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How to structure an effective marketing plan

Author's avatar By Sarah Lindley 19 Jan, 2023
Essential Essential topic

What are the essential parts of a marketing plan template?

A marketing plan is a strategic document that specifies your organization’s target markets, marketing objectives, programs and activities to achieve them, expected timescales, resources to be utilized, according to defined budgets, and how success will be measured.

What is the purpose of a marketing plan?

The purpose of a marketing plan is to define strategies to engage audiences in order to achieve business objectives.

The goal of a marketing plan is to ensure marketing activities are structured, relevant, and timely to achieve an organization’s objectives.

It’s a plan defining your company's sustainable competitive position, structuring and setting marketing goals, and defining the resources necessary to achieve your business vision.

Structure an effective marketing plan with RACE

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Savvy marketers and Smart Insights members already recognize that a practical, integrated marketing plan is essential for business growth in 2023 and beyond.

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Context of a marketing plan

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

understanding different marketing plans

When to use a marketing plan?

The process of marketing planning within an organization will differ, depending on whether a strategic marketing plan or an operational marketing plan is utilized. Here are the differences between the two:

  • strategic marketing plan outlines the overall strategy within a market, connecting customers, competitors, and what the organization is capable of achieving.  It is typically created at divisional or company level.
  • An operational marketing plan outlines the marketing mix strategy that will be used to gain an advantage in the market.  It typically focuses on products; market segments and how marketing communications and campaigns achieve targets defined in the strategic marketing plan. It usually has separate sections covering tactics for customer acquisition and retention which will sometimes be covered in separate plans in larger organizations.

In an organization’s planning process, marketing links:

  • Customers’ needs and wants
  • Competitor value proposition and actions
  • Strategic direction
  • Organizational objectives

What should be included? / How should a marketing plan be structured?

A marketing plan should include:

  1. The current position, priorities, and direction of your organization
  2. Its position in relation to external environmental factors
  3. A critical analysis of your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats
  4. Clearly defined objectives and a way to benchmark their success
  5. The means by which to achieve those objectives
  6. Relevant and timely actions and responsibilities by function, product or service, and market segment
  7. The finances and resources required and forecasted revenues
  8. Regular measurement of progress and outcomes against benchmarks

A solid marketing plan has:

  • Clear, realistic goals which you can be confident of hitting
  • The best strategy to achieve these goals against your competition
  • Sufficient details of the tactics and actions needed to translate the strategy into action
  • A method to check you are on track with your plans

Marketing actions deliverables

Check out the 18 most important digital marketing techniques to make sure you're not missing any opportunities.

Which types of businesses use marketing plans?

Marketing planning will assist in the day-to-day running of any size, type or age of business. The targets and milestones set will help organizations, from small start-ups to large corporates, to effectively:

  • Allocate resources and budget
  • Motivate teams
  • Manage the performance of staff members and marketing efforts

Marketing plans for small businesses

In smaller businesses, the scope of a plan is typically annual and for the whole business. Typically, SMEs are working with smaller budgets and tighter turnaround times.

A marketing plan for a small business typically looks to identify where to prioritize the investment of time and available budget to generate results.

Smaller organizations typically have:

  • Small market shares
  • Owners involved in all aspects of strategic and operational management
  • Independence
  • A high degree of uncertainty
  • Difficulty innovating owing to limited resources

Such differences between large and smaller organizations tend to be reflected in the development of marketing plans.

When establishing a small start-up, marketing planning is an essential element.  A small number of these businesses launch and grow, but for those that are successful, a strategic marketing approach will ensure continued development.

Marketing plans for large organizations

In large organizations, its focus will change, depending on the type of organization.  A separate marketing plan might be:

  • Geographically-based
  • Product-based
  • Business unit based
  • Focused on segmentation

A marketing plan in a large organization may integrate a number of plans, specific to individual parts of the business. It is practical planning that takes place at a divisional, business unit, or individual company level.

Larger organizations with clearly defined management structures and a wealth of resources will make use of marketing principles very differently from smaller organizations.

RACE marketing planning

Although the techniques for marketing planning may vary between different sizes and types of organizations, the outcome is always the same: to implement the objectives, strategies, and activities in order to gain an advantage.

That's why our RACE Growth System is structured across a simple 5 step marketing and sales funnel which can be applied to every size of business from startups to multinational corporations.

Race Planning Framework

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How does a marketing plan relate to other plans?

The plan should not be formulated or used in isolation; it should be informed by the corporate objectives identified in your organization’s business plan.

Integrated with a marketing plan may also be a digital plan, multi-channel plan and campaign plan, for example.  The marketing plan informs these plans and vice-versa.

An effective marketing plan will ensure the integration of activities, the scheduling of requirements, distinguishing responsibilities and the provision of benchmarks for measuring success.  Different organizations will utilize differing plans, covering different areas and timeframes. What is crucial in a business is that the plans being utilized, the timeframes allocated, and how they integrate with each other are collectively established.

Structure your marketing plan around a funnel proven to boost performance. Join Smart Insights as a Free Member for instant access to our free RACE Growth System template to hone your skills and drive the results you need.

Author's avatar

By Sarah Lindley

Thanks to Sarah Lindley for sharing their advice and opinion in this post. Sarah, Managing Director at The Yorkshire Marketing Agency, is an award-winning Chartered Marketer. Sarah holds over 10 years’ experience in implementing results-driven marketing and communications strategies, plans and campaigns. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.

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