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Creating a Marketing Plan

This guide is meant to assist students in writing, preparing, and presenting marketing plans.

What is a marketing plan?

A marketing plan is a strategic plan that aims to identify an organization's products and services, and explain how to market them to potential consumers.  It is designed to map out the marketing strategies, costs, and estimated results over time (Moderandi Inc., 2013).  The purpose of a marketing plan is to (Commonwealth of Australia, 2021):

  • Identify target markets
  • Identify new ways to attract new consumers
  • Encourage existing consumers to remain loyal to a brand
  • Set goals and deadlines for marketing activities/events
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of marketing activities
  • Map out a marketing budget to calculate ROI (return on investment)
  • Increase profit

What makes a good marketing plan?

A successful marketing plan should include the following elements (Moderandi Inc., 2013):

  • A positioning strategy
    • How will your business operate differently from competitors?
    • What do our customers need?  What customers do you want to focus on (Moderandi Inc., 2013).
  • Brand strategy
    • What does the brand represent and how does the business communicate that to the target market?
  • Summary of the product/service
    • What does the product or service do for consumers?
  • Goals of the product/service and how it is distributed to consumers
    • What goals does the product/service accomplish?
    • How do consumers get access to the product or service?
  • Sales plan
    • Will you need to hire additional employees for the marketing activities?
    • How will you manage current customers while attracting new ones?
  • Marketing strategies/campaigns
    • What are the major promotional plans (advertisements, commercials, etc.)?
    • What communication channels will you use to complete these campaigns (email, print, television, social media, etc.)?
    • What tools and resources will be needed to complete the campaign?
  • Budget
    • How much will the new marketing initiative cost?
    • What is the estimated ROI (return on investment)?
  • Timeline to evaluate progress
    • When will the plan be evaluated for effectiveness?

Marketing plans should also include any and/or all of these to successfully accomplish their objective(s) (Luther, 2011):

  • Be creative, as it attracts attention from potential consumers.
  • Generate excitement about the brand, product, or organization.
  • Entertain and engage the target audience.
  • Add convenience to the consumer/target audience.

Phases of a Marketing Plan

A marketing plan consists of three main phases:

  • Planning
  • Implementation
  • Evaluation

Most of your time will be spent in the planning stage because you must develop a marketing strategy for the plan.  Watch the video below for an introduction to marketing plans.

Creating a Marketing Plan

There are several steps you should take to create a thorough marketing plan (Commonwealth of Australia, 2021):

Click on each of the links above to learn more about each step.

Market Analysis

Before developing a marketing plan, it is important to understand an organization's strengths and weaknesses and how to use them to your advantage.  Analyzing your market allows you to identify what makes an organization unique.  Use the S.W.O.T. analysis strategy to complete a market analysis, which consists of four parts (Commonwealth of Australia, 2021):

  • Strengths
    • What does the business do well?
    • What do consumers like about the organization?
  • Weaknesses
    • What areas does the business need to improve upon?
    • Is the business meeting customers' needs properly?
  • Opportunities
    • Are there gaps in the market that the business is missing?
    • Can the business target those gaps?
    • Are there potential partnerships available that may increase consumer happiness/revenue?
  • Threats
    • What organizations are competing with the business for customers?
    • What products or services does the competition offer to the target market?  Are they better than ours?
    • Are their external factors that may impact the business?

Identifying these elements will help you understand where an organization fits in the market and what it does well.  It also helps you identify areas for improvement.  Once you understand your target market, you can begin brainstorming marketing objectives.

Goal Setting

When you understand a business's position in the market (S.W.O.T. analysis), you can brainstorm goals or objectives that you want the marketing plan to achieve.  Consider the following questions when discussing objectives:

  • What does the business want to achieve?
    • Increase revenue?
    • Increase customer base?
    • Become more efficient at providing a product or service?
  • Does the objective align with the company's values and/or goals?
  • Why does the business want to achieve this goal?

To assist with this step, use S.M.A.R.T. goals to set reasonable objectives for the marketing plan (Commonwealth of Australia, 2021):

  • Specific: Are the goals specific enough to understand clearly?
  • Measurable: Are the goals easily measurable?
  • Achievable: Are the goals reasonable, given the time and resources available?
  • Relevant: Do the goals align with the organization's vision or mission?
  • Time-sensitive: Can the goals be achieved in a timely manner?

Following these guidelines ensures that the goals remain realistic and achievable.

Identifying Market Strategies

When you have determined the goals of your marketing plan, you must identify what marketing activities will best achieve those goals.  They must be appropriate for both the business and the target market (consumer).  Marketing activities are actions or events that are designed to achieve a specific marketing goal.  They typically last for a set period of time and are evaluated for effectiveness at the end of the time period.  If the activities do not contribute to achieving the plan's objective, they are reevaluated and revised.

Types of Market Strategies

According to Woschnick (2021), there are several marketing strategies that are considered the most effective:

  • Content marketing
    • Emphasizes educating consumers to influence buyer behavior.
    • Provides relevant information to potential consumers so that they are convinced to buy the product or service).
    • Expands brand awareness and credibility.
      • Examples: websites, infographics, podcasts, webinars, books, etc.
  • Inbound marketing
    • Attracts consumers by producing relevant content and information at the "right" time and place.
    • Invites consumers rather than "bother" them with traditional ads.
    • Works for any business size
  • Social media marketing (See Social Media Marketing)
    • Provides consumers with content that they will want to share with others.
    • Utilizes social media platforms like LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook.
      • Examples: videos, images, etc.
  • Search engine optimization (see Digital Marketing)
    • Increasing traffic and awareness of a brand by ensuring a company's website appears in top results in free search engines.
    • Helps consumers find information on your brand.
    • Uses search engines like Yahoo!, Google, and Bing.
  • Account based marketing (ABM)
    • Uses highly personalized marketing campaigns to reach a target audience.
    • Typically used for smaller groups of the target market.
  • Earned media and public relations
    • Creates publicity without the use of paid advertising.
    • Are unsolicited and unpaid.
      • Examples: Testimonials via social media, word of mouth, newspaper articles
  • Referral programs
    • Involves incentivizing consumers to tell others about your product or service to expand the customer base.
    • Can offer rewards for existing customers.
    • Reinforces brand loyalty.
  • Industry events
    • Companies in the same industry gather and demonstrate their products to an audience.
    • Encourages new relationships between industry partners
      • Examples: Conferences, trade shows
  • Conversational marketing
    • Real-time interaction between a company and a consumer
    • Gets relevant information to the customer efficiently
    • Encourages clear communication and sales efficiency
      • Examples: Live chat features, phone calls
  • Storytelling
    • Engages customers emotionally by telling a memorable story about your company's goals and mission.
  • Paid media marketing (See Digital Marketing)
    • Increases website traffic by paying a website to feature a company's product or service on the site.
    • The featured company will appear in more search results or be sponsored in ads on search engines.
  • Wearables (Veleva et al., 2020)
    • Creating company branded apparel or other accessories that others can wear to advertise your organization's purpose or mission.
      • Examples: t-shirts, sunglasses, hats, wristbands, lanyards, etc.

Depending on your marketing plan, you may use one or more of these strategies.  The marketing strategies you implement will also depend on your target market and marketing goals.  View our page on digital marketing if you are interested in utilizing technology in your marketing plan.

Budget Setting

Once you have determined the appropriate marketing strategy for your plan, you will need to set a budget for your plan.  It is important to set a reasonable and affordable budget that will accomplish the goals of the marketing plan.  Consider the following when developing your marketing budget (Commonwealth of Australia, 2021):

  • Spend money only on activities that directly contribute to the plan's goals.
  • Select marketing strategies that will provide the best value for the funds spent.
  • Be mindful of any expenditures to ensure that they do not exceed estimated costs.
  • Consider the costs of hiring extra staff to implement the plan.

In some cases, you may not have a marketing budget.  In these scenarios, you will want to utilize low-cost or free marketing strategies.  These may include public relations, media interactions, and social media marketing.

Updating

A marketing plan should have flexibility so that it can be updated or revised as needed.  Revisions or updates are typically determined by checkpoint evaluations.  Checkpoint evaluations are meant to keep your plan on track and ensure that it is working properly.  Depending on your marketing strategy, the frequency of these checkpoints may vary.  Evaluating your marketing plan at certain times keeps the plan on track for achieving the desired outcomes.  Evaluations involve analyzing marketing results and matching them with the original objectives.

Your marketing plan should include evaluation checkpoints so that updates can be made at any point in time.  Revisions and/or updates may be made for any of the following reasons (Commonwealth of Australia, 2021):

  • The plan is not achieving the desired goals.
  • The plan overspent its initial budget, or has extra funding available.
  • The target market did not respond well to the plan.
  • The target market responded better than expected.
  • Marketing trends changed.