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How to Create a Powerful Marketing Plan

By Jules Sowder |

When taking a road trip to a new destination, smart travelers invest preparation time to identify the best route, make note of rest stops, research hotels and restaurants that satisfy their needs and budgets, check weather conditions, and so on. You get the idea. In other words, they have a thoughtfully developed plan before they go.

Their plan may change along the way based on opportunities or circumstances beyond their control. Yet, they are equipped to effectively handle the unforeseen and make the most of their situation.

To maximize marketing effectiveness, you've got to have a road map to reach your destination. To ensure success, every organization must have carefully researched and developed plan with quantifiable objectives and measurement systems. Without a plan, you won't know how to get to where you are going -- and you may not even know when you've arrived.

To help with your planning process, here are the essential elements that every marketing plan should have. The more detail you provide in your plan, the greater precision in your execution… and that leads to better outcomes.

Executive Summary
Think of this section as the "cliff-note" version of your plan with emphasis on strategies designed to meet your objectives. Write this section as the last thing you do before plan completion.

Each objective needs to be specific and measurable based on the mission and goals of your organization. Here are some examples of quantifiable objectives and how success is measured.

  • Increase gross sales by $450,000 by June 30, representing a 10% increase over prior year. (Measurement: June 30 sales reports)
  • Achieve a customer retention rate of 80% by year end. (Measurement: Customer retention reports)
  • Increase awareness and recall by 5 points among three target audience segments. (Measurement: Monthly customer awareness research)

Situation Analysis
This section discusses your organization and the environment or marketplace in which you compete. It should include the following.

  • Background on your organization and product, mission, descriptions of current product and/or services, performance results, market share, strategic alliances, etc.
  • Current and future competition with information on proven and forecasted impact
  • How you are perceived by your customers relative to the competition
  • Current customer information (i.e. number, description, spending levels, motivations, etc.)
  • A list of your strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats (also referred to as a SWOT analysis)

Target Audiences
Fully understanding your new and existing customers - and their needs and desires - is at the core of every successful marketing plan. For each target audience, detail in your plan demographic information, buying behavior, motivation, price sensitivities and other pertinent information related to your product or service.

This section provides the high level strategic view or approach you will use to achieve your objectives. Be sure to include specific information on:

  • Product or Service Strategies -- including changes and enhancements
  • Pricing Strategies - detailed by target audiences and competitors
  • Distribution Strategies - channels or methods by which you deliver and make your product available to your customers
  • Marketing Strategies - your approach to communicating and getting the message heard by your target audiences

Marketing Actions
This section drills down to specific initiatives that relate to your marketing strategies. For example, you will want to include details on marketing methods (i.e. web, print and broadcast advertising, public relations, promotions, telemarketing, direct sales, referral programs, partnership programs, etc.), timing, budgets, and other key information that relates to the implementation of each action step that supports each strategy.

Other Information
You may want to add an appendix or other categories to your plan for key information that adds value to your plan document. For example:

  • Short and long-term financial projections
  • Calendar of action steps
  • Research data that supports your strategies
  • Organizational charts
  • List of suppliers or vendors that will support your initiatives

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