December 14, 2021 | Written by Jennifer Thompson

Why You Need a Marketing Plan and How to Create One

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin

While this saying is hundreds of years old, it still rings true today. Annual planning is an important part of growing and managing a business. And it’s critical that every year as you work on a business plan or sales plan for your organization, you also include an annual marketing plan.

A marketing plan is a document that outlines your marketing efforts for a time period, typically for the year. It is essentially your marketing roadmap, with goals, budget, marketing tactics and more. Your marketing plan must be guided by your overall marketing strategy.

You need a marketing strategy that defines who your business is (or who you want it to be), your unique value proposition, and your messaging – and the marketing plan is the blueprint on how to execute that strategy. It is the link between the strategy and the final results.

Why You Need a Marketing Plan

You need to have marketing goals that you set and measure, so you know if your marketing efforts are working or not. And if your advertising or sales tactics are not working, this tracking and measuring of your goals allows you to correct or change your tactics in a timely manner. Without a plan and goals, you could be wasting time, and money, on marketing efforts and not even know it. A marketing plan allows you to focus on areas with a high return on investment, or areas you know will work to drive leads or sales. This helps you manage your limited resources. And a marketing plan lets you be proactive to market conditions or competitors, instead of simply being reactive.

How to Use a Marketing Plan

When you create a marketing plan, you must treat it like a living document that may need to change as market conditions change. You may also need to alter it as you start measuring the results of your marketing efforts – if something is not meeting your goals, it’s time to switch tactics.

It should be created collaboratively with your whole marketing team and with input from any other department that is a stakeholder in marketing results, like the sales team.

A marketing plan needs to be constantly reviewed (monthly or quarterly – the timing will depend on your sales cycle). You must always be measuring your goals and keeping track of your budget. It won’t do you any good if you wait until the end of the year and realize you’re over budget and didn’t reach any of your goals. Reviewing your marketing plan at a set timeframe gives you a chance to correct your plan before it’s too late.

What You Need to Create a Marketing Plan

There are 5 main areas in your annual marketing plan: 

1.       Marketing Goals

2.       Customer Profiles and Journeys

3.       Marketing Budget

4.       Marketing Tactics

5.       Content or Campaign Calendar

Marketing Goals

You need to set marketing goals that align with and support your overall business goals. Your goals need to be specific, measurable and have a defined timeframe. What the actual goals are will vary depending on your business or objectives, but could be something like: website impressions, leads, sales, social media followers or email subscribers.

Customer Profiles and Journeys

Your marketing plan should also include your ideal customer profile. This will help you determine the tactics and channels you need to reach your ideal customer, as well as how to craft your messaging. (Learn more about how to create customer personas here.)

As part of discovering your ideal customer, you also want to map out customer journeys in your marketing plan. You could have a few journeys depending on your products or services and customer profiles. A customer journey helps you answer important questions that will guide your marketing efforts, like:

  • How do your customers find you?
  • What triggers them to need your product or service?
  • What information do they need to make a purchase?
  • What does your sales process look like?
  • What happens after the sale?
  • What can you do to retain customers and get them to buy again?

Marketing Budget

An overall marketing budget needs to be set and should also be broken down by tactic or channel. For example, having a budget for Google ads, social media ads, influencer marketing, website development, etc. The more granular you can get with your budget, the better you can track it and see the return on investment each channel is getting. Google ads might create a lot of contacts that lead to sales, but you need to ensure your cost of acquisition for that channel is not more than your profit margin on a sale.

Marketing Tactics

A big part of your marketing plan are the tactics and channels that you are going to use to reach customers and get your message out. This could anything from SEO, social media, brochures, Google ads or an e-newsletter. Your tactics will all depend on your marketing strategy and your customer profiles and customer journeys. The tactics will also be influenced by your marketing budget. You may have limited budget and need to focus on areas that get a lot of leads or have a high ROI. This is another reason that consistent review is important – if a tactic is over or under-performing, it’s crucial to reallocate budget appropriately based on on-going results.

Content or Campaign Calendar

This calendar maps out when you will be running specific campaigns or creating content to release on your website or social channels. Campaigns would include any tactics or channels (such as emails, social ads) that you will be using, what you’ll be promoting or your key messages, along with a timeframe and budget. You should also have campaign goals, tied to your overall marketing goals. The cadence of your campaign calendar depends on your marketing strategy or sales cycle – some people use monthly ones, bi-monthly or quarterly campaigns. Planning your content calendar in advance allows you to create content in a timely manner, so it’s not rushed and is of high quality. It helps you manage your team resources, especially if you have certain campaigns that might require more effort. A campaign and content calendar needs to be reviewed and revised as needed, based on results, any changing market conditions, competitive analysis or even just feedback from your customers on what they need to help them on their buying journey.

If you need help creating your marketing strategy or developing an annual marketing plan, we can help. We work with many businesses to define their strategy, lay out plans and even handle the execution of the marketing tactics involved.

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