Marketing plans include strategies for promoting and advertising a business as well as details on how to implement those strategies. This ensures a business reaches sales and growth goals. To create your own marketing plan, write out an executive summary, conduct market research, determine the right strategies, and create a plan for executing those strategies.
If you’re a small business, you may feel like you don’t have time to put together an effective marketing plan. Don’t just drop it; instead, leave it to the professionals such as those at Hibu. Its expert, cost-effective marketing management helps you reach your marketing goals quickly. Plus, all services are customized to your needs and budget. Get your free consultation today.
Marketing Plan Template
Download our free marketing plan template below for an easy way to follow along with our step-by-step guide to creating a marketing plan. It includes space for adding overarching marketing goals, strategies, and marketing channels, ensuring you don’t forget any key element. Get the template in the format of your choice below.
How to Write a Marketing Plan in 7 Steps
To write a marketing plan, first write your executive summary. Then, set your marketing goals, conduct competitive research, define your target audience, create an actionable marketing strategy (including your brand strategy), set your marketing budget, and set up a performance tracking plan.
Here’s how to write a marketing plan in seven steps:
1. Write Your Executive Summary
The first step in creating a marketing plan is to write your executive summary; this summarizes your business in just two paragraphs and includes an overview of your mission/company history, marketing goals, key milestones, top metrics, accolades, and your vision for the future. You will use this to help frame your marketing goals and can use it in marketing collateral.
Here are the five elements commonly included within an executive summary:
- Brief introduction to your business
- Marketing goals
- Key milestones and overview of top metrics
- Accomplishments or accolades
- Vision & companywide goals
To begin writing your marketing executive summary, briefly explain what your company is and does in one or two sentences.
Example: TitanXG Technologies is a US-based manufacturer of military-grade, ruggedized tablets.
With a basic explanation of your business, then craft a more creative and enticing version. This could include more descriptive language to help a customer better understand what the business does, or how it does it differently than competitors.
Example: As the nation’s leading producer of military-grade intelligence tools, TitanXG Technologies is reimagining rugged mobile technology for the professional workforce.
Now, complete your executive summary by adding relevant and interesting information such as accomplishments and accolades, pertinent data and milestones, and the vision for your company. You do not need to include all of these elements—just those that are relevant to your business. Use a second paragraph to outline high-level marketing goals and objectives, which will set the stage for the remainder of your marketing plan.
Example: As the nation’s leading producer of military-grade intelligence tools, TitanXG Technologies is reimagining rugged mobile technology for the professional workforce. In the last five years, TItanXG has advanced mobile technology dramatically in the healthcare, manufacturing, and transportation industries.
In order to maintain our position as an industry leader, TItanXG seeks to expand its range of high-performance workplace tools in order to reach a wider audience and increase revenue. Specifically, we will work to target workers in the emergency response sector who could benefit from our durable, mobile technology.
2. Set Your Marketing Goals
Next, set at least one marketing goal or objective. This should include three things: the overarching marketing goal itself, a metric or key performance indicator (KPI) you can use to measure your success, and lastly, a timeframe for goal achievement. Be as specific as possible by including specific data points and deadlines. Avoid vague statements and goals that are either impossible to achieve or cannot be measured.
Here are three examples of poor marketing goals:
- Increase company revenue
- Generate leads through our website
- Build awareness on social media
Here are three examples of good marketing goals:
- Increase revenue from [X product line] 30% by [date]
- Drive organic site traffic with one new SEO strategy to reach 10,000 unique monthly visitors in Q3
- Gain 1,000 followers per month on Instagram by the end of 2020; these followers should fit our customer profile and show active interest in products we sell
If you’re struggling to come up with a specific goal, start with a general idea, then break it down into concrete goals. Be sure to consider what will impact your business most and what your biggest opportunities are.
3. Conduct Competitive & Internal Research
Once you know your marketing goal, the next step is to research your competitors and analyze your own strengths and weaknesses. This will help you determine how you can set yourself apart while also getting insight into how other businesses successfully achieve the same goal you have. To do this, complete a competitive analysis; create a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis; and finally, identify your unique selling point.
Conduct Competitive Research & Analysis
Competitive analysis gives you a better understanding of who your competitors are, what they offer, how they offer it, and who their customers are. This information will help you to differentiate your business from them in a later step. To conduct a competitive analysis, determine who your competitors are by researching the market online. Find out what they offer, what their price points and services are, and what type of audience they reach.
Here are seven common questions to ask when conducting competitive research:
- Who are your competitors?
- What do they offer?
- How do they offer it?
- How much do their products/services cost?
- What’s unique about them or what do they do differently?
- How do they position themselves in the industry (e.g., the cheapest, easiest, highest quality)?
- What type of audience do they reach? (e.g., older, higher income, active online)
The best way to find this information is to search online—either by searching industry keywords in Google or by finding competitors in a tool like Ahrefs. By digging into competitor sites and profiles online, you can learn how to position your own business so it stands out. For more detailed guidance, read our article on completing a competitive analysis.
Complete a SWOT Analysis
A SWOT analysis is a strategic planning tool that is an acronym for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. It’s used to help businesses focus on what they do well, where they can improve, and what opportunities they can take advantage of. To complete a SWOT analysis, use the template above to identify your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities. Keep your notes brief but clear.
Determine Your Unique Selling Point (USP)
A unique selling point (USP) is what sets businesses apart from their competition. After gaining a good understanding of the competitive market, including who competitors are, what they offer, and who they serve, look at your SWOT analysis and consider what your USP may be. Use your strengths to identify areas that set you apart and how these might better serve your target audience than your competitors do. Add this to your template.
4. Define Your Target Market
A business’s target market is its ideal audience or consumer. Businesses should define their target market in order to better understand how they can serve them. First, identify who your most valuable customers are currently—that is, those with the highest lifetime value. Then, identify the key demographic information, interests, and behaviors of this consumer base. This will be your buyer persona.
Identify Customers With High Value
Before you can dig into the demographic and psychographic (interest and behavior) information of your ideal consumer, start by identifying those that are already the most valuable to your business. You can do this by reviewing sales information or consulting your sales staff.
Create Buyer Personas
A buyer persona is the representation of a business’s ideal customer. To create your own, look at the high-value customers you just assembled and examine their demographic information, as well as their interests, behaviors, hobbies, and motivators. Note commonalities and overlap so you can create one ideal buyer persona.
Here are the 10 most common elements of a buyer persona:
- Education level
- Household income
A buyer persona should be tailored to suit your business and your industry. For example, you may also want to include elements such as whether or not they use social media, and if so, which platforms, what types of devices they use and whether or not they are early adopters of new technologies or trends. Learn more about how to create a customer profile.
5. Create an Actionable Marketing Strategy
With research and audience information in place—as well as a clearly outlined USP—create a marketing strategy that will meet your goals in step 2. Begin by outlining your overarching brand elements, then choose a pricing structure for your business and select ideal marketing channels.
Determine Primary Brand Elements
A brand is the easily identifiable representation of your business, which includes things like a logo, tagline, design colors, tone/style, and general positioning in an industry. You likely have many of these things already set, but be sure you outline them clearly in the template so that you can leverage them when building marketing collateral.
Here are the elements to define/outline as part of your brand:
- Tone/style of messaging (e.g., casual, formal, first-person)
- Positioning (e.g., fun, professional, relaxed, support-driven)
Establish a Pricing Structure
Part of your marketing strategy is to establish a pricing structure. It is the model or method used to determine the best pricing for your products/services. Which pricing structure you choose will depend on your specific needs, costs, market position, competition, as well as how you want to position your brand. Review the pricing structures below and pick the one that best suits your business and your products/services.
The five most common pricing structures are:
- Cost-plus pricing: This is the most basic pricing strategy where price is calculated by adding up costs and then adding a markup, generally in the form of a percentage.
- Competitive pricing: Businesses may base their pricing on competing businesses’ pricing in order to remain competitive.
- Value-based pricing: This is where businesses set a price based on its perceived value. In other words, it sets prices based on what it believes consumers are willing to pay for a product/service. For some businesses, that may mean either a jump or drop in profits, depending on how your products or services are viewed by your market.
- Price skimming: Price skimming is a type of pricing strategy where businesses set the price high and lower it over time to try to find the point where they can sell the most of their products/services at the highest price.
- Penetration pricing: Businesses that are looking to enter a competitive market frequently choose penetration pricing; this is when prices are set low in order to gain sales and then are increased over time to build revenue. It’s used as a way to attract new customers with the best price, then increase the price once they’ve shown company loyalty.
Keep in mind that businesses may want to consider different pricing structures to best serve their needs. For example, a business may want to use cost-plus pricing, but it’s unsure of what the markup should be. While it’s not looking to offer the cheapest option, it wants to remain competitive, so it analyzes competitor pricing to choose a markup for cost-plus pricing.
Select Marketing Channels
Next, select your marketing distribution channels. These are the platforms and avenues which you will use to market your business. When choosing which marketing channels to use, consider your target audience. Where are they and which channels will reach them? Ideally, you will select marketing channels that reach your target audience and effectively hit your marketing goals.
Here are the seven most common marketing channels for small businesses:
- Website & SEO: A website is the most common marketing channel, and it is also a crucial channel in building awareness and driving sales online. It’s not enough to build a small business website; businesses also need to use SEO strategies such as keyword research and content optimization so that their site ranks well in search engine results, enabling businesses to be found online.
- Paid search: Paid search is a form of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising where businesses pay to feature their content or website at the top of search results. The most common paid search platforms are Google Ads and Bing Ads. It’s best for businesses whose sites do not rank for their chosen keywords, but have products/services often requested by the public. Learn more about how to advertise on Google.
- Organic & paid social: Millions of people use social networks every day, so businesses often use these networks to connect with and engage their target audience. Organic social marketing involves using social platforms for posting original content, whereas paid social is a form of PPC advertising where businesses pay to display ads to specific social media audiences.
- Email marketing: Email marketing involves setting up email campaigns, including drip marketing campaigns, that are sent out automatically to subscriber lists. It’s a low-cost way of reaching out to existing customers and leads. It’s best for those looking to drive repeat sales with loyal customers and introduce products/services to new, interested leads.
- Affiliate marketing: Affiliate marketing is a type of marketing program or partnership where one business gets paid (generally in the form of a commission) for sales generated from leads it sent to that business. For example, a web design company may partner with an SEO marketing agency so that it gets a commission when it refers its clients to use that company’s SEO services. Learn more about affiliate marketing.
- Content marketing: Content marketing is focused on producing digital content like blog and social media posts in order to increase brand exposure. Get the full details on what content marketing is.
- Word-of-mouth & user-generated content: Word-of-mouth marketing has always been one of the most effective marketing channels. Traditionally, word-of-mouth involves customers recommending your business to family and friends, but now it’s also leveraged in online reviews (i.e., Google Reviews, Yelp, and Facebook Reviews), in user comments in forums such as Quora and Reddit, and through user-generated content and influencers.
Select the marketing channel(s) that best suits your brand and that is most used by your target audience. For example, a plumbing business may be best suited for SEO and paid search because its audience often searches for plumbing services on search engines like Google. A fashion brand, however, may be best suited for social media marketing to capture users who may be interested in their products, but aren’t actively searching for them.
“Develop a marketing strategy that demonstrates to users and search engines that you have niche expertise on a few topics. Create several informative feature pages that showcase your knowledge on your industry. Write top-quality blog posts that inform your readers and answer questions about topics closely related to your business.” —Matt Bentley, Founder & Chief Scientist, Can I Rank
6. Determine Your Marketing Budget
After selecting your marketing channels, determine what your overall marketing budget is. With this established, allocate some of the total budget to each of your chosen marketing channels. You can do this by assigning percentages of your budget based on each channel’s importance—which can be determined by identifying where your target audience spends most of its time—or a given channel’s ability to help your business achieve its overall marketing goal.
7. Set Up a Performance Tracking Plan
The last step is to create a performance tracking plan. This is how you will measure the success of your marketing plan. To do this, choose your key performance indicators (KPIs) based on your marketing goal and determine when you will check them. For example, a business seeking to increase revenue by 30% in six months should plan to actually calculate revenue generated in six months. Next, pick an analytics tool that will allow you to track your chosen KPI.
The specific KPIs you choose for your business will depend on your goals, marketing channels, and audience. However, common KPIs include website traffic, follower increases on social media, ad clicks, and overall revenue increases.
Here are four common KPIs:
- Website traffic: This can be tracked by the hour, day, week, or month.
- Follower increases: Most social media platforms will have basic analytics tools that allow you to see follower increases over time. But there are also third-party tools you can use that will give you more insight.
- Ad clicks: If you run search or social PPC ads, you will have access to an analytics dashboard that shows you how many people have clicked on your ad(s). This helps determine how successful they are.
- Revenue increases: The biggest goal for any company is to increase revenue, so tracking it over time can be an indicator of marketing success. However, it is advised that revenue is tracked specifically to a marketing campaign for the most accurate analytics.
Pick an Analytics Tool
After establishing your KPIs, examine the options below to figure out which tool is the best one to help you track your success. You can also use multiple tools, depending on your marketing efforts or overall goals. Some of the most common ones are Google Analytics, Pardot, Mixpanel, and HubSpot.
Here are five commonly used marketing analytics and tracking tools:
- Directly through ad platforms: Businesses that use digital ads as a marketing channel will have analytics available directly from those ad platforms, such as Google Ads or Facebook Ads. This data is available for free and helps businesses understand how their ads are performing.
- Google Analytics: It’s important to monitor a website’s performance using visitor analytics. Google Analytics is the leading website analytics provider with free and comprehensive visitor data including page views, bounce rates, user locations, and more.
- Pardot: Pardot is a marketing automation tool that can be integrated with the Salesforce platform. Given that Salesforce is a leading sales platform, many choose to use Pardot for added sales data and marketing analytics.
- Mixpanel: Mixpanel is a business analytics provider that takes website analytics a step further than Google Analytics by not only tracking user behavior, but breaking down that data to help businesses understand what that data actually means. Businesses can then use this information to make informed and strategic marketing decisions. It’s available for free, which includes tracking up to 1,000 monthly site visitors.
- HubSpot: The HubSpot Marketing platform is an all-inclusive marketing suite that gives businesses a centralized platform for managing all of their marketing channels. It comes with built-in analytics and it offers free accounts and premium accounts starting at $50 per month.
Every business should set up a performance tracking plan, regardless of its available budget or chosen marketing channels. Without user data and analytics, businesses will not know if they are achieving their goals or if they need to adjust their marketing strategies. For budget-strapped companies, start with free tools first, then upgrade as needed over time.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is a marketing plan?
A marketing plan includes several elements that help increase brand awareness and revenue; these include an overarching marketing goal, a competitive analysis to understand the competitive landscape, a SWOT analysis, buyer personas, and an actionable market strategy, complete with brand elements, pricing structures, and marketing channels.
How much does marketing with Google Ads cost?
Google Ads are a form of PPC advertising where advertisers pay to feature their website or content at the top of search results; it is priced on a cost-per-click (CPC) basis. The average CPC for Google search ads is around $2. Currently, there is no minimum daily or month monthly ad spend, so businesses can choose how much they spend on Google Ads to best meet their needs. Learn more about Google advertising costs.
What does Facebook advertising cost?
Facebook advertising is a form of pay-per-click social media advertising where businesses pay based on clicks and ad interactions. The average cost-per-click (CPC) is $1.86, but CPCs vary widely from as little as $0.75 to over $10 per click. Businesses choose how much to spend on ads per month based on goals, but the average small business utilizing Facebook ads spends around $1,00-$2,000 per month. Get the full breakdown of Facebook advertising costs.
Bottom Line – How to Write a Marketing Plan
Learning how to write a marketing plan will help your business clearly identify goals and ways to achieve these goals. To create your marketing plan, first write your executive summary. Then set your overarching goal/objective, conduct competitive research, define your target audience, and create a marketing strategy, including identifying brand elements, pricing, and marketing channels.
Those that don’t have the time or in-house expertise to create and implement marketing strategies should consider using a professional marketing agency such as Hibu. With Hibu, you will get vetted marketing experts working to help your business achieve its goals at an affordable price. Plus, all services are customized to your needs. Get started today.