Developing a Marketing Plan
Once the marketing strategy has been established and documented, it’s time to move on to the marketing plan. The marketing plan is crucial when outlining the specific actions the marketing department will carry out to achieve the company’s goals.
Here’s everything you need to know about developing a marketing plan that will energize and inform your marketing department and kickstart your promotional activities.
What is a marketing plan?
A marketing plan is a document that outlines the activities the marketing team will undertake to reach the goals set out in the company’s marketing strategy. It is the roadmap to achieve those objectives, reach people, tell them about your products, and convert them into longtime customers. A marketing plan includes information about the types of marketing activities that will be planned and organized, and the methods the team will use to reach measurable targets over the course of a quarter or year.
A marketing plan typically includes information taken directly from the marketing strategy document, including marketing research, competitor analysis, and buyer personas. This key information will help give direction and scope to a company’s daily marketing activities.
Marketing plans can be designed to address the overall marketing strategy or tackle components of a marketing strategy. For example, a company might put together a digital marketing plan or an SEO marketing plan. Both of these plans would tackle only those respective channels. These more specific plans would include the relevant market research and target demographics, as well as the exact marketing activities the marketing team plans to take to deliver results in those categories.
Different types of marketing activities
To create a thorough and targeted marketing plan, it’s important to first consider the marketing activities that might be included in a company’s marketing plan. Most companies combine a selection of different marketing activities into their marketing plans to create a balanced plan that promotes their company, brand, product, or services.
Most marketing activities can be broken down into two categories: outbound marketing activities and inbound marketing activities.
Outbound marketing activities
Outbound marketing activities typically involve reaching out to prospective customers. This is often referred to as “interrupting” the customer when they might not already be looking for your product. Outbound marketing involves pushing information about your product out to various audiences and typically reaches large numbers of people in a less-targeted manner. These are a few examples of outbound marketing strategies you might include in a marketing plan:
- Television, radio, print, and billboard advertising: While these “traditional” forms of advertising have gone out of the spotlight in favor of digital advertising, they can still be effective depending on the size of the audience they reach.
- Cold calling: Cold calling is the practice of compiling a list of potential customers and contacting them via telephone. This has become increasingly difficult in the age of smartphones as many potential customers won’t answer the phone if they don’t recognize the phone number.
- Email marketing: Email marketing involves companies directly initiating contact with a list of potential customers through email. This can be in the form of newsletters or lead nurturing emails, for example. Typically, the objective is to let customers know about upcoming sales, news, or events.
- Event marketing: Planning customer events or participating in third-party events or conferences is another form of outbound marketing and often involves physically handing materials about your product or service to attendees.
- Content syndication: Placing articles or repurposing your own blog content on third-party websites is known as content syndication.
- Digital advertising: Digital advertising is one of the fastest-growing and largest marketing strategies in the outbound marketing toolkit and comprises several different options, including:
- Display, social media, email, and video advertising: Paying for advertisements in the form of images, text, or video on various websites, social media channels, or inside email communications is a direct digital marketing strategy.
- Search engine marketing: One type of search engine marketing is paid advertising, often known as pay-per-click (PPC). A company can pay to show up in the search results for certain keywords and pays only if a person clicks on the link.
- Native advertising: Native advertising involves paying to have your product or service written about or filmed in a way that matches the look and feel of the other content on the blog, social media account, or website your target audience is visiting.
- OTT advertising: Over-the-top advertising involves paying to show potential customers video or digital advertising on streaming services or smart devices.
Inbound marketing activities
Inbound marketing activities attempt to draw potential customers in and actively capitalize on a target audience that is already looking for a solution or product. Inbound marketing activities attempt to offer valuable content, solutions, or products that potential customers are already actively searching for themselves. Here are some examples of inbound marketing activities:
- Social media marketing: Social media marketing involves creating valuable, appealing, and useful content for your audience on channels like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.The goal is that followers will like and share the content and expand the audience for potential customers.
- SEO marketing: While outbound search engine marketing involves paying for advertisements, inbound search engine marketing attempts to optimize website content so that it ranks highly when a potential customer searches for a specific keyword or set of keywords.
- Content marketing: Content marketing is the act of creating pieces of valuable, useful content that will attract and retain potential customers. Content marketing often includes website and blog content, videos that can be shared on social media, eBooks that provide valuable information, and infographics that distill a concept in a visually pleasing and shareable way.
- Event marketing: Inbound event marketing involves planning or hosting events, either online or in-person, designed to attract potential customers. A company might host a panel discussion or a webinar designed to raise their profile in the industry, further familiarizing an audience with the brand and creating leads for the sales department.
There are pros and cons to both inbound and outbound marketing activities. Inbound marketing activities can typically cost less but reach a smaller, more targeted audience. Outbound marketing activities often use more financial resources, and reach a wider audience. In many cases, a combination of inbound and outbound strategies will be the best option to bring in and retain customers.
Different types of marketing plans
There are several different types of marketing plans that a company might choose to design in order to tackle a specific segment of potential customers or even to promote a new product or service. Marketing plans will include either a single marketing activity from the list above, or could combine several of these into a broader marketing plan.
The following is a selection of some of the most common marketing plan types:
- Product marketing plan: Product marketing plans are designed to promote an upcoming product launch and might include event marketing efforts and content creation.
- Brand marketing plan: Brand marketing plans are designed to promote and elevate a company’s entire brand, rather than a specific product or launch. They could involve activities like social media campaigns designed to build brand awareness or native advertising on blogs that helps a segment of the customer base become more knowledgeable about the brand’s values and purpose.
- Integrated marketing plan: An integrated marketing campaign is one that takes into account a range of different channels and seeks to unify the brand messaging and voice across each of them.
- Digital marketing plan: Digital marketing plans are often designed as a separate component to other marketing plans because they include a range of channels in the digital or online space. Digital marketing plans include SEO optimization and PPC advertising, social media, and content marketing, among others.
- Campaign management plan: Similar to a product marketing plan, a campaign management plan details each of the elements required for a successful marketing campaign. It might include multiple contacts with potential customers via email marketing, social media marketing, and traditional print marketing, and various forms of content.
Establishing a marketing planning process
Establishing a marketing planning process is important for any marketing department, especially since a team could require several substantial marketing plans to support different campaigns every year. A solid marketing planning process will mean that steps aren’t skipped, details aren’t overlooked, and the marketing plan has the best chance of succeeding in meeting the company’s goals.
Marketing planning processes should include the following steps.
- Outline the specific goals for this marketing plan
- Audit any marketing activities the department has previously undertaken in this area and determine their success or failure
- Conduct market research to determine the current market as well as your position in it
- Analyze the research and subsequently determine the target audience for this marketing plan
- Decide the budget and timeline for the marketing plan
- Choose the marketing activities needed to achieve the marketing goals
- Assign accountability and create a marketing plan calendar for implementation
- Determine the process and timeline for re-evaluating, analyzing, and adjusting the marketing plan
The marketing planning process will be carried out by management-level marketing department team members, with input from those in charge of various activities and channels.
What should be included in a marketing plan?
A marketing plan is a roadmap to achieving a company’s marketing strategy, so it should go into considerable detail about the specific channels, campaigns, projects, and steps the marketing department will take to meet those goals. A marketing plan should therefore include the following elements:
- Brand summary, including mission statement, key goals, and objectives
- Specific goals for this marketing plan and how they support the business’s overall marketing strategy
- Relevant market research, buyer personas, and competitor analysis
- List of marketing activities this marketing plan will utilize and an outline of the marketing implementation plan schedule for them
- Key performance indicators that provide measurable benchmarks
- An itemized budget
- Process and timeline for analyzing, optimizing, and revisiting the marketing plan
A more specialized marketing plan, such as a digital marketing plan, will also go into more detail about the various channels required, the assets required to support them, as well as relevant workflow details.
Marketing planning tools
Marketing plans are often complex documents, and putting them into action requires the management of many projects, processes, staff members, and even third-party vendors. Keeping marketing plans on track can be difficult without the proper marketing planning tools, like calendars that sync across teams and robust work management software.
Marketing plan template: A marketing plan template can help make creating your marketing plan a straightforward process. It helps you record repeatable actions your team will include in future marketing plans to save time and maximize resources.
Integrated calendar: Planning marketing activities requires detailed scheduling, so work management software that integrates tasks with each team member’s calendar will keep everyone from missing meetings and deadlines.
Project management software: Being able to view complex projects using Kanban boards or Gantt charts can help each team member view their role in the marketing plan implementation process. Project management software like Wrike for marketers can also help managers get a 360-degree view of the project status without requiring multiple check-in emails with team members.
Content management tools: Companies often use a wide range of content management tools, from CMS for website management to social media scheduling software. Project management software that integrates content management tools can streamline otherwise time-consuming tasks.
We’ll tackle specific marketing tools that can help supercharge your marketing department in the marketing tools and software section.