Marketing Plan Definition –
What Is A Marketing Plan?

What Is A Marketing Plan?

Marketing Plan Definition: A marketing plan is a document that outlines the marketing strategies, tactics and activities that a business intends to employ to support either a brand or product. It reflects the implementation and control of the marketing elements of a business, providing direction for individuals and teams so that they’re aligned. In this respect, it is both a strategic and operational document.

Marketing itself is an organization’s ability to promote the products and services that it creates to its defined target audience. Often this is equated to advertising, but there are many different ways that a business is able to connect with, engage, and convince its prospective customers, especially in today’s digitally enabled world.

The term ‘marketing plan’ is often used interchangeably with ‘marketing strategy’, although it’s critical to understand that these are in fact very different things. Marketing strategy is becoming something of a neglected discipline with many marketers increasingly jumping straight into tactics and execution without giving the necessary up-front time and effort for strategic thinking. Strategy is a crucial component of any marketing plan and is required to provide the context and direction for the rest of the plan. The marketing plan is therefore a broader, more encompassing exercise that decides and outlines what needs to be done in the future.

A marketing plan can relate to different areas of the business or different goals. For instance, you can (and should) create a marketing plan for a new product launch, a specific brand, or a sub-division. It encompasses the fundamental considerations of who you’re looking to target with that offering; how you’re to go about engaging with them; what you’re looking to communicate; and how you’ll measure that it’s having an impact.

Marketing Plan

Value of a Marketing Plan

A 2019 study conducted by CoSchedule, a provider of marketing software solutions, found that marketers with a documented plan or strategy are 313% more likely to report success in their marketing campaigns. This clearly shows that having a written marketing plan is fundamental to marketing success.

Why is this? The act of planning offers a number of significant benefits to the marketing team and business as a whole:  

1. Gives direction – a marketing plan provides a collective understanding of what needs to be done, outlining the strategies and initiatives that the team will implement so that they can move forward towards the achievement of their defined marketing goals.

2. Helps to manage uncertainties – a marketing plan considers what conditions are likely to exist and what events are likely to happen so that the team can develop their activities to maximise opportunities and mitigate any risks.

3. Focuses on the customer – the marketing plan is grounded on the customer; it looks at who they are, what they need or want, what issues they face, what interests them, what motivates them, and how best to communicate and engage with them; the customer is the ‘North Star’ that gives clarity, direction, and accountability to the plan and by extension the team.

4. Creates alignment – the marketing plan offers a common reference for not only the marketing team itself, but also the wider business, partners, suppliers, and any other stakeholders; it creates shared understanding and direction bringing the team together around common goals and initiatives.

5. Breeds confidence – by having taken the time and effort to understand the prevailing conditions, develop strategies, and outline the tactics and activities to be employed, a marketing plan gives the team (and business) confidence so they can act with assurance; the plan won’t be perfect, but it gives a degree of certainty that the team are executing in accordance with a defined plan.

6. Generates continual improvement – a marketing plan should be thought of as a framework and not a prescriptive and rigid doctrine; as such, it is intended to capture feedback and learnings so that it can be improved and honed ongoing to optimise marketing performance.

Creating a Marketing Plan

Although teams have been creating marketing plans for many years, there is no one set approach for doing so. In the past, the process would invariably be lengthy and involve generating reams of pages or slides. This, though, is both inefficient and ineffective given today’s constantly changing customer demands and markets. Modern marketers should therefore adopt the following principles when it comes to creating a marketing plan, striving to make it:

  • Simple - being easy to read, consume, and understand
  • Concise and clear in its articulation
  • Informed by insights into the target audience/customer, prevailing market conditions, and wider socio-economic environment
  • Aspirational to move beyond marginal gains, stretching the team and available resources to maximise return
  • Directional by outlining the strategies, tactics and activities that will be deployed
  • Practical so that it can be quickly and easily executed
  • Adaptable to change offering the flexibility to adjust to emerging conditions and feedback
  • Compelling to help get people on board

A great starting point for creating a marketing plan is to use the One Page Marketing Plan template. This gives you a framework for what to include in your plan, whilst forcing you to be really focused, considered, and concise in your inputs. As such, it makes your plan clear and easy to consume so it can be shared, understood, and embraced by other team members, stakeholders and partners.

Executing a Marketing Plan

Traditionally, marketing plans were constrained by time limits, often being created to cover a year, half-year, or quarter period, for example. However, today, many businesses and marketing teams are taking an agile approach, where the marketing plan acts as an ongoing framework which is iterated, improved and optimised over time on more of an ongoing basis.  

The One Page Marketing Plan offers the flexibility to continually adapt and change. By design, it’s a very simplified document, which means that it’s quick to amend over and over again. Planning and execution aren’t, therefore, seen as two separate stages but rather an ongoing cycle of thinking, trial, feedback, and re-thinking.

Key Takeaways

  • A marketing plan outlines the strategies, tactics and activities that a business intends to employ to promote either a brand or product to a defined target audience.
  • Creating a written marketing plan is fundamental to marketing success.
  • It gives direction, manages uncertainties, provides focus, creates alignment, breeds confidence, and generates continual improvement.
  • A marketing plan must be concise, easy-to-read, and compelling to help people get on board whether they’re members of the marketing team, wider business stakeholders, or external partners and providers.
  • Adopting an agile approach means iterating the marketing plan over time so it can be honed, improved, and optimised.