What is a Marketing Plan & How to Write One [+Examples]
For a while now, you’ve been spearheading your organization’s content marketing efforts. Your team’s performance has convinced management to adopt the content marketing strategies you’ve suggested.
Now, your boss wants you to write and present a content marketing plan, but you’ve never done something like that before. You don’t even know where to start.
Fortunately, we’ve curated the best content marketing plans to help you write a concrete plan that’s rooted in data and produces results. But first, we’ll discuss what a marketing plan is and how some of the best marketing plans include strategies that serve their respective businesses.
The purpose of a marketing plan is to write down strategies in an organized manner. This will help keep you on track and measure the success of your campaigns.
Writing a marketing plan will help you think of each campaign’s mission, buyer personas, budget, tactics, and deliverables. With all of this information in one place, you’ll have an easier time staying on track with a campaign. You’ll also discover what works and what doesn’t. Thus, measuring the success of your strategy.
Depending on the company you work with, you might want to leverage various marketing plans. We compiled different samples to suit your needs:
Quarterly or Annual Marketing Plans: These plans highlight the strategies or campaigns you’ll take on in a certain period.
Paid Marketing Plan: This plan could highlight paid strategies, such as native advertising, PPC, or paid social media promotions.
Social Media Marketing Plan: This could highlight the channels, tactics, and campaigns you intend to accomplish specifically on social media.
Content Marketing Plan: This plan could highlight different strategies, tactics, and campaigns in which you’ll use content to promote your business or product.
New Product Launch Marketing Plan: This will be a roadmap for the strategies and tactics you’ll implement to promote a new product.
Keep in mind that there’s a difference between a marketing plan and a marketing strategy.
Marketing Strategy vs. Marketing Plan
A marketing strategy describes how a business will accomplish a particular goal or mission. This includes which campaigns, content, channels, and marketing software they’ll use to execute that mission and track its success.
For example, while a greater plan or department might handle social media marketing, you might consider your work on Facebook as an individual marketing strategy.
A marketing plan contains one or more marketing strategies. It is the framework from which all of your marketing strategies are created and helps you connect each strategy back to a larger marketing operation and business goal.
For example, your company is launching a new software product, and it wants customers to sign up. This calls for the marketing department to develop a marketing plan that’ll help introduce this product to the industry and drive the desired signups.
The department decides to launch a blog dedicated to this industry, a new YouTube video series to establish expertise, and an account on Twitter to join the conversation around this subject. All of this serves to attract an audience and convert this audience into software users.
To summarize, the business’s marketing plan is dedicated to introducing a new software product to the marketplace and driving signups to that product. The business will execute that plan with three marketing strategies: a new industry blog, a YouTube video series, and a Twitter account.
Of course, the business might consider these three things one giant marketing strategy, each with its specific content strategies. How granular you want your marketing plan to get is up to you. Nonetheless, every marketing plan goes through a particular set of steps in its creation. Learn what they are below.
1. State your business’s mission.
Your first step in writing a marketing plan is to state your mission. Although this mission is specific to your marketing department, it should serve your business’s main mission statement. Be specific, but not too specific. You have plenty of space left in this marketing plan to elaborate on how you’ll acquire new customers and accomplish this mission.
For example, if your business’s mission is “to make booking travel a delightful experience,” your marketing mission might be “to attract an audience of travelers, educate them on the tourism industry, and convert them into users of our bookings platform.”
2. Determine the KPIs for this mission.
Every good marketing plan describes how the department will track its mission’s progress. To do so, you’ll need to determine your key performance indicators (KPIs). KPIs are individual metrics that measure the various elements of a marketing campaign. These units help you establish short-term goals within your mission and communicate your progress to business leaders.
Let’s take our example of a marketing mission from the above step. If part of our mission is “to attract an audience of travelers,” we might track website visits using organic page views. In this case, “organic page views” is one KPI, and we can see our number of page views grow over time.
These KPIs will come into the conversation again in step 4.
3. Identify your buyer personas.
A buyer persona is a description of who you want to attract. This can include age, sex, location, family size, and job title. Each buyer persona should directly reflect your business’s current and potential customers. Therefore, all business leaders must agree on your buyer personas.
You can develop buyer personas for free right here.
4. Describe your content initiatives and strategies.
Here’s where you’ll include the main points of your marketing and content strategy. Because there is a laundry list of content types and channels available to you today, you must choose wisely and explain how you’ll use your content and channels in this section of your marketing plan.
Which types of content you’ll create. These can include blog posts, YouTube videos, infographics, and ebooks.
How much of it you’ll create. You can describe content volume in daily, weekly, monthly, or even quarterly intervals. It all depends on your workflow and the short-term goals you set for your content.
The goals (and KPIs) you’ll use to track each type. KPIs can include organic traffic, social media traffic, email traffic, and referral traffic. Your goals should also include which pages you want to drive that traffic to, such as product pages, blog pages, or landing pages.
The channels on which you’ll distribute this content. Popular channels at your disposal include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram.
Any paid advertising that will take place on these channels.
5. Clearly define your plan’s omissions.
A marketing plan explains the marketing team’s focus. It also explains what the marketing team will not focus on.
If there are other aspects of your business that you aren’t serving in this particular plan, include them in this section. These omissions help to justify your mission, buyer personas, KPIs, and content. You can’t please everyone in a single marketing campaign, and if your team isn’t on the hook for something, you need to make it known.
6. Define your marketing budget.
Your content strategy might leverage many free channels and platforms, but there are several hidden expenses a marketing team needs to account for.
Whether it’s freelance fees, sponsorships, or a new full-time marketing hire, use these costs to develop a marketing budget and outline each expense in this section of your marketing plan.
7. Identify your competition.
Part of marketing is knowing whom you’re marketing against. Research the key players in your industry and consider profiling each one.
Keep in mind not every competitor will pose the same challenges to your business. For example, while one competitor might be ranking highly on search engines for keywords you want your website to rank for, another competitor might have a heavy footprint on a social network where you plan to launch an account.
8. Outline your plan’s contributors and their responsibilities.
With your marketing plan fully fleshed out, it’s time to explain who’s doing what. You don’t have to delve too deeply into your employees’ day-to-day projects, but it should be known which teams and team leaders are in charge of specific content types, channels, KPIs, and more.
Ready to make your own marketing plan? Get started using this free template and take some inspiration from the real examples below.
Marketing Plan Examples
Now that you know why you need to build an effective marketing plan, it is time to put on the work. Starting a plan from scratch can be overwhelming if you haven’t done it before. That’s why there are many helpful resources that can support your first steps. We’ll share some of the best guides and templates that can help you build effective results-driven plans for your marketing strategies.
At HubSpot, we’ve built our marketing team from two business school graduates working from a coffee table to a powerhouse of hundreds of employees. Along the way, we’ve learned countless lessons that shaped our current content marketing strategy. So, we decided to illustrate our insights in a blog post to teach marketers how to develop a successful content marketing strategy, regardless of their team’s size.
In this comprehensive guide for modern marketers, you’ll learn:
What exactly content marketing is.
Why your business needs a content marketing strategy.
Who should lead your content marketing efforts?
How to structure your content marketing team based on your company’s size.
How to hire the right people for each role on your team.
What marketing tools and technology you’ll need to succeed.
What type of content your team should create, and which employees should be responsible for creating them.
The importance of distributing your content through search engines, social media, email, and paid ads.
And finally, the recommended metrics each of your teams should measure and report to optimize your content marketing program.
A successful book launch is a prime example of data-driven content marketing. Using data to optimize your content strategy spreads more awareness for your book, gets more people to subscribe to your content, converts more subscribers into buyers, and encourages more buyers to recommend your book to their friends.
When Shane Snow started promoting his new book, “Dream Team,” he knew he had to leverage a data-driven content strategy framework. So, he chose his favorite one: the content strategy waterfall. The content strategy waterfall is defined by Economic Times as a model used to create a system with a linear and sequential approach. To get a better idea of what this means, take a look at the diagram below:
Snow wrote a blog post about how the waterfall’s content strategy helped him launch his new book successfully. After reading it, you can use his tactics to inform your own marketing plan. More specifically, you’ll learn how he:
Applied his business objectives to decide which marketing metrics to track.
Used his ultimate business goal of earning $200,000 of sales or 10,000 purchases to estimate the conversion rate of each stage of his funnel.
Created buyer personas to determine which channels his audience would prefer to consume his content.
Used his average post view on each of his marketing channels to estimate how much content he had to create and how often he had to post on social media.
Calculated how much earned and paid media could cut down the amount of content he had to create and post.
Designed his process and workflow, built his team, and assigned members to tasks.
Analyzed content performance metrics to refine his overall content strategy.
You can use Snow’s marketing plan to cultivate a better content strategy plan, know your audience better, and think outside the box regarding content promotion and distribution.
When you’re looking for a marketing plan for a new product, the Chief Outsiders template is a great place to start. Marketing plans for a new product will be more specific because they target one product versus its entire marketing strategy.
Writing a content plan is challenging, especially if you’ve never written one before. Buffer decided to help out the content marketing community.
By sifting through countless content marketing strategy templates and testing the best, they crafted a content marketing plan template with instructions and examples for marketers who’ve never documented their content strategy.
After reading Buffer’s marketing plan template, you’ll learn how to:
Answer four basic questions that’ll help you form a clear executive summary.
Set SMART content marketing goals.
Create highly accurate audience personas by interviewing real content strategists.
Solve your audience’s problems with your content.
Do competitive research by analyzing your competitors’ and industry thought leaders’ content.
Evaluate your existing content strategy by examining the topics and themes of your highest and lowest performing pieces.
Determine which types of new content to craft based on your team’s ability and bandwidth.
Establish an editorial calendar.
Develop a promotional workflow.
Buffer’s template is a comprehensive step-by-step guide, with examples for each section. The audience persona section, for example, has case studies of real potential audience personas like “Blogger Brian.” If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the process of creating a marketing guide, this can help ease you into it.
Contently’s content methodology works like a flywheel. Instead of applying an entirely new strategy to each new marketing campaign, they leverage the strategy of their previous marketing campaign to drive the next one. Similar to a flywheel, their content methodology needs an initial push of energy to get the gears in motion.
What supplies this energy? Their content plan.
Contently fleshed out their entire content plan in a blog post to help marketers develop a self-sustaining marketing process. After reading it, you’ll learn how to:
Align your content objectives and KPIs with your business goals.
Create highly detailed buyer personas using psychographics instead of traditional demographics.
Craft content for each stage of your marketing funnel based on your prospects’ pain and passion points.
Identify your most effective marketing channels.
Discover the content topics your audience actually craves.
Assess your organization’s need for resources.
By applying a flywheel-like strategy to your own marketing efforts, you essentially take away the burden of applying new strategies to each marketing campaign. Instead, your prior efforts gain momentum over time and dispel continual energy into whatever you publish next.
Forbes published a marketing plan template that has amassed almost 4 million views. To help you sculpt a marketing roadmap with true vision, their template will teach you how to fill out the 15 key sections of a marketing plan, which are:
Unique Selling Proposition
Pricing & Positioning Strategy
Online Marketing Strategy
Joint Ventures & Partnerships
Strategy for Increasing Transaction Prices
If you’re truly lost on where to start with a marketing plan, this guide can help you define your target audience, figure out how to reach them, and ensure that audience becomes loyal customers.
Venture Harbour’s growth marketing plan is a data-driven and experiment-led alternative to the more traditional marketing plan. Their template contains five steps intended for refinement with every test-measure-learn cycle. The five steps are:
This is a great option if you want to experiment with different platforms and campaigns.
Sample Marketing Plan
Let’s create a sample plan together, step-by-step.
1. Create an overview or primary objective.
Our business mission is to provide [service, product, solution] to help [audience] reach their [financial, educational, business related] goals without compromising their [your audience’s valuable asset: free time, mental health, budget, etc.]. We want to improve our social media presence while nurturing our relationships with collaborators and clients.
2. Determine the KPIs for this mission.
For example, if you wanted to focus on social media growth, your KPIs might look like this.
We want to achieve a minimum of [followers] with an engagement rate of [X] on [social media platform].
The goal is to achieve an increase of [Y] on recurring clients and new meaningful connections outside the platform by the end of the year.
3. Identify your buyer personas.
Use the following categories to create a target audience for your campaign.
4. Describe your content initiatives and strategies.
Our content pillars will be: [X, Y, Z].
Content pillars should be based on topics your audience needs to know. If your ideal clients are female entrepreneurs, then your content pillars can be: marketing, being a woman in business, remote working, and productivity hacks for entrepreneurs.
Then, determine your omissions.
This marketing plan won’t be focusing on the following areas of improvement: [A, B, C].
5. Define your marketing budget.
Our marketing strategy will use a total of [Y] monthly. This will include anything from freelance collaborations to advertising.
6. Identify your competitors.
Use the following questions to clearly indicate who your competitors are:
Which platforms do they use the most?
How does their branding differentiate?
How do they talk to their audiences?
What valuable assets do customers talk about? And if they are receiving any negative feedback, what is it about?
7. Outline your plan’s contributors and their responsibilities.
Create responsible parties for each portion of the plan.
Marketing will manage the content plan, implementation, and community interaction to reach the KPIs.
Social media manager: [hours per week dedicated to the project, responsibilities, team communication requirements, expectations]
Content strategist: [hours per week dedicated to the project, responsibilities, team communication requirements, expectations]
Community manager: [hours per week dedicated to the project, responsibilities, team communication requirements, expectations]
Sales will follow the line of the marketing work while creating and implementing an outreach strategy.
Sales strategists: [hours per week dedicated to the project, responsibilities, team communication requirements, expectations]
Sales executives: [hours per week dedicated to the project, responsibilities, team communication requirements, expectations]
Customer Service will nurture clients’ relationships to ensure that they have what they want. [Hours per week dedicated to the project, responsibilities, team communication requirements, expectations].
Project Managers will track the progress and team communication during the project. [Hours per week dedicated to the project, responsibilities, team communication requirements, expectations].
Get started on your marketing plan.
These marketing plans serve as initial resources to get your content marketing plan started. But, to truly deliver what your audience wants and needs, you’ll likely need to test some different ideas out, measure their success, and then refine your goals as you go.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2019, but was updated for comprehensiveness.