What is a marketing plan?
A marketing plan is a business document that explains your overall strategy for spreading awareness about your company’s products and attracting customers. Business owners use their marketing plan as a personal guide for making business choices and as a centralized document to keep all employees focused on the same shared goals. A company’s marketing plan is also used to present future business initiatives to potential investors and partners, especially during the launch of a new product or line of services.
What factors can influence your marketing plan?
Every company has its own marketing strategies that work for that business’s unique situation. Prior to creating your marketing plan, it’s important to consider your resources and other factors that can influence what type of marketing plan will work for you such as:
Company mission and values
Some companies make their values and mission an integral part of their marketing plan through brand activism. Businesses gain respect from consumers by supporting social causes and using their company platform to drive change, increasing their sales to customers who share their same values.
Depending on your budget, you’ll have different marketing techniques available to you. Many businesses are able to run successful marketing plans with minimal budgets, while others invest large amounts of cash upfront to achieve their goals.
Advertising in a highly saturated market requires more differentiation than marketing to customers when you have little to no competition. Your marketing plan should take into account what other similar businesses are doing and how you can make your business unique.
How to write a marketing plan
Follow these steps to write a successful marketing plan:
1. Gather your research
A good marketing plan is data-driven and has strong research backing each of your marketing tactics and informing your goals. Before you start developing your marketing plan, gather data through measuring current traffic on your website, conducting observational research and administering surveys. Consider hiring a marketing specialist with a background in market research to help you conduct this extensive research and secure accurate, relevant data.
2. Set clear objectives
Decide what your goals and objectives are ahead of time so you can select the most appropriate marketing strategy for reaching them. An entrepreneur that wants their business to become an international brand will have a vastly different marketing plan than a business owner that hopes to sustainably sell their products in local boutique stores.
3. Organize your ideas
Because you’ll need to share your marketing plan with employees and potential investors, it should be well-organized and have a clear progression of ideas. Listed below is a template you can use as an outline when typing up your final marketing plan.
Marketing plan sample outline
Use this template with explanations for each section as a guide to create your own marketing plan:
The executive summary includes a basic description of what your company does and how it’s structured. This includes a review of the overall purpose and values of the company and the key people involved with running the organization. The executive summary should also outline the overall plans for the business and these details:
- Company name
- Leadership team
- Mission statement
- Location of company headquarters
- List of products or services
A good marketing plan includes an analysis of the company itself and what makes it unique. One common structure for performing the company analysis is a SWOT analysis, which stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats:
- Strengths: Describe what unique skill sets and resources your company has access to that can make it stand out from competitors.
- Weaknesses: List key challenges and weaknesses your team will have to overcome.
- Opportunities: Identify possible ways the business could achieve success and grow.
- Threats: Share the main factors that could impede your business’s profitability.
The situation analysis is where you explain most of your research that isn’t directly related to the consumer. It explains the various external factors that could impact your company’s ability to gain market share and do business.
- Industry standards: Explain the best practices in your field, including common marketing channels that other companies in your industry use to reach consumers.
- Direct competition: List your company’s key competitors and estimate their market share.
- Economic conditions: Describe the current economic conditions and forecast how they could impact your company’s profits and sustainability.
- Relevant laws and regulations: Include your research on the regulatory bodies that govern different parts of your business operations.
- Tech trends: Write down any types of technology trends that could impact how people access or learn about your products and services.
The customer’s section of the marketing plan is a detailed review of what kinds of people you hope will buy your product. There should be two main components you use when describing your consumers in the marketing plan:
- Target market: Identify the key demographics you hope to target through your marketing efforts. If you want to reach multiple audiences, identify each separate one. Use information from focus groups and direct market research to explain why you are choosing to target a particular audience. Age, ethnicity and lifestyle are all ways you can categorize your target market.
- Buyer personas: A strong marketing plan will include multiple buyer personas. A persona is a fictional character that embodies the traits of members of your target market. It can help your marketing team visualize what the customers want and what kinds of marketing methods influence them the most.
After identifying your market research, you can start describing the specific objectives you hope to achieve through marketing, advertising and promotion. Include both long-term and short-term goals, using clearly identified numbers that you can compare against in the future:
- Financial goals: Describe the return on investment you hope to get from your marketing effort and how much financial growth you would like to see at key benchmarks in your marketing campaigns. Consider including details like cash flow needs and investor involvement.
- Branding goals: If you want to develop a core audience and a recognizable brand, talk about what you want your brand to be known for and where you want to expand. Possible branding goals could include national expansion, celebrity endorsements, social media growth and community partnerships.
Next, explain the actual methods, strategies and marketing channels you plan to use to sell your products and reach an audience:
- Price: The price point of your products and services is one of the anchors of your marketing strategy. Luxury products marketed to a high-income audience will have a different price point than budget products with mass appeal. Describe the rationale of your price point and how it impacts sales.
- Packaging: The visual appeal of your items can also contribute to your ability to advertise to consumers. Summarize the goal of your packaging choices and how they contribute to your brand.
- Promotions: Short-term promotions, coupons and sales can all attract new customers or encourage current customers to make another purchase. List the various promotional tactics that you want to use to gain market share.
- Marketing channels: Decide whether you want to use radio ads, television ads, social media posts, influencer partnerships or other marketing channels to reach your target audience. Be sure to itemize how much money you plan to spend on each of these marketing methods.
- Distribution methods: Explain whether you plan to use direct sales, an online shop, in-person storefronts or other methods to distribute your products. Describe the associated costs with your distribution methods.
After describing your marketing strategies, outline the timeline for carrying out each of the methods described above. Indicate the start and end dates for various campaigns and any plans for future renewals. If you need to hire additional staff to help manage each campaign, explain your plans to do so in this section. Use specific dates if possible to help keep your team on track.
Explain what metrics you are going to use to measure the success of each individual marketing strategy, such as profit increases, website traffic and social media interactions. Decide how often you are going to evaluate success. If you have financial controls in place for budgeting, list them here.