A marketing plan can make all the difference to your business’ success. After all, “By failing to prepare, you’re preparing to fail.”
The classic Benjamin Franklin quote, first uttered in the 18th century, is still as prescient and relevant today – particularly when it comes to growing your business online and setting your marketing efforts up for success.
Because all businesses rely on good marketing. And all good marketing relies on a good plan.
So what is a marketing plan, exactly – and why does your business need one? Below, we explain all – and provide a template for marketing plans big and small. From preparing your executive summary through to researching your market, competitors, customers, and beyond, we’re giving you everything you need to know to write a captivating, compelling marketing plan – and wow stakeholders and investors alike.
A marketing plan is the strategic document that’ll outline all your business’ marketing objectives, strategies, and the tactics you’ll use to achieve them.
As far as business documents go, this one is crucial. It explains how you’ll promote your products or services – and how marketing will feed into your business’ wider goals. A good marketing plan will identify your target market, and demonstrate how you’ll establish – and maintain – a competitive advantage in it.
A marketing plan will also outline your marketing budget and objectives – along with timelines and success metrics.
A template for marketing plan, like the one below, is simply a structure you can follow to make sure your marketing plan is as good as it can be.
Want to see why a marketing plan is so important in real life? Read our interview with Vicky Weber, a children’s author and co-founder of At Home Author, a company that provides coaching for aspiring writers. A marketing plan was the key to Vicky finding success when publishing her children’s books.
1. Executive Summary
First up in your marketing plan? An executive summary.
This goes at the very top of your marketing plan – and its billing absolutely reflects its importance. Your executive summary is what you’ll use to hook readers – potential investors and key stakeholders among them – then tell them everything they need to know at a glance.
So what is it? Well, your executive summary should essentially be a concise overview of your business’ marketing plan. It should, as the name suggests, provide a summary for any executives reading the document – captivating and compelling them with a persuasive, yet succinct, encapsulation of what your business’ marketing efforts are going to be about.
Executive summaries tend to vary according to the length and depth of the individual marketing plan. We suggest that about a page is ideal, two is fine – although don’t make it any longer. You want to absorb and engage your reader… not put them to sleep!
2. Business Summary
The business summary of your marketing plan is where you’ll furnish your reader with a breakdown of your company:
- Who you are
- What you do
- Why you do it
The business summary section of your marketing plan provides crucial context for the research, strategies, tools, and tactics to follow.
This section should “set the table” – laying out your business’:
- Vision, mission, and values: briefly unpack your business’ core values, its vision for the future, and your mission – that is, what you’re going to do to get there!
- Overview and company details: provide your company’s name and location, and offer insights into its history – as well as the products and services you sell.
- Key people: who founded, has a vested interest in, and drives your company? List your key stakeholders and leadership team’s names and titles here.
- Unique Selling Proposition (USP): what’s your key differentiator – the thing that drives your business’s approach and sets it apart from the rest?
- Business objectives: outline your business’ top-level goals. These can include financial targets, as well as objectives relating to market share and expansion.
3. Market and Competitor Research
All comprehensive marketing plans need to lay out not only the key information around the business, and its marketing efforts – but the environment that business is going to be existing in. What that means is that you need to lay out a detailed picture of your industry, its market opportunities, and the competitors that already populate it.
To do this, there are two key methods you can use:
A PESTLE analysis provides a structured approach to understanding the macro-environmental forces influencing your company, and its marketing efforts. The PESTLE stands for:
- Political: looking at the potential impact of government policies, regulations, and political stability on your business’ environment and marketing plan.
- Economic: the economic trends and conditions that could affect your marketing, such as inflation, interest rates, exchange rates, and consumer purchasing power.
- Sociocultural: factors like demographic trends, cultural norms, lifestyle changes, and consumer behavior patterns that could affect your marketing efforts’ success.
- Technological: how the growth of technology – such as AI – will play a role.
- Legal: exploring how factors such as consumer protection laws, employment regulations, IP rights, and industry-specific regulations will have an impact.
- Environmental: this involves looking at how climate change, eco-friendly practices, and consumer demand for sustainable products will affect your business and marketing.
A SWOT analysis is a similar model, but describes your business and marketing plan’s:
In your marketing plan, be sure to articulate these clearly, concisely, and in a way your reader can understand – ideally, free of jargon and overly complex terms!
4. Customer Research
You’ve swotted up on your market and competitors – nice! Your research isn’t done just yet, though. Now, it’s time for your marketing plan to get a handle on who you’ll be marketing to – that is, your customers.
To begin, we suggest creating a series of customer personas. Also known as “user personas” or “buyer personas”, these are fictionalized archetypes designed to represent, at a top level, the different cross-sections of your audience. Persona examples include “the Business Owner” and “the Problem Solver.” Here’s where proper customer research comes in – because, while these personas are entirely fictional, they need to be based on actual audience data to be effective.
Personas should each include that section of your customer base’s:
- Pain points
- Demographic information (age, occupation, marital status)
- Social media footprint
- Information sources and preference
The question remains, though – how do you actually generate all this information?
You can undertake effective customer research through:
- Focus groups – expensive, but worth their weight in gold!
- Questionnaires – incentivizing them with deals, discounts, or prizes will give you a larger sample size.
- Interviews – be sure to only select individuals from the demographics you’re targeting, to ensure the insights are as relevant as possible.
- Social media listening – with tools like Google Alerts and Buzzsumo, you can receive notifications any time keywords relevant to your business, brand, or wider industry are mentioned – helping you stay on top of the chatter.
Your marketing plan should lay out the results of your customer research so far, and – if you’re planning on doing more – detail exactly how you plan on going about it now, and ongoing.
5. Marketing Tools and Timeline
Now, we’re getting to the pointy end of your marketing plan – how you’ll actually market your business’ products and services!
Here, your marketing plan should lay out the tools, channels, and strategies you’ll use to raise awareness of your business, engage potential and existing customers, and convert prospects into loyal, long-term ambassadors of your brand.
These can include:
- Social media marketing: driving awareness and action through posting, and engaging with your followers, on TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.
- Influencer marketing: harnessing the follower bases of micro, macro, nano, or mega influencersto grow your own.
- Content marketing: writing engaging, informative articles, ebooks, and whitepapers to establish your brand as a subject matter authority – and start a conversation with your audience.
- Email marketing: remaining top of mind by dropping relevant, interesting content straight into the inboxes of your customers.
- Search engine marketing (SEM): paying Google to feature your ads at the very summit of its search engine results pages (SERPs).
Then, be sure to provide details in your marketing plan about the timelines during which you’ll implement each form of marketing – and how frequently you’ll be tapping into each channel. With blog articles, for instance, you’ll want to be posting every week; for your social media strategy, that’s more like every day. Meanwhile, your paid marketing efforts may run in monthly cycles, and you’ll only run influencer marketing campaigns every six months or so.
Finally, your marketing plan needs to reassure stakeholders, and potential investors, that your business and marketing efforts will be profitable.
In other words, you need to put your money where your mouth is! This portion of your marketing plan should include your marketing’s:
- Revenue projections
- Cost of Goods Sold (COGS)
- ROI (Return on Investment)
- Key Performance Indicators
- Sales forecasts
- Financial assumptions
You’ll also need to include a break-even analysis to tell readers which point you expect to finish covering your costs and start making a profit. Be sure, too, to feature some element of contingency planning to detail how you’ll mitigate and address financial risks. Consider potential changes to:
- Market conditions
- The competitive landscape
- Economic factors that could impact revenue and expenses
Your marketing plan needs to convey flexibility and adaptability. So leave no stone unturned!
You wouldn’t step outside into a brisk winter morning without your biggest coat. In the same vein, you shouldn’t step into the frenzied, frenetic, and fast-paced world of marketing without a plan to guide you. And fortunately, with the template for marketing plan we’ve provided, you don’t have to.
Armed with everything you need to articulate your business’ USPs, marketing channels, timelines, and approach, it’s time to start putting it all together – and into place.
So good luck, and enjoy – and be sure to start up a chat in the comments section below to let us know how you liked this article. Until next time!
For a deep dive look into this, check out our article on the content marketing pyramid.
But we understand that it can be hard to prioritize – particularly if your budget is tight, and you’re not sold on the benefits marketing can have for your bottom line.
To help you delve deep into the data, we’ve collected an array of the latest digital marketing ROI statistics – so you can understand whether marketing can deliver worthwhile results for your business.