How to write a marketing plan in 5 super simple steps

Your next campaign is only as good as your marketing plan – this, you already know.

But, like any kind of business plan, when it comes time to write a marketing plan, fear can get the best of you. Don’t let that happen to you, because marketing is nothing new.

Since the days of the real life Mad Men (and even earlier eras), marketing plans have been helping marketers just like you build brands with big results.

We’ve put together this how-to tutorial to help you do just that. In this how-to we will cover the following points:

  • Conducting market research
  • Developing a strategy
  • Creating a tactical outline
  • Implementing metrics
  • Writing the marketing plan (with marketing plan template)

Let’s get started!

Step 1. Conducting market research

The first step in writing a marketing plan is to do your homework. Research lets you know exactly what you are up against. How many people do you need to reach? How many other marketing professionals (and amateur marketers) are trying to reach the same audience? What answers is your target customer really looking for?

Contemporary research methods are surprisingly affordable. Despite that fact, many marketers overlook research – which gives you an advantage, obviously.

The main objective in conducting research is to establish a very narrow definition of your ideal customer – your target market.

A list of helpful market research tools includes the following.

Keyword search tools:

  • WordTracker
  • Trellian’s Keyword Discovery

Online survey tools:

  • Wufoo
  • KeySurvey
  • WebSurveyor

To help you gather your research more efficiently, we have created an easy-to-use marketing research proposal template that will guide you through the organization of the research data you collect.

Step 2. Developing a strategy

After you have used marketing research to learn about your audience and competitors, it’s time to use what you’ve learned.

The next step in writing a marketing plan is creating a strategy that addresses the following:

  • How can you leverage your market knowledge to surpass the competitor?
  • Who is your ideal customer, above all other market segments?
  • How do you leverage prices (cost per action/cost per click) to maximize profitability?

A solid strategy will help you when it’s time to start the actual writing of your marketing plan.

Step 3. Creating a tactical outline

Marketing is always about tactics. Tactics tell you what you need to do. Very often, a marketing plan is for your benefit (or for a client, via a branding proposal), so the tactics are the actions that you can and will be able to take based on your resources and experiences.

For each tactic that you list in your marketing plan tactical outline, list the objective of the action and the expected outcome.

The more clearly you define the tactical outline of your marketing plan, the better able you will be to execute each step.

Step 4. Implementing metrics

Each marketing tactic that you incorporate into your plan needs not only a desired outcome, but it also needs a metric to help you gauge your success.

What’s the objective? Is it to increase traffic? Is it to elevate the volume of opt-ins your site receives? Is it all about the ultimate goal of driving conversions? A marketing plan involves all of those aspects of building a brand, so you need to have in your plan a means by which to measure the effectiveness of your plan.

These are the metrics you are looking to include. Make sure you identify the tool or method you will use to take the measurement – that can mean anything from tracking foot traffic or website visitors, to counting your sales (which is always the most fun!).

Step 5. Writing the marketing plan

Once you are all done planning out your plan (no pun intended) it is time to put the plan together.

The parts of a marketing plan are as follows:

  • Executive summary
  • Credentials
  • Situation analysis
  • Industry competitors
  • Strategy
  • Goals, projections, and outlook
  • Implementation
  • Financials
  • Conditions
  • Acceptance

To make things as easy as possible for you, Panda pals, we have created a marketing plan template that adheres to the customary flow of a marketing plan, as described above. Using our marketing plan template, you can easily plug in your information after the initial research and outlining for the plan.

Wait! One more template…

Before you go, we have one more of our item from our catalog of marketing templates to share with you. If you are pitching a marketing proposal or branding proposal to a prospective client, you will need to add a step. Once the proposal is accepted, you need a marketing agreement to outline the specifics and serve as the governing document for the duration of the project. For this reason, we’ve put together a marketing agreement template, just for you!

Are you ready to write a marketing plan?

It’s been said many times, but you need to have a plan to succeed. The best way to visualize and subsequently execute a winning campaign is to start with a solid marketing plan in place. By following the advice in this how-to and using our handy marketing plan template to help you through the process.

For marketing professionals, every campaign is a chance to showcase what you know and gain new experiences and insights, and your marketing plan is a big part the whole deal.

What are the challenges you’ve seen in writing a marketing plan? We would love to hear from you in the comment space below.

Todd is a freelance blogger and journalist. He's helped media outlets and brands alike connect with their audiences.

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