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Sample Marketing Plan
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How to Write a Marketing Plan: A Comprehensive Guide with Templates



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Since we are a digital marketing agency, this marketing plan discussion will focus heavily on
digital marketing (what we call “inbound marketing”) — but the strategies and concepts discussed
can be expanded to encompass your entire marketing department.

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How to Write a Marketing Plan: A Comprehensive Guide with Templates

  1. 1. How to Write a Marketing Plan: A Comprehensive Guide with Templates written by: sarah brady
  2. 2. “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” — ABRAHAM LINCOLN WHETHER YOU ARE CHOPPING DOWN A TREE OR EXECUTING AN INTEGRATED MARKETING PLAN, the steps you take ahead of time are crucial to your marketing success. Preparation is key.
  3. 3. The Digital Marketing Plan Your marketing department might encompass digital marketing, print advertisement, paid search, website optimization, visual identity/branding, event marketing, etc. Since we are a digital marketing agency, this marketing plan discussion will focus heavily on digital marketing (what we call “inbound marketing”) — but the strategies and concepts discussed can be expanded to encompass your entire marketing department.
  4. 4. How to Structure Your Marketing Plan
  5. 5. HOW TO STRUCTURE YOUR MARKETING PLAN MARKETING PLAN STEP ONE List Your Goals First While developing goals may not be the first step you actually take when forming your marketing plan,listing them first on your final marketing plan document sets the stage for everything to come. Put your goals on Page 1.
  6. 6. HOW TO STRUCTURE YOUR MARKETING PLAN MARKETING PLAN STEP TWO Explain Your Research Research will be the foundation of your marketing plan and should include: 1. Competitive Analysis 2. SWOT Analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) 3. Buyer Personas 4. Buyers’ Buying Cycle
  7. 7. HOW TO STRUCTURE YOUR MARKETING PLAN MARKETING PLAN STEP THREE Explain Your Strategy Once you’ve outlined the landscape, it’s time to explain the strategy. This phase includes: 1. Defining Your Goals 2. Knowing Your USP (unique selling proposition) 3. Ensuring You Have a Strong Brand 4. Making Sure You Have an Optimized Website 5. Creating Kick-Ass Content 6. Defining Your Distribution Channels (email, social, etc.) 7. Implementing an SEO Strategy
  8. 8. HOW TO STRUCTURE YOUR MARKETING PLAN MARKETING PLAN STEP FOUR Define KPIs and Measurement Methods Before you have implemented your strategy you should be measuring to estab- lish your baseline. What have you done in the past and what were the results? How can those strategies shift to improve ROI? Measurement should be done before, during and after — throughout the year, on a monthly or even weekly basis — to ensure your plans are showing positive results and to shift them if they’re not.  
  9. 9. HOW TO STRUCTURE YOUR MARKETING PLAN MARKETING PLAN STEP FIVE List Overarching Strategy and Tactical Plans Having tactical plans and calendars gives life to your ideas and strategy. Try focusing on four or five main tactics for the year and create execution plans around these tac- tics. Keep in mind that your tactics may or may not be the same as your goals. If your goals are high-level, i.e. to increase traffic by 50%, then your tactic would drill down more on how to get that result — and be as the name implies, more tactical.
  10. 10. It’s a Guide, Not a Bible.
  11. 11. Nobody can predict the future, which is why it is vital to remember that your marketing plan should be a living, working document. This is not a style book, a brand handbook or a book on company policy. A marketing plan left to collect dust is useless. What’s not useless is a fluid marketing plan that allows for change and is looked upon as a guide, not as a bible.
  12. 12. Do Your Research
  13. 13. If you don’t know who you are, what you’re selling or who you’re selling to, you’re going to have a pretty hard time convincing people to buy your product or service, never mind figuring out what tactical initiatives you should be working on. So do your homework. DO YOUR RESEARCH
  14. 14. DO YOUR RESEARCH Feel out the competition In order to determine the likelihood of success and define your marketing strategy, you need to understand the competition. (This will also help you through your next step: creating a SWOT analysis.) The world of inbound marketing includes some really important strategies that can also be useful when researching competitors. Here are three to get you started: • Subscribe to your competitors’ (or those you perceive to be your competitors) email lists. • Follow your competitors on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram — any social site you can find them on. • Examine what content your competitors are creating — who it is aimed at, how often is it produced, who is writing it, what the content topics are, etc.
  15. 15. DO YOUR RESEARCH Perform a SWOT Analysis Standard to any business or marketing plan is the SWOT analysis. The SWOT analysis should help you clearly define your strengths, weaknesses, opportu- nities and threats so that you can develop goals and objectives that are on point and tied to your overall mission. • Brutal honesty is imperative to a truly insightful SWOT. Use bullets and aim for four to five in each section. Limiting your lists will help you to focus on the most critical points and help retain focus. • In addition to completing a SWOT for your overall marketing plan, it is often helpful to do a SWOT analysis for the different segments within your marketing plan.
  16. 16. DO YOUR RESEARCH Create Your Buyer Personas Honing in on the segments of target audiences is a crucial step in developing an inbound marketing plan. Creating buyer personas will help you focus on who you are marketing to, what their pain points are, where they live online and a number of other demographic traits. It’ll help you to personalize your marketing materials so they are targeted and highly relevant to your audience segments. And remember, you aren’t trying to catch every fish in the sea. You are only trying to catch the ones you want, the ones you are targeting because they have the strongest potential to turn into leads. Your net doesn’t need to be wide — it needs to be precise.
  17. 17. DO YOUR RESEARCH Learn Your Buyers’ Buying Cycle Each of these stages are major opportunities for you as a marketer to nurture your potential customer by providing valuable content about the product and or problem they are trying to solve for at their stage in the buyer’s journey. According to Hubspot (and adopted by all those who believe in the inbound marketing methodology) there are three steps in the buyer’s journey: AWARENESS CONSIDERATION DECISION
  18. 18. DO YOUR RESEARCH FUN FACTS of the buyer’s journey is complete prior to engaging a vendor (Forrester) A consumer engages with 11.4 pieces of content prior to making a purchase (Forrester) Consumers are 5x more dependent on content than they were 5 years ago (Nielsen) 70-90% 11.4 5X WANT TO LEARN MORE? Check out: B2B Lead Generation Starts with Mapping the Buyers Journey
  19. 19. Create a Strategy Now that you’ve done your research, you’re ready to start formulating a marketing strategy for your plan.
  20. 20. CREATE A STRATEGY Whittle Down Your Goals Goals are the most important part of your plan. Setting both quantitative and qualitative goals around these findings, as well as developing KPIs, will be essential. Goals should be obtainable, but not easy. You want to make sure you are reaching for growth but not shooting for the stars and ending up discouraged and overwhelmed.
  21. 21. Here are some general tips to keep in mind when developing marketing goals and objectives: • Evaluate your current position in the market and set realistic goals • Understand your growth year-to-date and set attainable but challenging goals accordingly • Tie your goals to your businesses overall mission and vision • Don’t overwhelm yourself. Pick no more than 2 main goals and 3-5 supporting goals • Accept that sometimes you will fail and not reach all of your goals. Be OK with that and learn from your failures. • Create goal milestones to make reaching the goal more digestible Remember, we are marketers, not heart surgeons. Have fun, get creative and don’t take yourself or your marketing too seriously. WHITTLE DOWN YOUR GOALS
  22. 22. CREATE A STRATEGY Know What Makes You Unique Knowing your unique selling proposition (USP) and marketing that USP is essential to beating the competition and solidifying your company’s value in the marketplace. Communication is key. Clearly state your USP and do it often, on your website, in your emails, through your ads etc. WANT SOME TIPS ON FORMULATING YOUR USP? Read The Ultimate Guide to Finding Your Unique Selling Proposition.
  23. 23. Ensure You Have A Strong Brand A brand can be one of the strongest assets a company possesses and if done right will attract the buyer loyalty every business dreams of. Brand consistency is key. Is your brand consistently represented across all channels, including your logo, website design, trade- show booth, print marketing materials, business cards and email signatures, advertisements, packaging design, social media profiles and sales collateral? Take a look at all the places that your audience comes in con- tact with your brand, and ask yourself what each piece is saying about your brand as a whole. If your brand encompasses several sub-brands or subsidiaries, have you strategically audited your brand architecture to leverage maximum brand equity? Not only will a well-designed, cohesive brand architecture benefit you in brand value and recognition, but an online brand strategy will benefit your SEO/search ranking position as well. CREATE A STRATEGY
  24. 24. Optimize Your Website Your website has to be more than pretty (although that helps), it needs to be clear and functional. BAD • cluttered • hard to navigate There is an entire science and methodology behind website design including where to place buttons on the page, what content works best where, what colors convey certain feelings and so on. Check out 4 Examples of Fantastic Web Design for inspiration, and consider hiring a web designer who specializes in Inbound Marketing and SEO to ensure your website is reaching its full potential. GOOD • clear messaging • easily found information CREATE A STRATEGY
  25. 25. CREATE A STRATEGY Create Kick Ass Content Content is the meat that will attract your buyers. It’s what Google uses to search for keywords and drive users to your site and what buyers use to glean information and knowledge about their problem as they move through the buyer’s journey. It’s all of the written words used to convey your brand, from the copy on your site to the landing page users arrive at, to the blog posts, newsletters and emails you write. But it’s not just having content that matters, it’s having quality content that is published on a consistent basis. Content marketing is about providing useful information to your customer base. It’s not about selling but about informing. It’s about building trust and demonstrating expertise. And buyers aren’t the only ones that like helpful content. Google does too. Creating solid content is hugely important for your SEO strategy. RECOMMENDED READING Is Youtility the Future of Marketing
  26. 26. CREATE KICK ASS CONTENT Your content is essential in nurturing your customers as they move through the buyer’s journey, but in order to do this successfully you need to know what types of content to use and when. Here are the recommended content types for each stage of the buyer’s journey. AWARENESS STAGE • eBooks • eGuides • White Papers • Editorial Content • Reports • Blog Posts CONSIDERATION STAGE • Webinars/Webcasts • Podcasts • Video • Expert and Solution Oriented Guides and White Papers DECISION STAGE • Product Comparisons • Case Studies • Free Trials/Downloads • Product Focused Content
  27. 27. CREATE A STRATEGY Define Your Distribution Channels So if content is the meat, your distribution channels are the arms that feed that meat. As important as content is, without distribution your content goes to waste. It is useless. So it is essential to have a clear understanding of how each channel works and to use a mix of paid, owned and earned media. SOCIAL MEDIA It pays to have an overall strategy that is customized for each social channel you are working in. For example, the way you market on Twitter will differ from the way you market on LinkedIn or Facebook. PRO TIP: A tactic that works well across all platforms is using images. Posts with pictures get higher clicks and engagement across the board. And because social media is all about getting your content and your messaging seen, timing is important (check out sumall. com for platform-specific recommendations around timing). We’ve got more social media recommendations on the companion blog post that goes along with this SlideShare.
  28. 28. EMAIL Email is used most effectively as a lead nurturing tool, in that it is used to engage with potential customers based on their interaction with specific content on your website. For example, if a prospect visits downloads an eBook from your website, they’ll begin to receive a set of triggered emails related to the eBook topic. But don’t overdo it — too many emails and you could risk losing potential buyers. PRO TIP When creating your emails, keep the content short, include one main call to action (CTA), have links back to your website, use images and make sure the subject line is catchy. And when it comes to email, you can never test or measure too much. RECOMMENDED READING The Definitive Guide to B2B Email Marketing: Best Email Service Providers for Salesforce:MailChimp vs Constant Contact vs Native Apps. DEFINE DISTRIBUTION CHANNELS
  29. 29. Get Found SEO is what Google and other search engines use to index your pages and allow your content to be found by your prospective customers. It’s hugely important. You could think about it as another distribution channel with a whole different set of rules. In order to use SEO affectively, you need to optimize your content — all of your content — from your blogs to your landing pages to your social tags. You’ll need to create a keyword list based on thorough SEO research, which will then allow you to create messaging around the words and phrases you are targeting. But SEO is much more than just targeting keywords. Link building, content and social media all play key roles in a successful SEO strategy. WE WROTE ABOUT THIS MORE EXTENSIVELY IN OUR EBOOK: How to Rank Higher in Search Engines DEFINE DISTRIBUTION CHANNELS
  30. 30. Measure This is the phase of your plan that should be ongoing. As soon as you put your marketing plan into action start tracking, measuring and reporting.
  31. 31. The ability to measure your inbound marketing efforts is one of the most valuable parts of your plan and the beauty of inbound marketing. The amount of things to measure and test are endless. And that’s a good thing because when you are able to test and measure you are able to improve areas of weakness, report quantitative results and prove the value of your marketing efforts to the broader organization. You should be measuring, reporting and testing your inbound marketing on a monthly basis to see what is working and what isn’t and to learn more about your buyer base. It might sound like overkill, but this actually can be the really fun part! MEASURE
  32. 32. CREATING TACTICAL PLANS Once you have your strategy in place its time to decide what tactics are most important to the success of that strategy. For example, you might decide to focus on four main tactics for the year: blog creation, a website re-vamp, SEO improvement and custom list develop- ment for email campaigns. While you may still want to work on your social media strategy and PR, for the year in question, you’ll devote the majority of your budget towards the four main tactics that are top priority for growth, while allocating smaller budgets towards social media and PR to maintain baseline execution. Tactical calendars will help lay out the specifics of each tactic. For example, an editorial calendar will be needed for the content blogging strategy. There’s a lot that goes into creating an inbound market- ing plan. But when it’s done right it can be one of the most valuable assets your marketing department has. MEASURE
  33. 33. AS WE LIKE TO SAY AT VITAL “Plan the work; Work the plan.” To help get you started we have created a marketing plan template with an accompanying excel calendar to help you plan and track your marketing strategy throughout the year: MARKETING PLAN TEMPLATES
  34. 34. At Vital Design we believe in inbound marketing, because we have seen the results first hand. It is how we market our business and how we market our client’s businesses. If you would like help in developing your inbound marketing plan give us a shout. // @Vital_Design