Marketing Plan Development: The Start to Finish Guide For Executives

Marketing Plan Development: The Start to Finish Guide For Executives

When should you start thinking about your next marketing plan? Some see this as a year-end task. In reality, you should always keep working on your marketing plan, and the strategy underpinning it as your operational landscape changes all the time, along with your priorities. So you’ve gotta stay up-to-speed!

In this post, we’ll teach you how to create an effective marketing plan (without wasting hours on it). But before we dig in, let’s get some basics out of the way.

  1. What is a Marketing Plan?
  2. Why Do You Need a Documented Marketing Plan and Strategy
  3. How to Create a Marketing Plan That Primes You For Success
  4. Wrap Up

What is a Marketing Plan?

A marketing plan is a lead-generating target-market reaching document specifying your marketing goals and strategies for hitting those.

It’s a living and breathing document that contains the following elements:

  • Marketing objectives and desired results in terms of growth/traction
  • Current state analysis and assessment of your promotional mix effectiveness
  • Target buyer personas analysis and insights
  • Key performance indicators and growth metrics
  • New go to market strategy and promotional framework
  • Timeline of tasks to be completed & people responsible
  • Budget allocation for each digital strategy you plan to pursue

In short, a strategic marketing plan is your step-by-step roadmap detailing what marketing tactics you’ll use when you’ll do so, what results you’d want to achieve and how you’ll track your successes.

Ok, but how is a marketing plan different from a marketing strategy?

In a few ways. A marketing strategy answers the why behind all your actions. It specifies

  • The marketing mix you plan to use (more on this in the next section!)
  • Your selection of the marketing techniques
  • Your target market and competition
  • Set goals and success metrics

A marketing plan gets further into the gist of these things and outlines the exact actions you’ll be taking to meet the set goals. It’s a tactical document that supports your strategy and documents the full scope of actions you plan to take.

Why Do You Need a Documented Marketing Plan and Strategy

Taking the time to create even a one-page marketing plan rather than flying by the seat of your pants can increase the success of your marketing by 2X-3X.

Here’s proof. According to the latest Content Marketing Institute survey, 69% of B2B marketers seeing the most success have documented content marketing strategies versus 16% of businesses that are least successful with their marketing.

69% of B2B marketers seeing the most success have documented content marketing strategies versus 16% of businesses that are least successful with their marketing.

Helpful template: Content marketing plan

A survey from Coschedule came to the same conclusions:

  • Marketers who set goals are 376% more likely to report success. 70% of the highly organized marketers meet their goals most of the time.
  • Top marketers with a documented online marketing plan and strategy are 313% more likely to report success across their activities.
  • Marketers who proactively plan their campaigns are 356% more likely to succeed with their stated goals.

So the general conclusion is that creating a marketing plan can boost your chances of success and minimize the risks of failure. At the same time, a plan helps you stay organized and focused on your selected goals and KPIs, rather than spreading your budgets too thin over various types of marketing (without verifying that they actually work).

Helpful template: Digital Marketing Channels Showcase PowerPoint template.

How to Create a Marketing Plan That Primes You For Success

Crafting an entire plan may seem like an overwhelming task. Start with a simple marketing plan outline and then work into expanding it into a reusable marketing plan template that you can fine-tune for different projects and goals.

Here are the key elements every marketing plan should include:

  • Quantitative marketing goals (taken from your strategy)
  • Definition of a target market with customer pain points
  • Current marketing activities for your product mix
  • New digital marketing strategy initiatives you want to test out
  • A timeline for new tasks along with budget needs
  • KPIs to track and report on

Keeping the above in mind, let’s move on to the writing part!

1: Set SMART Marketing Goals

Your plan should be based on SMART Marketing Goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Bound). Doing so will help you gain clarity and prioritize different tasks within your plan.

Example of SMART goal: Onboard 10,000 trial users in the UK market and attain a 5% conversion rate to paid users within 5 months.

Then you’ll have to break down your SMART goals further by time, metric, and preferred marketing mix. Let’s make a quick marketing plan example for the goal above.

Time frames

You have a 5-month timeline to meet the user acquisition goal and level up your conversions. To meet it, you need to acquire at least 2,000 new trial users per month or 500 per week.

Metrics

In the example above the SaaS company wants not just to acquire users, but also maintain steady conversion rates of at least 5%. So average conversion rate per marketing channel could be the One Metric That Matters for them a.k.a. the key prerogative, they should try to boost to meet the state goal. For more info on One Metric That Matters concept, we recommend reading the book Lean Analytics: Use Data to Build a Better Startup Faster by Alistair Croll.

Depending on your goals and operational model, you may choose to focus on other marketing metrics such as:

  • Cost Per Lead Acquisitions
  • Customer Lifetime Value
  • Lead-to-Customer Ratio
  • Traffic-to-Lead Ratio
  • Product/landing page conversion rates
  • Social media conversion rates
  • PPC conversion rates
  • Organic traffic volume

Marketing Mix

A marketing mix is your toolchain that you use to pursue your objectives in the target markets. The original foundation model 4 p’s of marketing is centered around the product, price, place, and promotion.

  • Product: You gotta know what you are selling. Formalize what problem your product solves, who is most likely to benefit from it, and what makes it unique.
  • Place: This is where your target market is most likely to come in contact with your brand, and purchase your product.
  • Price: Your price point drives profitability, your target market, the methods, and platforms you will use to reach your audience. The price will also be a significant determinant of how much budget is worth spending on marketing efforts. Finally, the price creates competition.
  • Promotion: This includes all the ways and channels you’ll leverage to promote your product to your target audience.

You can mix and match the 4 ps of marketing to create an array of different strategies for nailing your goals. For instance, in your social media marketing plan you can:

  • Choose TikTok as your main Platform.
  • Showcase how others are using your Product.
  • Offer a special Price discount to people who create TikToks with your products
  • Run paid influencer marketing campaigns to Promote it to new audiences

Also, you can go a step further and experiment with the newer marketing mix concept the 6’s p’s of marketing that also adds People and Processes to the equation.

This mix works particularly well for product-led companies as it places a greater emphasis on how your audience interacts with your product.

  • People: Use your audience’s needs, woes, and feedback to refine your product. Leverage the voice of customer data to make improvements to your marketing.
  • Processes: Strategize how you can add predictability into your marketing and adopt lean processes that drive results over and over again.

Helpful template: Marketing Mix 6 P’s PowerPoint Template

2. Analyze Your Target Market and Refine User Personas

You already know that personalizing your marketing efforts increases engagement and conversions. The challenge is that this audience can change over time. That’s why you should continuously research your target market and refine buyer/user personas.

Helpful template: Buyer persona PowerPoint Template

Here’s how it’s done:

  • Capture demographic details of your current customers and new target groups
  • Jot down their main challenges/pain points
  • Specify the channels for reaching them
  • Determine who/what influences their purchasing decisions the most
  • Determine how your competitors are communicating with the same audiences.
  • Link your products and services to customer goals.

You can get more tips from our dedicated guide to buyer personas.

3: Determine What’s Working and What’s Not

Zoom in on your current marketing actions. Take an objective look at the various tactics you use, and identify the ones that work best. In particular, you should prioritize each type of marketing channel by the following metrics:

  • Customer acquisition costs (CAC): Which channel brings the most affordable and relevant leads/users?
  • Conversion rate: Which channel generates the best conversions?
  • LTV (Lifetime Value): Which activities help acquire the most loyal customers?
  • Scalability: Is this channel scalable or are we soon to hit the plateau?
  • Time-to-results: How long does it take to get the results? E.g. paid advertising campaigns can offer instant results (short-term), but they also require constant investment. While SEO will need time to take off (long-term), but can result in evergreen traffic and leads later down the road.

Prioritize your marketing campaigns based on data, not assumptions.

4: Allocate Budget for Each Channel/Activity

Once you have lined up the main contenders, you’ll need to figure out how much money you should spend on every campaign. To get your figures, do the following:

  • Identify the amount of money you have to allocate overall.
  • List the platforms that are the best choice for your marketing (based on the tips in the previous point).
  • Estimate the costs of marketing on each platform and the expected ROI.
  • Use campaigns that are currently successful as a model for expenditures and expected profits.
  • Split the total budget allocation according to each platform.

Then carefully monitor the results to determine what’s working and what’s not to make further budget reallocations.

5. Track and Report Results

To ensure that your marketing campaigns actually contribute to the ultimate goals you’ve got to track the KPIs you’ve selected, analyze the results, and present them to your team for further strategic tweaking.

Granted, you have plenty of analytics and marketing automation tools at your disposal to track campaigns across various channels:

Also, with some data science expertise on-board, you can create custom marketing attribution models (using data from your analytics tools) that would give you even more insights into how each marketing channel contributes to conversions at different stages of the customer journey.

Wrap Up

…And that how to write a marketing plan for your company. Remember, you don’t need to write a massive 20-page guidebook in one sitting. Start small and fully document one of the channels/strategies that you are using. Add new ones as you run your marketing experiments. This way you’ll develop a better understanding of what works, and what doesn’t. Then, you will be able to identify whether adjustments need to be made to your campaign efforts, or your overall plan!

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