The 7 Things That Belong in Every Marketing Plan
March 19, 2019

The 7 Things That Belong in Every Marketing Plan

by Brian de Haaff

People often mistake the “what” for the “why.” Let me explain. Say you are preparing for a long vacation and have a long list of to-dos before you go. The “what” is the to-do list of things like packing and putting your mail on hold. However, the “why” is the vacation ahead. Marketing is no different. Before you launch into any activities, you need to have a solid understanding of why you are doing it.

This is why all marketing managers need strategic marketing plans — to guide where you want to go.

This is made even more complex because marketing managers tend to be highly creative people. You have lots of ideas and the market landscape is always changing. But if those ideas do not align with where the business is headed, you may find yourself at a disappointing end — lots of resources and effort spent without any meaningful results for the company.

You need a marketing plan that ties marketing and business goals to the work that needs to be accomplished.

Of course, your team might be accustomed to skipping the strategic planning and jumping right into actual marketing work. I understand why this is tempting and how it happens.

Between tight deadlines and impatient leaders, you feel like you have to move quickly. Investing time in strategic planning would only slow you down. So you barrel through the work without much thinking.

But a solid plan will help everyone stay focused on the work that is most important. You just need to know how to actually document your marketing plan, so it is easy for the entire team to understand and rally around. When they see the value in it, they will build that strategic thinking into everything they do.

Here is what to include in your marketing plan:

Goals Going into the planning process, you should already understand the high-level marketing and business goals. The key is to bring those goals into the plan in a visual way, by grouping work by the goal or initiative it supports, for example. That way, everyone understands what they are working towards and why every activity matters.

Initiatives Your marketing team might work on major themes or what we call initiatives. These major workstreams serve as “containers” for your plans and activities. The critical part is to connect your day-to-day work to the overall strategy — this is how you create a “red thread” of strategy throughout your plan.

Channels You likely already know which channels are most effective to engage with customers and reach out to prospective ones. For example, you might reach out to customers on a variety of platforms, such as social media, blogs, and advertising networks. You will want to include channels for your campaigns and programs in your marketing plan so you can quickly identify where your focus areas are.

Activities Activities are the actual work items needed to deliver a complete program or campaign. Depending on what your team is marketing, activities may be things like email newsletters, digital advertisements, or media outreach.

Timeline Plans are useless without dates. You will want to include key dates for when your marketing activities will be delivered, as well as phases for campaigns and programs. Your timeline may be broken down by specific days, weeks, fiscal quarters, half a year, or even multiple years. It is all dependant on the work and the team.

Budget Money matters. And marketing teams usually have plenty to spend. Include the budgets for your programs or campaigns. As work progresses, you will then be able to measure results, analyze your return on investment, and adjust accordingly.

Dependencies The best marketing plans include input from a wide variety of people across teams. So make it easy for the product, engineering, and sales teams to coordinate. The ability to visualize how the interrelated pieces fit together helps everyone get aligned on timing and trade-offs if there are delays.

Marketing plans ensure that you are not just busy doing work — but that you are doing work that matters to customers and the business.

You can use your plan as a gut check for new work or changes to your approach. When a request or idea comes up, the plan will help guide conversations around what you will say yes or no to.

This process ideally leads to breakthrough marketing that delivers on real business goals. Another ideal? More clarity and a sense of calm for you and the team. Your plan will give you the freedom to pursue creative ideas with purpose, knowing that the chaos is behind you.

What else do you put in your marketing plan?

Build marketing plans like you always wanted. Sign up for a free 30-day trial.

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

Follow Aha!

Follow Brian

Related articles

The Best Cover Letters That CEOs Love to Read
April 13, 2017
The Best Cover Letters That CEOs Love to Read

A well-crafted cover letter is a great way to get noticed. Find out what to include in your cover letter to catch the attention of a CEO.

New Marketing Managers — Do These 8 Things in the First 30 Days
January 28, 2019
New Marketing Managers — Do These 8 Things in the First 30 Days

Are you a new marketing manager? Check out these suggestions from eight marketing experts on how to show your true value in your first 30 days.

The tragedy of 'good enough'
June 4, 2024
The tragedy of 'good enough'

Leaders create an environment that fosters continual improvement when they: 1. Hire for achievement. 2. Invest in training. 3. Keep raising the standard.

6 Characteristics of the Best Bootstrapped Businesses
July 19, 2022
6 Characteristics of the Best Bootstrapped Businesses

Founding and running a startup takes courage and conviction. Bootstrapping is a mindset that can also serve as an operating model for sustainable growth. These are the…