13 Steps to Create a Winning Marketing Plan

13 Steps to Create a Winning Marketing Plan

Plus 5 Bonus Tips to Design Growth into your Plan


Ready to get it all down on paper, but not sure where to put it? Follow this guide for essential tips to creating a winning marketing plan.


When you think of marketing, you may think about communicating with existing and potential customers through channels such as social media, blogs, phone calls, trade shows, meetings, or buying ads in the local paper. The key to successful marketing means leveraging all of these tactics as part of a much bigger plan.


To grow your business, you need a marketing plan. Done properly, your marketing plan will be the roadmap you follow to significantly increase your customer base and dramatically improve the success of your organization. It will be your go-to reference document throughout execution and provide you with the insights you need to ensure you are creating products and services your customers actually want. Having a marketing plan will also ensure that everyone in the business knows what you are trying to achieve and what they need to do to help make it happen.


Before you begin writing your marketing plan.


Before you begin writing your marketing plan, you need to pull together some information to avoid interruptions in your thinking and writing process. Start by collecting the following:


  • Your latest financial reports and latest sales figures by product and region for the current and (if possible) upcoming few years;

  • A listing of each product or service in your current line, along with target markets;

  • An organization chart;

  • Your understanding of your marketplace - e.g. competitors, geographical boundaries, types of customers, existing distribution channels, latest demographic data, information on trends, etc.; and,

  • A list from each member of your sales team noting the most crucial points they believe should be included in the plan.


Below are a few key do’s and don’ts of creating your marketing plan:


Do: Don’t:
●        Base your strategy on solid market research - this is the backbone of your plan.

●        Focus on target customers.

●        Build an action plan to achieve                        specific goals.

●        Learn from experience by measuring            the effectiveness of your plan.
●        Spread your efforts too widely.

●        Make plans you can’t fulfill.

●        Make unrealistic assumptions and                forecasts.


Key components of your marketing plan.


The elements that make up a marketing plan are often referred to as the ‘marketing mix’, which include the 7P’s of marketing: Product (or service), Pricing, Position, Promotion, People, Process, and Physical Environment. The 7Ps must each be covered in your marketing plan, which should be built using the following sections:


1. Executive Summary This section summarizes the key components of your plan. It should be a quick reference tool that you can check at any time to keep your goals on track.
2. Company History This section provides the history of your business and details any opportunities, challenges, and capabilities. It should also review the effectiveness of previous marketing initiatives. This section should include a SWOT analysis, which is an outline of the current Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats that influence your business.
3. Market Analysis This section provides a research-based analysis of the characteristics, segment size, and key trends within your market. There are excellent tools available online that offer market research and statistics resources - e.g. Industry Canada's Financial Performance Data.
4. Competitive Analysis This section describes what your competitors offer (and lack) and how you are positioning your products and services within that context. Having a strong unique selling proposition (USP) is of critical importance as it distinguishes your company from competitors.
5. Target Customers This section describes the customers you are targeting, their demographic profile (e.g., age, gender), psychographic profile (e.g., their interests), and their wants and needs as they relate to the products and/or services you offer. Clearly identifying your target customers will help you pinpoint your advertising (resulting in a higher return on investment) and sharpen your ability to “speak the language” of prospective customers.
6. Traction value and targets This section assesses the profitability and sales potential of different customers, market segments, products, and activities. It should outline who to target among both existing and potential customers, which products to push, and which product need updating or replacing.
7. Marketing Objectives This section sets out what you specifically want to accomplish, including your financial, sales, brand, and awareness goals. Goals should be SMART - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. These targets should reflect your strategic goals - e.g. sales forecasts, number of inquiries, number of new customers, average transaction value, and maintaining positive cash flow, etc.
8. Pricing & Positioning This section sets out how you will price each product or service. Your pricing and positioning strategy must be aligned. For example, if you want your company to be known as a luxury brand, having too low a price might dissuade high-end customers from purchasing.
9. Distribution Strategy This section outlines how you will distribute, sell, and improve customer service and satisfaction.
10. Marketing Tactics This section outlines your products or services and describes how you will keep in touch with customers, in alignment with purchasing cycles. A timetable of marketing activities should also be included. There are numerous promotional tactics to consider, such as television ads, trade show marketing, press releases, online advertising, and event marketing. Consider each of these, research what’s involved, and decide which ones will most effectively reach your target customers.
11. Business Implications This section describes the implications of the plan for the rest of the business. For example, if you increase your sales and staff, you might have a requirement for more office space, however, you could offset this with outsourcing some roles or building in work from home options.
12. Sales Forecast This section includes realistic sales forecasts and budgets.
13. Action Plan This section outlines the steps and timelines to implement your marketing plan.
13. Monitoring & Measurement This section sets out how and when you will monitor and measure your plan to refine, iterate, or pivot to improve the effectiveness of your market efforts.


To help you to get started on the right foot, click here <insert link> to download a free marketing plan template.


5 Tips to Design Growth Into Your Plan


If you are looking to go beyond a basic marketing plan and design growth into your strategy from the onset, here are five additional sections you should consider including:


1. Offers & Deals This section outlines offers and deals you will use to secure new customers and keep past customers coming back to you. These can include free trials, money-back guarantees, special packages, and discount offers. While every business doesn’t necessarily require offers, using them can help you rapidly grow your customer base.
2. Online Strategy This section outlines your online marketing strategy, which should include keywords, search engine optimization, paid online advertising, and social media engagement. Your online strategy can also include e-commerce solutions through your website, third party sites, or social media platforms.
3. Conversion Strategy This section describes the techniques you will use to turn prospective customers into paying customers - e.g. improving sales scripts, incorporating testimonials, etc.
4. Joint Ventures & Partnerships This section outlines partnerships you will create to reach new customers or better monetize existing customers.
5. Customer Referral This section describes how a customer referral program will further drive your company’s success. For example, if every one of your customers referred one new customer, your customer base would constantly grow. A formalized referral strategy capitalizes on this opportunity, and should outline your plans for timing, tracking and any rewards you want to offer for referrals.


Now you are set to start drafting your marketing plan for growth.

Click here to download our Marketing Plan template.

By Samantha Ferguson

September 23, 2015