11 Keys To Your Marketing Plan

You need more leads.
Your search engine marketing is expensive and slow going, and there just aren’t as many butts in seats or clicks on the buy button as you’d like there to be. Or perhaps you’re ready to transition to e-commerce and want to add to your online marketing plan.

Business owners come in all different forms, but there’s one universal goal: to be a success.

To help you along, we’ve created this ultimate guide to creating a marketing plan. In it, you’ll find tips for:

  • Building a successful marketing plan
  • Information on how marketing plans are different from business plans
  • And even some examples that might help you draw up your own marketing plan — or least have the confidence to pick out a team of pros who can do the planning and execution for you.

What is a marketing plan and what are its elements?


If your business plan outlines the launch and ongoing management of your business, like a roadmap from inception to success, a marketing plan does the same for your advertising strategy.

A successful marketing strategy is about setting goals but also about how you’ll go about planning and executing a strategy to make those goals a reality. A comprehensive plan might include everything from ideas for social media marketing to how you’ll achieve a return on investment.

To start, get to know these essential elements that are must-haves for any successful marketing strategy:

  1. Intro/Executive Summary
  2. Research & Analysis
  3. Marketing Segmentation and Customer Targeting
  4. Market Strategy
  5. Budget
  6. Metrics


What is a basic marketing plan?


Ask a dozen experts how complex your marketing plan should be and you’ll likely get a dozen answers, but all will probably agree that much of what makes the plan valuable happens in the research and discovery stages, not in the actual writing.

When you sit back and analyze your business, you’re forced to examine your mission, pinpoint your key differentiator, and accept where you may be falling a bit short in your existing plan.

From there, you can design a new plan that should be detailed enough to address all the necessary questions but not so exhaustive that you have no room to improvise when market conditions change or adapt if you want to be a little more creative or feel like you want to add another channel to your social media agenda.

In other words, you may have a one-page marketing plan that takes you months to research and create. Or you may be looking forward to an international expansion including dozens of new brick-and-mortar locations that requires a detailed marketing plan, exponentially higher marketing budget, and an elaborate digital marketing rollout that’s several pages long just in outline form.


How do you write a marketing plan?


For actionable tips on how to write a marketing plan, turn to successful marketers who have actually put a plan to work in the real world. There’s a big difference between what works on paper and what works when you’re out there posting on Twitter or putting together a pamphlet for use at brick-and-mortar locations. Learning from a marketing veteran puts you a couple steps ahead of the competition who might be trying to go it alone. Score!

As a business owner, start your research by looking inward. Your goal is to identify your unique selling proposition (USP). Also known as your key differentiator, your USP is something that sets your business apart from similar businesses in the same industry and/or same geographic area.

For example, say you’re a Mexican restaurant. Your USP might be that you make all your tortillas in house and your dishes come from tried-and-true family recipes. Or perhaps your store includes a retail section where customers can buy hot sauces, salsas, tortilla chips, and bottle queso to-go.

Other key differentiators might focus on customer service, the superiority of a product, a specific value such as how environmentally friendly your company is or a commitment to cruelty-free manufacturing, or a promise of durability/longevity.
All your marketing efforts will spring from that USP, as well as from the rest of your pre-planning market research.

When you’re ready to write, gather up all the data you’ve amassed regarding your target customer, market mix, intended key performance indicators, etc. Then, revisit the sections of a marketing plan listed above and create the basic skeleton.


What does a marketing plan include?


Earlier in this ultimate guide to marketing, you got a glimpse of what elements go into creating a strong marketing plan. Now here’s a more in-depth look:

  1. Intro/Executive Summary:This is the part of the plan that summarizes what your business is, what your goals are, and a short take on how you plan to accomplish key tasks. This should be easy to read in just a few minutes.
  2. Research & Analysis:Situational analysis — where your company currently stands — and competitive analysis to help understand what your competitors are doing right (and wrong) will help shape your actions and help determine things like what marketing channels you’ll use and how you can fill undiscovered gaps in the market.
  3. Marketing Segmentation and Customer Targeting:Who is your customer? This section includes important info like audience segmentation, buyer personas, etc. Use this part of your plan to define your market so you know who you’re talking to when you start advertising.
  4. Market Strategy:This is where you list the tactics you’ll use to attract and convert customers. These tactics will change depending on factors such as industry and budget, but generally you’ll consider digital marketing, special events, social media, and content marketing at a minimum. Not all marketing channels are a good fit for every audience or even every business.
  5. Budget:How much do you reasonably have to spend? You can’t create a successful marketing strategy until you know what your finances can reasonably support.
  6. Metrics:To monitor return on investment as well as the efficacy of your strategy, you’ll need to track data points and decide how to analyze those numbers to evaluate what’s working and where you can make improvements. Any time you’re setting goals, performance analysis should follow. Think of it as regular temperature taking — you want to know whether your roast is cooking long before it’s time to sit down and eat.

And your marketing plan isn’t just for launch time. All of this work will come in incredibly handy when you’re busy running your business and need to start scaling, too. While a marketing plan should be fully functional on its own, it should also act as a sturdy foundation that you can add to as needed. Adding kids’ clothes to your fashion line? You just added a new audience so now you need additional buyer personas, new targeting for your digital marketing, and so on.

Still trying to visualize what this all looks like once it’s on paper and organized? The pros over at HubSpot specialize in marketing education, and they’ve put together some marketing plan examples well worth a look.


What are the contents of a marketing plan?


We’ve already covered the most common elements included in a marketing plan, but it’s worth digging into the actual types of marketing your plan might contain. After all, these channels or marketing types are what brings business marketing to life.

  • Digital Marketing:Digital marketing is an umbrella term encompassing all the various channels through which you might deliver digital media, such as search engines, social media, email, mobile ads, and even your website. Most marketing plans will break down digital marketing into smaller pieces based on the above options. That’s because while you might use some of your marketing materials for multiple channels, you might need to make adjustments based on differing requirements. Image mandates and character limits are just two factors to consider.
  • Social Media:Nearly 4.5 billion people worldwide use social media. That’s a lot of potential customers, but those users access an average of 6.6 social media platforms per month. Who do you reach where? How many platforms do you need to use? How often should you post? Those are just some of the questions you’ll ask and answer while formulating the social media section of your marketing plan.
  • Content Marketing:Blogs, videos, social media posts, infographics, white papers, newsletters — all content types that can be used for marketing purposes. Did you know that a whopping 70% of people would rather learn about a company by reading a blog post or article versus a traditional ad? People read social media posts while standing in line and use info from white papers to support major purchases. Content has the power to educate, entertain, and turn casual shoppers into customers. So yes, including a content plan in your marketing blueprint is a definite must.

Every section of your marketing plan matters, but where you put your emphasis will likely depend on your goals, your audience, and your industry.


How do you create a simple marketing plan?


We’ve already covered the importance of understanding your current situation and outlining your goals before you start to onboard new marketing strategies. And while it’s true that market share analysis and goal setting are vital, you also need to know how to get some of the information necessary to create goals and strategies that make sense. Marketing is far from one size fits all, so you’ll need to put in a little leg work (or pay for someone else to do the surveying, poll taking, and statistic reading) before you start to plan world domination.

What basic marketing questions are answered in a marketing plan?

So you want to build a marketing plan. Ask yourself these seven main questions of marketing:

  • What is our company all about?
  • What is our core service/product?
  • Why should anyone buy it?
  • Who’s going to buy it?
  • How are we going to reach those people?
  • How much money are we willing to spend reaching our target audience?
  • How can we track our plan once it’s in motion?

Those seemingly simple questions mean everything, not only to your marketing team but to the health and future of your company. There are a lot of industry terms we could use here to underscore the importance of each question, but “Who’s going to buy it?” and “Who is your target audience?” mean the same thing. In the end, it’s about understanding your target market or target audience and how you can cater to them, so they feel connected and willing to invest in you.

A buyer persona is just a mockup that helps you understand that there are real people with real characteristics coming into your store or shopping on your website. Remember that people are the driving force of every successful marketing campaign and you’ll be primed for success.

For a specific marketing plan tied to a short-term promotion, you’ll want to get to know the “4 Ps”:

  • Product: What you’re selling
  • Price: How much you’re selling it for
  • Promotion:How you’re going to communicate with consumers and/or how you’re incentivizing purchases
  • Place:Where you’re planning on doing the selling, for instance in your retail store or on a third-party site like Amazon


What is a good marketing plan?


What does “good” mean anyway? We’re not being philosophical here, it’s just that the word good is hugely subjective and subjective only goes so far in the world of marketing. In some ways, you want subjective marketing because you’re catering to a specific crowd — that target market or audience, remember? But you also want an objective way to gauge whether a campaign is effective. Guessing that Sally in Des Moines loves your ad or giggled at your most recent blog simply isn’t enough.

A “good marketing plan” is one that has the metrics to show it’s been successful. That’s right, you’re going to have to dig up some data. Thankfully, there are all kinds of platforms and programs built with just this task in mind.

Most successful marketing pros turn to key performance indicators (KPIs) to monitor marketing activity and gauge the strengths and weaknesses of their marketing plan. KPIs are data points that can be measured on any given schedule — typically daily, monthly, or quarterly, but it depends on what you’re measuring and how long you have to reach your goal. A monthly sales goal requires at least weekly monitoring, while a year-long marketing campaign may have some KPIs that only need checked bi-monthly.

When you can use objective data to gauge how a social media promo is landing with a certain market segment, you can then adjust either your promo or revisit your user personas. This data is valuable. When the numbers are right, you likely have a “good” marketing plan, but following the layouts and suggested sections above will also help you craft a solid, effective blueprint.


How many parts are in a marketing plan?


How many parts do you want?

Just kidding. Kind of. A basic marketing plan includes the six sections outlined above (intro or executive summary, research and analysis, marketing segmentation and customer targeting, market strategy, budget, and metrics), but those can change if you want them to or if your marketing team suggests it.

You may also decide on only a handful of subsections, or your digital marketing subsection could have its own content marketing strategy section that then accordions out to include a range of content strategies and suggestions for collateral directed at each buyer persona.

The important thing is to only include what is directly relevant and jettison the rest. Interesting data and useful data aren’t always the same thing, and superfluous info only serves to muddy the waters and make it more difficult for you to focus on the good stuff.


How do you write an introduction to a marketing plan?


Your intro is your executive summary. This is basically a paragraph or two that outlines your business goals, describes the reason for this current marketing planning endeavor, and maybe touches on info gleaned during competitor analysis, such as what advantage you have over existing organizations in the same space.
Then you delve into your plan outline, sharing a very skeletal look at your marketing plan and a brief expense analysis so the reader gets a snapshot of the overall projected budget.


Pro tips and some questions to ponder


You’ve created your mission statement and have a marketing objective in mind. What else are you missing?

What questions should I ask my marketing team?
When you’re looking for outside marketing teams to ramp up your company’s success, you need to know how the marketing planning process is going to work and what tools the team has at their disposal.
Successful marketers should have solid, fast answers to these questions:

  • How will you conduct a situational analysis to understand our company and our marketing positioning?
  • How will you research our target audience? Are there different approaches for new customer acquisition vs. retention strategies?
  • What is your experience with digital marketing?
  • Do you have experience in “insert project-specific skill like product management” ?
  • Will you have one marketing manager on our account or will we deal with multiple people?
  • Will content marketing materials be created in-house or do you outsource?
  • What is your distribution plan for those materials once created?
  • Do you have any preferred partners or vendors that will help with the cost of outsourcing or help us find reliable third-party assistance with graphic design, videography, etc.?


What is a marketing plan template?


Marketing plan templates are a sort of fill-in-the-blank way to create a tailored marketing strategy. Many templates are meant to be used for a variety of business types (though you can often find industry-specific versions, too) so you can just incorporate your details and have a finished product in record time. Starting from scratch certainly has its advantages, but that’s not always feasible.

Creating marketing materials costs time and money. By using a marketing plan template that capitalizes on your data and uses your goals as the end point, you can fast forward the entire planning process without sacrificing efficacy or worrying that you’re missing an important component.

Not totally happy with the templates you’ve found or feel like you want to add to the one you’ve selected? Browse through successful marketing plan examples to see which elements or additions stand out to you. Perhaps you used a generic template but want to integrate channels that can be particularly good for video game creators or you’re curious about promotions or coupons specific to retail. You can look up marketing plan examples from other companies in your industry and take what makes sense.

Other marketing tools that could come in handy in the planning stages are a buyer persona template and an infographic template. A buyer persona template helps you formulate a faux consumer identity that represents your target audience. Most companies have more than one buyer persona to represent various audiences. For example, a children’s toy company might market to parents as well as grandparents, people shopping for a birthday party, and so on. In this situation, a template helps you discover which details are important to predicting and steering buyer behavior (e.g., income level, geographic location, number of children) versus things like hair color or favorite sports team that are less valuable to the mission at hand.

Infographic templates are major timesavers. That’s because infographics are really a blend of content and graphic design, which means you either need to bring in at least two experts or use a template to take care of the design part. Using a template is like outsourcing on a budget — the template may not be the customized creation you get from a design contractor, but you benefit from expertise all the same and without the higher price tag. Win-win!

Aliste offers a ton of free marketing resources to help you understand the key marketing pillars and kickstart your own promotion and ad plans. Check out our team’s video tutorials, eBooks, quizzes, checklists, and worksheets, all designed to boost creativity while keeping you on the road to success.


Where to learn more and how to hire expert help


While this ultimate marketing plan is one of the most comprehensive introductions to marketing plan creation that you’ll find on the net without enrolling in a course or taking a week to read a novel-length treatise on the value of email lists, there is still so much more to learn. Much like wealth management or personal future planning, marketing is one of those subjects where the more you learn the more you realize you still need to know.

What questions do you wish were included in this ultimate guide? You may find some answers in the Aliste Marketing blog.

Interested in talking with our team about our marketing agency’s key services?

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