Learning the Basics
What is a Marketing Plan?
A marketing plan is a comprehensive blueprint that outlines an organization’s overall marketing effort. By definition, a marketing plan is a business document written for the purpose of detailing the current market position of a business and its marketing strategy for the period covered by the marketing plan.
A marketing plan can have a life anywhere from one to five years. Because things are constantly changing (staff changes, markets mature, customers come and go), we prefer to create marketing plans for our clients with a yearly focus, revisiting the plan at least once within each fiscal year. We then plan marketing strategies and tactics with a quarterly focus and map out tasks monthly. This allows our team to set better goals and track performance while following along using the yearly plan as a compass.
The purpose of creating a marketing plan is to clearly spell out exactly what steps and individual activities will be carried out to achieve the company’s marketing objectives.
5 Things Every Marketing Plan Should Consider:
Marketing may seem simple, but it’s very easy to miss essential components. Here are 5 things that every marketing plan should aim to achieve.
- Clarity – Plans should be very clear on what exactly is to be done throughout the year. The clearer your plan is, the easier it is to understand, and in turn the more effectively it will be implemented.
- Quantified – The predicted outcome of each activity should be measured so that its performance can be monitored. If you know what you’re tracking, you’ll know when and where to make adjustments.
- Focused – It can be extremely easy to lose focus when creating your marketing plan. Avoid unnecessary expansion, and concentrate on achieving your objectives.
- Realistic – Your marketing plan should be achievable.
- Agreed – All stakeholders should be committed to the marketing plan and agree on the direction of the plan.
Why Even Bother With a Marketing Plan?
This is a surprisingly common question. The most important objective of a marketing plan is to maximize the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. You may have heard the old adage: “Failure to Plan is a Plan for Failure” –Benjamin Franklin
Here are some of the reasons why we feel that a marketing plan is important:
- A plan ensures marketing efforts are aligned with company objectives.
Innovation in technology and marketing channels has made it easy to lose your priorities, making planning for marketing complicated. With so many channels, platforms and activities, it can be tricky deciding on where to place your focus. A marketing plan will help you decide on what makes the most sense for your company and what doesn’t. In addition, a marketing plan will keep your entire company focused on it’s priorities and working collectively towards your company’s objectives.
- A marketing plan ensures your marketing efforts are productive
In this new age of marketing, changes happen fast. When changes occur, a lot of companies are tempted by the current buzzword and jump right into using the latest and greatest technology or marketing platform. If you’re a corporate law firm, you probably shouldn’t double down on Pinterest. A marketing plan will keep your company focused on what’s important by following your planned, defined, and agreed upon strategies and tactics. Working this way keeps you from losing focus by being too reactive.
- A marketing plan ensures your entire company is on the same page
A lot of companies, especially larger organizations, often have trouble aligning objectives. Everyone in an organization has their own ideas and their own goals when it comes to marketing. A solid marketing plan will keep everyone aligned and working towards success.
- A marketing plan allows you to focus on the big picture
Getting caught up in the small details is common for business owners and marketers. For example, social media is a powerful tool, but one that’s very much about the moment. A lot of business owners will proclaim they need social media but have no idea exactly why they need it. A marketing plan will keep marketing initiatives focused on the big picture so that opportunities aren’t missed.
- A plan gives you a framework to measure your efforts.
The good thing about digital marketing tactics is that they are generally easy to measure. Things like website traffic, click through rates, conversions, followers, social reach, email open rates, etc. are all things we can track. A marketing plan gives you the ability to specify exactly what you’d like to evaluate in advance, as opposed to trying to figure out exactly what your data means once it starts rolling in.
What is the Difference Between a Marketing Plan and a Business Plan?
What’s the difference between a marketing plan and a business plan? Isn’t a marketing plan an essential part of a business plan? Can you do one without the other? These are good questions that get asked a lot.
- A business plan typically covers the entire plan for your business including overall vision, strategy, financials, target markets, marketing, sales, operations, and how all of these come together. A marketing plan exclusively covers the marketing: strategy, markets, marketing mix, messaging, measurements, etc. A business plan also details financial projections, which is not typically included in a marketing plan.
- A business plan will almost always incorporate a marketing plan within the marketing section of the plan. Some business plans put a heavy emphasis on marketing, other do not. This usually depends on the importance of marketing to the success of the business plan.
- Lots of people do marketing plans rather than business plans because their focus is on the marketing, not the whole business.