How to Write a Marketing Plan
From ads on TV and YouTube, to billboards, to product placement, and so much more, we are surrounded by marketing. Marketing has rapidly developed over the past few decades to the point where it has now become one of the most important elements of doing business. With so much competition and so many different styles of marketing, it's not just enough to understand the benefits of your product or service, understanding the people you want to sell to and finding the right ways of reaching them is critical.
In this article, you will learn how to build a marketing plan including all the marketing plan steps, some bonus tips, a marketing plan outline, and an in-depth look into the various sections.
What is a marketing plan?
A marketing plan definition could be a well-researched and comprehensive document that analyzes the market, identifies opportunities, presents a marketing strategy, and outlines the execution for a product or service. A marketing plan is crucial, especially in today's world where specific objectives must be met. A good marketing plan does the following:
- Identifies the correct target market or target population
- Sets goals and measurable objectives for specific marketing strategies
- Improves market share by converting new customers and retaining current ones
- Clarifies your specific marketing strategies
- Presents a marketing budget
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How to create a marketing plan
Marketing plans can differ based on the industry, specific requirements of the products or services, a focus on traditional or digital marketing, duration of Implementation of the marketing plan, etc. But when creating a marketing plan, you can always follow this general marketing plan template.
Step 1. How to write an executive summary for a marketing plan
An executive summary is a brief paragraph at the beginning of your marketing plan that outlines the key elements of the plan overall. This includes your target market, the main goals of the marketing plan, as well as a quick description of the marketing strategy. While an executive summary is usually the first thing in a marketing plan, it is beneficial to write the executive summary after you have written the plan in full so that you can correctly identify the main elements of it.
Step 2. Carry out market research
Market research is essential to understand the opportunities that you want to take advantage of. There are a few types of market research; primary market research and secondary market research. Primary market research is things like focus groups, interviews, and surveys. Secondary market research is information gathered from sources like articles, journals, and other qualitative research that gives an insight into consumer behavior or the market itself. Qualitative research is more useful for understanding consumer behavior through things like interviews, whereas quantitative research uses data and numbers, things like response rates, social media engagement numbers, etc. Good market research is essential because it helps devise the right marketing strategy for a specific target audience.
Step 3. Define your market and customer profiles
Your market research should help you identify the specific type of market and customers you want to target. When defining your market think about the following things:
- What are the social factors that are pertinent to your marketing plan? This can include things like changing attitudes regarding the environment, social media trends to take advantage of, etc.
- What are the technological factors that are pertinent to your marketing plan? Are there advances in technology that you want to take advantage of?
- What are the economic factors that are pertinent to your marketing plan? Are there changes in interest rates, inflation, monetary supply, etc?
- What are the environmental factors that are pertinent to your marketing plan? How are changes in consumer expectations about the environment and policy changes within the government important?
- What are the political factors that are pertinent to your marketing plan? This can include things like subsidies, new government regulations, etc.
- What are the legal factors that are pertinent to your marketing plan? This can include things like changes in employment laws, unions, and subsidies.
- What are the ethical factors that are pertinent to your marketing plan? This can include things like changing ethical standards and corporate social responsibility.
When thinking about how to make a marketing plan, defining your target audience is vital. So think about the following things about the audience:
- What ages are you targeting?
- How much disposable income do they have?
- What is their level of education?
- What is their marital status?
- What are their interests and hobbies?
- How much money do they spend doing a specific activity?
Step 4. Conduct a SWOT analysis
A SWOT analysis looks at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in the industry. A SWOT analysis can help you understand what your unique advantages are as well as identify potential dangers so that you can devise strategies to overcome them making it one of the best marketing plan ideas to incorporate.
Strengths refer to the unique advantages that your product or service offers. This can be due to a variety of reasons like access to certain materials, advanced manufacturing capabilities, or emphasis on human resources and training, etc. By identifying your USP (unique selling proposition) you can understand what to focus on in your marketing strategy.
Weaknesses refer to the inherent disadvantages of your product, service, or company. Nothing is perfect, and being honest about your weaknesses allows you to devise strategies to minimize or overcome them. Tip - Trying to see things from the perspective of competitors or customers is helpful in identifying weaknesses.
In a marketing plan, opportunities are the possibilities that you want to take advantage of. This is based on market research and identifying new potential markets and audiences. Changes in regulations, market expectations, consumer behavior, etc. can all present opportunities that your product or service is uniquely positioned to take advantage of.
Identifying threats is important because it allows you to plan how to tackle them. The same things that can be opportunities can also be threats like changes in laws and regulations, improving technological standards, changes in the supply chain, etc. If you are better prepared to handle potential threats than your competitors then you have an excellent strategic marketing plan.
Step 5. Study the competition
Understanding what the competition is doing, what works well for them, and what doesn't work is a key part of market planning. After all, these competitors have similar products or services and face similar challenges to you. Here are some of the things you should look into when you study the competition:
- How is their product or service different from yours?
- Do they target a slightly different consumer profile?
- How do they position themselves in the market?
- What are the sales strategies that work for them?
- What are the marketing strategies that work for them?
Step 6. Set your goals and objectives
A marketing plan has to clearly set goals and objectives otherwise there is no concrete way of tracking whether the plan is effective and needs to adapt or not. A commonly used framework for setting goals and objectives is SMART, which stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound goals.
Specific means having a concrete goal such as improving sales by 10%
Measurable means that there has to be some way of tracking the effectiveness of the marketing strategy
Achievable means that a goal should be able to be realized with the resources at hand
Realistic means that a goal should not be so high that it demotivates people
Time-bound means that there must be a time by which results can be expected
It is also useful to think about KPIs (key performance indicators) when thinking about how to write a marketing plan. These are measurable values that can be used to set goals and objectives. Some important KPIs are.
- Click-through rate
- Cost per lead
- Retention rates
- Sales revenue
- New customers
- Organic site traffic
- Number of press mentions
Step 7. Outline your marketing strategy plan
Based on all the research you have done, what are the strategies you think will impact the target audience in a way that will help you achieve your goals? When coming up with a marketing strategy you have to show an understanding of both the market, your product or service, as well as the target audience. Marketing strategies can be influenced by several factors, so think about as many of them as possible. For example, it may be true that young people interact more with social media, but there may be specific social media channels that are watched by stay-at-home mothers that are worth looking into. Keep in mind that every decision you make when coming up with a marketing strategy needs to be defended by your market research.
Step 8. Set your marketing budget
A marketing budget is a key part of the marketing plan. You will have to justify any expenses that you make by stating exactly how they will impact your target audience. Even a marketing strategy that relies heavily on free avenues like word of mouth and organic growth may have some hidden costs. A tight marketing budget may look good but It is essential to budget enough money for specific activities. A marketing budget may change and evolve over time based on how effective different strategies are, so don't be afraid to clearly state your requirements.
Step 9. Keep your marketing plan up-to-date
You can include a brief conclusion at the end of your marketing plan that states the key factors, but it isn't always necessary because it is essentially the same as the executive summary. One thing to keep in mind though is that a marketing plan is just a guide and not something that is set in stone. As you implement your plans you may discover new information that will require adaptation. It is also important to revisit your marketing plan regularly to both check that you are achieving targets as well as updating it based on new opportunities and threats.
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Tips for writing a marketing plan
If you follow the steps above you'll end up with a working marketing plan but here are some bonus tips on how to develop a marketing plan.
Set clear, realistic, and measurable targets
Clear targets leave no room for discussion, they are easily understood, and the path to achieving them is clear.
Realistic targets challenge a company and motivate people to work hard, easy targets aren’t good for competition, and over-ambitious targets can lead to demotivation.
Measurable targets are important because there needs to be a way to see the benefits of a marketing plan.
All of these together are useful in showing the progress of a marketing strategy as well as defending the cost of a strategy.
Include deadlines for meeting targets
Each and every target should have a specific deadline to keep people on track. This doesn't just refer to KPIs but for each activity beforehand as well. For example, set deadlines for things as specific as to when a new logo should be done, when budgets are due, and when social media content needs to be designed, received, uploaded.
Provide a budget for each marketing activity
It’s often the case that not every marketing activity in a marketing plan will receive the go-ahead from higher-ups in a company. By providing a budget for each specific marketing activity, you make it easier for them to pick and choose which marketing activities to pursue rather than them canceling the entire marketing plan.
Specify who is responsible for each activity
When thinking of how to create a marketing plan, make a specific person responsible for each activity. This makes it so that people are accountable for specific tasks and there is a lower chance of miscommunication in the future.
Make sure you think through each of your objectives logically
It may be nice to set objectives based on what you would like to achieve, but each objective needs to be logical as well as realistic. Think through each objective and pretend to defend it against somebody who is questioning the objective. This is essentially what will happen when you present a marketing plan to your company.
Whether you are looking for answers on how to write a digital marketing plan, how to write a marketing plan example, or how to write a strategic marketing plan, this article should have given you all the information you need to make a strategic market plan of any sort. As long as you remember the key components of a marketing plan and defend your conclusions with logic and research, you will be alright.
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