Guest blog from our friends at Filestage.
“Great marketing only makes a bad product fail faster.” – David Ogilvy
A great product is the foundation of a company’s success. This truism doesn’t even need to be discussed. However, a great product is not the holy grail.
If it has bad or nonexistent marketing, it can fail as well. Hence, it’s crucial to have a solid marketing plan in place, which will precisely outline how you’re going to make your millions.
Marketing Plan Definition
A marketing plan is a document that details how you’re going to execute your strategy. It’s written for a specific period of time and explains both your current situation and your future plans.
A good marketing plan includes several elements:
- Executive Summary
- Mission Statement
- Situation Analysis
- Target Market
- Buyer Personas
- Marketing Objectives and Performance
- Pricing Strategy
- Distribution Strategy
- Promotion Strategy
How to Write a Marketing Plan
The list of elements involved in a marketing plan may sound quite comprehensive, but writing a plan doesn’t need to be difficult. Of course, it comes with some effort, but doing it step-by-step will help you master this challenge. To get started, use our marketing plan template. This document will guide you through the process. But first, let’s dive into the different elements of a marketing plan, and figure out how to outline them.
Elements of a Marketing Plan
The executive summary is a small, summarized version of your marketing plan. The main objective is it to briefly list and describe all relevant components. Keep in mind that most executives who’ll read your marketing plan won’t have the time to read the full document. Therefore, you need to make sure that they’re immediately getting the full picture.
Your mission statement should describe your marketing activities on a meta level. Hence, you need to answer these basic business questions:
- What do you want to do?
- Why do you want to do it?
- Who do you do it for?
All of your business activities should be based on your mission statement. When you start wondering if you’re still heading in the right direction, use this statement to double-check your approach.
Here are some examples of great mission statements:
- “Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” – Google
- “We believe in what people make possible. Our mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.” – Microsoft
- “Founded in 2004, Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together. People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them.” – Facebook
- “Our vision is to be earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”- Amazon
This analysis covers these elements:
- Product/Service: What are you selling?
- Unique Selling Proposition: What is your unique selling proposition? And what separates you from your competitors?
- Best Practices: What are best practices at your company? They could be well-performing marketing channels, buyer personas with a large amount of purchase intent, or campaigns that have generated a lot of leads.
- Marketing Objectives and Performance: What are your current marketing objectives? Did you manage to achieve them? If not, why?
- Challenges: What are the current challenges that your company (especially your marketing team) is facing?
- Competitor Analysis: Who are your competitors? How are your competitors performing?
- SWOT Analysis: What are the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that your company (especially your marketing team) is facing?
(Image Source: The UX Blog)
What market is your product or service trying to target? Is it a B2B market or a consumer market?
The target market includes the industries that you sell your product or service to. It should be as detailed as possible, and it’s the foundation for any marketing activities. Without properly targeting, you won’t be able to successfully run a marketing campaign.
So what do you need to know about your target market? Get started by answering these questions:
- Which companies are in your target market?
- How can you reach them?
- Why would companies in these industries buy your product/service?
- Why would companies from these industries refuse to buy your product or service
- What are these companies’ current needs?
You’ve defined your target market. That’s great, but now we need to dive deeper into this market, to find out who will actually buy your product or service. So now is the time to create your buyer personas. This process involves pinpointing which people work in your target markets, and which ones represent segments of your customer base.
You’ll need to define these customer archetypes in a very detailed way. That way, you’ll be able to make informed marketing decisions. But what attributes should you describe? You can easily use our buyer persona template to pinpoint your first personas.
In general, a buyer persona should cover these points:
- Name and Photo: Give your buyer persona a suitable name, and add a nice photo.
- Background Information: Define general information, such as age, gender, location, income, education, job, and family situation.
- Statement: Create one quote that contains the values, objectives, and challenges of your buyer persona.
- Goals: What does your buyer want to achieve?
- Challenges and Problems: List the most important challenges that your buyer persona faces.
- Values: What are your buyer persona’s most relevant values and beliefs?
- Buying Decisions: Why and when does your buyer persona buy?
- Solution: How can your product or service help your buyer persona overcome his or her challenges?
Marketing Objectives and Performance
This part of the marketing plan is about setting ambitious but achievable goals, and defining how you’ll track your performance during the described period. You can use our SMART goals template to make sure that you’re setting the right objectives.
Here’s an example of a good marketing objective:
To generate 250 qualified marketing leads, our marketing team will create 20 blog posts by September 1, 2018.
Set your prices, and align them with your marketing strategies. This strategy is key to generating profits; it will decide the success or failure of your products or services.
Generally, you have five options for defining your pricing strategy:
- Base It on Costs: The foundation for your prices are your cost. Calculate the cost, add the desired profit, and voila: You’ve set your prices.
- Base It on Competitors: Analyze the prices of your competitors, and charge as much as they do. Here’s the downside: Often, you don’t know exactly WHY they’re charging that amount. Hence, you should definitely know your cost structure before pursuing this approach.
- Skim It: The skimming strategy involves entering a new market with a high price. As the market evolves, you reduce your prices to stay competitive. A typical example is the gaming consoles market.
(Image Source: Ars Technica)
- Penetrate It: If you want to enter a competitive market, use the penetration strategy: Set a low price, in order to quickly gain a market share. Then after you’ve established your company, raise your prices step-by-step.
- Bundle It: If you’re offering multiple products or services, you can consider this option as well. It involves bundling different products or services to increase the provided value while setting a higher price.
The distribution plan explains how you’ll deliver your product or service. If you’re offering online software, your product could be distributed through your website. If you’re running a local clothes shop, you distribute your products through your shop. So you see, the distribution channel needs to be aligned with your product. Hence, you need to answer the following questions:
- What is your preferred distribution channel?
- Why are you choosing it over others?
- What are the costs related to distributing your products or services?
- What’s the impact of your distribution channel on your delivery times?
For example, our software Filestage can be only accessed through our website (e. g. by starting a free trial). This is our only and most important distribution channel.
(Image Source: Filestage)
After defining your distribution channel(s), it’s time to make sure that you really need to deliver your product or service. First of all, you need to define the message that should be conveyed to your buyer personas. Afterwards, let’s look at suitable promotion channels that can be used to acquire new customers. Obviously, they should be channels you can find your buyer personas in. But the range of possibilities still seems to be endless.
How can we choose the right channels for our business? As a foundation, I refer to the amazing book Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customers by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares.
In this book, both authors outline the most important existing marketing channels that can be used to spread the word about your product, and drive your customer’s acquisition efforts:
- Targeting Blogs
- Unconventional PR
- Search Engine Marketing
- Social and Display Ads
- Offline Ads
- Search Engine Optimization
- Content Marketing
- Email Marketing
- Viral Marketing
- Engineering as Marketing
- Business Development
- Affiliate Programs
- Existing Platforms
- Trade Shows
- Offline Events
- Speaking Engagements
- Community Building
I know that list is comprehensive. It might seem overwhelming to choose the items that are most suitable for your business. But Weinberg and Mares also provide a framework that helps with this challenge: The Bullseye Framework.
By using this framework, you can find and choose your appropriate channels step-by-step. Make sure that you’re describing your planned marketing activities for each channel in detail. Don’t just write down “Create Facebook Ads.” Instead, answer relevant “W Questions”:
- What will you do in detail?
- What results do you expect?
- What are the chances that it’s not the right platform?
- Why will you pursue this platform?
- When will you pursue it?
- Who will be involved?
By answering these questions, you will help consolidate your promotional channels, and make sure you’re choosing the right tactics.
Budgeting your marketing activities can be tough, since it involves a lot of different elements. There are two suitable ways to get started:
- Build your budget plan based on last year’s spendings.
- Build your budget plan from scratch.
If your marketing plan from last year doesn’t really distinguish from this year’s plan, the first option is definitely a possible route. Is this your first year, or is it difficult to compare your new plan with last year’s plan? Go with option two. It’s more effort, but it will ensure that you’re creating a reliable forecast. This projection allows you to calculate a potential ROI, and gives you a reason to pursue your plan.
When creating the budget plan, you should consider all costs of your distribution and promotional plans. List these elements one by one, and assign spendings. Don’t forget to include the working hours of your coworkers.
Marketing Plan Google Doc Template
Now, it’s time to get started. Get access to your marketing plan template as Google Doc file. No registration needed. You only need to copy it.
Marketing Plan PDF Template
If you prefer a PDF version of the marketing plan template, you can download it here.
Marketing Plan Word Template
Word users, of course, we’ve got you covered. The marketing plan template as Word file can be downloaded here.
6 Examples of a Marketing Plan
To get your creative juices flowing, we’ve compiled a list of 5 inspiring marketing plans. Analyze them, learn from them and apply this knowledge to your own marketing plan. Let’s get started.
- Content Marketing Strategy Example by Buffer
- Marketing Plan Example by morebusiness.com
- Sample Marketing Plan by Palo Alto Software
- Sample Internet Marketing Plan by NerdyMind
- Multichannel Marketing Plan Sample by BusinessTown
- Templated Email Marketing Automation Plans by Drip
A marketing plan is the foundation for your marketing activities. Spend time on creating a decent plan. You’ll benefit from your initial effort in the future. Have I missed relevant marketing plan elements or useful marketing plan samples? Let me know about it in the comments.
Last modified: August 28th, 2019