What Is a Marketing Plan?

Definition & Examples of a Marketing Plan

Shot of a team of businesspeople having a meeting in a modern office

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A marketing plan is a roadmap for introducing and delivering your product or service to potential customers. It does not need to be long, and it doesn't have to cost a lot of money to complete, but it will take some research and effort.

Putting in the work to create this marketing plan can help ensure a company's success later down the line. Learn how you can use it for your small business.

What Is a Marketing Plan?

A marketing plan outlines a business's specific marketing strategy and includes concrete actions to be taken and anticipated results. Marketing plans serve as roadmaps for companies to execute and measure the marketing effort's results over a specific period. There are different types of marketing plans, including:

  • Paid marketing: Advertising and pay-per-click
  • Social media marketing: Using different social media channels, such as Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter
  • Time period marketing: Campaigns used over a designated period
  • Content marketing: Using original content to showcase a product or service
  • New product or service marketing: Plan to showcase a product launch

How Marketing Plan Works

An effective marketing plan helps a company understand its target market and competition, the impact and results of marketing decisions, and it provides direction for future initiatives. You can't develop a marketing plan without market research, which guides the direction of all of your marketing efforts by giving you vital information on your potential customers (your target market) and the feasibility of your products and services. Market research should include the following:

  • Monitoring industry and economic trends
  • Scouting the competition to determine how you can gain a competitive advantage in pricing and customer service
  • Determining the best ways to reach your target market via traditional advertising, social media, and other channels

Marketing plans can vary depending on the industry, type of products or services, and goals you want to achieve, but there are certain essential elements that most plans include:

  • Executive summary and business description
  • Situation analysis
  • Marketing goals and business objectives
  • Target market and delivery plan
  • Unique selling proposition and tactics
  • Messaging guidelines
  • Budget
  • Tracking and evaluation

The executive summary is a high-level overview of the marketing plan. This section should provide a brief summary of the plan for those who may not read the entire document. The business description is what the business is all about—including the location, business owners, position in the marketplace, company mission statement and core values, and external factors that are currently impacting or may eventually affect the business.

Your situation analysis details the context for your marketing efforts. In this section, you will take a close look at the internal and external factors that will influence your marketing strategy. Many companies do a SWOT analysis, which combines the external and internal analysis to summarize your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

The SWOT analysis should also highlight areas where the business will need to improve to compete more effectively.

The marketing goals will tie into the overall business objectives, but they'll focus only on the portions of the business that marketing can influence. For instance, if a company's overall objective is to increase revenue from repeat business by a certain percentage in the next year, then the related marketing goal might be to get a certain number of customers to sign up for a rewards program each month.

The concept of target markets is one of the most important aspects of marketing. It is unrealistic to think that you can attract everyone, so you need to identify your ideal customers. You want to know what they like, what they don't like, and where you can find them. The distribution and delivery plan outlines how the company will sell and deliver its products to customers. Methods of sales and delivery include retail, wholesale, direct to homes or businesses, or online.​

Getting specific about your target market and segmenting it into even smaller groups for specific promotions can help you decide where to commit resources and what kinds of tactics and messages to use.

The unique selling proposition describes how the company will gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace by supplying one or more of the following benefits to customers:

  • Providing a unique or superior product
  • Delivering lower prices
  • Providing better customer service

Strategies are the approaches you want to take to achieve those goals. For instance, if you're trying to get a certain number of people to sign up for a customer rewards program each month, your strategy may be to introduce new customers to the rewards program with personalized invites that highlight rewards they may be interested in and then providing excellent customer service to help them get started.

Your tactics are the specific actions you will take to execute the strategies that you set. Suppose you introduce new customers to the rewards program with personalized invites. In that case, one tactic you could use is sending out emails that address each new customer by name and let them know about some specific rewards that they can get, along with a link to easily sign up for the rewards program.

The right messaging can help establish your brand's position in the market, help it stand out from competitors, demonstrate value to potential customers, and reach specific audiences. You can set some general messaging guidelines in your overall plan, then use them as a starting point to craft more specific messages for each campaign and different segments of your target market.

Key Takeaways

  • A marketing plan is an essential part of your overall business plan.
  • Marketing plans should focus on the business's target audience.
  • A marketing plan will help guide your marketing efforts each year.
  • Always ensure that the marketing strategy you use lines up with the goals and plans you've made for the business.