A marketing plan is the written document that describes your advertising and marketing efforts for the coming year. It includes a statement of the current marketing situation, a discussion of target markets and company positioning and a description of the marketing mix you intend to use to reach your marketing goals.

The most important part a marketing plan are the KPIs (key performance indicators). You must be able to measure success to determine which marketing efforts are worth the investment of your time and money. Each industry will have different KPIs so it’s important to pin point which indicators will best suit your efforts and goals.

The Situation Analysis – Where are you now?

The Situation Analysis is the introductory section to your marketing plan. This section contains an overview of your company and brand’s situation as it exists in today’s terms. This is the benchmark data from which you can measure your future success.
The Situation Analysis can cover a number of factors, including:

1. PRODUCT/SERVICE DESCRIPTION: This is where you will briefly define the various products and services offered by your business.

2. MISSION STATEMENT: Define your business’ key market contribution, and distinction. The distinction is important, often referred to as your USP – your unique selling proposition. What sets you apart from other businesses in your industry? Why is your brand or product ‘better’?

3. SWOT ANALYSIS: The SWOT Analysis contains two internal factors- Strengths and Weaknesses. It’s important to understand what your business does well and where it can improve. The SWOT also contains two external factors – Opportunities and Threats. This is where you outline what market opportunities exist and what potential threats exist in your industry.

4. MARKET RESEARCH: When completing market research, it’s important to identify current market and industry trends. Where is the market going and why? Will you be able to adapt your services or product line in the next 12 months to adjust to these new trends? What needs to be done to accomplish this? Will new technology in your industry affect your sales?

5. BRAND POSITION: Having a comprehensive understanding of how your brand is perceived in the marketplace is important. This sets the tone of your marketing and the voice of your brand. Are you the ‘Budget Brand’ or the ‘Luxury Model’ in your industry? Mapping out your brand against the competition on the grid will help you determine what tactics to employ to market yourself in the coming year.

6. TARGET MARKET/AUDIENCE: Carefully examine your target market- who is your ideal customer or client? First, define the key demographics – age, sex, and location. You should then segment your audience into easily targeted groups. Using key factors will help you target your ideal customer and spend your marketing budget with the best possible ROI. There are many factors to consider: spending habits, education level, family life, social media use, political and/or religious beliefs; home ownership, travel and vacation habits, social habits and more. The more you can segment your target market, the more precision you will have when implementing your marketing strategy.

B2B businesses will define their audience a little differently – listing categories such as lawyers, doctors, or logistics. From there, the categories should be segmented to become more specific and effective for your marketing tactics. For instance, you might segment your target audience of ‘lawyers’ to- ‘Criminal Defense Attorneys practicing in Boca Raton, FL with at least five paralegals and a caseload of 40.’

7. COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS: Just like defining your target market, you need to define your competition. Who are the direct competitors in your industry? What are their business model and USP? How do they spend their marketing dollars and has it been effective, what portions of their efforts have been ineffective and why?

Marketing Goals – Where do you want to be?

In less than one page, you should be able to summarize the company’s marketing goals for the next 12 months. The most important factor to consider when completion this portion of your marketing plan is to set realistic goals that are measurable. “Increase sales” or “increase conversions through our website” are both examples of ineffective goals because you cannot accurately measure them. You will be much better off measuring your marketing successes with goals such as, “Increase sales of Widget A by 5% per quarter throughout 2018, increasing year-over-year sales by 20% by year end.”

Be sure to choose a handful of specific goals to achieve – both short term and long term. Having short-term goals will allow you to measure success rate and ROI along the way so that you can adjust your strategies throughout the next 12 months with ease.

Marketing Strategy and Tactics – How will you get there?

1. MARKETING STRATEGY: Believe it or not, the marketing strategy is going to be the bulk of your marketing plan. Take as many pages as you need to provide an overview of each marketing strategy you plan to deploy in the coming year. Each strategy should include the marketing tactics and the marketing mix you will use to execute them. The marketing tactics should include actionable steps you plan to take for all categories – traditional advertising, digital advertising, social media, public relations, direct mail, trade shows or events, special promotions and any other categories that might apply to your tactics. What matters most is that you use this section as your guide during the next 12 months as a to-do list overview. This portion of your marketing plan should act as a guide to your execution team.

2. BUDGET: Each marketing tactic should have a budget associated with it. Break the budget down into three sections – Ideal Spend, Budgeted Spend, and Actual Spend. This allows the marketing team to set their ideal budget while the owners set the actual standards for what can be spent. In the end, keep track of the actual spend so that your marketing team can calculate their ROI as a KPI.

Marketing KPIs and Metrics – How will you measure your success?

Last but absolute not least, figure out how to measure the success of your plan. Defining your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) will play a huge role in this section. Let’s revisit our previous goal example – “Increase sales of Widget A by 5% a quarter throughout 2018, increasing year-over-year sales by 20% by year end.” We could have the following tactic associated with the following KPI to monitor a portion of the marketing plan goal –
Tactic: Increase in-person sales calls by 15% per sales person per quarter
KPI: Review in-person sales call success rate (calls that lead to actual sales) year over year. Review in-person sales call numbers year over year.

In the end your marketing plan should not just end up sitting in a folder on DropBox. The plan needs to be actionable and measurable to be successful. Refer back to it often.