5 Steps to Create an Outstanding Marketing Plan [Free Templates]
Do you take a good, hard look at your team’s marketing strategy every year?
You should. An annual marketing plan helps you set your marketing on the right course to make your company’s business goals a reality. Think of it as a high-level plan that guides the direction of your team’s campaigns, goals, and growth.
Without one, things can get messy — and it’s nearly impossible to put a number on the budget you’ll need to secure for the projects, hiring, and outsourcing you’ll encounter over the course of a year if you don’t have a plan.
Keep in mind there are variations to the marketing plan you need, depending on your industry and the goals of your marketing team. To make your plan’s creation easier, we’ve put together a list of what to include in your plan and a few different planning templates where you can easily fill in the blanks.
To start, let’s dive into how to create a marketing plan and then take a look at what a high-level marketing plan has inside.
In this article, we’re going to discuss:
- How to Create a Marketing Plan
- What a High-Level Marketing Plan Includes
- Marketing Plan Templates You Can Use
- Plus — Social Media Plan Templates
SWOT analysis is the first step to creating a marketing plan.
Additionally, you should also have an understanding of the current market. How do you compare to your competitors? Doing a competitor analysis should help you with this step.
Think about how other products are better than yours. Plus, consider the gaps in a competitor’s approach. What are they missing? What can you offer that’ll give you a competitive advantage? Think about what sets you apart.
Answering questions like this should help you figure out what your customer wants, which brings us to step number two.
2. Define your target audience.
Once you have a better understanding of the market and your company’s situation, make sure you know who your target audience is.
If your company already has buyer personas, this step might just mean you have to refine your current personas.
If you don’t have a buyer persona, you should create one. To do this, you might have to conduct market research.
Your buyer persona should include demographic information such as age, gender, and income. However, it will also include psychographic information such as pain points and goals. What drives your audience? What problems do they have that your product or service can fix?
Once you have this information written out, it’ll help you define what your goals are, which brings us to step number three.
3. Write SMART goals.
My mother always used to tell me, “You can’t go somewhere unless you have a road map.” Now, for me, someone who’s geographically challenged, that was literal advice.
However, it can also be applied metaphorically to marketing. You can’t improve your ROI unless you know what your goals are.
After you’ve figured out your current situation and know your audience, you can begin to define your SMART goals.
SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. This means that all your goals should be specific and include a time frame for which you want to complete it.
For example, your goal could be to increase your Instagram followers by 15% in three months. Depending on your overall marketing goals, this should be relevant and attainable. Additionally, this goal is specific, measurable, and time-bound.
Before you start any tactic, you should write out your goals. Then, you can begin to analyze which tactics will help you achieve that goal. That brings us to step number four.
4. Analyze your tactics.
At this point, you’ve written down your goals based on your target audience and current situation.
Now, you have to figure out what tactics will help you achieve your goals. Plus, what are the right channels and action items to focus on.
For example, if your goal is to increase your Instagram followers by 15% in three months, your tactics might include hosting a giveaway, responding to every comment, and posting three times on Instagram per week.
Once you know your goals, brainstorming several tactics to achieve those goals should be easy.
However, while you’re writing your tactics, you have to keep your budget in mind, which brings us to step number five.
5. Set your budget.
Before you can begin implementing any of your ideas that you’ve come up with in the steps above, you have to know your budget.
For example, your tactics might include social media advertising. However, if you don’t have the budget for that, then you might not be able to achieve your goals.
While you’re writing out your tactics, be sure to note an estimated budget. You can include the time it’ll take to complete each tactic in addition to the assets you might need to purchase, such as ad space.
Now that you know how to create your marketing plan, let’s dive into the elements that a high-level marketing plan should include.
Download your marketing plan template here.
Download 10 social media reporting templates here.
In the above collection of marketing plan templates, you’ll get to fill in the following contents (and more) to suit your company:
- Annual social media budget tracking
- Weekly social media themes
- Required social media image dimension key
- Pie chart on social media traffic sorted by platform
- Social media post calendar and publish time
Below, let’s review the social media reporting templates, and what you’ll find in each one.
1. Social Media Questions
This template lists out questions to help you decide which social media management platform you should use.
Once you know what social media tactics you’re going to implement in your marketing plan, it’s time to figure out what channels are right for you. This template will help you do that.
2. Hashtag Holidays
If you’re going to lean in to social media in your marketing plan, you can use hashtag holidays to generate ideas.
These holidays are a great way to fill out your social media publishing schedule. With this template, you’ll get a list of all the hashtag holidays for the year.
3. Facebook Live Schedule
If Facebook live is one of the marketing tactics in your plan, this template will help you design an editorial calendar. With this template, you can organize what Facebook live’s you want to do and when.
4. Instagram Post Log
Are you going to begin using Instagram regularly? Do you want to increase your following? With this template, you can organize your Instagram posts, so everyone on your team knows what posts are going live and when.
Additionally, you can organize your assets and campaigns on this doc.
5. Paid Social Media Template
With this template, you can organize your annual and monthly budget for your paid social media calendar.
6. Social Media Audit
Conducting a social media audit? You can use this template to help you gather the right analytics.
7. Social Media Editorial Calendar
With this template, you can organize your social media editorial calendar. For example, you can include social media posts for each platform, so your team knows what’s going live on any given day.
8. Social Media Image Sizes
With this template, your team can have the latest social media image sizes handy. This template includes image sizes for all major social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
9. Social Media Marketing Proposal
With this template, you can create an entire social media marketing proposal. This will outline the social media goals, scope of the work, and the tactics that you plan to implement.
10. Social Media Reporting Template
With this template, you’ll gain access to a slidedeck that includes templates for social media reporting. If you plan to implement social media in your marketing plan, these reporting templates can help you track your progress.
Simple Marketing Plan Template
Of course, this type of planning takes a lot of time and effort. So if you’re strapped for time before the holidays, give our new Marketing Plan Generator a try. This tool simplifies yearly planning and lays your strategies, initiatives, and goals out in a simple template so you can identify what’s most important for the coming year.
Try our free Marketing Plan Generator here.
Once you’ve filled in your information, you’ll come away with a plan that helps you:
- Outline your annual marketing strategy
- Identify your most important annual initiatives
- Nix the projects that won’t help you hit your goals
- Track the right metrics throughout the year
- Align your team through a common mission
Pro Tip: The best way to set up your marketing plan for the year is to start with quick wins first, that way you can ramp up fast and set yourself (and your team) up to hit more challenging goals and take on more sophisticated projects by Q4. So, what do you say? Are you ready to give it a spin?
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in December 2016 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
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