A Best Practices Framework for Building Highly-Effective Marketing Plans
This blog was recently updated on March 21, 2023
There are many elements included in a great marketing plan for 2023. Before reviewing everything that goes into creating highly effective marketing plans, let’s take a step back and talk about the definition of a marketing plan and what it means in 2023.
Defining Marketing Plans
In early 2020, Wikipedia offers the following definition of a marketing plan:
A marketing plan may be part of an overall business plan. A solid marketing strategy is the foundation of a well-written marketing plan so that goals may be achieved. While a marketing plan contains a list of actions, it is of little use to a business without a sound strategic foundation.
After reading that definition, maybe this is why marketing is of “little use to the business.” When done correctly, there is no “may be part of an overall business plan,” it is a large portion of the business plan. And you need to think and prepare that way.
Companies that sell to consumers (B2C) usually view marketing as the most strategic function at the organization. For companies that sell to other businesses (B2B), marketing can be viewed as a support function for sales. In either case, the foundation for the marketing plan is the same: you need to identify the right buyer who needs your product, and you need to deliver a compelling message to inspire them to purchase (read our article "9 Steps in the Marketing Planning Process", for more information).
Elements of a Highly Effective Marketing Plan
What is included in a good marketing plan? Every comprehensive, highly effective marketing plan should include the following strategic marketing elements—in this order—to build off each other:
- Situational analysis (historical data)
- Market research and analysis
- Company goals
- Marketing goals (roll-up to company goals)
- Marketing strategies
- Target audience (segmentation and need)
- Positioning and messaging
- Product and services direction and definition
- Pricing and packaging
- Competitive analysis
- Sales channel strategy (distribution model, customer acquisition, and lifetime value)
- Sales support (messaging, training, tools)
- Partner/channel strategy
- Product and services launches
- Marketing channels/vehicles (PR, trade shows, social, email, website, direct mail, etc.)
- Marketing plan timeline/calendar
- Marketing team structure/growth/responsibilities (org chart)
- Technology (software)
- Marketing budget allocation
- Testing (messages, ideas, markets)
- Metrics of achievement
- Assumptions, dependencies, risks
Unless you are the head of marketing or marketing operations, you may not be responsible for all these plan elements. However, every person plays a part in the success of the marketing plan, so work with your team to carve out your role.
The Marketing Plan Framework
The following proposed Marketing Plan Framework (MPF) and template offer a definition for each plan element and examples of what to include in developing and carrying out a highly effective marketing plan:
|Marketing Plan Element||Definition||Examples of what to Include in The Marketing Plan|
|1. Situation Analysis||Learnings from the previous year and taking current inventory of your company's status in the market. Look at historical data for performance and conduct a SWOT for a qualitative view of where you're at.||
|2. Market Research & Analysis||Gathering information about customer needs and preferences for analysis and decision-making. Your marketing plan should combine your situation analysis and market research for goal and strategy decision-making.||
|3. Company Goals||Business drivers that marketing goals will support. Most common company goals that pertain to marketing goals are related to sales, customers, or products and services.||
|4. Marketing Goals||Support the company goals. Create topline marketing goals, qualitative and quantitative goals, and team goals. All plans must include goals. See Goals Pyramid as a way to build a marketing goals hierarchy.||
|5. Marketing Strategies||Marketing strategy is a forward-looking approach ad an overall game plan for any business. The purpose of the strategy is to achieve sustainable growth and competitive advantage. A marketing team can have different strategies for achieving different goals. In any highly effective marketing plan, you should build strategies to achieve each goal you set.||Examples marketing strategies
|6. Target Audience (including segmentation & need)||Identify the ideal audience you want to message to stimulate a response or create an impression. In your marketing plan, you will want to include segmentation and personas. Include the needs of the audience.||
|7. Position & Messaging||Positioning focuses on your messaging platform. A positioning statement includes a target audience, the needs or wants of that target audience, your product and service definition, benefits of the offering, and differentiation from the competition. Supporting messages come from the positioning statement and should live in a messaging guide. The messaging guide provides consistency of messages across different communications to multiple audiences. Both the positioning statement and topline messages should be in your plan.||Positioning statement
|8. Products & Services Direction and Definition||For companies that have brand management or product management as part of the marketing function, a roadmap strategy will need to be included as part of the plan. It will be important to have a clear vision of what is coming to prepare for go-to-market launches.||Product direction
|9. Pricing & Packaging||The process of finding the optimal price the buyer is willing to pay for your products and services, taking profitability and the competition into account. Packaging creates product/service configurations based on the target audience's needs. Both are essential elements of your marketing plan.||
|10. Competitive Analysis||Competitive analysis is an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of your competition. This evaluation provides both offensive and defensive strategic context to solidify differentiated messaging.||
|11. Sales Channel Strategy||Marketing's primary function is to drive sales to support the business, so outlining how the marketing strategy aligns with the sales strategy will be a critical element of creating a highly effective marketing plan.||
|12. Sales Support||If the product you offer is complex or has a long evaluation cycle before purchase, such as an automobile or enterprise software, it is important to have a sales support strategy and tactical execution plan. This will include sales training and tools to help them close business.||Training and sales tools:
|13. Partner Channel Strategy||Partner strategy is a critical element of any great marketing plan, Some companies sell directly to the buyer exclusively, but most have either a full indirect selling strategy or a mixture of both direct and indirect. For companies that sell indirectly exclusively, this is their sales strategy.||
|14. Product & Services Launches||Planning out product and service launches based on the roadmap will be a critical part of the roadmap will be a crucial part of any highly effective marketing plan. Product launches are one of the most important campaign types.||
|15. Campaigns||Campaigns are large-scale marketing initiatives that are goals-based, have a specific target audience, promote a specific set of messages, use several communication channels, and can be measured. Campaigns are usually time-based. All campaigns should be included in the marketing plan. See the marketing campaign template.||Examples of Campaign Types
|16. Marketing Channels (Vehicles)||A marketing channel is a vehicle for carrying your key messages to the target audience. Marketing channels should be selected based on whether their target audience goes, what they read, what they watch, and who they consult. There are a lot of marketing channels for reaching your target audience, both online and offline, so determining which ones have the greatest chance of reaching your target audience is critical for making a connection.||Examples of marketing channels
|17. Programs||Programs are ongoing initiatives that have goals and budgets but are not necessarily time-based. Programs are not campaigns since many of the activities are created over the course of the year due to opportunistic marketing.||Program examples:
|18. Marketing Activity Timeline/Calendar||The marketing activity timeline has all the major milestones over the life of the plan. The timeline will include campaigns, launches, major events, etc. A more detailed plan that includes the timeline will be created outside of your strategic marketing plan.||Milestone examples
|19. Marketing Team, Structure, Growth, and Responsibilities||A marketing team structure starts with the goals and what resources are necessary to achieve them. A highly-effective marketing plan must justify any new headcount and provide a structure for the next team members to be successful.||
|20. Technology (Software)||Include your current marketing technology stack and any additional systems you plan to add. Discuss any efficiency gains that technology will bring to the team.||
|21. Budget Allocation||Include a topline budget broken out by key functions, campaigns, and by time period. Budget is a critical part of the process and must be a leg of the stool to execute your marketing plan effectively. Build your plan first, and mandate the funds you need to achieve the goals.||
|22. Testing||Testing takes several forms. Using a test market is a good way to gather data on a certain demographic or geo to gauge product/service interests before roll-out, A/B testing is a method of determining buyer preferences by comparing messages. Surveys and focus groups can also help gather valuable input to improve marketing effectiveness.||
|23. Metrics of Achievement||Measurement of critical goal-based success metrics that represent marketing performance. Most key marketing metrics are sales performance indicators and should be measured in terms of return on investment (learn more about measuring marketing ROI here).||
|24. Assumptions, Dependencies and Risks to Success||Now that you have your marketing plan, including a list of essential assumptions for success and the dependencies your team will require to be effective. Understand the key internal and external risks to successfully executing the marketing plan. Lastly, include scenario planning to prepare for best and worst-case scenarios.||
In Closing: Building Highly Effective Marketing Plans
It might look like a daunting task to think through all of the elements in the list above to build highly effective marketing plans. But, if you build the plan in collaboration with your marketing team, collectively, everyone will be focused on what is important instead of marketing in silos. Planning is the first step toward becoming an agile marketer.
Check out next week's blog post on building agile marketing plans.
Plannuh is a marketing planning software that can help you carry out the most comprehensive plans. Learn more about Plannuh and all features of our marketing performance management software.