Writing a marketing plan
Updated: Jun 9, 2020
Marketing plans or action plans are not the same as your marketing strategy. While your marketing strategy outlines broad objectives and areas of focus, your marketing plan is where the rubber hits the road. What are we going to say, when, and in which channels?
To learn more about how a marketing strategy and plan work together download our strategy white paper.
A marketing plan may be for a set period, for instance, an annual marketing plan. It may be more specific, for example, a marketing plan for a product launch or campaign. Or, for purely customer-focused brands, a marketing plan may be in the context of a customer lifecycle.
Where possible, your plan should be focused on meeting a certain marketing objective within a certain period [e.g. to increase current client base by 100 over three months], and not try to achieve too many objectives.
At its core, your marketing plan is a list of executable tasks or creative deliverables. It captures all of the critical information for each of these and gives you a quick overview of all of the relevant marketing activities happening over a period of time.
One more note, a marketing plan will help you identify which channels you need to access, what creative you need to develop, and what to prioritise based on budget. Don't limit your marketing plan based on what channels and creative you currently own or have developed. Put it in the plan, and you can always remove it when you start looking at your marketing budget.
There is an endless number of ways to structure and present your marketing plan. The structure you'll end up using will likely be determined by the objective of the plan. For instance, it may make more sense to structure your plan in the context of your customer lifecycle. However, if your 'objective' relates to only one area of your customer lifecycle [e.g. increase brand awareness], it might make more sense to break your plan down by channels.
If you're using our marketing template, you'll see the following sections in context. If not, for each marketing deliverable or initiative, make sure your marketing plan captures and reflects each of the following.
What is the objective, aim or purpose of each executable task or creative deliverable?
Your marketing objective will most likely be overarching for the whole marketing plan. However, it may be different or vary slightly for each of the deliverables. For example, where your marketing plan is in the context of a customer lifecycle, each stage of the lifecycle will likely have a separate objective [e.g. acquire 20 new customers each month versus retaining 80% of existing customers each year].
Where does each of your executable tasks or creative deliverables fit in the customer lifecycle?
Where your plan is in the context of your customer lifecycle, this will be self-explanatory. It's a useful exercise to include it regardless, as thinking of your marketing plan deliverables in the context of where in the lifecycle this deliverable will be communicating with your customer, will help you sense check your channels and messaging.
Through which channel is this executable tasks or creative deliverable communicated?
Successful marketing plans utilise the following three marketing and promotion channel categories:
Owned "Customers" [business assets]:
Channels that are owned by the brand so generally the most cost-efficient.
Paid "Strangers" [advertising]:
Paid media that will allow you to gain exposure and drive awareness.
Earned "Fans" [sharing]:
Channels that maximise organic buzz, social engagement and public relations.
The cost and resources of marketing in each of these categories varies greatly and may not always be evident upfront. Owned and earned channels may seem like they're less expensive but can consume a lot of internal resources monitoring and engaging with customers.
To learn more about owned, paid and earned channels, download our marketing strategy white paper.
What will be the cost of the marketing assets needed, as well as the cost of disseminating or distributing them?
The costs and overall budget comprise both production and media costs. Production costs include any fees incurred creating and producing the deliverable – including, design, video, photography, printing. Media costs are incurred in the delivery of, or dissemination of the marketing materials - including advertising on TV or digital.
The exposure that a marketing initiative is likely to achieve.
The reach that a particular marketing initiative is likely to achieve is essential for several reasons.
Alongside the priority and budget, it helps justify or rationalise a specific action or deliverable.
It can be used to determine cut through and engagement within an audience. And,
More broadly, it can help to quantify levels of brand awareness.
You should have a strong handle on your reach for owned channels. Paid channel operators should also be able to provide you with ballpark figures on reach. Earned channels can be a whole lot harder, unfortunately.
It's essential to monitor, analyse and assess your marketing plan throughout the period of activity and trackback against the marketing objectives you have set out. If you are not meeting these objectives, you may need to re-evaluate them or invest more budget and rework your plan to meet your objectives.
If resources are limited, which deliverables and tasks are considered more important.
How important is this deliverable to the overall marketing plan? If budgets are limited, what gets cut first? When initially mapping out your plan, this along with the budget column will help you prioritise each task and determine what stays in the plan and what is cut.
When does this deliverable or task need to be completed?
When is this occurring over the period of the plan? It's helpful to know when action items need to happen so that you can do the necessary work leading up to this time point. But equally, seeing your timings on one page allows you to ensure your marketing efforts work together and aren't causing confusion.
As your organisation grows, you'll likely run more and more campaigns. Having these clash can result in a poor customer experience and outcome for your business.
Once you've developed a draft timeline, overlay your thinking against seasonality, key calendar events and any competitor activity. By identifying these themes, you can ensure you have appropriate responsive campaigns in place.
One last point
Don't forget internal communications and education. Every time you implement a marketing plan, there should be a communications and education component. It's vital that everyone in your business or involved in representing your brand or product [including, resellers, contractors], is across what campaigns, advertising and messaging is appearing in front of your customers. All stakeholders need to be communicating the same message to your customers, be able to answer customer questions, and overall help amplify your message.
To learn more about marketing strategy, download our strategy white paper.