Imagine setting out to climb Mt. Everest guided only by intuition. You wouldn’t make it very far without a detailed plan (and an experienced sherpa) to guide the way.
Marketing may not be an extreme sport with life-or-death consequences, but you’ve got big goals to reach nonetheless. And your team’s success relies on a lot more than gut instinct.
That’s why a strategic marketing plan is a must, no matter your industry. Think of it as the roadmap that gets your business where it needs to go each and every year.
Drafting your first marketing plan can feel intimidating, but don’t worry. We’ll walk you through the basics, show you what a strategic marketing plan looks like, and even give you a couple of free templates to get started. Here’s what we’ll cover:
Let’s start from square one and define what a strategic marketing plan is.
A strategic marketing plan is a formal document that guides your team’s marketing efforts throughout the year. It maps your annual marketing goals to your company’s overall business objectives, while also outlining how you’ll spend your yearly marketing budget.
A good marketing plan clearly outlines:
Keep in mind that your plan may vary based on your industry and goals. Length and format don’t matter as much as the details you include. Do your research, and make it as easy as possible for company leaders to understand how your strategic marketing plan helps business grow.
A marketing strategy details how you’ll execute a piece of your marketing plan with a specific tactical goal in mind. You might do this by launching an email or social media campaign, publishing a blog series, offering a special promo, or hosting a live event.
A marketing plan, on the other hand, is the high-level framework that drives all your marketing strategies. It’s a big-picture look at the who, what, and why behind your marketing goals, with a focus on tying them to larger organizational objectives.
No two marketing plans are exactly the same, but they do share some common threads. Here are 6 important elements you’ll want to identify and research before you build out your next strategic marketing plan.
Everything you do as a marketing team should support your company’s overall strategy and goals. So summarize your organization’s business objectives, and let it serve as your marketing plan’s true north. Your team and stakeholders should be able to clearly see how the marketing strategies and goals you outline in your plan align with your company’s top priorities.
A SWOT analysis breaks down your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. This enables you to assess both the internal and external factors that influence your success so you can build targeted strategies that close gaps and drive results.
Research is the core of any marketing plan because it’s what you’ll use to shape your goals and strategy. Don’t be afraid to dive deep into the details here. A well-researched marketing plan is worth the time invested.
Focusing your research energy on these areas will equip you with a solid base for smart marketing decisions.
It’s important to understand major movements in the industry you’re marketing to so you have a feel for the pulse of the market. Thoroughly research the industry your organization works in, and be sure to report on the general climate, as well as any noteworthy happenings. If your company serves any subindustries, don’t forget to include them in your analysis too.
Marketing to the masses rarely pays off. That’s why narrowing down your target audience is a must for any marketing plan. Consider it the filter you run every marketing strategy through.
The more specific you can get, the better. Answering questions like these can help you paint a clear picture of your ideal buyer so you know how to focus your resources for a bigger impact on the people you want to reach.
It’s also important to understand who and what you’re up against when it comes to attracting your perfect buyer. Identify the key players in your space, and give a brief rundown of what they’re doing to win. This groundwork will make it easier to see how to differentiate yourself from the competition.
Now that you’ve laid the groundwork, it’s time to talk strategy. Outline your strategic marketing goals for the year, and briefly explain how these strategies support company-wide goals. Use a gantt chart to establish a timeline for each goal and monitor results along the way. This is an easy way to set expectations and keep your team and stakeholders in the loop.
Metrics are where the rubber meets the road in your marketing plan. Use your market research to define specific KPIs or key marketing metrics that will serve as your measure for success. This will help you track progress so you know if you need to change course mid-project to ensure you hit your strategic marketing goals.
Marketing channels are the vehicles you’ll use to reach your target audience and grow your brand. Choose your channels wisely based on where you expect to get the most bang for your marketing buck. Briefly explain the purpose of each channel and how it supports your overall marketing strategy and business goals.
Want to build a more detailed plan for each marketing channel so you can bring your ideas to life? Check out our free social media strategy plan and editorial content plan templates for more information on planning by channel.
Establishing a monthly budget for your marketing plan—and tracking it along the way—helps you maximize ROI and identify wasted spend before it drains your marketing dollars.
Start by listing any ongoing expenses you have so you know what you can afford to spend on new initiatives. Then do your best to estimate any new costs you expect in the coming year. Don’t forget to account for any new hires, freelance workers, or third-party agencies you might need to rely on to get the work done.
Not sure where to start? We’ve got you! Here are a few examples of how you might structure a marketing plan so you can easily start writing your own.
Your marketing plan may shake out differently depending on the industry you work in or the goals you’re focused on. Use these marketing plan templates and samples as a guide to jumpstart the process and come up with a marketing plan structure that works for you.
The most common way to create a marketing plan is simply to write it out as a text document. This format enables you to freely elaborate on any research findings you gathered during discovery, while also making a clear case for the marketing goals you’ve set for the year.
We put together a free Google Docs marketing plan template to help you save time so you can get your planning process off the ground faster. This marketing plan example is perfect for documenting and sharing the full scope of your strategic marketing plan with your team and stakeholders.
Here’s a basic breakdown of what the Google Docs marketing plan template covers:
Save a copy of the template to your Google Drive or download it as a Word document, and customize it to fit your own strategic marketing plan needs.
A plan’s no good if you set it and forget it. That’s where a gantt chart comes in handy. Use this free gantt chart marketing plan template to track your strategic marketing plan all the way to success.
A gantt chart is a great way to lay your marketing plan out in a simple, visual timeline that’s easy to update as work progresses. It gives you a high-level view of your plan’s major goals and strategies, while enabling you to collaborate on and share your plan with your team and stakeholders.
How you use a gantt chart to put your plan into action is up to you. Build a timeline for the tasks you need to complete as you develop your marketing plan, like the example below.
Once you’ve fleshed out the details of your marketing plan, you can use a gantt chart to define and track your strategic marketing goals. For example, you could break your marketing plan down by quarter to show when specific objectives will come into play and update progress as you close in on your goal. Here’s how that might look.
We’ve created a free marketing plan template for you in TeamGantt so you can jump right in!
Customizing the template is quick and easy, thanks to TeamGantt’s drag and drop simplicity. And since everything’s online, your whole team can collaborate on activities in real time.
Here are a few pointers to help you get the most out of our free TeamGantt strategic marketing plan template.
Configuring your marketing plan is as easy as dragging and dropping tasks—or entire task groups—into their new rightful place. Click and drag the edges of each taskbar to set a new task duration.
Collaboration is easy with TeamGantt's discussion feature. Share documents and chat with your team directly from a task’s Comments section. Use Notes to communicate important information—like goals, target audience, and budget—at the project level.
Have a more formal marketing plan document? Attach the file or link to your project so everyone has easy access to it.
Plans are meant to be shared, so we made it easy to keep even the most inquisitive stakeholders in the loop. Export your plan to a printer-friendly PDF, or share a view-only link to your project so stakeholders can see your marketing plan progress in real time.
Sign up for a free TeamGantt account today, and save time on project setup with this free marketing plan template!