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How many different types of marketing plans does a business need and why?

6 different options for marketing plans

Planning is a must for any business that wants to succeed, but choosing the right type of plan to define your strategy and structuring it can be difficult. Especially since there are so many different types of plans within marketing and business, all with a different scope.

The challenge is compounded if you are new to creating plans, or to the culture of planning within a business. It seems that the difficulty of choosing the right type of plan and how to structure it to deliver results stops many in their tracks. Our research shows that, shockingly, as many as half of businesses don't have a digital marketing plan or, perhaps worse, a marketing plan on which to base it...

A single plan would be ideal, but in practice, different types and scales of business will need different types of plans. It can help to define the scope and purpose of each one, you should define, for example for a multichannel marketing plan, this could be:

  • Purpose. To define a strategy and plan resources needed to achieve business sales targets.
  • Timeframe. Annual, typically. Could have a longer-term outlook e.g. 18 months to 3 years.
  • Scope. The focus is on marketing communications techniques to deliver leads and sales target for defined products. It can apply to a complete business, or if there are multiple markets and product categories, a single market.
  • Channels: Includes online channels and offline media as required.
  • Key outputs: Marketing objectives. Marketing budget. Campaign plans. Resource plans.

Here's another way of understanding the context of a plan, to put it into context with other types of plan as shown in this table.

Type of plan Purpose Scope and content
Business Define strategies for growing profitability over a long-term period Annual to 3 yearly
- New product development
- Revenue sources and cost management
Marketing Define strategies to engage audiences to achieve business objectives Typically annual
Brand marketing Define audience engagement to achieve brand sales Typically annual
Digital marketing plan or transformation plan Define how to compete more effectively with digital marketing Typically annual.
Transformation plans may be longer
- Review digital capabilities
- Define digital marketing technology
- Define resource requirements for digital
Multichannel marketing A long-term integrated communications plan for using different digital media to hit lead or sales targets. Annual plan
- Engaging audiences
- Content marketing
- Integrated media schedule of always-on and campaign activities
Marketing campaign plan A shorter-term integrated communications plan for using different digital media to hit lead or sales targets. Shorter-term plan
- Engaging audiences
- Content marketing
- Integrated media schedule
90-day marketing management plan A short-term plan of activities to review and optimize activities need to hit targets for other plans Review of actions
- Covers always-on and campaign activity

Depending on the type and scale of business there may be even more plans for individual channels where different people are responsible for each. For example:

  • Advertising plan
  • Customer acquisition plan
  • Email marketing plan
  • A retention plan
  • A social media marketing plan
  • Conversion optimisation plan

That’s a lot of plans and a lot of complexity! So we provide guidance on all of these at Smart Insights. Yet, all of these types of plans are used in different ‘use-cases’ in different types of business. It’s likely that only in the very largest types of business you would need all of them and to be honest, we wouldn’t advise that.

But if you only have one marketing plan, you argue you should use a multichannel marketing plan since it will give you focus to boost your leads and sales with a planned approach which enables you to select the best strategies and marketing channels to improve your results.

Our recommended types of marketing plans

Here's our top 5 types of plans that you can read about in our new guide or click through to our detailed members' guide for each type of plan.

To help with the 'planning challenge', in this guide we have created a concise list of the important plans you need to consider. Here's a summary of what we see as the essential 2 types of plan a medium to large business needs.

Business Plan

This is a must! It outlines objectives, goals and the strategies in order to achieve those objectives. Your business plan should outline how you will change and become more competitive in future. Remember to include strategies,

Typically, you should be looking at 1-3 years with the aim to answer the most important question of any business: how do I plan to make my business succeed? This is the end goal - a successful business with clients (or customers) and profit. You need to include 3 key points:

  • New product development
  • Revenue sources
  • Means of cost management

But when should you use a business plan?

  • Gaining initial investment as a new-business or startup
  • Planning market expansion for an existing company
  • Undertaking product development
  • Preparing for acquisition
  • Planning divestment
  • Gaining or sustaining a competitive advantage
  • Evaluating resource allocation and strategic goals

Marketing plan

A marketing plan should include your organization's target market, marketing objectives, and the activities to achieve those objectives and budget.

Your marketing plan should define strategies to help you achieve business objectives. Think about including information such as:

  • Geographically based
  • Product based
  • Business unit based
  • Focussed on segmentation

By Dave Chaffey

Dave is CEO and co-founder of Smart Insights. He is editor of the 100 templates, ebooks and courses in the digital marketing resource library created by our team of 25+ Digital Marketing experts. Our resources used by our Expert members in more than 80 countries to Map, Plan and Manage their digital marketing. For my full profile, or to connect on LinkedIn or other social networks, see the About Dave Chaffey profile page on Smart Insights.

Dave is author of 5 bestselling books on digital marketing including Emarketing Excellence and Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice. In 2004 he was recognised by the Chartered Institute of Marketing as one of 50 marketing ‘gurus’ worldwide who have helped shape the future of marketing.

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