After employee salaries, marketing is typically the biggest expense for most businesses.
As a business owner or marketer, don’t you want to make sure your marketing dollars are being spent in the most productive way possible? Yeah, me too.
But what often ends up happening is most businesses try different marketing tactics without a clear plan, and walk away with little success.
Or they’ll get lucky and score a big marketing win but soon find themselves unable to scale their marketing tactics, goals and strategies to drive consistent growth.
In this guide, you’ll learn how to grow your business strategically and maximize ROI generated from your marketing dollars with a well-defined marketing plan.
Don’t know how to create a marketing plan? Start with one of Venngage’s templates today. You don’t need any design skills to make a great plan that helps align your team and grow your business.
Click to jump ahead:
- What is a marketing plan?
- How to create a marketing plan
- Marketing plan vs. Marketing strategy
- Types of marketing plans
- 9 marketing plan templates
- Marketing plan design and writing tips
What is a marketing plan?
A marketing plan is a report that outlines your marketing strategy for your products or services, which could be applicable for the coming year, quarter or month.
Watch this quick, 13-minute video for more details on what a marketing plan is and how to make one yourself:
Typically, a marketing plan includes:
- An overview of your business’s marketing and advertising goals
- A description of your business’s current marketing position
- A timeline of when tasks within your strategy will be completed
- Key performance indicators (KPIs) you will be tracking
- A description of your business’s target market and customer needs
- A description of how you will measure the performance of the strategy
For example, this marketing plan template provides a high-level overview of the business and competitors before diving deep into specific goals, KPIs and tactics:
Learning how to write a marketing plan forces you to think through the important steps that lead to an effective marketing strategy. And a well-defined plan will help you stay focused on your high-level marketing goals.
With Venngage’s extensive catalog of marketing plan templates, creating your marketing plan isn’t going to be hard or tedious. In fact, Venngage has plenty of helpful communications and design resources for marketers. If you’re ready to get started, sign up for Venngage for Marketers now. It’s free to register and start designing.
Whether you’re a team trying to set smarter marketing goals, a consultant trying to set your client in the right direction, or a one-person team hustling it out, Venngage for Marketers helps you get things done. You’ll also get helpful webinars and presentations delivered right to your inbox, like this one:
How to write a marketing plan
As mentioned above, the scope of your marketing plan varies depending on its purpose or the type of organization it’s for.
For example, you could create a marketing plan that provides an overview of a company’s entire marketing strategy or simply focus on a specific channel like SEO, social media marketing, content marketing and more, like in this example:
Marketing plan outline
A typical outline of a marketing plan includes:
- Executive summary
- Goals and objectives
- User personas
- Competitor analysis/SWOT analysis
- Baseline metrics
- Marketing strategy
- Tracking guidelines
Below you will see in details how to write each section as well as some examples of how you can design each section in a marketing plan.
Let’s look at how to create a successful marketing plan (click to jump ahead):
- Write a simple executive summary
- Set metric-driven marketing goals
- Outline your user personas
- Research all of your competitors
- Set accurate key baselines & metrics
- Create an actionable marketing strategy
- Set tracking or reporting guidelines
1. Write a simple executive summary
Starting your marketing plan off on the right foot is important. You want to pull people into your amazing plan for marketing domination. Not bore them to tears.
One of the best ways to get people excited to read your marketing plan is with a well-written executive summary. An executive summary introduces readers to your company goals, marketing triumphs, future plans, and other important contextual facts.
Basically, you can use the Executive Summary as a primer for the rest of your marketing plan.
Include things like:
- Simple marketing goals
- High-level metrics
- Important company milestones
- Facts about your brand
- Employee anecdotes
- Future goals & plans
- And more
Try to keep your executive summary rather brief and to the point. You aren’t writing a novel, so try to keep it under three to four paragraphs.
Take a look at the executive summary in the marketing plan example below:
The executive summary is only two paragraphs long — short but effective.
The executive summary tells readers about the company’s growth, and how they are about to overtake one of their competitors. But there’s no mention of specific metrics or figures. That will be highlighted in the next section of the marketing plan.
An effective executive summary should have enough information to pique the reader’s interest, but not bog them down with specifics yet. That’s what the rest of your marketing plan is for!
The executive summary also sets the tone for your marketing plan. Think about what tone will fit your brand? Friendly and humorous? Professional and reliable? Inspiring and visionary?
2. Set metric-driven marketing goals
After you perfect your executive summary, it’s time to outline your marketing goals.
(If you’ve never set data-driven goals like this before, it would be worth reading this growth strategy guide).
This is one of the most important parts of the entire marketing plan, so be sure to take your time and be as clear as possible.
As a rule of thumb, be as specific as possible. The folks over at VoyMedia advise that you should set goals that impact website traffic, conversions, and customer success — and to use real numbers.
Avoid outlining vague goals like:
- Get more Twitter followers
- Write more articles
- Create more YouTube videos (like educational or Explainer videos)
- Increase retention rate
- Decrease bounce rate
Instead, identify key performance metrics (KPI) you want to impact and the percentage you want to increase them by.
Take a look at the goals page in the marketing plan example below:
They not only identify a specific metric in each of their goals, but they also set a timeline for when they will be increased.
The same vague goals listed earlier become much clearer when specific numbers and timelines are applied to them:
- Get 100 new Twitter followers per month
- Write 5 more articles per week
- Create 10 YouTube videos each year
- Increase retention rate by 15% by 2020
- Decrease bounce rate by 5% by Q1
- Create an online course and get 1,000 new leads
You can dive even deeper into your marketing goals if you want (generally, the more specific, the better). Here’s a marketing plan example that shows how to outline your growth goals:
3. Outline your user personas
Now, this may not seem like the most important part of your marketing plan, but I think it holds a ton of value.
Outlining your user personas is an important part of a marketing plan that should not be overlooked.
You should be asking not just how you can get the most visitors to your business, but how you can get the right visitors.
Who are your ideal customers? What are their goals? What are their biggest problems? How does your business solve customer problems?
Answering these questions will take lots of research, but it’s essential information to get.
Some ways to conduct user research are:
- Interviewing your users (either in person or on the phone)
- Conducting focus groups
- Researching other businesses in the same industry
- Surveying your audience
Then, you will need to compile your user data into a user persona guide.
Take a look at how detailed this user persona template is below:
Taking the time to identify specific demographic traits, habits and goals will make it easier for you to cater your marketing plan to them.
Here’s how you can create a user persona guide:
The first thing you should add is a profile picture or icon for each user persona. It can help to put a face to your personas, so they seem more real.
Next, list demographic information like:
The user persona example above uses sliding scales to identify personality traits like introversion vs. extroversion and thinking vs. feeling. Identifying what type of personality your target users tend to have an influence on the messaging you use in your marketing content.
Meanwhile, this user persona guide identifies specific challenges the user faces each day:
But if you don’t want to go into such precise detail, you can stick to basic information, like in this marketing plan example:
Most businesses will have a few different types of target users. That’s why it’s pertinent to identify and create several different user personas. That way, you can better segment your marketing campaigns and set separate goals, if necessary.
Here’s a marketing plan example with a segmented user persona guide:
The important thing is for your team or client to have a clear picture of who their target user is and how they can appeal to their specific problems.
Start creating robust user personas using Venngage’s user persona guide.
4. Conduct an extensive competitor analysis
Next, on the marketing plan checklist, we have the competitor research section. This section will help you identify who your competitors are, what they’re doing, and how you could carve yourself a place alongside them in your niche — and ideally, surpass them. It’s something you can learn to do with a tool like GrowthBar.
Competitor research is also incredibly important if you are starting a blog.
Typically, your competitor research should include:
- Who their marketing team is
- Who their leadership team is
- What their marketing strategy is (this will probably revolve some reverse-engineering)
- What their sales strategy is (same deal)
- Social Media strategy (are they using discounting strategies such as coupon marketing to get conversions)
- Their market cap/financials
- Their yearly growth (you will probably need to use a marketing tool like Ahrefs to do this)
- The number of customers they have & their user personas
Also, take as deep a dive as you can into the strategies they use across their:
- Blog/Content marketing
- Social media marketing
- SEO Marketing
- Video marketing
- And any other marketing tactics they use
Research their strengths and weaknesses in all parts of their company, and you will find some great opportunities. Bookmark has a great guide to different marketing strategies for small businesses if you need some more information there.
You can use this simple SWOT analysis worksheet to quickly work through all parts of their strategy as well:
Click the template above to create a SWOT chart. Customize the template to your liking — no design know-how needed.
Since you have already done all the research beforehand, adding this information to your marketing plan shouldn’t be that hard.
In this marketing plan example, some high-level research is outlined for 3 competing brands:
But you could take a deeper dive into different facets of your competitors’ strategies. This marketing plan example analyses a competitor’s content marketing strategy:
It can also be helpful to divide your competitors into Primary and Secondary groups. For example, Apple’s primary competitor may be Dell for computers, but its secondary competitor could be a company that makes tablets.
Your most dangerous competitors may not even be in the same industry as you. Like the CEO of Netflix said, “Sleep is our competition.”
5. Set accurate key baselines & metrics
It’s pretty hard to plan for the future if you don’t know where your business stands right now.
Before we do anything at Venngage, we find the baselines so we can compare future results to something. We do it so much it’s almost like second nature now!
Setting baselines will allow you to more accurately track your progress. You will also be able to better analyze what worked and what didn’t work, so you can build a stronger strategy. It will definitely help them clearly understand your goals and strategy as well.
Here’s a marketing plan example where the baselines are visualized:
Another way to include baselines in your plan is with a simple chart, like in the marketing plan example below:
Because data can be intimidating to a lot of people, visualizing your data using charts and infographics will help demystify the information.
6. Create an actionable marketing strategy
After pulling all the contextual information and relevant metrics into your marketing plan, it’s time to break down your marketing strategy.
Once again, it’s easier to communicate your information to your team or clients using visuals.
Mind maps are an effective way to show how a strategy with many moving parts ties together. For example, this mind map shows how the four main components of a marketing strategy interact together:
You can also use a flow chart to map out your strategy by objectives:
However you choose to visualize your strategy, your team should know exactly what they need to do. This is not the time to keep your cards close to your chest.
Your strategy section may need to take up a few pages to explain, like in the marketing plan example below:
With all of this information, even someone from the development team will understand what the marketing team is working on.
This minimalistic marketing plan example uses color blocks to make the different parts of the strategy easy to scan:
Breaking your strategy down into tasks will make it easier to tackle.
Another important way to visualize your marketing strategy is to create a project roadmap. A project roadmap visualizes the timeline of your product with individual tasks. Our roadmap maker can help you with this.
For example, this project roadmap shows how tasks on both the marketing and web design side run parallel to each other:
A simple timeline can also be used in your marketing plan:
Or a mind map, if you want to include a ton of information in a more organized way:
Even a simple “Next, Now, Later” chart can help visualize your strategy:
7. Set tracking or reporting guidelines
Close your marketing plan with a brief explanation of how you plan to track or measure your results. This will save you a lot of frustration down the line by standardizing how you track results across your team.
Like the other sections of your marketing plan, you can choose how in-depth you want to go. But there need to be some clear guidelines on how to measure the progress and results of your marketing plan.
At the bare minimum, your results tracking guidelines should specify:
- What you plan to track
- How you plan to track results
- How often you plan to measure
But you can more add tracking guidelines to your marketing plan if you see the need to. You may also want to include a template that your team or client can follow, for client reporting, ensure that the right metrics are being tracked.
The marketing plan example below dedicates a whole page to tracking criteria:
Use a task tracker to track tasks and marketing results, and a checklist maker to note down tasks, important life events, or tracking your daily life.
Similarly, the marketing plan example below talks about tracking content marketing instead:
Marketing plan vs. marketing strategy
Although often used interchangeably, the terms “marketing plan” and “marketing strategy” do have some differences.
Simply speaking, a marketing strategy presents what the business will do in order to reach a certain goal. A marketing plan outlines the specific daily, weekly, monthly or yearly activities that the marketing strategy calls for. As a business, you can create a marketing proposal for the marketing strategies defined in your company’s marketing plan. There are various marketing proposal examples that you can look at to help with this.
A company’s extended marketing strategy can be like this:
Notice how it’s more general and doesn’t include the actual activities required to complete each strategy or the timeframe those marketing activities will take place. That kind of information is included in a marketing plan, like this marketing plan template which talks about the content strategy in detail:
Types of marketing plans that can transform your business strategy
Let’s take a look at several types of marketing plans you can create, along with specific examples for each.
1. General marketing strategic plan / Annual marketing plan
This is a good example of a marketing plan that covers the overarching annual marketing strategy for a company:
Another good example would be this Starbucks marketing plan:
This one-page marketing plan example from coffee chain Starbucks has everything at a glance. The bold headers and subheadings make it easier to segment the sections so readers can focus on the area most relevant to them.
What we like about this example is how much it covers. From the ideal buyer persona to actional activities, as well as positioning and metrics, this marketing plan has it all.
Another marketing plan example that caught our eye is this one from Cengage. Although a bit text-heavy and traditional, it explains the various sections well. The clean layout makes this plan easy to read and absorb.
The last marketing plan example we would like to feature in this section is this one from Lush cosmetics.
It is a long one but it’s also very detailed. The plan outlines numerous areas, including the company mission, SWOT analysis, brand positioning, packaging, geographical criteria, and much more.
2. Content marketing plan
A content marketing plan highlights different strategies, campaigns or tactics you can use for your content to help your business reach its goals.
This one-page marketing plan example from Contently outlines a content strategy and workflow using simple colors and blocks. The bullet points detail more information but this plan can easily be understood at a glance, which makes it so effective.
For a more detailed content marketing plan example, take a look at this template which features an editorial calendar you can share with the whole team:
3. SEO marketing plan
This SEO marketing plan example discusses in detail the target audience of the business and the SEO plan laid out in different stages:
4. Social media marketing plan
Your social media marketing plan presents what you’ll do to reach your marketing goal through social media. This could include tactics specific to each social media channel that you own, recommendations on developing a new channel, specific campaigns you want to run, and so on, like how B2B channels use Linkedin to generate leads with automation tools and expand their customer base; or like making use of Twitter walls that could display live Twitter feeds from Twitter in real-time on digital screens.
Edit this social media marketing plan example easily with Venngage’s drag-and-drop editor:
5. Demand generation marketing plan
9 marketing plan examples to inspire your growth strategy
1. Free marketing plan template
Here’s a free nonprofit marketing plan example that is ideal for organizations with a comprehensive vision to share. It’s a simple plan that is incredibly effective. Not only does the plan outline the core values of the company, it also shares the ideal buyer persona.
Note how the branding is consistent throughout this example so there is no doubt which company is presenting this plan. The content plan is an added incentive for anyone viewing the document to go ahead and give the team the green light.
2. Pastel social media marketing campaign template
Two-page marketing plan samples aren’t very common, but this free template proves how effective they are. There’s a dedicated section for business goals as well as for project planning.
The milestones for the marketing campaign are clearly laid out, which is a great way to show how organized this business strategy is.
3. Small business marketing strategy template
This marketing plan template is perfect for small businesses who set out to develop an overarching marketing strategy for the whole year:
Notice how this aligns pretty well with the marketing plan outline we discussed in previous sections.
In terms of specific tactics for the company’s marketing strategy, the template only discusses SEO strategy, but you can certainly expand on that section to discuss any other strategies — such as link building, that you would like to build out a complete marketing plan for.
4. Orange simple marketing proposal template
Marketing plans, like the sample below, are a great way to highlight what your business strategy and the proposal you wan to put forward to win potential customers.
5. One-page marketing fact sheet template
This one-page marketing plan example is great for showcasing marketing efforts in a persuasive presentation or to print out for an in-person meeting.
Note how the fact sheet breaks down the marketing budget as well as the key metrics for the organization. You can win over clients and partners with a plan like this.
6. Light company business fact sheet template
This one-page sample marketing plan clearly outlines the marketing objectives for the organization. It’s a simple but effective way to share a large amount of information in a short amount of time.
What really works with this example is that includes a mission statement, key contact information alongside all the key metrics.
7. Marketing media press kit template
This press kit marketing plan template is bright and unmistakable as belonging to the Cloud Nine marketing agency. The way the brand colors are used also helps diversify the layouts for each page, making the plan easier to read.
We like the way the marketing department has outlined the important facts about the organization. The bold and large numbers draw the eye and look impressive.
8. Professional marketing proposal template
Start your marketing campaign on a promising note with this marketing plan template. It’s short, sharp and to the point. The table of contents sets out the agenda, and there’s a page for the company overview and mission statement.
9. Social media marketing proposal template
A complete marketing plan example, like the one below, not only breaks down the business goals to be achieved but a whole lot more. Note how the terms and conditions and payment schedule are included, which makes this one of the most comprehensive marketing plans on our list.
7 tips to keep in mind while you’re creating your marketing plan
While a marketing plan doesn’t necessarily have to be pretty, an impressive design certainly helps if you want your plan to be more convincing.
Presentation is especially important if you’re presenting your marketing plan to investors, or if you need to convince your boss to approve your requested marketing budget.
That’s where a marketing plan template can help. If you don’t have a designer available, or even if you want a framework to base your own design on, a template gives you a solid foundation to work with.
Start creating your marketing plan with a template and then customize the design to fit your information and to incorporate your own branding.
Here are seven marketing plan templates to get you started, along with some report design best practices you should follow when creating your plan.
1. Identify, describe and illustrate your target audience
Knowing your target audience is one of the most fundamental steps that every marketing team should take before making any marketing decisions. So by the time you begin writing your marketing plan, you should have your target audience identified.
In your marketing plan, you should dedicate a section to introducing your target audience.
To help keep your target audience top-of-mind when planning and executing your marketing strategies, it can be helpful to visualize your audience personas. Faux images of your personas, illustrations and icons are all great ways to put a face to your personas’ “names”.
Take this page from a marketing plan example that includes imagery and icons:
A photo of “Cassandra Vane”, their “head of marketing” persona, is provided to make the character seem more real. You can incorporate photos seamlessly into your page design by using image frames.
Icons are also used to visualize the different components that make up this persona (their identifies, their demographic information, their goals and their unique challenges).
2. Visualize important process flows and strategy roadmaps
To effectively outline new marketing strategies, processes, and timelines, it can be very helpful to visualize the flows.
You could opt for a classic flow chart or a more creative marketing plan infographic. Whatever type of visual you choose to create, the goal should be to make the information easier for people to follow.
The first step is to organize your flow into distinct steps. Remember to clearly label each step and to use symbols like lines or arrows to indicate the direction in which the flow should be read.
It can also be helpful to visualize each step using different shapes, or attaching an icon to each step.
For example, this page visualizes an email campaign flow:
Icons represent each email as an individual block, to make it easier for readers to visualize the process. Concise descriptions give readers context to understand the flow chart.
Take a look at how information flows visually throughout this promotional marketing plan template thanks to strategically placed visual cues:
3. Emphasize important statistics, metrics, and numbers in your marketing plan
To make your plan both more convincing, and easier to scan, you should create a hierarchy of information in your page design.
For example, you can use charts and pictograms to visualize important stats or metrics. Or you could write important numbers in a bright-colored font so they stand out from the rest of the text.
This is an opportunity to get creative with your page design. Look at how speech bubble pictograms are used in this marketing plan example to show key statistics:
In that same marketing plan, important content-related data is emphasized using brightly colored shapes, illustrative icons and big fonts:
4. Use your main marketing goal to guide your design
One of the main goals of your marketing plan is to identify your high-level marketing goals. Your marketing plan design should be driven by this goal–in your page layouts and in the design elements you use.
You can do this by picking a design motif that reflects your goal and using that throughout your marketing plan. This could be a particular shape or item (for example, using images of plants in a work plan to represent growth) or a color scheme that reflects the mood of your mission.
This social media marketing plan example identifies their goal as being the go-to source of inspiration and information for runners:
Take a look at how they use chat bubble icons and a bright, bold color scheme to give their marketing plan a friendly and energetic design:
Pro Tip: You don’t need to create a comprehensive marketing plan yourself. With our real-time collaboration feature, you can leverage your entire team to help you shape your marketing plan together anytime, anywhere. In real-time.
5. Vary your page designs to make your marketing plan engaging
Putting in the extra bit of effort to use visuals will not only make your marketing plan more engaging, it will also make it easier for readers to retain information.
That’s why while you could use the same page layout throughout your whole plan, it’s a good idea to vary your page design. Mixing up your design will prevent your plan from being too predictable. Plus, you will have more flexibility to visualize information creatively.
For example, this SEO plan template simply inverts the color scheme on each page. While the overall color scheme for the whole plan is cohesive, each individual page is varied:
6. Visualize your top channels using charts, icons, and pictograms
It’s important for your team to understand your highest-performing channels. That way, you can identify areas you may want to funnel more resources into, whether it be social media, paid ads, mobile app advertising, organic or referral traffic.
This is where visual communication can be highly effective. A simple but effective way to analyze your channels is to visualize the data. You can do this using charts, pictograms and infographics with Venngage’s infographic creator.
For example, a pie chart can put into perspective where the bulk of your traffic is coming from:
A stacked bar would also work well to visualize this information.
Take a look at how charts, icons and color-coding make it easy to scan this marketing agenda presentation for information about specific channels:
7. Use borders or color blocks to organize your pages into sections
Generally, it’s good practice to stick to one topic per page. This will help keep your marketing plan more organized and make it easier for readers to scan for information.
That being said, you may want to put more than one topic on the same page, like if both topics are directly related. In that case, you can organize the page into sections using borders or blocks of background color.
For example, look at how this page is clearly divided into two sections, thanks to the use of a color block background:
Blocks of color are also used to make the sections headers stand out. Take a look at the different pages in this promotional plan template:
A few more marketing plan design best practices:
Here are a few quick tips to keep in mind when start designing your marketing plan.
Keep your design elements like fonts, icons and colors consistent
While it’s good to switch up the layout of your pages to keep your marketing plan engaging, it’s important to keep your design consistent. That means:
- Using the same font styles for your headers, body text, and accent text (generally, try to stick to only using 2-3 different font styles in one report)
- Using the same color scheme throughout your plan, and using the same colors for specific types of information (ex. blue for “social media goals” and green for “SEO goals”)
- Using the same style of icons throughout your report, like flat icons, line art icons, or illustrated icons
Download your marketing plan as a PDF
It’s important that your team is on the same page. Sharing your marketing plan via Google Docs or a file-sharing service can be unreliable. In most cases, it’s easier to simply download your marketing plan as a PDF and share it with your team that way.
You can download your marketing plan in high-quality PDF digital flipbook or interactive PDF format with Venngage.
Include a table of contents to make it easy to find specific information
This tip is pretty self-explanatory. Even if you’re putting together your marketing plan as a presentation, a simple table of contents at the beginning will give your audience an idea of what they can expect.
Marketing Plan FAQs
What should marketing plans include?
Marketing plans should include:
- A detailed analysis of the target market and customer segments.
- Clear and achievable marketing objectives and goals.
- Strategies and tactics for product promotion and distribution.
- Budget allocation for various marketing activities.
- Timelines and milestones for the implementation of marketing strategies.
- Evaluation metrics and methods for tracking the success of the marketing plan.
What is an executive summary in a marketing plan and what is its main goal?
An executive summary in a marketing plan is a brief overview of the entire document, summarizing the key points, goals, and strategies. Its main goal is to provide readers with a quick understanding of the plan’s purpose and to entice them to read further.
What are the results when a marketing plan is effective?
When a marketing plan is effective, businesses can experience increased brand visibility, higher customer engagement, improved sales and revenue, and strengthened customer loyalty.
What is the first section of a marketing plan?
The first section of a marketing plan is typically the “Executive Summary,” which provides a concise overview of the entire plan, including the business’s goals and the strategies to achieve them.