Once upon a time, if you made a great product or offered a fantastic service, word would spread and your business would boom. Perhaps you’d even tip the scale with a nice big ad in the Yellow Pages or on TV. (Okay, Boomer.)
Not so today. With digital access to a world of offerings, there’s endless business competition.
Additionally, the ways to reach your target market have changed and grown exponentially.
The aforementioned free yellow phone book of local small-business offerings that arrived in the mail each year? It’s a vintage doorstop at best. Today, it’s all about the ever-evolving integrated marketing plan. And like most of us, marketing has gone primarily digital.
So, what might a smart, integrated marketing plan for today include? Think digital content marketing efforts, such as email marketing, social media marketing, content partnerships, paid backlinks, SEO optimization, Google ads, and more.
Yes, today’s marketing plans and marketing campaigns are hardly as simple as placing an ad in the Yellow Pages and waiting for new customers.
But on the very bright side (and we’re talking sunglasses bright!), today your marketing strategy has the potential for far greater reach and revenue generation because there are boundless ways to connect with your target audience—if you know how.
Thankfully, the roadmap to marketing success is not complex. In fact, it’s quite simple, and it centers around crafting a smart marketing plan.
What is a marketing plan exactly? Read on to find out everything you need to know to successfully craft and begin executing one.
What Is a Marketing Plan?
A marketing plan is a roadmap that outlines your planned marketing and advertising activities.
Marketing plans also address marketing strategy (the reasoning and approaches that support your marketing plans), budget (it costs how much for a Kardashian Instagram takeover!?), and timing (when it’s all going down).
They can be structured as a plan for the coming year, quarter, month, or even a specific launch or initiative.
Following are a few types of commonly used digital marketing plans:
Social Media Marketing
This type of marketing plan highlights social media strategy. It includes online marketing campaigns on target channels like the top seven social media sites and beyond: Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Reddit, and TikTok (at least until it’s banned).
It also features content themes and marketing efforts to engage those audiences. Why is social media marketing first on our list? Because about 3.6 billion people are on social media worldwide. That’s 46% of the global population! Though time-consuming, it’s also easy to implement. So if you have the marketing team, you have the required muscle!
Got a robust email list? Then you have a captive customer base that’s already happy to hear from you. An email marketing plan highlights a calendar of email topics aimed at reaching your marketing goals. It also outlines any special offers and initiatives to further the engagement of your buyer persona (i.e., your core customer; more on this later).
Paid Marketing Strategies
Examples include paid social media programs, advertorial or native advertising, or pay-per-click promotions (PPCs) through ad networks like Google, Microsoft/Bing, Facebook, Instagram, etc. This type of marketing plan features a list of the advertising platforms of interest, type of content to market, and marketing budget.
Want to drive traffic to your site by creating and promoting sticky content? That’s content marketing! A content marketing strategy should feature a schedule of planned content (featuring keywords to help you rank first in search engines) and a content promotion plan.
A Marketing Mix of All of the Above
Are you launching a new product? Need to up your ranking in search engines? Want to promote seasonal offerings or a special event? Only you know the best combination of marketing efforts to achieve your goals, so you may want to create an integrated marketing plan using some or all of the ideas above.
And there’s more.
As we mentioned, digital marketing generally promises the greatest reach to target audiences for your marketing budget, especially for small businesses. Still, there are other marketing channels, including traditional advertising, that you might want to include in your plan, depending on your business and target customers. A few examples include trade shows, print advertising, direct mail, radio, billboards, newspaper ads, and point-of-purchase marketing.
What to Include In Your Marketing Plan
Regardless of your marketing strategy and activities, a good marketing plan also includes the following elements:
- An executive summary: As your marketing plan opener, this is a brief, high-level introduction to your company goals, successes, position against competitors, and expected successes after the execution of the marketing plan. Think of it as a teaser that sets the tone and gets people excited to learn what comes next. Make it two impactful paragraphs and move on.
- Measurable advertising, sales, or marketing goals: This is where the rubber hits the road. What’s the point of these marketing efforts? What can your company expect as a result? Spell it out by outlining specific goals.
- An analysis of your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (a SWOT analysis): Market research and competitive analysis help you understand the reality of your current position on the larger playing field, and how you can strategize to surpass the competition. A SWOT analysis in your marketing plan gives your business owners and your marketing team much-needed perspective, so make it comprehensive but not overwhelming. When writing your SWOT analysis, consider addressing the following questions:
- What’s the current situation with your marketing program?
- What have you been doing right?
- Where can you improve?
- Who are your competitors and where does your company stand in the competitive landscape?
- How much of the market share have you cornered?
- What existing situations can you and your marketing team use to your advantage to propel you ahead of the competition?
- Are there any internal or external threats that have the potential to derail your marketing activities?
- An outline of your target market and buyer persona: There are a lot of marketing descriptors for the target consumer (i.e., the person who wants what you’re selling, also known as the user persona or customer profile). But they all boil down to the same idea: to know where to market your business, you have to know who your core consumers are and how to reach them. See how to create your buyer persona here.
- Defined, actionable marketing initiatives: This is your roadmap showcasing how, where, and when you will complete specific marketing efforts. Make it an actual timeline that identifies the timeframes of campaigns or other initiatives and their associated top-level deliverables and deadlines.
- A marketing budget: Some marketing efforts cost nothing more than elbow grease (targeted blog posts or social media posts, for example). Others require a marketing budget (marketing materials, giveaways, videos, social media promotions, etc.). Listing all associated marketing expenses ensures everyone understands how much it will cost to turn your marketing plan into a reality that accomplishes your marketing goals, reaches your desired customer base, and delivers a solid return on investment.
- KPIs: These are quantifiable, measurable key performance metrics from which you will measure and track the results of your efforts. Tie them directly to your proposed marketing goals.
Now you know the what. But why go through the effort? Keep reading!
Why Is a Marketing Plan Important?
Operating a business without a clear marketing plan is kind of like going to the grocery store hungry. Rather than buying the things you need for health and vitality, you may end up seduced by tasty-looking opportunities and spending your budget on items that don’t lead to scalable marketing tactics, marketing strategies, or marketing goals.
Equally important, writing a marketing plan makes you think through, scrutinize, and refine your marketing strategy and marketing goals so that all of your actions are more intentional and effective.
Consequently, to make it in this very competitive business climate, having a smart marketing plan is as important as having a clear business plan and mission statement.
Now you know what a marketing plan is and why it’s important. But how do you create one? Let’s go!
How to Write a Marketing Plan
As evidenced by the marketing plan content requirements above, creating a comprehensive marketing plan is no easy task. Whether you’re part of a small business or a large corporation, there’s no escaping the heavy lifting that comes with outlining how and why your marketing objectives will bolster your business goals.
Start with a marketing plan outline, following the guidelines above. Then fill in the blanks with all the essential information. There’s no right or wrong length and level of detail to your plan. It entirely depends on what you’re proposing and how much you need to convey about your business and your planned marketing mix.
Now it’s time to make it pretty. (Don’t worry, this part’s easy!)
Design Your Marketing Plan Using a Free Template
You’ve done your homework and formulated your plan. Now it’s time to strut your marketing stuff—with a sleek, polished presentation showcasing your marketing brilliance.
Your marketing plan should be as dazzling and eye-catching as your strategies to engage new customers, heighten brand awareness, and move closer to marketing world domination!
But that doesn’t mean you need to excel at design or block out the next week to brush up on your PowerPoint skills.
Instead, use a free marketing plan template! Adobe Spark offers customizable templates that help ensure your plan is captivating, on-brand, and gorgeous. They even have a library of stock photos you can use, a “chart maker” to craft charts or graphs, and functionality that allows for sharing and ongoing editing. Bonus: You can find a marketing plan example, too.
Write Your Marketing Plan Now
There you have it! You now know the essentials for how to write a marketing plan and why every business needs one to succeed. Now all you need to do is sit down and create it. (Need tips for helping a remote marketing team work better together? Find ‘em here.)
Once you have one behind you, you’ll find it becomes easier each time—except, perhaps, if you’re trying to regularly secure the entire Kardashian clan for social media takeovers.