What is a Marketing Plan and How to Make One?

After employee salaries, marketing is typically the biggest expense for most businesses.

As a business owner or marketer, don’t you want to make sure your marketing dollars are being spent in the most productive way possible? Yeah, me too.

But what often ends up happening is most businesses try different marketing tactics without a clear plan, and walk away with little success.

Or they’ll get lucky and score a big marketing win but soon find themselves unable to scale their marketing tactics, goals and strategies to drive consistent growth.

In this guide, you’ll learn how to grow your business strategically and maximize ROI generated from your marketing dollars with a well-defined marketing plan.

Don’t know how to create a marketing plan? Start with one of Venngage’s templates today. You don’t need any design skills to make a great plan that helps align your team and grow your business.


Click to jump ahead:
What is a marketing plan?
How to create a marketing plan
Marketing plan design tips
Marketing plan examples
What is a marketing plan?
A marketing plan is a report that outlines your marketing strategy for the coming year, quarter or month. Typically, a marketing plan includes:

An overview of your business’s marketing and advertising goals.
A description of your business’s current marketing position.
A timeline of when tasks within your strategy will be completed.
Key performance indicators (KPIs) you will be tracking.
A description of your business’s target market and customer needs.
For example, this marketing plan template provides a high-level overview of the business and competitors before diving deep into specific goals, KPIs and tactics:

Orange Content Marketing Plan Template


Learning how to write a marketing plan forces you to think through the important steps that lead to an effective marketing strategy And a well-defined plan will help you stay focused on your high-level marketing goals.

With Venngage’s extensive catalog of marketing plan templates, creating your marketing plan isn’t going to be hard or tedious. In fact, Venngage has plenty of helpful communications and design resources for marketers. If you’re ready to get started, sign up for Venngage for Marketers now. It’s free to register and start designing.

Venngage for Marketers Page Header


Whether you’re a team trying to set smarter marketing goals, a consultant trying to set your client in the right direction, or a one-person team hustling it out, Venngage for Marketers helps you get things done. You’ll also get helpful webinars and presentations delivered right to your inbox, like this one:

Growth By Content Webinar Banner

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How to create a marketing plan:
The scope of your marketing plan varies depending on its purpose or the type of organization it’s for. For example, you could create a marketing plan that provides an overview of a company’s entire marketing strategy or simply focus on a specific channel like SEO, social media marketing, content marketing. like in this example:

content marketing plan


Let’s look at how to create a successful marketing plan (click to jump ahead):
Write a simple executive summary
Set metric-driven marketing goals
Outline your user personas
Research all of your competitors
Set accurate key baselines & metrics
Create an actionable marketing strategy
Set tracking or reporting guidelines
1. Simple Executive Summary
Starting your marketing plan off on the right foot is important. You want to pull people into your amazing plan for marketing domination. Not bore them to tears.

Red Creative Marketing Plan Template


One of the best ways to get people excited to read your marketing plan is with a well-written executive summary. An executive summary introduces readers to your company goals, marketing triumphs, future plans, and other important contextual facts.

Simple Business Marketing Plan Template


Basically, you can use the Executive Summary as a primer for the rest of your marketing plan.

Include things like:
Simple marketing goals
High-level metrics
Important company milestones
Facts about your brand
Employee anecdotes
Future goals & plans
And more
Try to keep your executive summary rather brief and to the point. You aren’t writing a novel, so try to keep it under three to four paragraphs.

Take a look at the executive summary in the marketing plan example below:

Modern Content Marketing Plan Template


The executive summary is only two paragraphs long–short but effective.

The executive summary tells readers about the company’s growth, and how they are about to overtake one of their competitors. But there’s no mention of specific metrics or figures. That will be highlighted in the next section of the marketing plan.

An effective executive summary should have enough information to pique the reader’s interest, but not bog them down with specifics yet. That’s what the rest of your marketing plan is for!

The executive summary also sets the tone for your marketing plan. Think about what tone will fit your brand? Friendly and humorous? Professional and reliable? Inspiring and visionary?

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2. Metric-Driven Marketing Goals
After you perfect your executive summary, it’s time to outline your marketing goals.

(If you’ve never set data-driven goals like this before, it would be worth reading this growth strategy guide).

This is one of the most important parts of the entire marketing plan, so be sure to take your time and be as clear as possible.

As a rule of thumb, be as specific as possible. The folks over at VoyMedia advise that you should set goals that impact website traffic, conversions, and customer success — and to use real numbers.

Avoid outlining vague goals like:

Get more Twitter followers
Write more articles
Create more YouTube videos
Increase retention rate
Decrease bounce rate
Instead, identify key performance metrics you want to impact and the percentage you want to increase them by.

Take a look at the goals page in the marketing plan example below:

Creative Marketing Plan Template


They not only identify a specific metric in each of their goals, but they also set a timeline for when they will be increased.

The same vague goals listed earlier become much clearer when specific numbers and timelines are applied to them:

Get 100 new Twitter followers per month
Write 5 more articles per week
Create 10 YouTube videos each year
Increase retention rate by 15% by 2020
Decrease bounce rate by 5% by Q1
Create an online course and get 1,000 new leads
You can dive even deeper into your marketing goals if you want (generally, the more specific, the better). Here’s a marketing plan example that shows how to outline your growth goals:

Growth Goals Marketing Plan Template


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3. Target User Personas
Now, this may not seem like the most important part of your marketing plan, but I think it holds a ton of value.

Outlining your user personas is an important part of a marketing plan that should not be overlooked.

You should be asking not just how you can get the most visitors to your business, but how you can get the right visitors.

Who are your ideal customers? What are their goals? What are their biggest problems? How does your business solve customer problems?

Answering these questions will take lots of research, but it’s essential information to get.

Some ways to conduct user research are:

Interviewing your users (either in person or on the phone)
Conducting focus groups
Researching other businesses in the same industry
Surveying your audience
Then, you will need to compile your user data into a user persona guide.

Take a look at how detailed this user persona template is below:

Creative Blue & Gray User Persona Template


Taking the time to identify specific demographic traits, habits and goals will make it easier for you to cater your marketing plan to them.

Here’s how you can create a user persona guide:

The first thing you should add is a profile picture or icon for each user persona. It can help to put a face to your personas, so they seem more real.

Purple User Persona Template


Next, list demographic information like:

The user persona example above uses sliding scales to identify personality traits like introversion vs. extroversion and thinking vs. feeling. Identifying what type of personality your target users tend to have an influence on the messaging you use in your marketing content.

Meanwhile, this user persona guide identifies specific challenges the user faces each day:

Modern Content Marketing Strategy Plan Template


But if you don’t want to go into such precise detail, you can stick to basic information, like in this marketing plan example:

Colorful Creative Social Media Plan Template


Most businesses will have a few different types of target users. That’s why it’s pertinent to identify and create several different user personas. That way, you can better segment your marketing campaigns and set separate goals, if necessary.

Here’s a marketing plan example with a segmented user persona guide:

Modern User Persona Marketing Plan Template


The important thing is for your team or client to have a clear picture of who their target user is and how they can appeal to their specific problems.

Start creating robust user personas using Venngage’s user persona guide.

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4. Accurate Competitor Research
Next, on the marketing plan checklist, we have the competitor research section. This section will help you identify who your competitors are, what they’re doing, and how you could carve yourself a place alongside them in your niche–and ideally, surpass them. It’s something you can learn to do with a tool like GrowthBar.

Competitor research is also incredibly important if you are starting a blog.

Typically, your competitor research should include:

Who their marketing team is
Who their leadership team is
What their marketing strategy is (this will probably revolve some reverse-engineering)
What their sales strategy is (same deal)
Social Media strategy
Their market cap/financials
Their yearly growth (you will probably need to use a marketing tool like Ahrefs to do this)
The number of customers they have & their user personas
Also, take as deep a dive as you can into the strategies they use across their:

Blog/Content marketing
Social media marketing
SEO Marketing
Video marketing
And any other marketing tactics they use
Research their strengths and weaknesses in all parts of their company, and you will find some great opportunities. Bookmark has a great guide to different marketing strategies for small businesses if you need some more information there.

You can use this simple SWOT analysis worksheet to quickly work through all parts of their strategy as well:

Marketing Business SWOT Template


Click the template above to create a swot chart. Customize the template to your liking–no design know-how needed.

Since you have already done all the research beforehand, adding this information to your marketing plan shouldn’t be that hard.

In this marketing plan example, some high-level research is outlined for 3 competing brands:

Modern Green Social Media Marketing Plan


But you could take a deeper dive into different facets of your competitors’ strategies. This marketing plan example analyses a competitor’s content marketing strategy:

Competitor Analysis Content Marketing Plan Template


It can also be helpful to divide your competitors into Primary and Secondary groups. For example, Apple’s primary competitor may be Dell for computers, but its secondary competitor could be a company that makes tablets.

Your most dangerous competitors may not even be in the same industry as you. Like the CEO of Netflix said, “Sleep is our competition.”

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5. Key Baselines
It’s pretty hard to plan for the future if you don’t know where your business stands right now.

Before we do anything at Venngage, we find the baselines so we can compare future results to something. We do it so much it’s almost like second nature now!

Setting baselines will allow you to more accurately track your progress. You will also be able to better analyze what worked and what didn’t work, so you can build a stronger strategy. It will definitely help them clearly understand your goals and strategy as well.

Here’s a marketing plan example where the baselines are visualized:

Blue Social Media Marketing Plan Template


Another way to include baselines in your plan is with a simple chart, like in the marketing plan example below:

Simple Blue Social Media Marketing Plan


Because data can be intimidating to a lot of people, visualizing your data using charts and infographics will help demystify the information.

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6. Actionable Marketing Strategy
After pulling all the contextual information and relevant metrics into your marketing plan, it’s time to break down your marketing strategy.

Once again, it’s easier to communicate your information to your team or clients using visuals.

Mind maps are an effective way to show how a strategy with many moving parts ties together. For example, this mind map shows how the four main components of a marketing strategy interact together:

Simple Marketing Plan Mind Map Template


You can also use a flow chart to map out your strategy by objectives:

Simple Business Flow Chart Template


However you choose to visualize your strategy, your team should know exactly what they need to do. This is not the time to keep your cards close to your chest.

Your strategy section may need to take up a few pages to explain, like in the marketing plan example below:

Creative Modern Content Marketing Plan Template


With all of this information, even someone from the development team will understand what the marketing team is working on.

This minimalistic marketing plan example uses color blocks to make the different parts of the strategy easy to scan:

Blue Simple Social Media Marketing Plan Template


Breaking your strategy down into tasks will make it easier to tackle.

Another important way to visualize your marketing strategy is to create a project roadmap. A project roadmap visualizes the timeline of your product with individual tasks. Our roadmap maker can help you with this.

For example, this project roadmap shows how tasks on both the marketing and web design side run parallel to each other:

Simple Product Roadmap Plan Template

A simple timeline can also be used in your marketing plan:

Red Marketing Timeline Template

Or a mind map, if you want to include a ton of information in a more organized way:

Colorful Business Strategy Marketing Plan Template

Even a simple “Next, Now, Later” chart can help visualize your strategy:

Creative Now Next Later Chart Template

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7. Results Tracking Guidelines
Close your marketing plan with a brief explanation of how you plan to track or measure your results. This will save you a lot of frustration down the line by standardizing how you track results across your team.

Like the other sections of your marketing plan, you can choose how in-depth you want to go. But there need to be some clear guidelines on how to measure the progress and results of your marketing plan.

At the bare minimum, your results tracking guidelines should specify:

What you plan to track
How you plan to track results
How often you plan to measure
But you can more add tracking guidelines to your marketing plan if you see the need to. You may also want to include a template that your team or client can follow, to ensure that the right metrics are being tracked.

Simple Marketing Plan Template


The marketing plan example below dedicates a whole page to tracking criteria:

Modern SEO Marketing Proposal Plan Template


Use a checklist maker to not only track marketing results but also to note down tasks, important life events or tracking your daily life.

Similarly, the marketing plan example below talks about tracking content marketing instead:
Blue Social Media Simple Marketing Plan Template


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7 Design Tips to Keep in Mind While You Create Your Marketing Plan
While a marketing plan doesn’t necessarily have to be pretty, an impressive design certainly helps if you want your plan to be more convincing.

Presentation is especially important if you’re presenting your marketing plan to investors, or if you need to convince your boss to approve your requested budget.

That’s where a marketing plan template can help. If you don’t have a designer available, or even if you want a framework to base your own design on, a template gives you a solid foundation to work with.

Start creating your marketing plan with a template and then customize the design to fit your information and to incorporate your own branding.


Source: https://venngage.com/blog/marketing-plan/

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