How to Write a Meaningful Marketing Plan: Starting with These 8 Tips

Not sure how to write a marketing plan that’s practical and actually useful to your team? Here are 8 practical tips for doing just that.

Masooma Memon Masooma Memon on April 21, 2021 (last modified on April 20, 2021) • 14 minute read

Writing a marketing plan can feel overwhelming.

There’s simply lots of ground to cover – from who your target audience is to how you plan to reach and convert them. You’ve also got to look at your competitors, marketing position, and the KPIs to track.  

Most of all, you’ve to ensure the plan is practical. So, once it’s in the execution phase, you don’t hit roadblock after roadblock. Because avoid those roadblocks is what makes a marketing plan meaningful, among other things.

But, how do you write a marketing plan that’s ready to hit the ground running?

In this post, we answer this for you with tips from experts who’ve been there and learned just that – complete with a full explanation of what a marketing plan is.

Here’s a quick overview:

Let’s dive in.

What is a Marketing Plan?

A marketing plan is an action plan that outlines how you’ll reach your target audience and generate leads. It covers marketing strategies various marketing teams in your company will adopt over a course of time to reach your business goals.

Briefly, a marketing plan contains an overview of:

  • Your marketing goals
  • Current marketing position
  • Description of your target audience
  • Metrics you’ll be tracking, and
  • The timeline you’ll be following to achieve your goals

Question now is: why do you need a marketing plan? It’s “important because it forces you to focus on what you will and won’t be doing,” Paige Arnof-Fenn from Mavens & Moguls explains. “Deciding who you are and who you are not, what space you want to own in your customer’s brain.”

Arnof-Fenn advises you “use the plan as a stake in the ground to set the parameters to help you make better decisions about who you are and who you want to be. It should help you decide if something is on or off strategy so you can stay focused and not get distracted as you grow.”

Related: Marketing Reporting: The KPIs, Reports, & Dashboard Templates You Need to Get Started

Types of Marketing Plans

There are several types of marketing plans and the ones that you’ll create will depend on your business model and the marketing channels you decide to explore.

Here’s an overview of different marketing plans:

  • Customer acquisition plan that specifies how you’ll get new customers — the channels you’ll use and the strategies you’ll employ.
  • Customer retention plan. Since getting customers is never enough and retention is essential to keep them, this plan highlights what tactics you’d take to retain customers or convert them into repeat customers (depending on your business type)
  • Content marketing plan that lays out how you’ll leverage content for brand awareness and converting leads.
  • Email marketing plan which involves using emails to nurture leads into becoming paying customers and beyond.
  • Advertising plan or a plan on how you’d use available resources to execute effective PPC campaigns and social media ads.
  • Social media marketing plan. This one outlines using social networks (strictly channels where your audience is active) for brand awareness, social selling, and other goals that you may have.
  • Conversion optimization plan or the steps you’ll take to optimize conversions on your site. For example, by studying your web pages and identifying where visitors are dropping off. For this, you’ll also have to track essential metrics such as your blog’s visit-to-conversion rate.

Marketing reporting can also help you identify how well you’re accomplishing your KPIs. The majority of our experts, for example, told us they were able to improve their primary metric by 6-25% over the last 12 months.

Editor’s note: Get a holistic view of your marketing plan on one screen with this free HubSpot Marketing dashboard template. It shows your funnel conversion rates, daily traffic, email clicks and opens, traffic amounts and sources – all in one place.

HubSpot Marketing dashboard template

Marketing Plan vs. Marketing Strategy: What is the Difference?

A marketing plan is a broad overview of how you plan to achieve your business goals. On the flip side, a marketing strategy is a detailed route to the steps you’ll take to accomplish your marketing plan.

Think of a marketing plan as a map to your goals and a marketing strategy as the best steps to reach your destination.

In this context, a marketing plan includes an executive summary, situational analysis, target market, KPIs and the 4 Ps of marketing (product, price, place, and promotion). A marketing strategy, on the other hand, starts with an executive strategy and covers competitive and market analysis, target audience, messaging, offering, and a plan to sell.

How to Write a Marketing Plan: 8 Tips

Ready to learn how to write a marketing plan? Here are the tips you should keep in mind:

  1. Start with a mission statement and vision
  2. Know your business goals
  3. Make sure your plan focuses on your audience
  4. Write a SMART plan
  5. Analyze what your competitors are doing
  6. Get buy-in from stakeholders
  7. Built in flexibility
  8. Keep iterating your marketing plan

1. Start with a mission statement and vision

Not having a marketing plan is better than having a plan that doesn’t uphold your business vales, mission, and vision. Why? Because executing such a marketing plan would deliver nothing in terms of what you stand for – positioning your business as one without a mission and vision.

Therefore, start with either revisiting your mission statement and vision or, if needed, fine-tune the two essentials. Don’t have them ready? Work on them before you work on your marketing plan.

To refresh, “a mission statement encompasses who you are, what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it,” notes Kylie Moore of The Loop Marketing. A vision, on the other hand, is an idea of where you want your business to be in a specified time. This mental aspiration is captured best in a vision statement so you can share it with others.

“Having a clear view of these things will allow you to create a strong foundation for your marketing plan and help you focus on creating activities that support this vision and your objectives.

2. Know your business goals

This is crucial so that your marketing plan serves as a means to hit these goals. Or, as Mindsailings’ Jasmine Hippe puts it, “Establishing your goal upfront allows you to align everything in your marketing plan under one outcome.”

It’s why Jonathan Aufray from Growth Hackers suggests, “to write a meaningful marketing plan, you want to know what are your company’s goals.”

Aufray shares questions to ask yourself to clearly figure out your goals. “Do you want to improve your brand awareness? Do you want to get more website traffic? Do you want to get more app downloads? Do you want more leads? Do you want more users? Do you want to raise money? Do you want to increase your revenue? Do you want to lower your costs?”

As soon as you’re clear on your business goals, you’re all set to write your marketing plan. “In other words, you can craft a marketing strategy which will help your business attain its goals,” adds Aufray.

Editor’s note: Having a hard time tracking your business goals? With Databox, you can visualize your business goals against current performance so you can easily spot trends and make adjustments when they matter most.

3. Make sure your plan focuses on your audience

“Too many companies jump into marketing plan creation with direction based solely on intuition and who they think their target audience is and what they think they want,” observes Anthony Gaenzle from Anthony Gaenzle Marketing.

“This is often done with little to no real research or understanding of the audience, and thus any tactics and plans that might be laid out will often fall short.”

In reality, an actionable marketing plan is one that is based on your audience, not assumptions.

In certain cases, you might even be clear on who your intended audience is. However, “when we’re mapping out multichannel strategies, it’s easy to lose sight and become hyper-focused on the perfect messaging for LinkedIn, or to tailor the perfect SEO strategy, but it’s easy to forget that the messaging we’re creating is for people using those platforms,” observes Wyatt International’s Coral Luck.

Thus, an essential aspect of how to write a marketing plan is to dive into your buyer’s persona before you put pen to paper. “Understand who your audience is and why they would benefit from your product,” Gaenzle advises. “Simply guessing is not enough.”

And, if you find yourself going off track, “you need to keep going back to the audience in question rather than obsess over tailoring a perfect online strategy that ticks all the boxes for search engines and social media platforms,” Luck suggests.

Don’t have an in-depth understanding of your target audience? Nothing to worry about. Put on your researcher’s hat and get to work. “Do your research through surveys, focus groups and digging around online,” recommends Gaenzle.

“This will help you really understand the challenges your audience is facing and then you can determine how your product or service might truly aid end users in facing those challenges.

This can help you craft better marketing messages that connect. It can also help you determine the best channels to target your audience on or craft your website content to appear higher up in search because it’s optimized for what your audience is really searching for online.”

If you’re still not convinced you need a clear picture of your target audience, keep in mind what Gaenzle highlights: “If you don’t take the time to do your research into your target audience, as well as the competition, the market itself, and even your company’s own strengths and weaknesses, your plan will just be a guess. And a guess is not enough.”

Related: 12 Best Tools Marketers Use for Market Research

Put simply, your entire marketing plan should focus on your audience – where they hang out, how they consume marketing content, their pain points and so on.

Remember “everything you do should focus on the user,” Luck reiterates. “With every platform or tactic, stop and think ‘what does the customer want from this platform?’ In doing so, you’ll be creating a strategy for people rather than platforms. Every marketing activity should be human centric.”

4. Write a SMART plan

Now that we’ve shared the basics you need to know on how to write a marketing plan, let’s show how to exactly plan it to make it actionable. To do so, our experts recommend you write a SMART plan.

Here’s an example of how to set SMART goals. Let’s suppose you want to increase your website traffic. OuterBox’s Justin Smith recommends asking yourself “by how much and in what timeframe?” do you want to increase your website traffic.

“Unless you specify tangible and measurable goals, you’ll never truly understand if your marketing efforts are having a positive impact,” Smith outlines.

Hence, the correct way to “phrase the [example] goal above would be something like this: ‘We plan to increase organic website traffic by 10% in Q1.’ Having concrete goals like this built into your marketing plan are critical for long-term success,” Smith adds.

Related: 16 Ways for Creating a Marketing Budget (and How to Spend It)

5. Analyze what your competitors are doing

It’s also essential you take into account what your competitors are doing. But, remember, the goal is never to copy them. It’s to keep an eye on what they are doing, how it’s working out for them, and if you want to replicate, how can you do it better or different.

“Look for information about competitors’ performance, the public they are serving, how they communicate with the persona, how they advertise the products, and their results,” GSD Lovers’ Rameez Usmani writes.

Somethings to look out for includes:

“1. Anticipate market trends and movements of competitors
2. Identify your position and market share
3. Identify positioning opportunities and competitive advantage.”

Now if you’re wondering how to get your hands on all this data, know that competitor research tools can help. Usmani shares some prominent names to try: “Google Alerts, SEMrush, and SimilarWeb.”

Editor’s note: Want to find out which competitors have a bigger presence on important keywords? Use this free AccuRanker: Competitors Overview Dashboard template that focuses on “Share of Voice” or explains how you compete with competitors over popular keywords.

6. Get buy-in from stakeholders

For a practical marketing plan that doesn’t meet resistance from stakeholders every step of the way, it’s essential you align all decision-makers involved. “A marketing plan cannot be created in a silo,” Optessa’s John Buglino notes.

So start with gathering “inputs from others in your organization… Speak with and align with members of your leadership team to determine what success looks like and their expectations of the marketing efforts.”

Despite the significance of getting everyone on the same page, Casey Crane from shares, “the mistake I think that a lot of marketing pros make is creating their marketing plans in silos. What I mean by that is they try to develop these plans on their own, without the input or feedback of key stakeholders within their teams and their larger organizations.”

The result? “A theoretical marketing plan that looks great on paper but doesn’t do much in terms of applicability”

The way to a practical marketing plan then is simple: “Eliciting feedback from these individuals to bring greater context and applicability to your marketing plan. What sounds like a good approach on paper may not be realistic in application; having contributions from people in different roles within your company can provide that necessary context,” Crane explains.

7. Built-in flexibility

It’s also essential you write a marketing plan with some built in flexibility. “Don’t etch it in stone,” BrandExtract’s Chris Wilks recommends.

The reason? “Marketing is an ever-evolving practice so if you’re planning 12 months in advance, chances are things are going to look different by then. So build in some flexibility and revisit it every 6 months or every quarter.”

In fact, you’d be surprised to learn that only 5.5% of our respondents follow through such an inflexible marketing plan. 20% follow their plan loosely with the majority agreeing they follow it “almost completely.”

How strictly do you follow your marketing plan?

You can also create a 3-month or quarterly plan as the duration is “long enough that there’s time to do big things, and short enough that it inspires to action with tangible deadlines,” shares Katheriin Liibert from Outfunnel.

Besides, you never know when you’d need to tweak or pivot your marketing plan altogether (hint: the 2020 pandemic taught us a lot on this, hasn’t it?)

8. Keep iterating your marketing plan

Lastly, it’s important to keep in mind that your marketing plan is never done and dusted. You can always revisit it to make changes or tweak as needed.

Devin Johnson from Kennected comments, “Proper research and measurable goals are integral to any good marketing plan, but the most crucial part of writing a marketing plan is that it’s never done – you need to keep writing it indefinitely.”

On top of that, you need to analyze your plan too – how it’s working, what’s not working, and so on. Johnson agrees, “a solid marketing plan needs analyzed and updated often to keep up and adapt to new industry trends and brand growth.”

Therefore, “don’t be afraid to change goals as certain practices become outmoded, and set ever higher standards for your business.”

Here’s hoping this answers how to write a marketing plan for you. To recap, begin with a clear understanding of your business goals, vision, and mission.

Dive into your audience’s profile including their preferences such as only channels they spend time on. Use this information to guide your marketing plan so that it’s user-focused instead of assumptions-centered.

Don’t forget to align all stakeholders beforehand so you can write a practical marketing plan.

About the author
Masooma Memon
Masooma Memon Masooma is a freelance writer for SaaS and a lover to-do lists. When she's not writing, she usually has her head buried in a business book or fantasy novel.

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