A marketing plan is a document outlining high-level marketing goals and the step-by-step strategy for achieving them. These marketing plans typically include sections like buyer personas, a unique value proposition, and distribution channels. Marketing plans help businesses in all industries ensure they have a path to achieving clear goals and measuring marketing success.
Both the planning and implementation of a small business marketing plan can be time-consuming. When time is limited, it’s smart to turn to an experienced marketing agency like Hibu for help. Hibu specializes in small business marketing, helping to build brand awareness and build a client base, and for as little as $200 per month. Click here to get started with Hibu.
4 Free Marketing Plan Templates
A marketing plan template includes all critical sections of a marketing plan, with the ability for businesses to fill in information specific to their budget, goals, and strategies. This includes sections for company strengths and weaknesses, target markets, and costs. The plans offered below include all of the core elements of a marketing campaign, plus additional plans suited to different distribution channels.
General Marketing Plan Template
For general marketing purposes, a business should use the template below as a starting point for mapping out strategy, goals, and delivery methods. Costs and target markets are included as well.
Social Media Marketing Plan Template
A social media marketing plan includes the initial goal-setting steps of a general marketing plan, but focuses on shorter, more media-forward content and distribution on social channels.
Email Marketing Plan Template
Email marketing encompasses one-off campaigns, as well as drip marketing and auto-responders. Content will be a key differentiator in this template, focused on longer-form copy and images.
Blog Marketing Plan Template
The success of a blog marketing plan depends on the regular production of expert website content (short and long-form) on a regular cadence. This template will give marketers an opportunity to map out that content and track its success.
Basic Sections of a General Marketing Plan
A marketing plan starts with general information about your marketing and the research surrounding it, including your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis; your unique value proposition (how your products and/or services stand out from the competition), and your goals, and then folds into specialized distribution channels to target a specific kind of marketing or audience.
A SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis determines what strengths and weaknesses can lead to opportunities when working toward your marketing goals. To collect pertinent SWOT information, interview both your customer service team and your customers.
Start by contacting your customer service department and collecting information about customer complaints and general feedback. Together, these indicate potential business weaknesses, as well as customer preferences for competing brands (threats to your business).
Some questions you can ask your employees are:
- In your opinion, what are our company and product strengths? How can we improve them?
- What are our products’ or company weaknesses? How can we eliminate them?
- What competitors do you think offer better products or services and why? How do you think we can improve our products or services to outshine them?
Similarly, use customer survey tools like Freshmarketer to gather insights into your strengths, including why customers prefer your products over those of competitors and what products or services they find most useful.
Some questions you can ask your customers are:
- Why do you prefer to purchase from our company?
- What problems do our products or services solve for you?
- Which of our products or services do you find most useful?
- Which of the following companies have you purchased from? (List competitors.) What types of products or services did you purchase from them? (List product categories.) Why did you purchase their products over ours?
As you make note of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, document them in the template above. Examine each of these to help determine your greatest opportunities — both for addressing weaknesses/eliminating threats and for doubling down on strengths. These will help you create concrete goals later in the marketing plan.
Unique Value Proposition (UVP)
A unique value proposition (UVP) is a statement that defines what makes your company stand above the competition in terms of solving customer pain points. This should be a key component of all your marketing campaigns and so should be written to address your customers, not simply as an internal goal. Use your SWOT analysis information and the questions below to help determine your UVP.
To help you determine your UVP, answer the following questions:
- What makes our company as a whole better than the competition?
- What makes my company and its products and services better able to solve customers’ pain points?
- What proof do we have that we are better able to meet customer needs?
Using your answers to the questions above, create a two to three-sentence statement you can use for marketing purposes. For your reference, below is Hibu’s value proposition as it appears on its website. Make sure your customers are very familiar with your UVP by including in most, if not all, advertising and marketing materials.
A buyer persona is a profile you’ve created that encompasses all the characteristics of your ideal customer. It is based on research into your current profitable customers. Most companies have between three and five buyer personas, each of which highlights a different potential audience for your products/services. To create your buyer personas, review your website analytics and customer data, then outline demographics, likely behavior, and motivations.
Buyer Persona Research
Most small to mid-sized businesses benefit from three to five customer personas to ensure they’re adequately speaking to all customer interests and needs. You can begin researching your general buyer personas in your website’s analytics audience report, then answering the questions below.
To learn more about the most popular analytics tool, read our guide on Google Analytics. You can also use your customer relationship management (CRM) software or ask your salespeople for a detailed customer list that addresses these questions.
B2C Buyer Personas
When describing an individual consumer buyer persona for business-to-consumer companies, include characteristics like their demographics, behavior patterns, and motivations for buying. These will frame a profile that you can use when creating effective marketing campaigns.
Here are questions you should ask in order to define your B2C buyer personas:
- Demographics: What are their ages, genders, locations, educational backgrounds, and income brackets of your ideal customer?
- Behavior patterns: How often does your ideal customer buy your products and what channels do they use to buy from you?
- Motivations: What are the pain points that drive customers to buy from you? What do they hope to accomplish with your products or services?
B2B Buyer Personas
If your business sells to other businesses, consider their professional motivations and characteristics, including their industries, individual expertise, professional roles, pain points, company size, budget, and decision-making power.
Here are the questions you should answer to define your B2B buyer personas:
- Industry: If you serve multiple types of businesses, in what industries do your target personas belong?
- Expertise: What are their areas and levels of expertise?
- Professional roles: What titles/roles do they currently hold?
- Pain points: What types of problems do they deal with in their professional roles?
- Company size: Are they a one-person show or do they have 10 or 50 employees?
- Budget: About how much money do they have for your products or services?
- Power: What is their level of professional decision-making power? Who might they have to convince to do business with you on a long and short-term basis?
After answering the questions above, enter your information in the appropriate boxes in the template. Each box is designed for one buyer persona; it’s recommended that you use all three, and label each persona with a name for clear identification.
Now it’s time to compile your data to help create marketing goals. Based on the data you’ve gathered — specifically, your strengths, opportunities, and buyer personas — create two to four specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (S.M.A.R.T) goals you’d like to achieve as a company over the next year. Ensure they are viable by answering the questions below for each.
Answer these S.M.A.R.T questions to confirm each goal is actionable and achievable:
- Is it specific? Use actionable words to describe exactly what you’ll accomplish.
- Is it achievable? Describe how it’s achievable, given your resources, expertise, and general state of your business.
- Is it relevant? Does is make sense in terms of what your company has to offer and does it benefit your business in some way?
- In what time frame do you expect goal completion? Specifically, what dates or time frames do you expect to meet your goal?
S.M.A.R.T. goal development is a critical part of creating a marketing plan as it will put concrete aims in place for your company to achieve. To learn more about S.M.A.R.T goals, read our article on best S.M.A.R.T. goal examples for small businesses.
Your distribution channels are platforms for publishing marketing content that helps you reach your goals. The basic channels for small businesses are email, social media, and blogs. Each one has different use cases and is valuable for different content types. Consider all three below to determine what best suits your goals, then map out content to fit your chosen distribution channels.
Pew research indicates that social media marketing reaches a large audience — from 18 to 50-year-olds. And because social media is an organic sharing medium, it works best for helping businesses build brand awareness. Once that awareness is built, businesses can introduce buyers to other marketing channels, like a blog or website. If you are seeking to build brand awareness, consider teaching videos, user-generated content, and educational posts.
Here are popular content-types for social media marketing:
- Teaching videos: Teaching videos help you turn your strengths into something your target audience can incorporate into their lives to solve their own problems. They can also clear up misconceptions about your brand or help you showcase new product features.
- User-generated content: User-generated content — which showcases how your products or services have already solved buyer problems — serve as a demonstration of what you can do for your followers.
- Educational posts: Educational posts allow you to showcase your industry expertise and educate your following on industry trends and developments. With the authority that comes from these ongoing posts, you can show how your products fit in with new trends.
All in all, your social media content should be aimed at educating potential customers about your products or services so that they may develop an interest in them. Once they’re interested, you can push them to other platforms with more information about what you offer — including your website or blog.
According to Hubspot, 73% of millennials prefer to receive business communications via email and 99% of consumers check their email daily. Because email marketing requires subscribers to opt in, it is best for companies that have already generated interest in their company among buyers and want to encourage a sale. For this reason, consider email content types that create that focus on lead nurturing, like welcome emails, product updates, and drip campaigns.
Here are the most popular types of email content:
- Welcome emails: Welcome emails should be triggered once someone has subscribed to your email campaigns. To keep people signed up, it should directly address why they signed up and what you can offer. For example, if they signed up to receive a free e-book via a website landing page, you might send them the e-book link.
- Product updates: These emails share information about how your company is improving your products or services, and address weaknesses noted by users.
- Digital newsletter: If your visitors have signed up for your newsletter via your blog, they likely expect blog content in return. Send them your latest blog posts that showcase your brand’s strengths or expertise.
- Event invitation: If your goal is to boost store sales, an event invitation allows you to bring email list subscribers in-store. But, these are not the only types of invites you can send. By inviting people to online webinars or question-and-answer sessions with on-staff experts, you can increase brand awareness and encourage sales.
- Co-marketing email: Co-marketing emails are email campaigns you have partnered with other brands to create and promote. These help you to reach new audiences and so boost brand awareness, leads, and/or sales by getting your content before another company’s customers.
- Drip campaigns/lead-nurturing campaigns: Lead nurturing or drip campaigns are usually a means to guide people from an “interested/evaluation” stage of the sales cycle to a purchase. These types of campaigns help people learn why your company’s products and services are superior to others on the market. If your marketing goal is to boost sales, this type of campaign is fitting.
- Seasonal campaigns: If your goal is to boost sales during particular times of the year, seasonal campaigns with unique, time-limited offers are a good option. The urgency of these offers compels subscribers to take action and buy.
- Product recommendations/abandoned cart emails: When customers enter their email during an online checkout process, you can use this to promote products related to the one(s) they purchased. Likewise, if they’ve started the checkout process but didn’t follow through with making a purchase, you can remind them via email. This increases the likelihood that they will return to the site and complete the checkout process.
Generally, email marketing content should nurture leads with welcome emails, promotions, and drip campaigns to boost product awareness and encourage a purchase. Done correctly, email marketing can lead potential customers from the awareness stage through the evaluation stage and into the purchase stage seamlessly.
Blogs are best for sharing in-depth content to showcase a company’s expertise or help customers explore products or services. 99Firms reports that 77% of internet users read blogs regularly and 70% of consumers prefer receiving company information via a blog article rather than an ad. This makes blogging a critical component of any marketing plan. Consider producing blog content like case studies, roundups, and thought leadership to reach your goals.
Here are the content types that generally receive high engagement on company blogs:
- Case studies: Case studies showcase a particular instance of a company’s product or service in use, and how that instance provided insight into the product/service value to a potential customer. Consider talking to happy customers to see if they’d be willing to help you with a case study to showcase an example of your product’s success.
- Roundups: Roundups bring together expertise from diverse sources on a single topic. For highest engagement, it’s best to discuss content that hasn’t been published elsewhere. Roundups showcase a business’s deep connection with authorities in their industry, demonstrating their own authority by association.
- Thought leadership: Thought leadership pieces are written by industry professionals who discuss popular topics or concepts, offering their own assessment of them and how they should be applied to customers lives or the industry as a whole. While these articles seldom showcase original concepts, they do show business founders to be leaders who are poised to change their industry for the better.
- Original concepts: Original concepts are new ideas businesses create that haven’t yet been discussed. When a business can show customers they not only have a firm grasp on current best practices or knowledge, but are generating new ideas, they become a high-profile standard-bearer for an entire business sector.
- Original research: Original research is a compilation of data gathered about a particular topic which is often the result of a study conducted by a company. Compiling research and publishing it offers a resource customers would have to work hard to gather on their own. Not only is this of value to the consumer, but it feeds the ongoing research and development of the company.
Largely, content that hasn’t been published elsewhere is the most successful for blogs. With this original content regularly featured on a company’s blog, customers know they must reference it frequently to get valuable content not available elsewhere. Many companies also use this content to engage followers on social media; in fact, 66% of marketers use blog content in their social media content.
Tracking Your Marketing Success
Once you’ve set up your distribution channel plans, you must decide how you will track the success of your efforts. Many tools are available to help, including customer relationship management (CRM) software, heatmaps, funnel analysis software, and analytics software. Review the tracking tools for each distribution channel below to help you set up accurate analytics.
Social Media Actions & Tracking
Measurable actions for social media marketing can include filling out a landing page form, becoming a new follower, or clicking a link to learn more. Start by reviewing your core goal — brand awareness, lead nurturing, or sales — then determine the corresponding action and pick the best tracking method.
Here are the main social media marketing goals and actions, as well as tracking guidance:
- Brand awareness: Building brand awareness means increasing the number of people who know about your brand and its products and services. To boost brand awareness, partner with influencers in your niche to create a how-to video or contest. Promote it on your profile and on the influencer’s. Track how many new followers you earn as the campaign runs.
- Lead nurturing: Learn nurturing means moving people who are likely to buy closer to a sale. For example, you can run a campaign on social media asking people to click on a link then enter their email address to receive a free product. Make it fun by providing a prize for participants and make sure it’s a prize your buyers would appreciate. Then, use a website tracking tool like Freshmarketer to track entries.
- In-person sales: You can drive more people in-store to buy products or services by promoting an in-store event, discounts, or specials on social media. To track this accurately, only provide the details on a single social media channel, then track how many people show up. Gather their email addresses in-store, then add to a CRM for future lead nurturing.
While there are a lot of tools that can help you track social media campaigns, you will definitely need a CRM to help you gather email addresses and measure engagement. Learn more about how CRM software can help you track customer interactions with your brand as a result of your social media marketing efforts in our ultimate guide on CRM software.
Email Actions & Tracking
As with social media marketing, you will need to highlight your main email campaign goals, pair them with a set, measurable action, then track engagement to determine campaign success. Email tracking software shows you how visitors interact with campaigns.
Here are some common email marketing goals and the metrics to track them:
- Brand awareness: You can track brand awareness via email open rates, shares, and social media share link clicks. This tracking information should be available in your CRM, or a separate email marketing platform like Constant Contact.
- Lead generation: You can track lead generation by determining how many users complete forms you send in email campaigns and what fields they completed in those forms.
- Purchases/upsells/abandoned cart redemptions: You can track purchases by how many people click on a “Buy Now” button. Just be sure to verify these people followed through with the purchase by using a tool like Freshmarketer to determine if they went all the way to the purchase confirmation/thank you page.
- Review boosts: If you’ve sent an email asking people to review a product or your business as a whole, you can track how many people clicked a “Write a review” button in your email.
- Event attendance: Track how many people clicked an “RSVP” or “Register now” button, then compare that with actual RSVP information. Any discrepancies may indicate issues with your registration/RSVP form.
For a deeper look at how to track your email marketing efforts using software like Constant Contact, read our guide on how to use Constant Contact for email marketing. Also, don’t forget to use a tool like Freshmarketer to track on-website actions performed as a result of your email marketing campaigns.
Blog Actions & Tracking
As with social media and email, a marketing plan that focuses on blogs will need set goals, actions, and tracking methods. Set up your goals and actions, then set up tools like Google Analytics and Freshmarketer, which can show you how visitors interact with your content and if they make a final conversion action as a result.
Here are some common actions and metrics to track around your blog posts:
- Social shares: By understanding where and how often people share your posts, you can get a better sense of the types of posts that help to build brand awareness, then create more of them. This information is generally available via Google Analytics.
- Traffic sources: When you know where blog traffic comes from, you can run campaigns to promote your content on those channels to drive more traffic to your blog. Because many blog posts help you usher people from the brand awareness stage to the interest and evaluation stages, this metric — also accessible on Google Analytics — is great for tracking customer entrance into these stages.
- Top viewed posts: This metric helps you understand the content that drives the most traffic to your website. By noting which of your posts is most popular, you can create more like it to increase website traffic and, ultimately, sales.
- New customers: Ultimately, businesses conduct marketing campaigns to drive sales. A funnel analysis tool like Freshmarketer can help you determine popular posts people read before they buy a product on your website. By knowing this, you can promote that content more and create more like it to boost sales.
While you can set up funnel analysis using Google, non tech-savvy small businesses will find it easier to set it up and understand the results using a paid funnel analysis tool like Freshmarketer.
Marketing Plan Tools
Digital marketing requires various tools to research, distribute, and track the performance of your marketing campaigns. Consider acquiring or signing up for the tools and services most often needed to implement a digital marketing plan, including website hosting and email hosting plans, search engine optimization tools, website tracking and analytics software, and email marketing automation software.
Here are the top marketing plan tools to help you get started:
- Bluehost: For $2.95/month, Bluehost offers 50GB of storage to store your website files, as well as a free domain name, one-click WordPress installations, and a free SSL certificate to ensure your website can securely process customer data.
- Constant Contact: Constant Contact offers email marketing software that allows you to create website contact forms, collect customer contact information, market to them via drip campaigns, and track your campaign performance. Its small business plans start at $20/month.
- SEO Quake: This is a free search engine optimization tool that allows you to analyze key webpage SEO metrics so you can boost your website’s ranking in search engines. Metrics you can research and track include internal and external linking, Google search engine results page (SERP) ranking, domain comparisons (for competitor analysis), keyword difficulty, and social media engagement.
- Freshmarketer: Freshmarketer is a conversion rate optimization (CRO) tool you can use to understand how website visitors interact with your content and what leads them to convert. Tools offered include A/B testing, heatmaps, visitor session recordings, funnel analysis capabilities, website visitor polls, and form analysis. Plans with limited features are free but more robust plans that include all these tools are $99/month.
- Google Analytics: A leading analytics tool used by both individuals and businesses, Google Analytics easily plugs in your website and allows you to gather information on users and their browsing behavior while on your site. Google Analytics is free to all users, but you do need a Google account to use the platform.
3 Pro Tips for Making the Most of Your Marketing Plan
Marketing plans offer a clear path to achieving business set goals. To be successful, a marketing plan should start with a clear profile of your target markets with distribution channels and content that meet their needs. We reached out to marketing pros to gather tips that help you do just that.
Here are three tips from the pros for creating a successful marketing plan:
Bottom Line – Free Marketing Plan Template
A small business marketing plan documents a business’s overall marketing goals and the strategies they plan to implement to achieve them. Components of this plan include the results of a S.W.O.T. analysis, S.M.A.R.T. goals, customer persona profiles, a UVP, and distribution channels. Given the length and complexity of the document, many small business owners use templates to guide them in putting together these goals.
Unfortunately, the planning and implementation of a marketing plan can be too time-consuming for small businesses with limited staff and budgets. Hibu helps to break those time and labor constraints; for a starting fee of as little as $400 and a $100/month maintenance fee, it offers a full staff of small business marketing experts that create and implement marketing plans around their clients’ goals. Click here to get started with Hibu.