The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Marketing Plan

The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Marketing Plan

Have you ever wondered what it takes to have second to none marketing campaigns? The answer will vary from one person to another: some will claim that it’s all about the team while others would mention following marketing trends as the key to success. And to be honest, everyone is correct in their own way, but one thing remains unchanged: however great your team is, nothing will work out without a clear marketing plan. 

A marketing plan holds everything together because by default they are roadmaps that the marketing team will use to succeed. A marketing plan is extremely important because without it it will be impossibly difficult to have any serious revenues. 

Here some will cite numerous companies that earned a lot of money without a clear marketing plan. Yes, it might be true but what is truer is that almost none of the aforementioned businesses had sustained their success because they didn’t have a clear marketing plan. 

So, the marketing plan has to be at the heart of your business – that we’ve established. To help you come up with a great one, we’ll cover the following: 

  • What is a Marketing Plan?
  • Marketing Plan Outline 
  • Marketing Plan Design

 

So, let’s get started.

 

What is a Marketing Plan?

As we’ve said a while ago, no business will succeed unless they have a clearly written marketing plan. It all sounds good, doesn’t it? Yes, but what is a marketing plan? Or in other words, what constitutes a marketing plan?

marketing strategy

There are too many definitions given to the concept of a marketing plan but the one we like the best is this: 

A marketing plan is a document that outlines your business’s marketing strategy for some period of time, usually a year, half a year, a quarter, or a month. It’s not unusual to have various marketing strategies for different departments or teams. However, all parts of the business will work towards one common goal. 

Answering the question “what is a marketing plan?” is important – if you look at the definition closely, you’ll notice that the marketing plan outlines a marketing strategy for the business. It’s key to keep this in mind. However, it’s more important to understand what exactly to include in your marketing strategy.

 

Marketing Plan Outline

You know it’s vital to come up with a strong marketing plan and importantly, you know the definition of a marketing plan. Now it’s time to look into some of the things that are must-have in your very own marketing plan.

 

 Start With a Clear Executive Summary

In order to grab your readers’ attention, you need to kick off your marketing plan with a clear executive summary. But you might be wondering what this is. 

First off, executive summaries are pretty short – they are about two to four paragraphs long. Their aim is to introduce the reader to your company, its goals, and its mission. Your executive summary must be written so well that even someone totally unfamiliar with your business gets the gist of what your enterprise is about.

executive summary definition

Some people say that the executive summary is an outline of your marketing plan, which isn’t totally untrue as it includes some or most of the following: 

  • What your company has achieved so far
  • Your company’s goals for the future 
  • And many more

It’s important to note that the executive summary has to be short and to the point so as to grab your readers’ attention. However, it’s a common mistake to bore your reader with various metrics at this point, so please avoid doing this at any cost. 

Last but not least, don’t forget to include a clear, laconic marketing mission statement in your executive summary.

KPIs

If you don’t know where to start, use executive summary templates or learn the best practices of writing executive summaries.

A marketing mission statement is not as general as a company mission statement, but it’s important not to make it too specific either.

 

 Define Your KPIs Based on the Mission Statement

Once you’ve outlined your big marketing mission, you need to come up with ways to track and measure progress on the way to achieving your vision. This is when KPIs kick in. 

KPI is short for key performance indicators, and in a nutshell, it’s a specific goal that when accomplished, moves us one step closer to achieving our big marketing mission. But what is a good KPI and what is a bad one? 

Let’s look at these two. Try to guess which of these two is a bad one and which one is a good one. Don’t forget to think about why.

KPI examples

Now let’s see if you were right. 

KPI # 1 is a clear winner. Why is that? Simple – the first one is an example of a SMART goal while number two is not. The SMART principle state that all your goals ought to be:

setting smart goals

KPI # 1 meets these 5 requirements:

  • It’s specific because it clearly states how much (4 percent) and when (by the end of 2021). 
  • It’s measurable because we’ll know whether the goal is accomplished or not. 
  • It’s assignable because we know who is in charge of reaching this goal (the marketing team).
  • It seems realistic because the goal isn’t overly ambitious (it doesn’t say that the revenues need to increase by 400% in 2 weeks).
  • It’s time-bound because we know when the goal will need to be accomplished (by the end of 2021). 

 

And of course, KPI # 2 doesn’t meet any of the SMART requirements.

 

 Write Down Your User Personas

The next section you must include in your marketing plan is of course the description of your users/customers ( buyer persona).

defining target users

These are the various types of users you have. A lot of businesses fall prey to user personas because they simply disregard the latter. They don’t put enough effort into understanding who their users are. However, this has to be part of your marketing plan so that every employee in your department knows exactly what type of users they are trying to gain. 

User personas are your buyers grouped, usually based on some metrics such as age, income, gender, sexual orientation, race, etc. 

Let’s look at a hypothetical example to illustrate the importance of user personas. 

Imagine you are a digital marketer, specialized in Instagram ads. You are tasked with promoting a luxurious watch and you have zero ideas about your user personas. 

So, naturally, you might spend tons of dollars placing ads indiscriminately, while if you had known that your buyer persona is males aged 40+, you would have targeted this segment and saved loads of money.

 

 Give a Detailed Overview of Your Competitors

At every stage of your product development, you need to conduct very thorough competitor research. Competitor research is key because it makes you realize what your closest rivals are doing and hence what you can do to perfect your product.

competitor research

It’s not unheard of to hear someone say that their product has no competitors. Most of the time, those who make this bold claim fail to understand the various types of competitors, namely the direct and indirect competitors. 

Direct competitors are easy – these are those that offer a product identical, or almost identical, to yours and are in the same market as you. For instance, Netflix and Amazon Prime are direct competitors. They offer almost identical products – original films and TV series – and compete both domestically (US) and globally. So, it’s hard to miss a direct competitor.

Things, however, become much trickier when indirect competitors are concerned. These ones are easy to miss out on because indirect competitors are those that sell a product that’s quite different from yours, but that is seen as a close or maybe not so close substitute for what you offer. 

A good example is coffee versus tea. The products are different, but it’s not uncommon for people to switch between these two drinks.

two types of competition

So, once again, if you think your product has no competitors, think again – you are probably missing a lot of indirect competition that’s happening around you. 

But we deviated a little bit. Let’s get back to the marketing plan. We said that a proper marketing plan includes a detailed overview of your competitors and we’ve said the latter could be both direct and indirect.

Why is this important? Simple: imagine a new employee has joined your team. She/he has little or no idea about your company’s product. They want to pick up your marketing plan and see the competitors so that they can learn from them.

 

 Write Down Your Budget

At the beginning of this article, we’ve said that marketing costs are significant for a lot of businesses. Since this is the case, clear budgeting has to be done. 

Budgeting is defined as the analysis of the business’s estimated cash inflows (money that comes into the business) from revenues and cash outflows (the money that leaves the business) from expenditures.

managing marketing budget

There are two primary ways of budgeting. 

The first one is the most common as well as a reliable one. It’s done through data extrapolation, which uses historical data to make conclusions about the future. In a nutshell, this is when you use your old revenue and expenditure figures and try to predict your future revenues and expenditure. 

As we’ve said, this is the most common way of budgeting as it uses a lot of historical, hence reliable data. 

The other way of budgeting is doing it from scratch. This is when you neglect your historical data in favor of estimating your budget based on your preconceptions and intuition. This is pretty dangerous and should be done only if you have no historical data whatsoever (maybe you’ve just started your business). 

Whichever way you choose, your marketing plan will need to include a clear section about budgeting.

 

 Define Your Promotional Plan

Finally, no marketing plan can be full without a clearly fleshed-out promotional strategy. The bottom line is: you want to sell your product. And you can’t do it without an effective promotional plan. But before we delve into this any further, we need to define the concept of a promotional plan.

promotional plan definition

A promotional plan is a roadmap of how all the different promotions such as email marketing, content marketing, affiliate programs, PR, etc. will be exploited to sell the product.

Then, based on this bit of your grand marketing plan, you’ll be able to assign roles to people or request the top management to hire new people. For instance, you might decide to start an aggressive email campaign but might have no email marketing specialist. You can start looking for one right away because the need for the aforementioned specialist is there.

 

Marketing Plan Design

Now you know not only what a marketing plan is but also what a marketing plan includes. It’s time to look at some of the best practices when it comes to marketing plan design.

 

  • Consider Using Infographics

An infographic is a visual representation of some information, verbal or numerical. It’s a beloved way of conveying important info to many markets, and that’s the reason why you should consider it as part of your marketing plan design. 

It’s universally acknowledged that people digest visual information better than long texts and statistical data. That’s the reason why a clear, beautifully designed infographic is certain to make the reader process the info better.

A marketing plan is well suited to contain infographics as a marketing plan includes a lot of numbers, usually in the form of KPIs and other metrics. 

There are various online graphic maker tools, some of them free, some paid that allow you to create great infographics. Interestingly, some went as far as to include some videos in their marketing plans. You don’t have to do this, but if you fancy the idea, why not give it a try?

 

create a marketing plan online

 

  • Highlight the Most Important Data

What if you don’t want to go ahead and create an infographic in your marketing plan? Well, that’s OK as long as you highlight the data that’s key.

Yes, it sounds a lot like infographics, but the bottom line is this: if you have no visuals in your marketing plan, it’s going to look boring. Even worse, a lot of key information might not be properly communicated. 

So, simply go ahead and make your KPIs and other important data stand out, making it an integral part of your marketing design plan. Here is an example of what you can do. 

It looks pretty easy, right? Well, it is easy – in fact, you can use some of the most basic tools, such as Excel, to get these beautiful visuals to highlight your numbers.

 

  • Design Your Marketing Plan Pages

If you want your plan to look stunning, you might want to create cool pages as part of your overall marketing plan design. 

Just make sure to follow a few rules when designing your pages:

  1. Don’t overdo it with colors – Remember the unity-contrast principle. Your design needs to have two dominant colors that give the impression of unity. But to have some contrast, you need to break these colors with one different one. 
  2. Include at least 3 colors – It’s the same unity-contrast principle – you need to have at least two colors and one contrasting one. 
  3. Keep it professional – Remember that your marketing plan is read by almost everyone at your company – from a Junior all the way to the CEO, so making sure it doesn’t look childish or unprofessional is very important. 
  4. Choose your fonts wisely – It’s about two things: readability and professionalism. First of all, the fonts have to be easily readable to make the whole process as comfy as possible. Second of all, you shouldn’t pick any extravagant fonts as they will look extremely unprofessional.

 

Summing it Up

So, we’ve looked at the definition of a marketing plan, then dissected a common marketing plan outline, or in other words, we discussed what a marketing plan includes, and finally, we discussed some of the most important marketing plan design principles. 

Now, do you feel more confident to start writing up your own marketing plan? We hope you do!

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