The last decade has seen marketing deluged with a sea of new channels and techniques. The concept of real-time, rather than long-term planning, has added fuel to the fire.
The result? Marketing has become increasingly focused on tactics. Yet we must put an effective marketing plan in place for any set of tactics to make sense.
If you’re interested in creating a sound marketing plan, this is the guide for you. This article explores why you need a marketing plan, and takes a detailed look at 10 tried-and-tested marketing plan templates, as well as top tips for success.Need to plan, test, and measure in one place? Explore TrueNorth
Why create a marketing plan?
It sounds obvious, but before you can begin a journey, you have to know where you’re going. Yet the reality is today’s marketing planning process is sub-optimal, cost-based, and tactically led.
What’s even more worrying, according to one study, 50% of small businesses don’t even have a marketing plan. Yet, nearly 80% of CEOs say they are looking to their marketing leaders to drive revenue growth.
Fulfilling an ambitious growth mandate requires a marketing plan that is more predictive, customised, and accessible than ever before.
Your marketing plan should serve as the missing link between the strategic direction of the business and the delivery of results. Connecting everything together, it ensures that the right activity is taking place, at the right time, to the right audience, through the right channels – to drive growth.
In a nutshell, a marketing plan:
- Provides focus and clarity
- Enables you to plan and manage resources effectively
- Creates transparency on ROI
- Ensures you meet objectives and goals
What’s more, marketing planning is so vital that it should not be a one-time annual activity; it should be something you come back to, adapt, and re-configure time and again.
Setting your North Star
Marketing works best when you plan for long-term goals, yet stay agile and make regular adjustments along the way – based on learning from what the data is telling you.
This is where your marketing plan comes in – working in 12-month increments. That doesn’t mean your strategic vision needs to end abruptly after one year. You can certainly plot out a multi-year journey for your brand.
But it’s essential to regularly check-in on how you’re tracking against goals, ideally weekly or bi-weekly. There are hundreds of scenarios that fundamentally change the marketing strategy that’s best for your business. Global pandemics, PR crisis, and the emergence of new social media platforms are all unpredictable. Learning from what does and doesn’t work allows you to make adjustments and course-correct along the way.
Think of your marketing plan as the way sailors view the North Star: a way to stay on course, no matter where you are. And if you don’t know where to go or what to do, all it takes is a quick glance, or slight course correction to get you back on track.
Psst! That’s why we created TrueNorth. Our platform allows you to focus, align, and track marketing in one place – and course correct along the way.
We get it – creating a marketing plan can be a real challenge, especially if you’re starting from scratch – what needs to be in there? What doesn’t? To help you decide, let’s take a look at 10 tried-and-tested marketing plan samples and templates:
10 brilliant tried-and-tested marketing plan samples and templates
Ready to start your own marketing plan? To save you time, we have tried and tested 100’s of marketing plan templates and drilled down to the top 10.
Take a look at these examples and templates for some inspiration and guidance to start your own marketing plan:
Primary aim: One page marketing plan
Smartsheet has a selection of free marketing plan templates, but we particularly like the one-page marketing plan template. Key information such as business objectives, problem, solution, and target market are all captured in the first section.
The second section includes a short action plan covering the 4P’s, key channels, and results, plus space to add your own. The marketing plan is fully customisable yet super concise.
Our verdict: Paring your plan down to the key elements makes it easily scannable and really useful for providing key stakeholders with a snapshot view. While you don’t have to fit every fine detail on the page, you can outline each step of the plan so that you and your team can understand your marketing plan clearly.
Primary aim: Marketing plan timeline
Mayple’s free Google Doc marketing plan template has a number of useful tabs to choose from. The first records your goals and KPIs, the next covers your budget, followed by a marketing plan timeline, and marketing resources.
Another cool feature is the monthly marketing work plan Gantt chart, which allows you to work in sprints – great for project management for high-volume marketing teams. Because it’s available to use in Google Sheets, you can easily make your own copy and get started straight away.
Our verdict: We love the timeline feature. Marketing activity can be planned row-by-row, and colour coding allows you to easily document activity in groups for ease of scanning and updating. Maple’s marketing plan template even provides sample ideas for channels and campaigns that you can adjust to your unique ideas.
Primary aim: Professionally designed marketing plan
Canva provides a great selection of free and paid for marketing plan templates, which are easily editable and provide a really professional look and feel to your plans. You can even swap out different slides from other templates to fully customise your plan.
The template options even provide example copy, illustrations, and slides that you can type over to save you required design time and resource.
If you download the app, you can also edit and download on the go through its mobile app, and share and publish anywhere.
Our verdict: We really like the way you can easily edit existing templates to create a polished look and feel – great for presenting your plans to the rest of the business.
Primary aim: Digital marketing plan
Smart Insights’ digital marketing plan applies the highly popular RACE model, which stands for Reach, Awareness, Consideration, Engage. This ensures you create a sound plan that aligns to all stages of the customer journey.
Smart Insights planning template provides guidance and key steps to help you fill it out and turn your plan into action.
Our verdict: We like how Smart Insights’ plan also covers 6 pillars of digital success, including planning and governance, goals and measurement, media, content, experience, and conversational messaging.
Primary aim: Product marketing plan
Demand Metric has created a series of template resources for product marketing planning. From competitive analysis to customer profiles, positioning statements, and even pricing strategy – you’ll find detailed templates for in-depth product marketing planning.
Our verdict: We particularly like the video, which talks you through the process, and the various resources available. It’s incredibly helpful for marketers creating their first marketing plan. There are additional templates also available for specific elements of the planning process, such as pricing strategy, and USPs.
Primary aim: Flow chart marketing plan
Miro is well known for its impressive mind mapping and flow chart tools.
There are a wealth of templates available for planning and strategy. If you want to launch a new product or service, there’s a lot of thought and research that goes beforehand. Miro’s template allows you to capture and agree on buyer personas, your value matrix, the buyer journey and sales strategy.
Our verdict: We really like the go-to-market strategy template, which helps you to outline how your company will bring a product to market and align on team goals. The interface and UI are really nice and easy to use too.
Primary aim: Progress tracking marketing plan
Evernote is another great example that can help you outline your marketing plan and keep track of progress.
The template is broken down into several key sections – details, research, goals and objectives, buyer personas, calendar, evaluation, and sign-off.
Our verdict: We like how Evernote’s template allows you to outline your marketing strategy quickly, and helps you to keep on track once the project is in motion.
Primary aim: Step-by-step marketing plan walk through
G2’s marketing plan template is really nicely laid out, with easy to edit sections.
The marketing goals section is particularly helpful for less experienced marketers, providing examples to use, or edit as you see fit. You have the option to download the plan as a Google Doc, which means you can make a copy and start editing straight away.
Our verdict: We like how it provides clear guidance throughout, making the process easy and efficient. The look and feel of the templates feel high quality too.
Primary aim: Social media planning
Hootsuite’s social media planning template provides clear instructions on how to create a social media plan and strategy.
Easy to access in Google Sheets. The template includes setting smart goals, how your social goals align to your business goals, personas, competitive analysis and more.
Our verdict: The plan is very comprehensive and we really like the top tips slide at the end – providing useful tips to help you do more with social media in less time.
Primary aim: Infographic marketing plan
Venngage’s vibrant infographic style marketing plan provides all the necessary sections in a fun, engaging and interesting format.
The template is free, you just need to sign up to the tool to access it.
Our verdict: The infographic style is very engaging and could be a really neat way to share your plan with key stakeholders.
6 final tips for a successful marketing plan
For today’s marketers, creating an integrated marketing plan that includes digital, content marketing, email, and social media is essential to meet your goals.
After all, marketing results don’t just happen by chance.
Creating the right marketing plan ensures you’re targeting the right people, with relevant content that appeals to them. The more time you spend creating a clear strategy, the more opportunities you create to sell.
With that in mind, here are 9 final tips for a successful marketing plan:
- Start with your goals: Always work backwards from goal > projection > then create the plan to hit your monthly milestones.
- Regularly check-in on your goals: Your marketing plan should not be something you do once and forget. It’s essential to keep track of how you’re progressing towards your goals, key milestones, and objectives.
- Discuss goals regularly: One strategy is to discuss goals during regularly scheduled meetings. This helps ensure that day-to-day processes and activities are aligned with your strategic objectives for the year.
- Centralise your plan: Ideally, you want to build your marketing plan in the same place as your marketing management processes.
- Measure often: We analyse and report on OKRs weekly and quarterly. This forces the organisation to reflect and learn regularly, run systematic test and learn methodology, spot challenges, and find solutions quickly.
- Keep your plan on point: Many marketing plans are PowerPoint presentations – while there’s nothing wrong with that, they’re often just far too long. Keep it simple and agile – don’t create a 90 page document.
- Experiment and course-correct: A One pager or ‘micro strategy’ is better if it means you can start running experiments and adjusting your trajectory as you go.
- Keep testing and learning: Then, all things being cyclical, it is back to a new goal the following year, discovering if the strategy worked and starting the process again.
- Invest in marketing growth software: Invest in marketing management platforms that can help marketing teams work together seamlessly, with the marketing plan and growth goals all tracked in one place.
Staying on course
As we’ve seen in the examples above, a marketing plan can vary from a one-pager, to polished slide deck through to a detailed roadmap. To decide on the scope, ask yourself what its purpose is, how it will be used, and how it will be shared across your company?
In addition, while the what, why and how of your marketing plan are important – so is the where.
If you’re not looking at it, refining and reporting back on it daily you risk misalignment and creating accountability issues.
Key takeaway: Like the real North Star, your marketing plans are only useful if they are visible. Centralise your marketing plan in the same place that you report on.
Keep it top of mind, by integrating it into your marketing management platform.
If you’re serious about your marketing success, start now. And with that, you’ve got what you need. Good luck out there!