11 Key Elements of a Comprehensive Marketing Plan

A marketing plan is a strategic roadmap document that reports, in detail, how your business aims to achieve specific marketing goals.

What is a Marketing Plan?

A marketing plan is a strategic roadmap document that reports, in detail, how your business aims to achieve specific marketing goals.

Every marketing plan will link your business's different marketing objectives and goals with the marketing activities that will enable you to achieve them.

These marketing activities typically include:

  • Affiliate Marketing
  • Content Marketing
  • Email Marketing
  • Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising
  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
  • Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Physical Marketing

...and they all go hand-in-hand towards helping to establish your business - or businesses - as a reputable brand. This, in turn, will generate a steady income of new clicks, conversions, and thus, loyal returning customers.

Your marketing plan could include all of the above marketing strategies that you intend to implement across your business, for a well-rounded, comprehensive marketing plan.

Alternatively, if you're a new brand or a startup with limited teams and staff, you could also create a separate marketing plan for each of the strategies that you intend to tackle. For example, you could create an entire marketing plan for your content marketing team, alongside a marketing plan for your social media strategy.

Whichever format you choose for your marketing plan, the important thing to remember is that you must always include: a brief executive summary, an outline of your target market, the marketing goals/objectives your brand aims to accomplish, the KPIs you will track, and a SWOT analysis of your current strategy/strategies, and a budget overview.

Marketing Plan vs Marketing Strategy: What's the Difference?

Marketing Plan:

As outlined above, the marketing plan is the overall report that outlines your entire marketing process, including your brand's USP, your mission statement and marketing goals, your target market, and the strategies and tools that you will implement in order to achieve said marketing goals.

Marketing Strategy:

On the other hand, a marketing strategy is any method of marketing that you intend to use in order to accomplish certain key goals or missions. This includes the various campaigns, content, channels and marketing platforms that your business will use to execute your mission and track your success.

11 Key Elements of a Comprehensive Marketing Plan

1. Executive Summary

The executive summary of any marketing plan is the scent that entices the reader in and leaves them salivating for more. You can use your executive summary to introduce your readers to the goals of your brand, your marketing wins to date and a snapshot of your future plans

It should be brief and concise, touching on the overall strategies, main conclusions and key points of your marketing action plan within 3-4 short paragraphs. It should pique your reader's interest just enough to keep them hooked, without making their head spin with stuffy specifics.

Your executive summary should also reflect your brand's consistent tone, whether that is informal and humorous, professional and informative, or inspiring and uplifting.

2. Target Market and Customers

In this section, you should describe the ideal customer that you intend to target. Make sure to define their demographic profile with key data, such as their age, gender, location and employment status and industry.

Next, outline their psychographic profile, including their interests, hobbies, attitudes and habits. For example, your target market could enjoy skiing, have left-wing political views, or purchase a coffee every morning on their way to work.

The final area that you should include is your target market's desires and wants, specifically those that have a direct correlation to the products and/or services that you provide.

An example of this could be that your target market is a working mum that simply doesn't have the energy or time after a gruelling day of work to prepare, cook and eat an entire meal, from scratch; where you offer microwave meals that are both healthy, nutritious and suitable for hungry mouths of all ages.

3. Your Brand and What You Offer

This section should clearly define you as a brand, the problems that your business claims to provide solutions for and how, and finally,  what makes your business so unique and vital that choosing not to use you would leave your readers regretting that decision for the rest of their life.

Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

To begin with, you should include your business's Unique Selling Proposition (USP): this is a statement which highlights how your business is unique and the specific product or service that you offer which makes you stand out in a world of homogenous competitors.

For example, Apple - leading mobile phone and technology magnate - has a USP which highlights their innovative way of thinking and unique patents and designs. If they hadn't created a USP based on this, they would have struggled to market themselves as an unparalleled business built on innovation and technological expertise.

In any case, it is clear to see that there is NO substitute for an exceptional USP.

Mission Statement

Next, you should provide a brief, formal summary of the goals and values that your business aims to fulfil; in other words, a mission statement that outlines the mission your business will achieve.

This is typically used to explain its purpose for being and how it is useful to its target market. This is usually a sentence or short paragraph explaining its culture, values, ethics and overall goals.

For example, Tesla's iconic mission statement is "To accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy." This clearly defines their goal to fast-track the world's journey to sustainability, while unequivocally positioning them as a business that values environmentally-friendly technologies and as one that cares deeply about the health of our environment/planet.

Successful business ownership is all about making your product or service stand out, no matter what you offer. Providing a strong USP and a striking mission statement will go a long way towards making you stand out above the miles of competition surrounding your business.

4. SWOT Analysis

Once you've established who and what you are as a brand, and who your target audience is, the next step in the comprehensive marketing plan is to conduct a thorough SWOT analysis.

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats; therefore, a SWOT analysis is a technique for analysing and assessing these four aspects of your business.

You can use a SWOT analysis to highlight areas for improvement, potential threats in the industry or from competitors, the strategies that are giving you a strong ROI, and areas that you could branch into in order to take advantage of the market.

This will enable you to pinpoint which marketing of the many marketing activities you're already doing that are profitable and worthwhile, and which of the marketing activities are hurtful to your analytics. 

5. Business and Marketing Objectives

This is one of the most vital aspects of the entirety of all marketing plans, so take your time with this section, and try to be as clear as you can. What specific goals do you want to work towards? What results do you want to see come out of your marketing plans? The answer to each of these questions should be clear and visible for all of your readers to see.

We advise that you set goals that impact your brand's website traffic, social engagement, conversions, and customer success. We also recommend that you use real-life numbers and data.

For example, one of your goals could be to improve your overall monthly customer acquisition by 5% from 2021. This is a specific, timed, actionable goal that can be measured and tracked in real-time.

Another example could be to improve your overall quarterly customer retention by 8% from January 2021. This is a long-term goal that can be measured via KPIs recorded over time.

Both examples identify a specific metric in each of their goals while also setting a realistic timeline for when they will be fulfilled.

As long as you pinpoint the exact outcomes that your marketing strategies will achieve, then your overall marketing plans should be as comprehensive as they can get.

6. Marketing Strategies

As mentioned above, a marketing strategy is a method used in order to achieve your marketing goals.

Typically, these include:

Content Strategy

  • Which types of content you will create for your marketing plan (blog posts, YT videos, infographics, ebooks, etc.).
  • How much you will create (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc...)
  • The goals and KPIs you will use to track each type of content created;
  • The channels you will distribute content on (FB, Twitter, LinkedIn, YT, Pinterest, Instagram, etc...)
  • Any paid advertising that will take place on these channels.

Promotional Strategy

This is one of the most important sections of your marketing plan, detailing how you will reach any new customers.

It should cover your advertising, public relations/publicity, sales, direct marketing, and personal selling efforts. One example of an effective promotional strategy is to share your content on social media and optimise your posts with relevant, high-traffic keywords and SEO considerations. This is particularly useful if you have a strong social media presence and a functioning website that just isn't getting enough repeat readers for your liking.

However you decide to promote your business or brand, it's important to remember that this will largely determine whether or not you successfully send your target audience the right message(s).

Conversion Strategy

A conversion strategy adds value to any marketing plan, creates a positive customer experience, and turns casual browsers into loyal, repeat customers.

What method you choose to implement largely depends on which stage of the buyer journey that your reader is at. In other words, if your reader has no idea who you are, what you offer or how you can solve their problems or pain points, then your conversion focus should be aimed at proving your authority as a thought leader within your niche and turning your skimmer into a returning reader. Alternatively, if your reader has already subscribed to your newsletter and spent hours reading your content, then it's safe to say that you can move on to more intensive conversion methods and sales strategies.

Examples of effective conversion strategies include: blogging, social networking and publishing, pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, public relations,  email opt-ins on a well-designed landing page, implementing CTAs wherever relevant, offering free PDFs or e-Books in return for their subscription to your email newsletter, or referrals.

Distribution Strategy

Every marketing plan should, once your business is ready to commercialise your product or service, include a section in which you determine how said product or service will reach your target market.

You can either sell to your customer directly, or you can build up one or more of the following distribution channels:

  • Delivery
  • Sales
  • Service

There are 5 factors to consider when it comes down to choosing the right distribution channel for your marketing plan

  • The size of the market
  • The cost of the distribution channel
  • The type  of product or service that you're offering
  • The degree of control that you have over the distribution channel

and last but not least,

  • The flexibility of the distribution channel 

Whichever you choose, it is vital to find a distribution channel that will make it clear in your marketing plan that purchasing and consuming your product or service will be convenient to the buyer.

7. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to Be Tracked

Every strong marketing plan details how the business will track the progress of their mission with realistic, tangible data. In order to accomplish this, you need to determine the individual metrics that measure the various elements of your marketing plan.

These metrics can include such indicators as organic traffic gained from search results, traffic gained through social media, engagement on various social media platforms, your email subscriber base, and any new customers referred to you by your loyal customers.

A great example of a KPI that is worth following is your website's bounce rate. This shows the percentage of your visitors that end up navigating away from your site after only viewing one page, the page that they landed on. Most of the time, readers tend to bounce away from pages that don't run well, are slow, are overloaded with ads, or have poor grammar and/or graphics. Therefore, a good goal to set for this would be to decrease your bounce rate by X percent by X date, focusing on your site speed and user experience - a.k.a. On-Page SEO.

Plain data can be intimidating to a lot of people, so if you want to make the KPI section of your marketing plan more appealing, you could up your data with charts, graphs and infographics to help demystify the information.

8. Market Analysis

Every marketing plan needs to include an overview of the market that you are in, detailing: the market for the product or service that you offer; specific trends that you have seen over the last month, quarter or year; and the position and situation of your competitors.

Research the key competitors in your industry and briefly profile each of them. Explain what challenges they pose, techniques they use that you could learn from, and in what ways their brand is attracting and retaining new customers. For example, one of your competitors could have extremely effective website copy that keeps readers, well...reading. On the other hand, another competitor might have a strong social media presence laden with high-traffic keywords and fresh, engaging content.

As long as you know what you are up against and how you can implement similar effective strategies, then you are well on your way to creating an effective marketing plan.

9. Define the Budget for your Marketing Plan

Your marketing plan and the strategies involved might involve using some free platforms and resources, but you should always account for the various hidden expenses and overall expected revenue that you expect to face.

This could include paying for a freelancer, hiring costs, or any subscription fees for the marketing tools that you need to accomplish your marketing strategies.

10. Financial Projections

To create an accurate overview of the overall financial projection of your marketing plans, you should also include the revenue and positive outcomes that you expect to gain, including new customers, sales, profits, and subscribers, just to name a few.

It's impossible to create financial projections that are 100% accurate, but by outlining what you expect to pay out and gain back, you can also pinpoint which marketing strategies will be the most profitable, and which of those marketing strategies you can spend the least amount of energy and time on.

11. Contributors to Your Plan and Their Responsibilities

The final step in any marketing plan is to give a shout out to everyone who will be doing their bit to keep it running.

Let your readers know which teams will be taking care of each strategy, which team leaders are in charge of different content types and channels, and how you will work together to create an effective marketing plan.

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