We are often asked if there is a standard template to develop a marketing plan or what is the best template to use. When it comes to developing a marketing plan, substance over form is our advice. So, before you head off to Google to find your favourite format, here are some tips on what to include in your marketing plan and how to implement it.

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
– Benjamin Franklin

As marketers, we know Ben was on to something here. It seems like marketing budgets and resources for businesses of all sizes are being stretched to breaking point. As that occurs, expanding social media outlets and digital marketing platforms offer marketers seemingly limitless opportunities to reach target audiences. It’s an inverse relationship that compels marketers to choose their tactics wisely. That makes not only the planning of your marketing more important than ever, but the implementation, crucial.

You also want to prove return on investment (ROI) for your marketing spend, so you need an established plan in place to measure and show results. A successful marketing plan will address your biggest business and marketing challenges and deliver solutions via a holistic approach. It will also keep your team aligned and focused on the same goals — and, it’s instrumental in helping you establish your budget.

Far too often, though, the time and effort you and your team invest in marketing planning is either abandoned to fulfil last-minute requests, or wasted by resorting to tried-and-true tactics.

The case for a marketing plan is strong, so here, we offer 7 tips to help you and your team build a successful marketing plan for your organisation.

  1. Define your challenge(s)Begin with the end in mind—what problem(s) do you want to solve? What challenges must be met? What opportunities should be seized? What threats should be confronted? Yes, this is a thinly veiled SWOT but it’s important to address these issues as you move along with your plan…don’t get too tied down in tactics at this stage.

For example, a key challenge of your organisation could be a lack of leads for your sales team, or a company website that’s outdated and losing traffic due to the new Google algorithms. Whatever the issues are, identify them up front.

It’s important to know your business and your competitors well, as once you do this, you are better placed to determine or understand your target market.

If you are just starting out or launching a new product or service, your challenge could be understanding your target customer/client. Narrowing down and defining your target customer allows you to focus your efforts. Answer the question, “Who do you serve?” to help you identify your target market.

  1. Define your SMART goals and objectivesIt’s important to use SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-Based) goals to keep you and your team on track and accountable. Once defined, they should be linked to your challenges, opportunities and threats outlined above.

Goals are generally broad in nature, while objectives should still be SMART and should clearly state the initiative to be accomplished (e.g., secure 10 leads through digital marketing efforts each month; build a responsive website in the next four months). By setting SMART goals and objectives, you are making it possible to show quantifiable evidence that the business’ marketing spend is delivering ROI.

  1. Set your strategyYour strategy supports the reasoning for tactics and marketing spend. This is where you will define how you plan to solve your challenges and meet your objectives. Try to think like your target audience here. What avenues should you pursue to get your message in front of them, and ultimately, how will you solve their problem? Your strategy should drive creative, messaging, channel selection and other key variables.

Finally, look back at past campaigns to see what worked and what didn’t.

  1. Outline your tacticsThis is where you hammer out the details of your plan. Your tactics are the steps and tasks you need to complete to achieve your goals and objectives.

One tip to consider: To assist with accountability, you should assign team members to manage specific tasks (e.g., develop a new e-book in Q1, launch a new AdWords campaign with a $500 monthly budget, develop a wireframe for our new responsive website).

  1. Establish time framesSet short- and long-term milestones to keep yourself (and your team) motivated, while still staying focused on the big picture. Be sure to set deadlines to non-tangible milestones as well, like meetings and distribution times. Finally, get feedback from your team on realistic time frames for certain tasks and keep them updated frequently on your progress as you execute.
  2. Assess your resources

    These include people, technology and marketing budget. Questions relevant to each could include:
  • People:Do you have enough people with the right skill sets? Do you need to look for outside resources for portions of your plan…like a PR agency, graphic designer, or maybe a full marketing agency to take items off your hands while you focus on other initiatives?
  • Technology:Is your technology up to date? What technology is needed to make your marketing tactics successful and are the associated costs feasible within your budgetary parameters?
  • Budget:Is your marketing plan driving the budget, or do you have to work within the constraints of a previously determined budget?
  1. Measure and analyse

    According to inbound marketing and sales software developer HubSpot, 40 percent of marketers say proving marketing ROI is their top marketing challenge. There’s no disputing the need to quantify ROI these days or the challenge in doing so; but you can’t prove ROI if you aren’t measuring your results. Therefore, be sure to set key performance indicators (KPIs) to track important metrics to your business/campaign (e.g., number of leads, web traffic, revenue).

ROI is more than a one-time exercise. Rather, to meet your goals and objectives, you should be constantly analysing your efforts, and optimising and updating your plan.

  1. Don’t lose sight of the bigger picture

    Always keep the bigger picture in mind by making sure your marketing plan is part of your overall business strategy. Don’t be afraid to re-adjust your goals and objectives if required. Your marketing plan is there to support your business growth, so if it is not doing that, change it and improve what is not working.

Always keep the bigger picture in mind by making sure your marketing plan is part of your overall business strategy. Don’t be afraid to re-adjust your goals and objectives if required. Your marketing plan is there to support your business growth, so if it is not doing that, change it and improve what is not working.

By Kerri Eckart, CEO