Marketing plans and how to create them

marketers making a plan

Marketing plans help businesses hit goals by breaking those goals down into actionable strategies. An effective marketing plan creates a clear path to achieving incremental KPIs and overall business growth.

But creating that kind of robust plan isn’t easy, and there’s no one-size-fits-all template. Your company’s goals, resources, brand, and target audiences are unique, so you need a specific marketing plan that works for you.

In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know to create a strategic marketing plan, including:

What is a marketing plan?

A marketing plan is a detailed breakdown of the marketing actions a business will use to reach its goals. It includes everything from high-level goals to marketing campaign frameworks, buyer personas, strategies and tactics, messaging, and more.

The purpose of a marketing plan is simple — it keeps marketing activities focused on the best strategies to engage with customers and achieve business goals.

But a good marketing plan does even more. It can help keep your team coordinated because it’s easier for everyone to stay on the same page when they have the plan to refer back to. It can also make sure day-to-day activities are aligned with the business goals and help businesses spot new opportunities for growth.

The difference between a marketing plan and a marketing strategy


Marketing plans and marketing strategies are easily confused because these terms sound similar, but there are some differences.

A marketing strategy is all about the big picture. It describes your marketing efforts in general and how they relate to the overarching business goals. You can think of the marketing strategy as the why behind your marketing choices.

Alternately, the marketing plan is the how — the actions needed to support the strategy. This means that while the marketing strategy is more general, the marketing plan gets specific. It includes the practicalities of how to achieve the marketing goals defined in the marketing strategy.

For example, let’s say one business goal is to increase overall brand awareness. The marketing team decides video content is the best way to increase brand awareness. This is the marketing strategy — their general approach to reach their business goal. The marketing plan will detail how they will carry this out day to day, including the editorial calendar, content guidelines, video editing tools, approved workflow, distribution channels, and more.

types of marketing plans

Types of marketing plans

There are several types of marketing plans. Marketing strategies are often detailed in a variety of marketing plans, so you will likely use many of these. Here are some of the most common types:

How to write a marketing plan

A strategic marketing plan is worth the effort it takes to pull together. In addition to keeping the team aligned with each other and business goals, a thorough marketing plan can make your job easier in the long run.

A clear marketing plan helps ensure that your marketing efforts are consistent because you’re planning months in advance. Give yourself time to be proactive and plan a series of campaigns that will work together toward your KPIs.

That means a good marketing plan also enables you to respond strategically to new opportunities as they arise because the overall strategy is already in place. A clear picture of themes and strategies already planned reduces the stress of last-minute decisions or unforeseen complications.

All of this together also helps get buy-in for your marketing strategies and campaigns. You improve the employee experience and get better cooperation from your team when they can see how their work supports the business. And it can be easier to get executive buy-in for individual strategies and tactics when you can show a complete plan.

1. Describe your marketing goals and strategies

The first step is always to set goals. Start with overall business goals and reverse-engineer them into marketing goals for your campaigns. Make sure each marketing goal is measurable and assigned to a specific metric.

For example, let’s say that a business goal is to increase revenue by $1 million this year. If you know that your average contract value is $50,000 and your conversion rate is 5%, you can start to set meaningful marketing goals.

To hit the revenue target, you need 20 new accounts. At a conversion rate of 5%, that’s 400 leads. Your marketing plan might break this down even further to 100 leads per quarter and detail where those leads will come from.

2. Identify key performance indicators and other vital metrics

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are central to understanding how successful your marketing efforts are. If KPIs aren’t established at the beginning of a campaign, it can be hard to know how to evaluate effectiveness and which metrics to focus on. It also becomes easy to focus on the numbers that look best, even if they’re not the best indicators of success.

There are two types of metrics that are helpful for creating a marketing plan — those that help make plans and those that help measure success. Customer acquisition cost (CAC) and lifetime value (LTV) are two metrics that can help you make smart decisions as you draft a marketing plan.

As specific marketing efforts and larger campaigns wrap up, additional marketing KPIs can help evaluate results. Here are a few metrics to help measure success.

marketing plan personas

3. Clarify buyer personas and target customers

A buyer persona is a customer profile that represents part of your target audience. It’s built from research into customer behavior, demographics, motivations, pain points, goals, and more. The goal of a buyer persona is to help you understand your customers so you know how to engage them.

To get this step right, you need to conduct detailed research, organize and analyze this data to get strategic insights, and arrange it all in a consistent and easy-to-use format.

The data and insights in your buyer personas help you understand the most relevant marketing strategies for your target customers. For example, you’ll know which social media platforms they’re on, what kind of content they engage with the most, and what they need at every stage of their buying journeys.

You can use this information to shape your marketing plan. Understanding your audiences’ needs and wants helps you target messaging for the best possible engagement. Knowing the social platforms they use tells you where you should advertise — and key insights on what content they engage with can inform your content marketing topic choices.

4. Conduct competitor research

Next, it’s time to get started with competitor research. A deep understanding of your competitors makes planning effective marketing strategies easier because you can learn from their mistakes, improve on their wins, and clearly differentiate your brand.

For example, if research reveals that your competitors don’t get much engagement on a particular social media channel (one that you know your target audience is using), you can write a social media marketing plan that takes a different approach. If you discover that your competitors earn a lot of non-branded organic traffic, you can write an SEO content marketing plan that includes the same high-value topics — but details how to do it even better than the competition.

There are a few key considerations to study during competitive research.

When evaluating what the competition is doing well (or not), remember to look for actual data. A social media post might look well designed and well written, but if there are no comments or reactions to it, it’s not working. Be careful not to design your marketing plan around competitor tactics that look good but aren’t necessarily creating results.

marketing plan research

5. Outline plan contributors and responsibilities

Now that you know what needs to be done, you can plan who does it. At this point, you can start assigning tasks and KPIs to specific teams and team members.

For example, in our competitor analysis in the previous section, we determined that a key competitor is missing a big opportunity on a particular social media channel and that another competitor has a strong SEO content strategy. The next layer of detail in our example marketing plan would outline goals and KPIs for the social media and SEO content teams. And if some of those opportunities rely heavily on media, the marketing plan might also detail strategies, goals, and metrics for video and graphics teams.

As you plan resources for specific contributors, don’t forget to consider which teams will need to grow or outsource work to contractors. This is important information for the next step.

6. Define your budget

Now that you’ve figured out which strategies you’ll use and who will do them, you can estimate how much it will all cost.

Here are some of the expenses you should be aware of when planning your budget:


There may need to be some adjustments made once the budget is set. Working step-by-step through this marketing plan process will create an ideal budget, but you might not have that much to spend.

If the budget you need comes to more than you can actually get, be sure to work backward to determine what you can realistically do with the budget you have. Then adjust your goals and metrics accordingly.

7. Write an executive summary

The executive summary is a brief but detailed overview of the marketing plan, including the current marketing campaigns, as well as future goals and objectives. Although the executive summary is the first page of your plan, it should be written after you’ve ironed out the rest of the details.

You want the executive summary to briefly demonstrate how your marketing campaigns will help achieve business goals. There are a few key features that will help you do this.

Examples of companies’ marketing plans

Building a marketing plan can be daunting. So let’s take a look at a couple of successful marketing plans and how they helped create meaningful results for their brands.

FIS

FIS

FIS, a global leader in fintech solutions, needed to redo its marketing plan after several acquisitions as the brand was going to market without a common voice. The marketing team went back to square one and developed a digital-first marketing strategy that would unify their efforts.

The marketing team began creating campaigns to drive engagement and reach customers early in their journeys. Their measurable targets generated market-sourced leads that contributed to 30% of the sales pipeline and delivered a 6% contribution to closed business.

The FIS revamped marketing plan enabled its team to exceed its targets with a 37% contribution to sales leads and a 16% contribution to sales.

AvidXchange

AvidXchange

AvidXchange is an accounts payable software provider that needed to create a centralized marketing operations plan for its email campaigns. The plan allowed the marketing ops team to create email campaigns much quicker while giving campaign managers the opportunity to analyze results, optimize messaging, and find new lead nurturing strategies.

Under the guidance of the marketing operations plan, marketing campaigns have been more efficient. For example, the marketing plan has led to a 4 times increase in the number of emails sent with a 3 times increase in CTR. Ultimately, this brought in 1.5 times as many MQLs through email channels.

Get started on your marketing plan

A thorough marketing plan is the backbone of an effective marketing team. It inspires, clarifies, and guides marketing campaigns that produce measurable impacts on the company’s bottom line.

Now that you’ve seen how to build a marketing plan, it’s time to get started on your own by breaking down your business goals into specific marketing objectives. When you’re ready to get started on a robust marketing plan, make sure you have the software your team needs to plan, organize, execute, and measure it.

With Adobe Campaign,you use rich customer data to build, manage, and deliver engaging marketing campaigns. Watch the demoto see how Adobe Campaign can help you create a marketing plan that inspires your team and achieve measurable results.