Marketing strategy guide What is a marketing plan?

What is a marketing plan?

Marketing plans define what work you will do to achieve the marketing strategy. These plans help you establish what you want to accomplish and build a timeline to get there. Your plan should ideally follow a top-down approach that starts with the overall marketing and business goals and ties major areas of effort (such as programs and campaigns) with the activities required. Showing how your marketing activities move the strategy forward gives the team the clarity they need to do great work and make an impact with customers and the market.

Initiatives pivot

Why is a marketing plan important?

Your marketing plan describes the work that needs to be done and when it should be finished so you can meet a set of business objectives. Setting a firm plan is essential to keep the team moving in the same direction.

But there are additional benefits to creating a marketing plan as well including:

  • Alignment

    A strategy-driven marketing plan aligns the team around goals and initiatives.

  • Impact

    Including performance targets in your plan shows the impact of your work.

  • Focus

    A clearly defined plan serves as a framework for prioritizing activities and requests.

  • Coordination

    Creating a timeline with key milestones keeps everyone in sync and on schedule.

  • Visibility

    A visual plan communicates direction and progress to leadership and internal teams.

You should regularly revisit the plan and evaluate progress based on what is working and what is not going so well. This allows you to continuously evolve your plans to successfully achieve your goals.

What are the components of a marketing plan?

There are many ways you can build marketing plans — such as by team function, program, or customer segment. What matters is establishing a clear timeline for completing work and communicating it in a way that everyone can understand and act on.

Listed below are the key components your marketing plans should include:

  • Goals

    Define a measurable goal for each campaign and program. This helps the team understand what you are trying to achieve and the business value of your marketing efforts.

  • Timeline

    Include key dates to show when campaigns and program activities will be delivered. The time scale depends on the level of detail required — such as days, weeks, quarters, and sometimes years.

  • Channels

    Define the most effective channels to connect with and engage customers based on their demographics and behavior. Many campaigns use multiple channels to reach potential customers on a variety of platforms.

  • Programs

    Specify the high-level work streams that require the team’s focus to meet its goals. These are areas like the website or email communications that are ongoing and act as containers for campaigns and specific activities.

  • Campaigns

    Define a specific set of activities and assign a deliverable date through a series of campaigns. While campaigns tend to be more oriented towards advertising — they do not necessarily need to be. Campaigns can also be used to track partner marketing activities or media and analyst outreach work.

  • Activities

    Define the activities that are needed to deliver each campaign or program. This can include a wide variety of tactics such as digital advertising, email marketing, blog posts, videos, whitepapers, and more.

  • Budget

    Allocate your marketing budget across programs and channels based on customer acquisition, retention, and growth goals. This helps you assess the return on investment across your marketing efforts.

  • Dependencies

    Identify cross-team dependencies so you can proactively plan ahead to meet target due dates. This is especially important when you need to coordinate launch activities with other teams such as product, engineering, sales, and customer support.

What are some types of marketing plans?

Marketers use a variety of plans for different campaigns, programs, or teams. Listed below are some of the common types of marketing plans and how they are used.

Marketing plan Purpose
Advertising plan

An advertising campaign is a focused effort to engage target audiences with a specific message and encourage them to take the desired action.

A campaign plan sets out the major promotional efforts for the year. It also defines the goal and duration of each campaign. To manage the launch of each campaign, you will also need a detailed timeline that includes what activities are due and when.

Communications plan

Communications marketing covers all aspects of your strategy to get your company message heard and increase your visibility in the market.

A communications plan should identify key audiences — such as customers, partners, investors, analysts, and media channels — and set an ongoing schedule for communicating your message to them and how.

Content marketing plan

Content marketing is the strategic approach to creating and distributing relevant content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience.

A content marketing plan considers the informational needs of your target audience and sets an ongoing cadence for delivering content that matters to that audience and to the business. Your plans should also define which channels you will use to distribute your content and when.

Digital marketing plan

Digital marketing includes a wide range of online paid marketing activities including search engines, social media, and email.

A digital marketing plan identifies relevant online channels for reaching target customers. It helps you determine how and where you invest your budget. Your plan should also define the schedule for implementing based on your customer acquisition, retention, and growth goals.

Product launch plan

A product launch is how you go to market with a new product or customer experience. From a marketing perspective, this includes deciding how the launch will be announced, creating new messaging and content, and what channels you will use to promote it.

A product launch plan sets a date and time for the launch and details all of the cross-team activities as needed. Your plan should clearly show when required tasks are due and the dependencies between them — so you can launch on time.

Social media plan

Social media marketing helps you grow your online following so you can gain market share, generate leads, share thought leadership, and generate awareness.

A social media marketing plan should identify the social networks that matter to your customers and set a schedule for how often, when, and what to post. Your plan should also consider strategies to boost your social media following.

What does a marketing plan look like?

The best marketing plans use visual timelines to show what activities will be delivered and when. Many teams use calendars and Gantt charts to create program schedules and define plans.

A calendar is a great way to display what will be delivered and when. The example below shows a consolidated view of digital, content, and product marketing activities by month. This kind of view helps the team see what is coming next and encourages cross-team collaboration.

Calendar

Gantt charts are useful when you are creating detailed plans that have multiple phases of work — such as managing a cross-channel advertising campaign or complex launch. These charts allow you to schedule activities in the order they need to be completed, identify key milestones, and track progress so you can deliver on time. The one below shows all the marketing efforts related to an upcoming product launch.

Gantt schedule

Your marketing plan guides the implementation of your strategy and sets a timeline to achieve it. It is important to have up-to-date plans readily accessible — so everyone knows exactly what needs to happen and when.

Many teams use tools such as Excel and PowerPoint to capture their marketing plans. Choose from a wide variety of free marketing plan templates to keep everyone on schedule. But if you want to use a web-based tool to collaborate with colleagues on your marketing plans in real time, try Aha! for Marketing free for 30 days. This purpose-built marketing planning software is great for defining strategy, building visual plans, and reporting back on the results — all in one place.

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