What is a Marketing Plan?

A marketing plan is a roadmap of  what, when, where, why, and how you’re going to market your business over a period of time. A good marketing plan contains goals, a timeline, specific tactics to meet your goals, and KPIs to track your progress. Putting this all together may seem intimidating at first, but with a little advice and examples to guide you along the way, you’ll be on your way in no time. 

Why You Need a Marketing Plan

Marketing has a lot of moving parts. Even for small businesses. Modern digital marketing means effectively using and tracking several online marketing channels from social media to your website to attract potential customers’ attention and keep them coming back. Without a marketing plan, you might just be throwing spaghetti at a wall and seeing what sticks. 

A repeating pattern of checkboxes

Types of Marketing Plans

Not all marketing plans are the same. They can serve a variety of purposes depending on the time of year and business goals they are trying to accomplish. 

Quarterly or Annual Marketing Plans

Quarterly and annual plans highlight all of the strategies or campaigns you'll take on in the quarter or the year. They are typically more general overviews than other types of marketing plans. 

12 calendar pages

Paid Marketing Plan

Paid plans are specific to paid marketing strategies, including but not limited to:

  • Paid-for native advertising
  • PPC campaigns
  • Paid social media promotions

Money Graphic

Content Marketing Plan

These plans typically cover content promotions like blog posts, email marketing, videos, webinars, and more.  Sometimes they also include social media, but the focus is on longform content. 

A repeated pattern of megaphones

Social Media Marketing Plan

Many marketing departments create marketing plans specific to social media. Others include it in their paid or content marketing plans, but sometimes it’s worth it to have a separate social media marketing plan that covers all the channels, tactics, and campaigns you intend to run.

A repeated pattern of like symbol and heart chat bubbles

New Product and Service Launch Marketing Plan

Every time you release new products and services into the market, it’s a good idea to create a plan for it. It should include new market research on this specific offering and the differences and similarities between how you promote your other products and services. 

Spotlight

Marketing Plan vs. Marketing Strategy

Marketing plan and marketing strategy sound similar enough, but they’re not the same thing. 

Marketing Plan

Marketing Strategy

An overview of marketing over time

A detailed layout of individual marketing campaigns

Describes multiple strategies

Describes how a business will accomplish a particular goal

 

What Goes in a Marketing Plan?

There isn’t a hard and fast rule about what a marketing plan looks like, but here are the main things to make sure you include to keep your marketing department on the right track. 

Marketing Goals and Mission

Your first step in writing a marketing plan is to state your mission. Although this mission is specific to your marketing department, it should serve your business's main mission statement. Be specific, but not too specific. You have plenty of space left in this marketing plan to elaborate on how you'll acquire new customers and accomplish this mission.

For example, if your business's mission is "to make booking travel a delightful experience," your marketing mission might be "to attract an audience of travelers, educate them on the tourism industry, and convert them into users of our bookings platform."

  • Make sure they are SMART objectives
    • Specific
    • Measurable
    • Achievable
    • Realistic
    • Timely
  • Reconsider the overall goals of your organization
  • Short-term vs. Long-term goals
  • Include your company’s mission statement

A hill with a flag at the top

KPIs

Any good marketing plan includes how you plan to track its progress towards the mission. That’s where key performance indicators (KPIs) come in. KPIs are metrics that measure the success of specific pieces of a marketing campaign. These metrics help you set short-term goals and communicate your progress towards achieving them. Some examples of KPIs include: 

  • Sales revenue
  • Inbound marketing return on investment
  • Cost per lead
  • Customer value
  • New contact rate
  • Landing page conversion rate
  • Organic and social media traffic

KPI Reports

Buyer Personas

A buyer persona is a description of the target audience you want to attract. Most businesses have more than one to represent different market segments. Think about these questions as you create them:

  • Who are you marketing to? 
  • What are their pain points? 
  • Where do they spend time online? 
  • What are their demographic traits? 

Base your buyer personas on market research and make sure that all of the leaders agree that they reflect the ideal customer you want to reach.

Generic person symbols in different skin tones

Content Initiatives

This is where you include an overview of your content strategy. Choose your content marketing efforts wisely and explain how you'll use them to meet your goals. 

  • Which types of content you’ll create
    • Website Copy
    • Landing Pages
    • Blog Posts
    • Newsletters
    • Emails
    • Social Media Posts
    • Webinars
  • How much content you’ll create
  • KPIs for each type of content
  • Distribution channels
  • Paid advertising on each channel

a repeated pattern of checklists

Buyer’s Journey

The standard buyer’s journey includes: 

  • Awareness
  • Consideration
  • Decision
  • Retention

In this part of your marketing plan, lay out what these stages look like to your company and how you’ll reach people at each stage. 

Funnels arranged in an inverted pyramid

Budget

Even if you use free marketing channels and platforms whenever possible, marketing costs money. From running ads to hiring people, use these costs to outline a budget in this section of your marketing plan. Be sure to spell out how much money you plan to spend on each marketing tactic. 

Three piggy banks increasing in size

Competition

In order to effectively market your business, you have to know how you stack up to other companies that are competing for your audience’s attention. Research the key players in your industry and outline their marketing styles in this section. Who has the better search ranking? Who has the better social media presence? What can you learn from each of them. 

A sports placement podium with question marks at each stage

Contributors

The final step of a marketing plan is to decide who does what. In this section of the marketing plan, delegate tasks to the members of your team. 

A graphic of three people gathered around a computed

How to Write a Marketing Plan

Now let’s put the ingredients together.

Research

The first step is to find out what other people think about your company. This should include employees, customers, shareholders, community members, and anyone else who is impacted by your company. Ask for their honest opinions about your strengths and weaknesses. You’ll use this information for the SWOT analysis section of your marketing plan.

A repeating pattern of speech bubbles

Conduct a Competitive Analysis

You can’t know what goes on in your competitors’ marketing teams behind closed doors, but you can find out how effective they are. Your research on your competitors could include

  • Asking the same people from the last step what they think of your competitors
  • Reading their websites, social media, and any press coverage about them
  • Using an SEO research tool to see how well their websites perform Throughout this research, look for ways in which your company is similar to and different from competitors. Rank them from most to least competitive.

Three bar graphs

 

Conduct a SWOT Analysis

SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. This analysis is a simple, effective way to analyze and communicate where your company is now and where you want it to go. Use the information from the research you conducted to put it together and figure out your best path to growth. 

Four squares labelled Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats

Determine Your Goals

The goals section should answer the question “how do you want your business to be different after the plan is carried out. These should be SMART business goals like “Increase annual sales by 10% by the end of the year.”

A row of targets

State Your Objectives

While the goals are related to the business in general, marketing objectives are what the marketing plan has to accomplish to reach them. For example, “Reach 5,000 sales prospects with an email campaign with an open rate of at least 30% and a click-through rate of 5%.”

A person with a blank speech bubble pointing to them

Describe Your Target Market

This is where the buyer personas come in. The idea is to specify who you want to reach with your campaigns and how you plan to do so. 

A diverse crowd of people

Craft Your Message

What do you want your target audience to know about your company to drive them to take action? That’s your message. The message is usually related to the company’s unique selling proposition, or USP, which states the unique benefits your company offers and thus the reason for doing business with you instead of your competitors.

A disembodied hand writing with a nice pen

Define Your Marketing Strategy

Your marketing strategy is the plan of campaigns that will reach your objectives. Think of these questions while you develop it: 

  • How will you position your business against your competitors? 
  • What target markets will achieve your goals? 
  • What pricing will achieve your goals? 

A silhouette of a head with gears inside it

Plan Your Marketing Tactics

Tactics are what you will actually do to achieve your goals and and how you will do it. Some examples of marketing tactics are:

  • Blogging
  • Case studies and white papers
  • Email marketing
  • Events
  • Infographics
  • Your logo and branding
  • Promotions and contests
  • Search engine optimization
  • Trade shows
  • Videos
  • Webinars
  • Word-of-mouth marketing

Be sure to choose tactics that are appropriate for your business goals, target audience, and budget. If you’re a solo entrepreneur or other small business without a marketing department, consider consulting with a seasoned marketing professional. 

Three tactical maps

Schedule Your Timeline

Write out a month by month timeline of when and how long each tactic will happen. This will keep your team on the right track to meet your goals. 

Timeline

Update Your Marketing Plan Regularly

Even the best laid plans need a little tweaking once they are implemented. Be sure to update your marketing plan regularly to account for real world happenings that affect it. 

The update symbol

Marketing Plan Examples

Now that you know what should go into a marketing plan, take inspiration from these examples from the pros. 

HubSpot's Comprehensive Guide for Content Marketing Strategy

Plan Type: Content Marketing Plan

Chief Outsiders Go-To-Market Plan for a New Product

Plan Type: New Product Launch Marketing Plan

Contently's Content Plan

Plan Type: Content Marketing Plan

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Luca Harsh

Luca Harsh

Luca Harsh is an in-house content writer for Sav. They live in Chicago with their cat, Polly. Yes, Harsh is their real last name.