How to write Marketing Plans that get everyone on the same page

To write the best marketing plans and brand strategies, your team needs a process for how to make the smartest decisions that deploys a brand’s limited resources to the best ideas. Use a brand planning process to engage your team to help you discover the most engaging ideas that drive brand growth. A marketing plan presentation is great for the big reveal. But, no one reads binders a second time. In today’s fast-paced world, it is essential to learn how to get your plan on one page or in a slide presentation. This article uses plenty of marketing plan examples (brand plan examples) for every type of business model. And, you have the opportunity to use our marketing plan template.

Marketing plans provide the opportunity to use your marketing strategy to steer everyone who works on the brand. Agencies. Sales. R&D. Marketing Execution. Learn how to write each component of the marketing plan. Start with the brand vision, purpose, values, and goals. Then, dig in to find the key Issues, strategies, and tactics. 

Our marketing plan process starts with a deep-dive business review.  Summarize the review into the drivers, inhibitors, risks, opportunities. Then, use our Strategic ThinkBox questions to find the key issue questions. The answers are the strategies. You can now create your own marketing plan. To illustrate, click on the diagram to zoom in.

Marketing Plans

Do you call it a marketing plan or a brand plan?

If there is any difference, a strategic brand plan covers the bigger strategic elements, such as vision, purpose, key issues, and strategies. A marketing plan includes the strategic elements, but goes deeper on the marketing execution. Marketing Communications plans look at advertising, social media, SEO, or events. Innovation plans look at new product launches, innovation calendars, and project management. Sales management looks at the sales plan, merchandising plans, and pricing plans. We have a ton of examples for you. 

We start with a marketing plan for a food brand. Then, we show a completed marketing plan for a consumer healthcare brand. B2B marketing plan example. Pharma marketing plan example. Medical equipment marketing plan example. Finally, we show a completed example of the Apple brand plan.

Marketing Plan templates

We provide both a strategic brand plan template and marketing plan template. We include the key definitions and marketing plan examples to inspire you to write each component. Get access to our unique one-page marketing-plan and brand strategy roadmaps. Our marketing plan template includes a marketing communications plan, innovation plan, and sales plan. Plus, many execution plans. 

One-page marketing plan

To illustrate, click to zoom in on our Marketing Plan example. 

I first came up with this “marketing plan on a page” template when I led a team with 15 brands. It helped me see the big picture quickly, rather than having to hunt through a big thick binder. Also, the sales team appreciated the ability to see the entire plan on one page quickly. Most salespeople also had 15 brands to manage with each of their customers. Everyone who works on the brand should receive the one-page marketing plan. Moreover, they should keep it nearby to steer day-to-day decisions. Have a look at this example of our marketing plan template.

How one-page marketing plans are organized

The analysis section lays out the summary from the deep-dive business review. What is driving your brand’s growth? What is inhibiting your brand’s growth? Which threats could hurt your brand? And, what opportunities are facing your brand.

The key issues and marketing strategy section focuses on the top three issues getting in the way of achieving your vision. We put the key issues in question format. And, the strategic solutions are the answers that match up to each of those questions. Set goals to measure your brand’s performance against each marketing strategy.

The marketing execution section maps out the specific plans for each of the chosen execution areas that line up to most essential consumer touchpoints. Brand communication plan. Innovation plan. Sales plan. Moreover, we include many specific execution plans. 

Marketing Plan outline

The strategic elements of your marketing plan or your strategic brand plan would include 

  • Vision
  • Purpose
  • Key issues
  • Strategy
  • Communications plan
  • Selling Plan
  • Innovation Plan
  • Financials

To illustrate, below is our layout for how these strategic slides can be organized. 

To illustrate, click to zoom in.

Marketing Planning process

Brand Vision

A well-written strategic brand vision should be the ultimate end-in-mind achievement, which answers, “Where could we be?” Reflect on future ambitions that would bring you true satisfaction. That means, you have to put a stake in the ground to describe an ideal state for your future. Having a vision for your brand is essential to setting it up for success – and it doesn’t have to be complicated. When I see brand teams struggle, they usually lack a brand vision. 

Some companies will do anything to meet their short-term goals and take any tactic. Use your vision to help plan for the long term and use inspirational language to lead others.

To illustrate, click to zoom in.

A great vision should scare you a little. And, it should excite you a lot. 

Maybe you will see an example that feels familiar to what is in your mind. Or, see a structure for how you would write your own vision statement. Use the vision statement examples to inspire you as you write your own vision statement. 

Once you establish your vision, use it to set up the key issues of your marketing plan. Try to understand the obstacles in the way of achieving your vision. This sets up the strategies for how to reach the vision. Most importantly, your strategies will then revolve around solving these problems.

Structuring your marketing plan

To illustrate, click to zoom in on our marketing planning procerss.

Lay out the key issues that answer, “Why are we here?” Take the summary findings of the deep-dive analysis. Then, draw out the significant issues in the way of achieving your stated brand vision.

A great way to find the issues is to brainstorm up to 30 things in the way of your vision. Then, narrow down your list to the top 3-5 significant themes you see. 

Take the themes and begin to write the top issues in a rhetorical, strategic question format. This should prompt a few different strategic options for how to solve each issue. Spend serious thinking time on these questions. The smarter the strategic question you ask, the better the strategic answer you will get. 

Marketing Plan strategy

In our Marketing Plan example, we use four strategic questions to focus the brand’s key issues

Another excellent methodology for finding key issues is to go back to the four strategic questions model I outlined in the strategic thinking story. This thinking ensures you take a 360-degree view of your brand. Looking at the marketing plan example below, I have used the four strategic questions and come up with four specific questions that fit the Gray’s Cookies brand.

With various ways to brainstorm and find the issues I recommend for the annual marketing plan. Focus on the top three key issues to set up the top three marketing strategies. A long-range brand strategic roadmap can typically handle up to five key issues. And, five strategies. 

To illustrate, click to zoom in on our strategic planning process.

Our Strategic ThinkBox tool helps you explore the key issues on the brand. It forces you to look at your brand’s core strength, the consumer bond, competitor dynamic, and the business situation. Use the tool to come up with the best questions facing your brand. 

Strategic key issues video lesson

Watch how to find the key issues on your brand that you can use in your marketing plan. If strategic thinkers see the right questions first, then you need to find the best possible questions before you can think about solutions.

Play Video about Strategic Key Issues Video

To view, use the ▶️ controls to play or volume buttons 

Writing Brand Strategy using A + B + C + D

Within our marketing plan template, we provide slides to lay out your brand strategies. You should start off by writing your strategic objective statement using the four components of the a + b + c + d model outlined in our Beloved Brands book. To illustrate, we go through four types of strategy, including your core strength, consumer strategy, competitive strategy and your brand situation.

To illustrate, click to zoom in on our brand strategy process.

Here’s how that marketing strategy statement breaks down:

A: Program investment: 

First, the marketing strategy statement calls out the investment in a strategic program, with crystal clear marching orders to the team, leaving no room for doubt, confusion, or hesitation. In this example, the strategic program is to “Advertising Gray’s guilt-free positioning.” 

B: Focused opportunity: 

Second, the marketing strategy statement need to see a breakthrough point where the brand will exert pressure to create a market impact. In this example, the focused opportunity is to “to new proactive preventers.” 

C: Market impact: 

Third, the marketing strategy should achieve a specific desired market impact with a stakeholder you will attempt to move, whether it is consumers, sales channels, competitors, or influencers. In this example, the desired impact is “To move consumers from consideration to trial.” 

D: Performance result: 

Finally, the marketing strategy statement must drive a specific performance result linked to the market impact, either making the brand more powerful or more profitable. In this example, “Steal competitive users.”

This unique strategic model will force you to pick answers to build a strategy statement with marching orders for those who follow your plan. Most importantly, use these four elements of smart marketing strategy statements to ensure you structure the thinking. 

Brand strategy statements video lesson

Watch our video to see how we use our five elements of strategy to structure our thinking and then build the brand strategy statements that we can easily explain to others. These form the foundation of the plan. 

Play Video about Writing Brand Strategies Video

To view, use the ▶️ controls to play or volume buttons 

We will show how to write your strategic objective statement to use in your Marketing Plan. This tool helps you pick for reach element of the Strategic Investment (A), the Focused opportunity (B), the Market Impact (C) and the Performance Result (D). To illustrate, click on the diagram to zoom in.

To illustrate, click to zoom in on our brand strategy process.

Marketing Plan Examples

To illustrate, click to zoom in on our brand strategy examples.

How to lay out each marketing strategy in our marketing plan slide

Your effort in writing these clunky statements will not go to waste. Once you have decided on your top three marketing strategies, you can lay out a specific slide to explain each strategy within your presentation. 

  • Include the clunky strategic objective statement. (I told you it would not go to waste.)
  • The goals measure the ideal result of this strategy.
  • Then, list three tactical programs, where you will invest your resources. 
  • Insert a “watch out statement” to address issues that could derail my presentation.

To illustrate, click to zoom in for details of our marketing plan template.

The best brand strategy slide

The most essential slides in any brand plan are the marketing strategy pages, with one page for each strategy. And, the good news is that you have completed the most challenging part. The strategic objective statement moves to the second line. We write a shorter, simpler headline version of the strategy. 

For each marketing strategy, hold a brainstorming session to get the best tactical program ideas. Then narrow down to a maximum of three tactics per strategy to ensure the focus of your limited resources, especially money and time. That gives you enough money to make sure each tactic will break through and that we have enough time to put our heart and soul into perfecting the execution. There is nothing worse than a plan of 75 random tactics. Each execution then becomes a chore you complete instead of a passion you love.  

Setting goals

Then, you need to set the goals, which should measure the desired result of this marketing strategy. There are four ways to set goals for your brand plan: 

Strategic outcome

Essentially, this could be the market impact (awareness, trial, repeat, loyalty, the share of requirements) or performance result (sales, share, costs, pricing, profit) stated in your strategic objective statement. 

Tactical execution measures

Advertising results (attention, brand link, communication, stickiness), innovation freshness index (percent of portfolio launched during the time period), in-store performance indicators (display, pricing, share of shelf, distribution coverage).

Major milestones

This includes major project completion dates, reaching a key performance level in terms of market share position, sales level, or profit level.  

Brand reputation goals

This includes net promoter score, online review scores, consumer playback of the desired brand positioning, reputation among influencers or social media followers.

Don’t forget the watch out

As a control freak, I hate losing control over the room. This usually happens when the most obvious question is asked and then five people feel the need to add their two cents. To avoid losing control, I created a “watch out” to address all possible questions or concerns I will get on that strategy and then proactively address on the slide. Listing the watch out demonstrates that you have proactively thought of any major concern and it assures the room that you will continue to manage that specific watch out.  

Marketing Execution Plans

For each execution investment, write a separate execution plan as an organizing tool to ensure everyone has specific marching orders on the particular strategy related to their function, leaving no room for misinterpretation. Every strategic investment you make deserves an execution plan. Most plans should have specific execution plans for marketing communication, innovation, and sales. 

Depending on your brand’s specific needs, you may have execution plans for sampling, influencer,  e-commerce, medical, consumer experience, competitive, or sales.

Your execution plans should combine the work you do with strategic thinking and brand positioning. 

Start each execution plan with your marketing strategy statement from one of your strategies. Then, for the next four sections, go back to your brand positioning work to lay out the target, brand idea, main benefit and support points. For the final two sections, make it specific to the type of execution. 

Use the desired response that kicks off the creative brief. And, the media options where you will invest. Next, for innovation, decide what the internal beacon is to inspire the team, and the project status related to new products, formats or claims. Finally, for a sales plan, include any differences between shoppers and consumers (users), specific retail programs and execution tactics.

One flaw I see is that brand leaders keep using different words to say the same thing. Keep repeating the exact words and phrases to ensure the consistency of execution. Never get bored with your words. Repeat them. Let the creativity come from your repeated words. 

To illustrate, click to zoom in for details of our marketing plan template.

Brand Communication Plan

The brand communications plan answers seven questions. These questions steer and inspire the creation of the brand story work, so the brand communications work will establish your brand positioning, and motivate consumers to see, think, feel, do, or influence. 

We have it set up in our marketing plan template to answer the following questions: 

First, what do we need our advertising to do? (Marketing strategy statement)

Second, who is in our desired consumer target? (Most motivated people to buy what we do)

Third, what are we selling? (Our main consumer benefit we stand behind) 

Why should they believe us? (Support points to back up the main benefit) 

Next, what is our organizing brand idea? (Brand soul, essence or DNA for the brand)

Then, what do we want people to see, think, feel, do, or influence? (Desired consumer response)

Finally, where will our consumer be most receptive to see and act upon our message? (Media plan)

To illustrate, click to zoom in for details of our marketing plan template.

Innovation Plan

Use your brand idea to guide the product development team to manage innovation ideas at the exploratory stage, (beyond five years), pipeline ideas (two to five years) and go-to-market launch plans (within the next two years). Use the marketing plan template to influence, manage, and even direct your product development team to ensure they focus on the brand strategy. As part of our marketing plan examples, below is our Innovation Plan for Gray’s Cookies. 

To illustrate, click to zoom in for details of our marketing plan template.

Sales and Retail Plan

Brand leaders should work side-by-side with the sales team to manage the consumer through the purchase moment. The brand plan should guide the sales team on specific strategy and goals. Given that your sales team owns the selling execution, you must gain the sales team’s alignment and buy-in on the best ways to execute your brand’s strategy through direct selling, retailer management, and e-commerce options. The programs include pricing, distribution focus, shelf management, promotional spending, customer marketing, customer analytics, and specific promotional tools.

Your channel customers are trying to win in their market, satisfying a base of their consumers through your brands, while battling competitors who you may also be going through that customer. Your most successful programs will provide a win for your channel customer, as you will get much more support for your program. 

As part of our marketing plan examples, below is our Selling and Retail Plan for Gray’s Cookies. 

marketing plan template or brand plan template

To illustrate, click to zoom in for details of our marketing plan template.

Marketing Plan template

To illustrate, click to zoom in for details of our marketing plan template.

Marketing Plan slides we use in our template

We provide marketing plan examples of execution slides you can use in your marketing plan. We have PowerPoint slides you can use for advertising, social media and search, event sampling, new product launch, new product pipeline, competitive defense plan, merchandising and in-store sampling, customer marketing, promotions.

To illustrate, click to zoom in for details of our marketing plan template.

Brand Communications execution plans

  • Advertising Plan: Looks at the creative advertising plan, creative idea, and a media plan that lays out the specific media choices and a media calendar.  
  • Social Media and Search Plan: The role of social media and specific media choices. The role of paid and organic search to drive to the website. 
  • Events sampling and sponsorship: Link sampling to point of usage, sponsorship to support brand positioning.
  • Creative Brief: Details to help drive the creative message, including strategy, target market, consumer insights, main message, support points, and desired response for consumers.

Innovation execution plans

  • New Products Pipeline: Five-year map of innovation ideas categorized based on product extensions, product improvements, new formats, brand stretching, game-changing, or blue ocean.
  • New Product Launch Plan: Go-to-market plan for the launches coming to market in the next year.

Sales and Retailing execution plans

  • Customer Marketing programs: Key account focus with specific insights, issues, and customer scorecards.
  • Merchandising and In-store Sampling program: In-store focuses on overall distribution points, shelf placement, merchandising, and in-store sampling. 
  • Promotions Plan: Tactics related to driving penetration and usage frequency. 
We also provide a slide so you can map out your competitor’s plan. And, we have a slide for a Market Research Plan that includes new product concept testing, advertising and claims testing, in-market tracking, voice of the consumer, and the consistent gathering of consumer insights. 

To illustrate, click to zoom in on our marketing plan example.

Writing the plan with the power of threes

I believe in “the power of threes.” As I said earlier, your brand plan should help you make decisions on where to focus and allocate your limited resources. As a guideline, for an annual plan, I recommend you focus on the top three marketing strategies, then focus on the top three tactics for each marketing strategy. 

To illustrate, click to zoom in on our marketing plan examples.

That means nine significant projects for your brand to focus your limited resources against during the year. Compare the subtle difference with what happens when you try to do five strategies with five tactics: the plan quickly explodes into 25 projects, and seven by seven leads to 49 projects. That would cripple your brand’s limited resources. What if you never get to the forty-ninth project, but it was the most important project? With fewer projects, you will be able to execute everything with full passion and brilliance.

I see too many marketers with a long list of things they need to do. 

They are so busy; they have no time to think about what matters to their brand. Essentially, they have very little passion for any one particular project; they are trying to get everything done. This thinking is not the ideal behavior a brand needs to become a beloved brand.

Avoid misfits within your plan

When you write a plan, think of it like conducting an orchestra. There are a lot of moving parts and, if you do not stay organized, the plan may begin to look like many scattered thoughts. When your plan is disjointed or looks like a collection of disconnected ideas, it will confuse and meet resistance, which are counter-productive to the reason why you create a plan. A smart brand plan should have a consistent flow in the writing as you move from the vision through to execution. Like an orchestra playing in perfect harmony, everyone is playing the same song. 

When you write something that does not fit, it tends to stand out like, “a tuba player playing their own song.” When I managed a marketing team, I came up with this analogy and started to call plan misfits “tubas.” 

From my experience, senior leaders are skilled at finding “tubas,” which can derail your presentation, as the debate becomes more about why the “tuba” is there and less about the bigger aspects of your plan. Go “tuba hunting” by reading through your brand plan and eliminating the “tubas” before your management finds them.

The worst “tubas” are those elements of the plan that seems to ‘die a quick death’ in the document or they ‘come from out of nowhere’ with no analytical setup. 

The two worst types of “tubas”

  • A reasonable idea is presented early on and dies a quick death never to be seen again in the plan.

If, early on in your plan, you say part of your brand vision or purpose is “to be the disruptive leader in innovation,” then why is there no innovation strategy, innovation process, or new products for the next four years? Sure, your vision sounds catchy. However, it appears to be a misfit “tuba” with very little to do with the rest of your plan.

  • A creative tactical idea presented late in the plan seems to come out of nowhere.

If the focus of your plan for a new product launch is to drive early trial, then why is there a significant investment in your tactical execution plan to create a VIP club for high-frequency users? If there is no analytical set-up of an opportunity or strategic set-up, then a tactic that comes out of nowhere late in the plan is a “tuba.” It risks causing conflict or confusion. 

Marketing plan examples

Consumer Healthcare

Marketing Plan Consumer Healthcare brands
This is a marketing plan example for Gray's Mouthwash, a consumer healthcare brand. To illustrate, click to zoom in.

Quit Smoking

Marketing Plan OTC Pharma Healthcare plan
Here is a marketing plan example for Gray's QuitFix, a pharma brand. To illustrate, click to zoom in.

B2B Stage Lighting

Marketing Plan B2B Stage Lighting
This is a marketing plan example for Gray's Stage Lighting, a B2B brand. To illustrate, click to zoom in.

B2B Industrial tools

Marketing Plan B2B industrial Tools
Here is a marketing plan example for Gray's Tools, a B2B industrial brand. To illustrate, click to zoom in.

Marketing plan training workshops

A Marketing Plan is a decision-making tool to get everyone on the same page, to steer everyone who works behind the scenes of the brand. It is an important skill to gain buy-in from senior management, but also from sales, agencies, and partners.

We see marketers trying to accomplish too many things, that none of them have enough resources to have an impact. Essentially, marketing plans that fail to make firm decisions spread their limited resources across so many ideas, that none have a big impact. And, with a lack of vision, the plan meanders and confuses those who work behind the scenes of the brand.

Learn each marketing planning element

With our marketing training, your team will learn how to create a vision, establish the purpose, identify key issues and develop the strategies to solve them. Essentially, with this understanding of your brand objectives, they can formulate strategies and execution tactics. 

We revisit our Strategic ThinkBox questions with an emphasis on translating your team’s strategic thinking into key issues and strategic statements that can form the foundation of the brand plan. 

Brand leaders learn how to construct the best strategic presentation slides that comprise the foundation of their brand presentation. We provide PowerPoint templates to help your brand plan presentation.

The marketing plan skills we build through our marketing training

  • First, the best marketers translate smart, strategic thinking into key issues and strategic statements that form the foundation of the brand plan.
  • Next, be able to make decisions on all elements of a smart marketing plan including the vision, purpose, values, goals, issues, marketing strategies, and tactics.
  • Then, be strong in writing, and presenting the brand plan to senior management and across organization—sales, agencies, partners.
  • Finally, learn to develop smart execution plans—communication, sales/in-store, and innovation—that deliver against the brand strategies.

Our marketing plan toolkit we use in our brand training

Brand strategy roadmap

Every brand should have a five-year plan to lay out the big picture elements. We include brand vision, purpose, and values. It then layers in the brand idea to guide everyone on how to deliver a consistent brand across the five consumer touchpoints. The key issues lay out which obstacles lie in the way of achieving your vision. The strategies then answer those key issue questions. Keep tactics within the long-range plan as broad guideposts. Use the marketing plan for specific programs with detailed execution.

To illustrate, click to zoom in on the Brand Strategy Roadmap.

To illustrate, HubSpot does a good execution plan. 

As well, Investopedia also has some great content on marketing plans.

Moreover, if you are looking at E-commerce, Shopify has a good article for you. 

Brand Management Mini MBA

Invest in your future. If you are an ambitious marketer, looking to solidify your marketing skills, our Brand Management Mini MBA will teach you about strategic thinking, brand positioning, brand plans, advertising decisions, and marketing analytics. 

Have a look at our brochure on our Mini MBA program

Use  >  to move through the brochure or  x  to see the full screen. 

You get 36 training videos and our Brand Toolkit ($200 value) that has over 120 PowerPoint slides you can use for presentations on brand plans, brand positioning, and business reviews. We provide key chapters from our Beloved Brands Playbook, and a Brand Management Workbook with exercises to try in real-time. Earn a certificate you can use on your resume or LinkedIn profile. 

The fundamentals of marketing matter

The marketing fundamentals that we show in this article are part of what we use in our marketing training programs. Marketers will learn strategic thinking, brand positioning, brand plans, writing creative briefs, advertising decision-making, marketing analytics, and marketing finance

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