How to Write a Marketing Plan

After employee salaries and buying merchandise, marketing is usually one of the biggest expenses for a small business. It’s one of the most important things you do on a day-to-day basis. In fact, it’s one of the primary reasons you’re a business owner at all; it’s selling.

So developing a resolute marketing strategy is one of the best ways to manage your marketing budget, stay on track, and maximize your results. Except, I don’t have to tell you that. That’s why you subscribed for this newsletter! You and many other business owners like you want to get into the nitty gritty.

How do you do it?

Well, like anything there is some prep work involved before we just jump into scheduling posts and engaging with our customers on Instagram.

Let’s get started!

First, let’s summarize our plan.

This might seem like a pointless step, but it’s a helpful way to set the direction for the rest of your plan. Remember when you wrote your mission statement? Then you have to write an executive summary of your business plan? It’s kind of like that except like… a lot less hard.

The summary for your marketing plan is simple. Start with a quick synopsis of your position in the market, where you would like to be, and how you plan on getting there. This simple summary will include things like marketing goals, high level metrics (improving customer service, increasing retention rates, the ever-popular increasing sales goal), and overall company milestones.

This sets the tone for your marketing plan and will give you something to reference while you’re deciding on things like channel strategies, content marketing strategies and sales funnels.

If you don’t know what those things are, just stick with me for now because we will get to that.

For our examples today, I am a premium womens’ boutique that sells tailored and name brand clothing.

Next, we set some real goals.

Right now you’re like, “Cecily, we literally just set goals.”

And yes, we did. But they weren’t timely, specific or actionable. The summary of your plan is the most high level guidance necessary to create a plan that will nail down your actionable goals.

Some tips setting goals? Make sure they aren’t vague.

Don’t say, “Have more followers on Twitter”. Instead say, “Increase Twitter followers by 2% each month” or “Increase Twitter following by 100 active followers every month.” Being specific with your goal allows you to work toward an actual metric. If you never define what success is for your marketing plan, then you’ll never know whether or not you made it.

For our example today, let’s say that our actionable goal is increasing customer retention rates by 5% for the end of 2021.

Third, who are we talking to?

The only way you can craft a conversation is to know who you’re speaking with. If you’re not sure who the person is, how could you know what they need? At the end of the day, businesses serve to fill needs in the community, if you’re not sure where you fit then there is no way you can accurately target anyone.

This is why it’s so important to outline customer personas at the outset. When you created your business plan, you undoubtedly created a target demographic or outline who your ideal customer happened to be. With that, you learned how to maneuver as a business in your industry.

Let’s continue with our above goal of increasing customer retention rates.

In this case, we need to be sure of who the customer is and how they make their purchasing decisions.

So, just to remind you, in this example I am a premium womens’ clothing retailer. My customer persona is an established woman between 30-55. She’s married with a salary above $65K/year. She might be upper management in a white collar job or it’s one of her goals to get there. Because of this, she’s conscious of how she looks and presents herself. She gets up early in the morning, she’s always organized and busy. One of those people who always has her phone in her hands, she’s constantly making sure she hasn’t missed a meeting, a kid’s soccer game, or a dinner date with friends. She doesn’t have a lot of time for shopping so she prefers options that are convenient, arrive quickly, and are easy to browse. She wants all of her options at a glance. Her goals include moving up in the corporate world, saving enough to retire early, and putting her kids through college.

It feels like daydreaming right? But you can quickly see how it starts to shape how you would merchandize in your store, set-up an e-commerce site, or even choose fulfillment options for shipping out orders. If this woman is your customer, she values an organized store with accurate inventory, a quick fulfillment process and prompt customer service.

This is how you start to mould your strategy.

There are a ton of ways to figure this out, whether it’s interviewing existing customers, conducting focus groups, reaching out to other businesses in the area or surveying your existing followers. The more you know about your customers, the easier it is to target them with your marketing strategies.

When you’re developing a customer persona make sure you have the following information for sure: 

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Salary/Occupation
  • Familial Status
  • What drives them to make a purchase
  • Their everyday behaviours
  • The challenges they face as consumers (lack of time, no cell phone or internet, etc.)

You need this information at the least so that you can start to develop specific content, emails, and strategies that speak directly to them.

Now get to know your competitors

I always tell clients not to focus on what competitors are doing. Never compare yourself with them, but you should always keep an eye on their strategies.

Know how they fulfill orders, what their social media strategy is. Look at their yearly growth and know what’s standard in your industry. While you want to stand out, if a strategy isn’t present anywhere in your industry that doesn’t always mean no one has thought of it yet. Sometimes it means that it’s just not a viable way to market your products to the masses.

Look at your top three competitors and audit their strategies. Look at their blog, where their SEO is currently ranked. What are their weaknesses? Is there an opportunity for you to fill a gap with their marketing strategy that they aren’t filling? Keep track of how often they post, do they get lots of engagement? What’s missing from their strategy is something that you could incorporate into yours.

Now? Figure out how you’ll measure success.

What will you track to make sure your marketing plan is successful? Remember, my hypothetical store’s goal is a 5% jump in customer retention. So what metrics will I be measuring? Likely the rate or repeat customers, how many abandoned cart emails turn into a purchase, whether or not people are coming back to the site after their initial email, and open rates on marketing emails.

Without knowing what specific metrics you need to track, you’ll be looking endlessly at analytics without being sure whether or not it’s attributing to your end goal. It’s great that your Instagram followers are going up, but if that’s not also leading to repeat customers then it doesn’t really matter to you in this particular situation.

Now we strategize…

Covering off contextual information is just as important as your strategy, because it pulls together the overall plan. Now we know specifically that we want our high-powered corporate women to become return customers and will be using specific metrics to measure that.

Next step is figuring out what channels to use, how we will curate and create content, how it will be scheduled, and the rate of posting. For our specific goals? We want to increase touchpoint with our target customers. Meaning, we want an email newsletter to go out on a regular basis, retargeted ads, and increased social media awareness in that particular demographic.

Create a workflow for every piece of marketing content that you do. Know how long it takes you to do an email newsletter, figure out every individual step. Write everything down even if it feels redundant. The more ingrained your process is, the more effective it will be long term. The better you understand HOW your marketing is completed, the easier it will be to stay on track.

Speaking of being on track…

The final step of the planning process is having a plan to track how you will monitor your successes (I know it’s so many plans).

If you’re new to planning out your marketing strategy, consider checking in on your analytics once a week and plan to make adjustments every month. It can be hard to wait something out, especially if it doesn’t seem like it’s working but hold the line! I promise that changing your strategy too often is way worse than never having a consistent plan. It takes some for your strategy to fall into place, but believe me it will.

If you’re a seasoned pro? Check in monthly and plan to make adjustments quarterly. I absolutely DO NOT recommend a set it and forget it campaign that lasts longer than a quarter.

Either way, keep track of what has been successful. I’m not just talking likes and comments, but how has this translated back into success in terms of your goal? Have sales gone up? Has repeat web traffic increased? Keep the goals you’ve set in mind at all times, write them on a sticky note and pin them to your monitor if you have to but don’t lose yourself in likes and followers (unless that’s your goal).

Budget, budget, budget.

Ideally, you already have a marketing budget in place. That’s a great first step! Next, provide a financial breakdown for every piece of marketing collateral. If you’re running Facebook ads, break down the monthly spend, cost per result and even design costs if that’s applicable. You need to know exactly how much you spend on your marketing so you can determine the overall return on the investment (ROI). Afterall, something isn’t successful if the cost is astronomical.

Whatever you do, don’t just lump your marketing budget into your overall finances and forget about it.

When all of these steps are complete, you can start using some of the templates I provided in your January newsletter. If you can’t find your email,I’ve also attached them below.

Overall Channel Plan

This template allows you to record all of the marketing channels that you use right now. From there you can track how each channel is used, what the monthly cost is for each, and what they’re actually targeting when it comes to your marketing strategy.

Yearly Content Plan

This template is perfect for planning out a year in advance! Every month you should have a marketing theme that relates to your business. Consider your industry and what you’re always preparing for in that month. This will be your theme. From there provide a brief sentence for how you’ll use each marketing channel. Be brief, but specific. For instance, don’t just say you’ll send out a newsletter. Say, “Newsletter featuring Valentine’s Day Products.”

Weekly Content Schedule

Keep track of what you need to post and where everyday on this template. I use colour coded squares at a glance to figure out what exactly needs to be done each day. Input your own marketing channels and social media to make sure that it’s accurate for you.

Saving your templates…

All of the templates will be provided as Google Sheets. That means you have to use a gmail account in order to access them and save them to your computer or drive. When you want to use the sheets simply navigate to File in the top left hand corner and select Make a Copy. From there, it will save to your drive for you to edit on your own.

You can always export the files if necessary. All of the files are available  at one link for your use!

As always, if you need additional help or want me to look your marketing plan over, please feel free to email me at!

Happy planning (and sorry for all of the homework)!

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