Nobody shouts “Eureka” and ends up in the CEO’s office right after a brilliant marketing idea pops up — at least, not traditionally!
In the traditional way, a marketer gathers his/her thoughts and meticulously formulates a document to explain the idea and its impact. We call it a marketing plan!
A marketing plan can be defined from many perspectives. Largely, it is a formal business document that outlines what to market, how to market, what the prospect's current external/internal situations are, which channels to use, how to measure KPIs, and if it is financially feasible.
Why a document is needed when you can verbally explain the plan? Good question! Coschedule.com answers this with their research findings. According to this article, marketers who organize ideas, set goals, document their strategies, and proactively plans projects are roughly 300%+ more successful than the ones who just jump on their seats and start doing things without having any goals set.
Therefore, every plan or big idea must be documented in a marketing plan. This process requires patience, tenacity, and persistence. Formulating insights from raw thoughts and then documenting those insights is indeed a difficult work.
Unless you have a template to follow!
(Get our marketing plan template here!)
In this blog, I have explained how to create a marketing plan in a few easy steps with a marketing plan example. The idea is to divide the plan into different sections and place the ideas where they fit best.
Before We Begin…
For this blog, let’s pretend you’re a marketer working at a computer store where you sell computer parts separately. However, based on some quick market research and conversations with a few customers on social media, you found out that there is a demand surging for pre-built, mid-range gaming computers. So, you come up with this brilliant idea: assembling parts and building computers, then selling that computer as a unit. Based on a quick calculation, you also found that you can charge more if you assemble the computer and you don’t need more manpower. With existing resources, you can assemble the computers.
All you need to do is to market the built computers properly. Once you get orders, you can start building. There is not an existing cost because your product is a combination of existing products, which results in zero warehouse cost, stocking cost, or display cost.
Let’s market your product!
Breaking Down the Marketing Plan
Almost every business uses a common way to organize the sections of a marketing plan. They start with the big picture idea and explain the details as they move to the end. To help, SimplyCast has put together a marketing plan example template you can follow to get started. Click here to download it now and keep reading for explanations on each section!
In our marketing plan example template, we have the following sections:
- Executive summary
- Company profile
- Situation analysis
- Product/Service details
- Target audience
- Marketing strategies
- Marketing channels
- Project mapping, assigned roles, and responsibilities
- Financial analysis
These sections are explained briefly below:
Although it appears at the beginning of the marketing plan, it is wise to write this section at the end. The executive summary briefly tells about your whole plan. It also typically ends with mentioning why this plan should be accepted (justification) by management. You can call it a 1-minute pitch, in written format. Keeping it concise is ideal here. As per this Chron article, it is better not to exceed half-page.
Although this is something everyone in the company knows, it’s still a good idea to outline the company profile in a marketing plan. This is especially true if this plan involves external collaboration, other parties will have an idea about the company, it’s products, operations, and some publicly available financial details like total valuation, profit margin, etc. Typically, this section includes a brief history of the company, followed by the vision, mission, goals, and other details.
Your actual marketing plan starts in this section.
So, when you had this big idea, you thought about a specific product or service. Maybe it’s not an existing product or service – it could even be an upgrade to something existing. Regardless, you are outlining something based on your market research and experience. This is the place where you tell everyone about your idea. You don’t need to go after the technical details or what the product's packaging will look like. Just a brief overview will work fine.
While technical details can be stated briefly, you need to focus and elaborate on the value of these products or the benefits. The reason you need to state this here to find the Unique Service Proposition (USP) at the later stage when you have identified your target group.
Each product brings multiple values. However, even though industry products are usually similar, they always have distinct attributes. For instance, Great Value items are most likely to be the most affordable ones while you know that Dyson does not compromise the quality and convenience with its vacuum cleaners. Great Value’s USP appeals generally to low to mid-income people while Dyson is the first choice for mid to high-income family households.
What is your USP? Let’s consider the best performance within the lowest cost as your USP.
Situation Analysis: SWOT & PEST
Situation analysis are important to understand the impact of your product on the company and if external factors are going to impact this marketing plan. The two most common situation analysis tool used by business are SWOT & PEST analysis.
SWOT analysis tells about the product, its strength, its weakness, the opportunity it has, and threats that may jeopardize it when it goes to market. For instance, here is a rough SWOT analysis for our product.
SWOT analysis of our product
On the other hand, according to GroupMap, ”A PEST analysis is a strategic business tool used by organizations to discover, evaluate, organize, and track macro-economic factors which can impact on their business now and in the future. The framework examines opportunities and threats due to Political, Economic, Social, and Technological forces.”
PEST analysis of our product
Performing SWOT and PEST analysis are tricky because of the involvement of multiple factors. However, the key to performing an effective analysis is to keep only the useful & relevant info. For example, in the SWOT, there could be more than 10 strengths for our product. But for this marketing plan, we have listed only 3 strengths: availability of components, zero inventory cost, and high knowledge about the product. Also, there could be many factors that might jeopardize our product campaign. Again, the most lethal factors here are competition and cannibalism. First, our target audience is niche. We don’t have a substantively large audience for gaming computers. Even a little competition can have a significant impact. Also, making pre-built PCs mainstream can hamper our regular business, which is selling PC parts, which is product cannibalism.
Similarly, PEST analysis also needs to be concise. Use only those factors which are relevant. For instance, two economical factors we have listed are competition friendly market and minimum earning ability. Among these two factors, competition friendly market is our headache, whereas minimum wage is something that is irrelevant here. So, we will pick the first one. Similarly, technological factors are more influential for this product and our business; therefore, we are considering more technological factors compared to other factors.
Once you have analyzed the situation, you will be able to extract valuable information that will be used later to formulate a marketing strategy.
(Get our marketing plan template here!)
The next step will be setting up the target audience for your marketing plan.
In a previous blog, I wished a marketer best of luck who is trying to sell super high quality yet half the regular priced dairy products to lactose-intolerant people!
The reason is obvious!
Every product or service is aimed towards a specific group of people. Depending on the type of product, that group can range from thousands to millions! Potentially everyone you come across in a supermarket is a potential customer for a soap item, new parents are the primary target group for baby wipes, and athletes desire new running shoes. If you market baby wipes to athletes and running shoes to new parents, it is most likely to backfire.
Setting up a target market, therefore, is one of the main sections of the marketing plan. It links your product to the group(s) and provides insights to formulate strategies and tactics based on the buyer persona of the group.
Usually, a target audience is defined by a wide range of demographic factors such as gender, age, income, education, area of residence, family status, relationship status, height, weight, race, and religion. Even tiny little details matter. This is one the reasons social media platforms try to collect information about the users through various data points.
Using these factors, you can precisely define your target audience and establish a buyer persona.
For instance, if you aim to sell mid-range gaming computers, your target audience, AKA gamers should be teenagers or young professionals who have enough time to play video games. They should be old enough to play video games and young enough to have time to play video games. If your product is a high-end gaming computer, then you might have to consider their income level or the area of living. Education also plays a big factor here. Gender is another factor! According to Statista, males are more into gaming than females. So, your primary target audience is set as below:
You can also have secondary target markets! In this case, this target population is the parents or grandparents of underaged kids who are the consumers (those who use the computer) but not the customers (who buys the computer, e.g. parents). You can create your secondary buyers’ persona:
Now, based on the information above, you can easily create multiple buyer personas. By analyzing the buyer persona, you can formulate the next steps of your marketing plan. It’s simple. You just have to answer a few questions:
- What does the above information tell you?
- Where do you think these people spend most of their time?
- What are their other hobbies?
- What kind of messaging would appeal them?
Once you have these answers ready (you might have to do a bit more research), you are ready to craft strategies!
(Get our marketing plan template here!)
You must be really careful here! This section can get so vast because marketing strategy formulation depends on a plethora of factors! However, if you can narrow down your target audience then based on the insights generated from the SWOT and PEST analysis, you can decide which way you will run your campaign.
Again, it is not a black and white scene! Differences between two different companies marketing strategies can be like nights and days! There is no golden rule to get success either. I have seen a company solely operating on peer-review and making 600% profit where another company struggled even after using multiple channels to reach their clients.
Usually, marketers use marketing mixes to generate ideas before they dive into setting a strategy. Back in those days of brick marketing, marketers used to have four Ps of a marketing mix (Product, Price, Place, and Promotion) that eventually grew into extended marketing mix seven Ps with additional factors (People, Process, and Physical). However, in the digital world, marketers, alongside the seven Ps, also focus on the four Cs of a marketing mix, which also eventually grew into the extended seven Cs of marketing (Customer, Consistency, Creativity, Culture, Communication, Change, and Channel).
Considering all these aspects, you need to generate your overall marketing strategy and initiate the execution planning based on that strategy. A typical marketing strategy will outline the channels you are going to use, map the project outline and assign roles, set KPIs for the team, and create an estimated budget for the whole marketing initiative.
(Get our marketing plan template here!)
Depending on the nature of your business and product, you can set up the channels through which you will market the product. You can go all brick (traditional channels), all click (digital channels), or mixed (using both channels).
Traditional channels include television commercials, radio advertisements/podcasts, print advertisements, huge banners, posters, flyers, brochures, rack cards, letters, etc. On the other hand, digital channels include email marketing, social media marketing, pay-per-click marketing, affiliate marketing, search engine optimization, web marketing, e-newsletters, etc.
No matter which channel you use, it is ideal to provide a seamless experience for the audience — especially when you are using mixed marketing channels (which most businesses do these days). The reason behind this is to maintain the brand identity and providing a user a smooth transitional experience from one channel to another channel. You can do so by synchronizing the messaging, tone, color, fonts, etc.
Say, we are going for an omnichannel approach. We will aim the primary audience base on digital media and secondary audience on traditional media. For digital media, we will go for email marketing, social media marketing, PPC, and affiliate marketing. For traditional media, we will aim for brochures.
In the 21st century, you can’t but help but going for an omnichannel marketing strategy (using multiple, linked channels simultaneously). So, when you send an email to your target audience and they visit your landing page, they don’t have to get confused.
Also, a few demos of the marketing content (e.g.- social media post, flyer design, poster idea) won’t hurt that much I assume!
Project Mapping, Assigning Roles & Responsibilities
Some marketers consider their existing and potential resources before setting up strategies while some marketers set up the strategy and then, based on the available resources, modify the strategy. But, in both cases, setting up a project roadmap and assigning roles and responsibilities is a must! It not only saves time but also makes sure that even a tiny piece of the project doesn’t go missing. It also provides a workflow and helps to simulate the marketing plan prior to launching. This prototyping opportunity can be used to identify risk factors and deploy resources to mitigate those.
Again, there is no golden rule for setting up a project and assigning roles. It entirely depends on how you design your strategy, availability of resources, skilled team members, and channels you are going to use.
Our goal is to make them visit the landing page. Once they have more info about the computers over there, they can sign up for more information using a short, embedded sign up form. Our sales team will then import the prospects into a CRM tool, communicate to them and close the deals. Although these are not ultra-high-end gaming computers, those will cost between $500 and $900 dollars. That’s a lot of money, and buyers might want to talk to a salesperson before buying one.
(Get our marketing plan template here!)
Here is how the raw project will look like:
You can also use this chart to assign each step of the project:
Setting up KPIs
Setting up KPIs can be a bit tricky but if it is done well modifying the marketing plan is a lot easier during the execution process. KPI or the Key Performance Indicator here is to make people sign up for more information. Although our goal is to make as many sales as we can for the marketing portion the KPI should be based on marketing goals.
Say, for example, our target audience size is roughly 100,000 people. We want to aim to sign at least 20%. So, our KPI would be 20,000 sign-ups.
An amazing idea would be to break down the KPIs among the channels. For instance, after the first week, you could see that the number of sign-ups is critically low from the affiliate marketing channel. On the other hand, social media is generating more sign-ups more than what you expected. Naturally, you will want to transfer funds from the affiliate marketing channel to social media marketing. Also, this information can be used to formulate future marketing plans.
Tracking the website traffic accurately was nearly impossible even a decade ago. Nowadays it isn’t so hard when you have access to numerous tracking tools such as Google Analytics or SimplyCast Sonar. With these tools, you can easily track where people are signing up for your products.
Setting up a budget for the marketing plan is basically calculating the overall cost spent over the channels. If you are using an email marketing tool, you will need to spend per email sent. For social media, boosting content has its cost, so does asking affiliate marketers to write about your amazing product. Brochures have designing and printing costs along with postal charges for sending out. You need to consider every aspect that will cost you money and find the total spending.
Obviously, it will be an estimated one, but you must make sure that you try your best to keep track of the money you are spending.
The best way is to fix a budget and try to remain within that budget.
This is the section where you will have to pay specific attention because now you have the complete attention of your top management. Just put yourself in their shoes! All they want is profit. And if your marketing plan can bring enough profit, VOILA! Won’t take long to get your plan approved if other details are okay!
There are easier ways to demonstrate feasibility such as simple revenue > expense model. However, if your marketing plan is vast, and this plan is meant for the next three to five years, then you might need to adopt a more complex model such as calculating cash flow each year and estimate the Net Present Value.
On the simpler side, if you have a short-term marketing plan such as one to six months, you can choose a simpler model.
For instance, taking the gaming computer example:
Here you are demonstrating that just by spending an additional $20,000, your company can gain a net profit of $80,000.
(Get our marketing plan template here!)
This is the part where you extract information from the previous sections to justify the marketing plan. A great way to do this is to criticize your plan and find loopholes.
For instance, here a question might arise that although you are selling 500 computers, you are also blocking individual parts sales, resulting into cannibalism. The answer is: those who are buying these computers are actually either buying a new computer or replacing their old one. So, technically, those who buy parts only will not be attracted to this scheme.
Additionally, another justification can be that by selling 500 computers, you are opening up leads for future parts selling because computer parts are upgradable individually. After two or three years, gamers might want to install a new graphics card. And, it is more likely that they will visit your store instead of going somewhere else. That’s future market creation.
Finally, you can also claim that by selling built-PC you are also creating a unique product that can be additional boost to your brand identity.
In addition to these positive notes, also should also mention any imminent risk factors and how you plan to mitigate those.
What’s Bothering You?
We understand that formulating a marketing plan is hard and executing, which is even harder.
However, you don’t have to break a sweat to formulate a marketing plan. The easiest way to create a marketing plan quickly is to build a framework first and then work on the structure. To make your life easy, we have crafted a marketing plan template for you. Just follow the sections and insert information where it is required. When you are done with your first draft, give it a thorough check and perform self-criticism. If you need help with any of the sections, you can always check this blog for guidance.
Want to try it by yourself? Click the button below to get SimplyCast's Marketing Plan Example Template.