How To Write a Marketing Plan: A Step-by-Step Guide (With Examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

October 5, 2021

A marketing plan helps companies identify their ideal customer base and determine which marketing techniques are most effective in cultivating greater awareness and interest in a product, service or the business itself. Using a number of metrics and existing marketing data, companies define the channels and methods they plan to incorporate in order to appeal to their target audience. Learning how to create a marketing plan is essential to becoming an effective sales or marketing professional. In this article, we discuss how to prepare for and write an effective marketing plan that attracts customers and improves brand loyalty.

What is a marketing plan?

A marketing plan is a roadmap that outlines and defines a company's marketing goals, strategies and implementation process. A successful marketing plan helps companies conceptualize marketing strategies using available data and marketing research beforehand in order to streamline the implementation process and produce the best possible outcome.

In summary, a marketing plan serves to outline a company's objectives, strategies and results.

Marketing plan preparation

It's important to take the time you need to dispatch your organization's marketing campaigns. Companies that experience the most success with their marketing plans put careful thought, research and consideration into the final document. In order to create a strong marketing plan, follow these preparation steps:

1. Know your competition

Competitor research helps companies better understand how their competitors are currently achieving success in the market, where their vulnerabilities lie and how they can successfully compete with existing products and services. Competitor research is also necessary to avoid creating a product or service that's too similar to an existing one or overpricing products and services.

Conducting competitor research may begin with activities like:

  • Reading competitor newsletters and promotional emails to learn how they leverage trends or address market demands

  • Following competitors on social networks to understand how they engage with customers and cultivate brand loyalty

  • Examining competitor website content to determine what topics they cover and their own SEO strategy

2. Run a SWOT analysis

A SWOT analysis helps companies decide how to maximize opportunities and minimize threats by understanding the strengths and weaknesses within the organization. It can also aid in developing goals and objectives that complement the company's mission. A SWOT analysis evaluates a company's:

  • Strengths

  • Weaknesses

  • Opportunities

  • Threats

Read more: SWOT Analysis Guide (With Examples)

3. Develop buyer personas

A buyer persona details the specific qualities and traits of the customer most interested in buying a company's product or service. This qualitative data seeks to explain why they would purchase a product or use a service offered by the company by creating a comprehensive bio of said market segmentation. Creating buyer personas allows the company to narrow its focus to target people who buy from the business so they don't use resources marketing to a broader audience.

Buyer personas seek to answer the following questions:

  • Who may purchase or currently purchases products or services from the company?

  • What are the buyer's needs, and how does the company satisfy them?

  • Where and how do they shop?

  • What is their demographic, including factors like age and location?

  • What social media platforms do they use on a regular basis, and which marketing channels can be leveraged to attract their attention?

4. Set budget parameters

Businesses need to understand how to allocate funds for particular strategies. This allows them to get the best return on investment (ROI). Budgets set the boundaries for how much marketers spend on a plan, which ultimately determines which marketing channels they implement in a strategy.

5. Establish KPIs and goals

Key performance indicators (KPIs) and goals serve to ensure that marketing campaigns are meeting the company's expectations. KPIs also give organizations the data they need to make necessary changes after a campaign has launched. Establishing both of these early on is crucial to launching successful marketing campaigns that help companies reach their desired goals.

6. Create an outline

Though marketing plans vary from organization to organization, the basic outline offers more insight into how to conceptualize a marketing plan. Some of the elements a marketing plan outline should include are as follows:

  • Business information

  • Competition

  • Strengths and weaknesses

  • Target buyers

  • Buying cycle patterns

  • Unique selling proposition (USP)

  • Brand

  • Website

  • Marketing channels

  • SEO

  • KPIs

  • Strategies

Related: What Is Strategic Planning? Definition, Techniques and Examples

How to write a marketing plan

With a better understanding of the prerequisite research required to draft a marketing plan, it's time to use this planning and research to draft a comprehensive marketing plan. You can follow these steps to draft an effective marketing plan for your organization:

1. Identify the company's mission

Before anything else, it's important to identify your mission statement. The company's mission is the foundation upon which all branding and marketing take place. This mission statement and the values of the company are what ultimately impact internal processes, consumer perception and the course of the company as it scales and develops.

Read more: Guide to Vision Statements

2. Address the competition

Product development is preceded by an in-depth understanding of what needs a product or service fills within a given market. Beyond this, marketing plans should seek to address the competition and how the company distinguishes itself from existing brands to fill a specific need in the industry. You can generally find two categories of competition:

  • Direct competition: These are businesses that offer the same products or services as the company in question. For instance, if a small business owner planned to open a yoga studio a few miles away from an existing yoga studio, this would be direct competition.

  • Indirect competition: These competitors are similar in form and function but are different enough that they are not directly related to the company. For example, a yoga studio that opens near a large gym that offers one or two yoga classes is an example of an indirect competitor.

3. Determine strengths and weaknesses

Using a SWOT analysis can help companies understand where they have an advantage and which areas they need to focus on in order to improve their marketing strategy and their company as a whole. Aim to address these points and more in each section for a more comprehensive SWOT analysis.

Example:

Strengths

  • Length of time in business

  • Loyal customer base

  • Trusted reputation

Weaknesses

  • Lack of social networking outreach

  • Competitive disadvantage

  • Outdated software

Opportunities

  • Upgrade packaging

  • Offer website tutorials

  • Grow social media influence

Threats

  • Direct competitors use advanced technologies

  • Indirect competitors offer pricing discounts

  • Budget restricts campaign limits

4. Describe the target buyers

Because a specific product or service fills a need within a given market, it's important to create a buyer persona that helps companies truly understand who they're targeting in their marketing strategy. Describing these individuals helps marketers determine which marketing channels are best for reaching them.

Example: A fitness center caters to a specific market of 18- to 45-year-olds but wants to begin marketing its wellness programs to older adults. The market research determines they can find target customers in:

  • Senior centers

  • Rehabilitation centers

  • Fitness centers that don't offer wellness programs

5. Determine the buying cycle patterns

Buying habits are essential for marketers because these habits inform you about how to move customers through the sales funnel and which stage to focus on until they become a successful conversion. Determining these buying cycle patterns can help you improve the overall marketing strategy.

Example:

  • Awareness: The customer becomes aware of a new restaurant that serves international dishes.

  • *Consideration: The customer asks questions about pricing, reservations and menu items.*

  • *Decision: The customer decides they want to try the new restaurant because they heard good reviews.*

6. Identify the unique selling proposition (USP)

Use market research to understand the ideal customer's preferences and detail precisely how a company fulfills a need that other competitors don't. Include supporting evidence of what makes the product or service offered by the company unique by listing the expertise of staff, value proposition and competitive advantages.

Example: A bakery makes all of its products on-site and donates extras to a local soup kitchen. The bakery focuses on its fresh products, community spirit and the reviews of its talented pastry chef.

7. Describe your brand

Most marketing strategies focus on the promotion of products and services. For brands that have little visibility, however, building a positive reputation is key to establishing brand loyalty among new customers. Coming up with a detailed brand description will make it easier to establish the benefits of turning to a specific company as well as sets the tone and style for marketing copy to come.

Example: A restaurant decides to add a vegan menu to attract new customers and change the perception that the current menu doesn't contain options for various diets.

8. Address any issues with the website

The company website is often the first place a customer goes to find out more about the business. Websites that are slow and challenging to navigate can mean the difference between converting leads and driving prospective customers away. After competitor research, determine any changes that you can make to better direct customer buying patterns.

Example: After reviewing the current website, a marketing team determines they need to:

  • Streamline content for ease of use.

  • Add a chat feature.

  • Start a blog for tips and tutorials.

9. Determine marketing channels and best practices

The above research culminates in determining which marketing channels are most effective and the best practices that produce the anticipated results. Learning the needs of the customer helps develop strategies the buyer can respond to, such as social media marketing. Form a detailed analysis of how the company can use each channel.

Example:

  • Content marketing: Write articles and blog posts and offer training, advice or education.

  • *Social media: Engage with customers, ask for feedback, conduct surveys and develop relationships.*

  • *Email: Share vital information and offer promotions or services exclusive to subscribers.*

  • *Networking: Team up with other companies to benefit from the other company's customer base.*

  • *Trade shows or events: Participate in local events to drive brand awareness and brand loyalty.*

Related: Creating a Successful Social Media Marketing Strategy

10. Define SEO strategies

Search engine optimization (SEO) helps position the company at the top of search engine results using on-page strategies like keyword research and optimization and off-page strategies like link building. Every company, no matter what size, needs to define these strategies to rank on search engines and gain visibility online.

Example: An ice cream shop searches popular keywords and uses them throughout its website's content and copy. Some of the popular keywords they found were:

  • Ice cream store

  • Ice cream

  • Best ice cream near me

  • Sundaes

  • Cones

11. Track measurements through KPIs

Discuss how you can determine the success of your plan and define the key performance indicators (KPIs). These metrics should measure various elements of marketing campaigns to determine if they work and how well. Form short-term goals to measure the marketing plan's progress, and make adjustments as needed.

Example: A company wants to measure how many clicks its website receives after implementing a new marketing plan. The goal it sets is 20,000 clicks in three months.

Read more: A Complete Guide to Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

12. Develop marketing strategies

Strategies are detailed and extensive, making it so that there is an established process marketers follow in order to reach company objectives. It's important to define strategies beforehand to help marketing departments execute plans and gain traction. You can always perfect strategies later after analyzing more data.

Marketing strategies might include:

  • Adding new video tutorials to increase product knowledge

  • Posting to social media three times per day

  • Joining the local chamber of commerce to network with complementary businesses

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