5 Steps for Creating a Marketing Plan

By Lindsey Laughlin

Marketing isn’t like the movies – it’s not all glitzy TV shoots and happy hours. It’s complex. And if you’re reading this, you’ve probably experienced that firsthand.

While not that long ago a marketing department was successful if it launched a few campaigns a year – a flashy TV spot, some print ads, and a catchy radio jingle – teams today need to budget for, plan, and execute the perfect blend of brand and performance marketing, be data experts, produce content as though it were a media agency, and build and manage social communities.

How?

I’m glad you asked. As you work to build your plan for this year, these 5 steps can help.

1. Goals

Review your goals from last year and identify which you nailed and where you fell short. At this stage, it’s important to remember your company’s mission, vision, and audience. Your goals should take all of those into account.

Be specific. Setting a goal to “Increase sales of Product A” isn’t specific enough. Your goals should be measurable – “Increase sales of Product A by x% over 2021”. Having a clearly-defined goal enables you to outline a set of tactics to achieve it.

2. Audience

For a marketing plan to be successful, you have to know your audience and keep it top of mind. Knowing your audience means knowing more than demographic information. You have to understand why they buy your product – what problem does your product solve for them? Build (or adjust existing) personas to include why they use your product, as well as demographic, psychographic, and behavioral information.

3. Budget

Budget and tactics can be like the chicken and egg conundrum – which comes first? I like to start with the budget. You need to have an idea of what budget you have to work with before you dive too far into planning because your budget will dictate which tactics you’re able to utilize.

Review your budget from last year. Were there budget categories that came in over budget? Under budget? Where did you see the best performance? How has the market changed?

Use that information to put together a top-line budget number. You can start to split it into budget categories at this stage and refine it as you go.

4. Tactics

Now that you have a budget and know your audience, think about the tactics you’ll employ to achieve your goals. What’s the best way to reach your audience? I like to identify the channels first, and then explore how to get creative from there.

As you’re planning, remember that your audience will have different levels of awareness for your brand and your products/services, so make sure you include ways to raise awareness, help your audience relate to your brand and inspire trust, and take action.

5. Roadmap

Now for the fun part – bringing it all together. Your roadmap is where you outline the timing of key campaigns, events, and initiatives. In other words, an expanded and mapped-out view of the tactics you identified.

I like to place bigger campaigns first, basing the timing on seasonality, purchase trends, and past data.

From there I look for ways to ways to support those campaigns by teasing or echoing that messaging with content that speaks to the need the product/service that will be promoted solves.

Then wrap all of that with ongoing content, community, and paid search efforts.

Personally, I like to create roadmaps in Excel because it’s easily editable – and you will need to update and edit it over the course of the year – and I can color code to my heart’s delight. I also create a companion Word doc with a high-level overview of each effort. Depending on your business, you can group efforts by quarter or by product line.

 

Pro Tip: include a date or version number on both your roadmap and the corresponding overview doc so that as you update and share it, it’s easy to ensure everyone is looking at the most recent version. It’s also easy to go back and look at how your roadmap evolved the next year when you’re building your plan.

 

If you’re feeling overwhelmed or aren’t quite sure where to start, I hope you’ll give these tips a try. Have ideas to share? I’d love to connect on LinkedIn.

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