luckily for you, we have done a lot of the hard work for you in this guide. In this article, you will find the ultimate guide to writing your marketing plan. We will cover everything you need to know, from what elements to include, what tone to strike, to how to make the most of your marketing budget.
What is a Marketing Plan?
A marketing plan is a document that allows a company to plan, organize, and implement its marketing strategy – it is often referred to as a strategic road map. It allows everyone in the company to clearly understand how the company’s marketing will be carried out.
“A marketing plan may be part of an overall business plan. A marketing plan is a plan which outlines a company’s overall marketing efforts. Marketing process can be realized by the marketing mix in step 4. The last step in the process is the marketing controlling.
The marketing plan can function from two points: strategy and tactics. A solid marketing strategy is the foundation of a well-written marketing plan. While a marketing plan contains a list of actions, a marketing plan without a sound strategic foundation is of little use.”
For bigger companies, this document may be much more complex than it would be for a small business run by one person. The best marketing plans have a limiting time frame but this length of time can differ depending on the company’s goals.
Our Sample Marketing Plans
Types of Marketing Plan
Every company’s marketing plan will look different. There are multiple types of marketing plans out there and many different formats you can follow. When you are first setting up a marketing plan, it may include all of the following types of plans.
You will need to continue to update your marketing plan as long as the company is in business. However, some elements of the plan may not change much over time. Here are the 5 most common types of marketing plans:
- New Product Launch Marketing Plan – This is a plan specific to a new product launch. This will be your guide to maximizing the publicity around the launch.
- Social Media Marketing Plan – This will cover everything you want to achieve through your social media platforms and how you plan to do it. This will require market research on your target audience.
- Paid Marketing Plan – In this plan you will be setting out how you plan to spend your marketing budget – including any paid advertising and promotions you have planned.
- Content Marketing Plan – This will cover the type of content you want to produce. What it should look like and why. It should also include who will be making this content, when they will be making it, and where it is going to be shared.
- Quarterly or Annual Marketing Plan – These will include all of the above, but solely focusing on what you will be doing during the time period of the plan. Not the long term goals.
A good marketing plan should touch on all of these areas, if not include all of these types of plans within one larger plan.
The Difference Between Marketing Strategy and Marketing Plan
We often see marketing plans and marketing strategies getting confused. We think this is because they have the same overall aim and it is not uncommon for even experts to use the words interchangeably. In this section, we are going to talk about the difference between these two marketing documents and why successful businesses make both.
What is a Marketing Strategy?
Your marketing strategy should be a foundational document that you can return to with each new advertising campaign. It should contain a guide to your brand and its values. It should have a large amount of market research on your target audience – showing how they shop, which social media they use most, and other useful information about them.
It is okay if your marketing strategy is full of blue-sky thinking and concepts rather than concrete plans. This will come later.
Some people choose to make a new marketing strategy with each advertising campaign. You may need to do this in the early stages of your business as you are finding your feet and discovering what is working for you. However, you should aim to create a document that remains fairly unchanged with each campaign.
Marketing Plan Vs Marketing Strategy
You should make your market strategy before you make your marketing plan. It should be a touchstone for all your further marketing plans and something that you can refer back to throughout the process. Your marketing strategy will contain a vision and you will create your marketing plan to show how you will make that vision a reality.
Your marketing plan should be tangible, it should include dates, deadlines, and budgets. You will need to create a new marketing plan for each advertising campaign that you do. At the end of each advertising campaign, you should look back and reflect on both your marketing plan and strategy.
Take notes of what worked and what didn’t then make any adjustments to the documents. Doing this will save you time, hassle, and money in the future. We believe that every business should have both a marketing plan and a marketing strategy. They are mutually beneficial documents.
Steps on How to Write a Marketing Plan
We are now going to give you a step-by-step guide to creating an effective marketing plan. We are going to start each section with a set of questions that will hopefully get you thinking and help you to fill out that section of the plan. When you are writing your marketing plan, you will find it helpful to keep your target market in your mind from the beginning of the process.
1. Determine Goals & Objectives
- What is the current state of your marketing?
- What are your long term goals as a company?
- How can you use marketing to help the company achieve these goals?
There are different and specific objectives for every business. While some businesses have the goal to expand their revenue, others have goals that are focused on expanding on something else, such as its market base.
Your objectives are the results you want to get from your marketing campaign. For example, your main objective could be, “To dominate your local so-and-so market by X years time.” And lastly, when establishing an objective, you are advised to use the S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-specific) characteristics to be able to reach your goal.
Although the objectives may vary, the ways to accomplish it is still the same; and that’s by making sure that your plan has a clear vision statement, a well-thought of SWOT analysis and is applying the S.M.A.R.T objectives.
A vision statement is simple to do as it technically contains only the long-term goals you want for your business. But bear in mind that a vision statement is important to the success of your marketing plan because it has the ability to move your business in a precise direction.
Then you will want to set yourself specific goals for this marketing cycle, this quarter, and this year. You may also want to talk about some of the long term goals you have if they tie into this marketing cycle. For example, your goal for this cycle could be to set up social media accounts for your business. Which you tie into a long term goal driving 20% of your sales through social media links and interactions.
You will then want to set out your objectives for this marketing cycle. Objectives are the tangible actions that will lead to you achieving your goals. For the example above the objectives could include setting up a company email to connect with the social media accounts, hiring someone to look after the accounts, and putting together a social media best practices guide.
It is important to set out both your goals and objectives at the start of the marketing plan. However, you may find it easier to put together the rest of the plan and go back and add the objectives last, once you have a better idea of what needs to be done.
2. Clearly State the Mission of your Business
- What is your company’s unique selling point?
- What are your company’s brand and ethos?
- What do you want your target market to learn about your company when they look at your advertising?
In this section, you want to remind yourself and everyone reading what the mission of your business is. You may want to include a vision statement for your business. If some of the marketing you are going to be doing is visual then you may want to include the vision board for the brand aesthetics. This will help to keep all the imagery and colors used consistent throughout the project.
3. List And Describe Your Target Niche Markets
- Who is your target market?
- What is the best way to reach them?
Your product may appeal to a lot of people, but that doesn’t mean you should spend your resources trying to reach everyone. The truth is that your product will appeal to certain groups of people more than others. These groups make up your target market.
Some businessmen abhor this part because it not only takes time; it is also costly. However, you must note that research is a very critical aspect of marketing. A good market research, as well as an informative market analysis; is the only way to understand how a business works and how it should work.
Through research, you will be able to know who your target customers are and where can they be found. Through research, you will be able to know several ways on how to attract such market and to entice them to your product or service.
It is only through research that you can get to develop your business for the better. By defining a specific target market for your startup product, you will be able to distribute the limited resources you have. How exactly do you define your target market?
By creating a customer profile, which is an in-depth description of who your typical customer may be. It factors in demographic information (age, gender, location, and so on) and psychographic information (interests, hobbies, behavior, and so on).
You should talk about who your target market is and why they will be attracted to what you have to offer. You should cover the types of media they interact with most and how you plan to reach them. You should also talk about whether you are looking to discover new customers, entice former customers to return, or both.
4. Define Your Marketing Budget
- What is your budget for this campaign?
- How much ROI (return on investment) are you expecting to get from this campaign?
- What can you learn from how you have previously spent your budget?
- Do you have enough money to carry out your campaign plan?
Let’s face it. Marketing a startup product usually requires a lot of money and time. So, you will need to assign a financial cost and timeline to each step you intend to take during your marketing campaign. After factoring in all costs and timelines, you must find the total to know what the whole campaign will require in terms of money and time.
If you work in a big company that has a set marketing budget then this section will be fairly easy for you. You will need to sit down with your budget and work out how best to spend it. Your analysis from the previous section will help you with this.
If you are part of a smaller business that does not have a marketing budget then you will need to spend more time on this section. You should consider the following questions:
- How much money do you want to spend on marketing?
- Will marketing benefit you enough to justify that cost?
- How much money do you have to spend on marketing?
- Are there forms of free advertising that you can take advantage of?
5. Describe Your Product and Services
- What are you offering?
- Why would people want what you are offering?
- How can you set yourself apart from your competitors?
Having identified your target market, you must write down everything that makes your product suitable for that market. How does your product benefit the customer? What makes the product different and better than similar products that are already in the market?
Why should customers prefer your product to others in the market? In short, this step involves putting down the unique selling points of your startup product. You should think of this section as your selling pitch. You want to sum up everything you want to advertise to your target audience. You should use this section to get a complete idea of what you have to offer:
- What gap in the market are you trying to fill
- Why you can solve this problem
- What your unique selling point is
- Why your customers should choose you over everyone else
You may also have specific themes and fantasies you want to evoke when marketing a new product to your target market.
This is the part of the marketing plan where you will want to talk about that. At the start of this section, you should have a line to a paragraph that sums up the idea behind the whole campaign. This will help to keep anyone working on it to stay focused.
6. Conduct SWOT Analysis
The next important thing is a SWOT analysis, and it should therefore not be taken for granted because it could make or break your business. Before you launch your marketing campaign, you need to analyze the internal and external factors or issues might affect your startup product.
A SWOT analysis is a crucial action you must take because it identifies the elements of your business. SWOT is an acronym, which stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. For your SWOT analysis, you will use the information gathered during the previous steps.
To know your strengths, here are typical questions to answer:
- What are the advantages of your startup product?
- What makes your product better than others in the market?
- What resources do you have that give your business an edge over the competition?
- Do you already have a large and loyal customer base?
To know your weaknesses, you must answer these questions:
- Are there any aspects you need to improve upon?
- Do you have low customer retention?
- Do you lack any resources or manpower?
To know your opportunities, you must answer these questions:
- What market trends can you capitalize upon?
- Do your competitors have some weaknesses that you don’t?
- Is there a new market you can tap?
To know your threats, here are the questions to answer:
- Is there any new technology that might threaten your business?
- Do the tastes or preferences of your potential customers change quickly?
- Do you lack financial resources?
These are just few examples of questions you can ask yourself. There are many other questions you should ask, based on the type of startup product you want to launch.
7. Define your Strategies
This is where you state the strategies you will adopt in order to achieve your objective. That is, what you will do to achieve your objectives. Whether you will focus on radio, TV, and newspaper advertising only or you will also adopt social media and pay-per-click advertising goes into this part of your marketing plan.
8. Describe Your Content Strategies
- What content will you make?
- How much will you make?
- How long will this take and how much will it cost?
- Who will make the content? In house or an outside firm?
- How will you distribute the content?
- How will you track its success?
In this section, you will want to break down your content strategy. This will be the bulk of your marketing plan. You will want to cover all the content you need to make the campaign a success. You will need to break down what it looks like. Make note of how you will check it is up to standard and who has the final approval.
The type of content that you will be making will be based on your target market. There are nearly infinite ways to market these days and you can’t do them all. So, pick the ones that are going to give you the best bang for your buck and will help you to reach your target market most efficiently.
When filling out this section, you will need to add dates to when you need the content ready. Work backward from the day the campaign launches when planning, to make sure that you have enough time.
Include Marketing & Promotional Strategies
You can also talk about your promotional plans in this section, as you will most likely need content to pair with these events.
9. Identify and Study the Competition
- Who are your competitors?
- What can you learn from them?
- What makes you different from them?
- How can you improve your marketing to make it better than theirs?
One of the most important parts of market research is identifying and studying your competition. You need to know who is in the market and how it works before you enter it. But, most importantly, you should use your research on your competitors as an opportunity to improve your own marketing and practices.
Find out what is working well for your competitors and see how you can tweak it to make it work better for you. There is no point in starting from scratch if someone has already done a lot of the hard work.
10. Establish Marketing Goals
- What does a successful marketing campaign look like to you?
- What are your goals for this campaign?
- How have previous campaigns been done?
- Do you have measurable goals?
In this section, you will want to go into great detail about your goals and how they will affect the wider business. You should talk about how much money you are spending on marketing in this period and how much money you expect the marketing to bring back into the company.
You should set yourself a concrete figure as a goal. You should also talk about how many people you want to see this campaign, how you are going to guarantee that audience, and how you are going to track the success of this.
If you are advertising one product in particular you should set your sales goals based on how your last launch went. If you sold 10 units in the first week last time, you should aim to sell around 50 in the first week this time with the help of your marketing plan. You need to make sure that all these goals can be tangibly measured.
11. Review and adjust
After taking all the previous steps, your work isn’t finished. You will need to review your marketing plan at periodic intervals, making necessary adjustments.
12. Stick to the plan
This is a simple rule and although it looks easy to implement, it is not always the case for some businesses. Sticking to the implemented plan not only gives the impression that you are firm and decisive when it comes to business issues, it also helps you avoid the waste of time that you would experience if you change your mind about marketing plan.
The best thing to do to avoid regular change of plans is to prepare a marketing plan that will not only suffice to the needs of your business but will also be the best that you ever did. Go ahead, and outdo yourself.
13. Monitor The Results Carefully
- How will you tell if your campaign is successful?
- What worked in this campaign and what didn’t?
The reason that you need goals that can be measured is so that you can tell whether the campaign was a success or not. Being able to measure achievements like increased sales or increased traffic on the website means that you can make sure you are not wasting your time and money on methods that don’t work. And you can do more of the things that work well.
Tips for Writing a Perfect Marketing Plan
Now that we have gone through the step-by-step guide to creating a marketing plan, we wanted to share a few more tips with you before we finish this article. When you are first writing a marketing plan, there is no such thing as including too much information.
You never know what might be useful in the future, so include everything interesting that you discover or think of. You can always go back and take it out after you do a review of your first campaign. Speaking of reviewing, we wanted to mention it again, because it is one of the most important parts of creating a marketing plan.
The only way you can improve as a person or business is to reflect and note ways that you can improve next time. Your marketing plan should be something that is constantly changing and evolving. If you do this, it will keep getting better.
1. Stay Focused On Your Target Market
Many people make the mistake of thinking too much about their business when they are writing about their marketing plan. While the business is what makes the plan necessary, if it is not focused and tailored to your target market then it is pretty worthless.
If your marketing is not directed at your target market then who is it directed at? Are these the type of people who would buy your product? Many people make plans that will please executives and not their target market. If you have read through your first draft of your marketing plan and think it is too focused on the business, then here are some things you can do to change that.
Print out your business plan and go through it with two highlighter pens. With one color highlighting all the areas that are focused on the business and with the other highlighted the parts of the text that focus on the target market.
This will show you the balance between the two issues. At the end of every section, make a summary of all the key points in the section. Then you can look at each point and reword it to apply to your target audience. You can use these summaries to help you rewrite your plan.
2. Focus Your Efforts In One Direction
If you are anything like us, the first time that you put together a marketing plan you got very excited by all the possible marketing avenues you could go down. It can be tempting to start doing them all at once. But this is something you have to resist.
It is better to focus on one project at a time and do it well. Rather than try to start 8 new initiatives at once and do them all badly. If you are genuinely interested in pursuing multiple avenues of advertising and you think they could all be beneficial then you should do the following.
Firstly, make note of all the marketing activities you want to do. Then rank them in the order of which will have the biggest effect on the business. This is the order that you will implement these strategies in. Break down each activity into the smaller tasks that it consists of and put together a rough time frame of how long it will take you to complete the marketing cycle for the activity.
Take out your calendar and map out a time for all these activities to be implemented. Make sure that you allow a little extra time for each plan just in case there are complications or unexpected events. As time goes on you can return to this list and calendar – you can adjust it as you see fit.
3. Be Persistent
There is no such thing as an overnight success. We just see the tip of the iceberg of the effort that a business or person has put into getting to where they are today. Social media has warped our perception of what success looks like. We are only shown other people’s highlights and victories. We don’t see the dud products, the late nights, and the sacrifice.
‘When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before.’ — Jacob Riis
This is a quote that we return to time after time. It reminds us that every small thing we do is moving us towards our goal. Every marketing plan is a blow to the rock. They all add up. Even if it does not seem like you are making any progress with your plans and marketing cycles, it is important that you keep going.
4. Learn From Your Mistakes
We want to end this guide with a reflection exercise that you can use to make sure that you are getting the most out of your end of campaign reflections. Here are some questions to ask yourself when you are reviewing your progress:
- How do we feel this project went?
- Rating out of 10?
- Did we get the results that we wanted?
- If so, how did we do it?
- Can we replicate this?
- Can we streamline the process?
- If not, how close were we?
- How can we continue to work towards this goal?
- If so, how did we do it?
- What went well during the planning stage of this project?
- Can I replicate this? If so, how?
- What went well in the implementation stage of this project?
- Can I replicate this? If so, how?
- What went badly during the planning stage?
- Can this be avoided next time? If so, how?
- What went badly during the implementation stage of this project?
- Can this be avoided next time? If so, how?
- What resources would have made this project easier?
- If we would do this project again, what would we do differently?
- What were the most interesting discoveries we made while working on this project?
The Importance of a Marketing Plan to a Small Business
1. A marketing plan assists in ensuring that marketing activities are properly integrated and focused.
2. It enables everyone in the organization to know exactly what is to happen, how it will happen and when it will.
3. A marketing plan helps the business in taking advantage of market opportunities.
4. It assists in ensuring that the business remains healthy by making preparations for possible problems.
5. A marketing plan helps to keep the business in a better position to react to unexpected events.
6. It helps to identify the marketing mix.
7. Marketing plan clarifies the keys of marketing elements of a business and as well maps out objectives, directions and activities for the business and its employees.
8. Marketing plan focuses on issues related to the four Ps, which are product, price, promotion and place. As regards to these issues, putting them down in a written form can be beneficiary to a business owner, because it will force them to analyze their business. It could be good for employees, as the marketing plan is able to provide them with essential orientation and acts as a motivational source.
9. Marketing plan grants access to a global market which means reaching out to new customers.
10. It uses different methods (or channels) to reach different aspects of customers.
11. Marketing plan makes monitoring and measurement of marketing efforts easy.
12. Marketing plan targets your products or services to the appropriate groups of customers. For instance, market segmentation.
13. Marketing plan uses social media to raise your online profile and build up your reputation.
The end result or outcome of a market plan is an increase in customers, which will lead to an increase in sales. This provides a very great return on your investment including boosting your bottom line.
Before you start a business, it is expected that you develop a marketing strategy; and a good one at that. This marketing strategy of yours will form the basis for your marketing plan.
Marketing plans are a must-have for a business of any size – whether you have 1 employee or 10,000, you will see huge benefits after making one. By making this plan you will be able to market your business effectively and reach new customers within your target market. Your marketing plan can help to improve your sales and customer loyalty.
A successful marketing plan will be able to put your marketing strategy into action. It will contain your marketing goals and a plan of how to achieve them. It will be specific about what tasks need to be done and who is responsible for doing them.
It will have a section on your marketing budget and how it should be spent. Then, when the marketing cycle is over, you will reflect on it. Above you will find a complete guide to creating a marketing plan – what are you waiting for? It’s time to get started!