Step-by-step guide for how to write a Marketing Plan

First and foremost, a marketing plan or brand plan is an opportunity to make decisions on how to allocate your brand’s limited resources to the smartest ideas that will drive the highest return. Think of the marketing plan as a decision-making tool to align your team with the best financial investment choices and the best decisions on how to deploy your people. Any strategic plan should align and focus everyone who works on the brand, including the leader who writes the plan. The plan outlines the steps for execution and helps secure the necessary marketing investment. Moreover, it defines the role of each stakeholder in delivering the plan. In this article, we’ll explore many marketing plan examples and a show you a proven marketing plan template. 

My Experience with Marketing Plans

As a former VP of marketing, I’ve seen the impact of well-written marketing plans on some of the world’s most prominent brands. However, I have also seen marketing plan presentation go off the rails. For marketers, this is your defining moment. Now, I’m here to share my experience and insights on crafting the perfect plan. Below, to follow our Plan process click to zoom in for a detailed view.

The importance of a well-structured Marketing Plan

Marketing Planning Process

Firstly, begin with annual deep-dive business review that examines the market, consumer, channels, competitors, and the brand. Next, summarize the factors driving growth and the obstacles holding it back. Then, identify risks and opportunities for the future. As a rule, you should conduct your business review once a year. 

Strategic ThinkBox Framework

Our Strategic ThinkBox poses four questions to help you uncover your brand’s key issues:

  1. First, what is your brand’s core strength?
  2. Next, how strong is your bond with consumers?
  3. Then, define your competitive stance?
  4. Finally, what is the business situation your brand faces?

Narrowing down to the top three key issues will enable you to build your plan upon three core strategies.

Introducing the One-Page Marketing Plan

During my tenure leading a 15-brand team, I developed a “marketing plan on a page” template to help everyone quickly grasp the overall picture. As a result, the sales teams found it valuable for managing multiple brands with their customers, since it eliminated the need for bulky binders or large PowerPoint files.

Ensuring Access to the Plan

Importantly, everyone involved with the brand should have access to the one-page marketing plan to guide their day-to-day decisions. Our one-page template is shown below.

Organizing the One-Page Marketing Plan

To begin with, the analysis section summarizes the findings from the in-depth business review, addressing your brand’s growth drivers, inhibitors, threats, and opportunities.

Key Issues and Marketing Strategy

Next, the section on key issues and marketing strategy focuses on the top three challenges hindering your vision. You should formulate these issues as questions and provide strategic solutions as answers. Additionally, set measurable goals to gauge your brand’s performance against each strategy.

Marketing Execution

Lastly, the marketing execution section outlines the specific plans for each chosen execution area, aligning with the most crucial consumer touchpoints. This section should include execution plans for brand communication, product innovation, and sales.

Mastering the Marketing Plan Components

Undoubtedly, marketing plans play a crucial role in guiding everyone involved with the brand, including agencies, sales, R&D, retail, and senior management. As an ambitious marketer, it’s essential to learn how to write each component of the brand plan effectively.

Key Elements of a Comprehensive Marketing Plan

Foundational Components:

To start, map out the brand vision, purpose, and goals.

Analysis and Strategy:

Furthermore, include a SWOT analysis from the deep-dive business review. Then, determine the key issues and strategy statements.

Marketing execution and Financials:

Subsequently, incorporate a Marketing Communications plan, Sales plan and Innovation plan. Lastly, always include a sales forecast, marketing budget, and financials.

To view, click on the marketing plan definitions to zoom in. Keep it handy as you do your plan 

Crafting a Compelling Brand Vision

The Importance of a Brand Vision

Undoubtedly, a well-written brand vision serves as the ultimate achievement for your brand, answering, “Where could we be?” Importantly, a clear vision sets your brand on a path to success. Brands struggling often lack a strong vision, leading to short-term thinking and limited long-term planning.

Characteristics of an Effective Brand Vision

An impactful brand vision should:

  1. Firstly, reflect future ambitions and bring satisfaction.
  2. Secondly, inspire and motivate your team.
  3. Lastly, strike a balance between slightly intimidating and highly exciting.

Brand Vision examples

Reviewing examples of successful brand visions can help you structure your own statement. Let these examples inspire and guide you in crafting your unique brand vision.

Connecting your Vision to your Marketing Plan

Once you’ve established your vision, use it as the foundation for your brand’s key issues. Identify the obstacles preventing you from achieving your vision and develop strategies to overcome them. Your marketing strategies should revolve around solving these problems.

Visualizing the Future of Your Brand

To be a visionary, imagine a better future for your brand. Paint the perfect picture of your brand five or ten years from now, which answers, “Where could we be?” Visualize waking up in an incredible mood, knowing your brand has achieved its vision. Ultimately, this exercise guides you in developing a powerful brand vision that resonates with your team and sets your brand on a course for success.

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But we won’t just leave you with ideas – we’ll show you how to turn them into action. Learn how to write a brand plan that everyone can follow, ensuring that all stakeholders are aligned and contributing to your brand’s success. We’ll walk you through the creative execution process, from writing an inspiring brief to making smart and breakthrough decisions.

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Take a read through our sample chapter on strategic thinking

Creating effective goals for your Marketing Plan

Indeed, setting clear and measurable goals is crucial for the success of your marketing plan. There are four primary ways to set goals for your brand:

1. Focusing on strategic outcomes

These goals emphasize the market impact or performance results of your marketing strategy. Examples of strategic outcomes to use in your marketing plan include:

  • Brand funnel: First, look at awareness, trial, repeat purchases, and loyalty.
  • In-market impact: Second, look at penetration, frequency, share of requirements.
  • Performance results: Finally, look at sales, market share, costs, pricing and profit.

2. Tactical Execution Measures

Your goals should assess the effectiveness of specific marketing tactics. Some examples of tactical execution measures are:

  • Advertising results: First, look at attention, brand link, communication, stickiness).
  • Innovation: Next, include at freshness index which is the percentage of portfolio launched during a specific period.
  • In-store performance indicators: Finally, include display, pricing, share of shelf, distribution coverage.

3. Major Milestones

Establish goals for reaching significant project completion dates or achieving key performance levels in market share, sales, or profit. Consequently, these milestones help track your brand’s progress and keep your team focused on specific targets.

4. Brand Reputation Goals

Establish objectives related to your brand’s reputation, such as:

  • First, look at the net promoter score.
  • Then, consider online review scores.
  • Next, look at the consumer perception of your brand’s positioning.
  • Finally, understand the reputation among influencers or social media followers.

By setting strategic outcomes, tactical execution measures, major milestones, and brand reputation goals, you can effectively monitor the success of your marketing plan and adjust your strategies accordingly.

Writing an Effective Brand Strategy

Utilizing Marketing Analytics for a Comprehensive Business Review

Successful brand leaders make data-driven decisions by thoroughly analyzing marketing analytics. Importantly, you should conduct a deep-dive business review at least once a year to assess your brand’s performance. Examine five key areas: the marketplace, consumers, channels, competitors, and the brand. To read more about the deep-dive business review: Business Review.

Deep-Dive Business Review Process

Click on the deep-dive business review process to zoom in for a detailed view.

Identifying Key Issues

Utilize the four strategic questions model to identify the key issues that need to be addressed in your plan. This approach ensures a 360-degree view of your brand. To read more, click on our strategic thinking post

Key Issues Process

Click on the key issues process to zoom in for a more in-depth understanding.

Identifying Key Issues for Your Marketing Plan (Video)

Watch our video on how to find the key issues on your brand that can be used in your marketing plan. This video will help you identify the most relevant questions and subsequently develop strategic solutions to address them.

Play Video about Strategic Key Issues Video

Developing a Brand Strategy Using the A + B + C + D Model

Our marketing plan template includes slides for outlining your brand strategies. Write your strategic objective statement using the A + B + C + D model outlined in our Beloved Brands book.  

To view, click to zoom in on our brand strategy process part of the brand plan.

Elements of the Marketing Strategy Statement

A: Capabilities Investment – To start, clearly specify the strategic program and its investment.
B: Focused Opportunity – Then, identify a breakthrough point for market impact.
C: Market Impact – Next, define the desired market impact with a specific stakeholder.
D: Performance Result – Finally, outline the expected performance result, either making the brand more powerful or profitable.

This strategic model ensures a structured approach to developing your brand strategy statement.

Writing Brand Strategy Statements (Video)

Discover how we use the five elements of brand strategy in our video. This resource will assist you in structuring your thought process and demonstrate how to create brand strategy statements that are easily understood by others.

Play Video about Writing Brand Strategies Video

Summarizing Each Marketing Strategy for Presentation to Management

Once you have crafted your marketing strategies, create a slide for each strategy in your presentation:

  1. First, include the strategic objective statement.
  2. Then, list the goals to measure the desired result of this strategy.
  3. Next, outline three tactical programs where resources will be invested.
  4. Finally, insert a “watch out statement” to address potential issues that could derail the strategy.

By following these guidelines, you can effectively develop and present a comprehensive brand strategy that drives your marketing plan and sets your brand on a path to success.

Building Marketing Execution Plans

For each major investment, create a separate execution plan to ensure everyone has specific instructions related to their function, eliminating any room for misinterpretation. Each strategic investment should have an execution plan, with most plans covering marketing communication, innovation, and sales. A brand’s specific needs may also require execution plans for sampling, influencer, e-commerce, medical, consumer experience, competitive, or sales.

Your execution plans should combine strategic thinking and brand positioning:

  1. Start each execution plan with your marketing strategy statement from one of your strategies.
  2. In the next four sections, refer to your brand positioning work to lay out the target, brand idea, main benefit, and support points.
  3. For the final two sections, tailor them to the type of execution.

Use the desired response to initiate the creative brief and the media options for investment. For innovation, determine the internal beacon to inspire the team and the project status related to new products, formats, or claims. And, for a sales plan, include any differences between shoppers and consumers (users), specific retail programs, and execution tactics.

Consistency in language is crucial, so use the same words and phrases to ensure uniform execution. Let creativity stem from your repeated words.

Brand Communication Plan

The brand communications plan should answer seven questions that guide and inspire the creation of the brand story, establishing your brand positioning and motivating consumers.

Using the marketing plan template, answer the following questions:

  1. First, what do we need our advertising to do? (Marketing strategy statement)
  2. Who is our desired consumer target? (Most motivated people to buy what we do)
  3. What are we selling? (Our main consumer benefit we stand behind)
  4. Why should they believe us? (Support points to back up the main benefit)
  5. What is our organizing brand idea? (Brand soul, essence, or DNA for the brand)
  6. What do we want people to see, think, feel, do, or influence? (Desired consumer response)
  7. Finally, where will our consumer be most receptive to see and act upon our message? (Media plan)

Lastly, consider this marketing plan example of an Brand Communications Plan for Gray’s Cookies:

To illustrate, click on our marketing plan example above.

Innovation Plan

Firstly, your brand idea should direct the product development team in managing innovation ideas at various stages:

  • Exploratory stage (beyond five years),
  • Pipeline ideas (two to five years), and
  • Go-to-market launch plans (within the next two years).

Secondly, utilize the marketing plan template to influence, manage, and direct your product development team, ensuring a focus on brand strategy.

Lastly, consider this marketing plan example of an Innovation Plan for Gray’s Cookies:

To illustrate, click on our marketing plan example above.

Marketing Plan examples

Examples of Marketing Plan slides we use in our template

Importantly, we provide marketing plan examples of execution slides you can use in your marketing plan. For instance, you will find PowerPoint slides you can use for advertising, social media and search, event sampling, new product launch, new product pipeline, competitive defence plan, merchandising and in-store sampling, customer marketing, promotions. Click on any of the marketing plan examples below.

Consumer Healthcare

Consumer Healthcare marketing plan example.

Quit Smoking

Pharma marketing plan example.

B2B Stage Lighting

Our B2B brand marketing plan example.

B2B Industrial tools

B2B industrial marketing plan example.

Are you not seeing high quality plans from your team?

If you are running a marketing team and you are not seeing high quality plans from your team, our marketing training can help. When marketers try to do too many things in their plan, none of their ideas end up with enough resources to make the impact they expect.

Marketing plans that fail to make firm decisions spread their limited resources across so many tactics that none of the ideas create a big enough impact to make a difference. With a lack of vision, the plan meanders and confuses those who work behind the scenes of the brand. At Beloved Brands, we will show how to build your plan with a brand vision, purpose, values, key issues, strategies, and execution plans. 

For those looking for even more in-depth guidance, I invite you to check out my Beloved Brands book on the subject.

If you want better plans from your people, our Marketing Training will help. 

With extensive experience working on top global brands, each year I took charge of constructing a marketing plan, starting as an assistant brand manager and eventually becoming a marketing director. At a VP Marketing level, I meticulously reviewed 15 plans annually before they were presented to the President. This inspired me to develop a new marketing plan template, which I have constantly refined over time. If you feel that your team could benefit from enhanced planning abilities, please visit this link for more information:  Beloved Brands Marketing Training.

More reading about Marketing Plans.

For example, HubSpot does a good execution plan. 

Proof of this, Investopedia also has some great content on marketing plans.

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

For example, Forbes wrote a good simple article to view. 

And, Visme wrote a good simple article to view. 

Frequently Asked Questions about the Marketing Plan.

What is included in a marketing plan?

  • First, every marketing plan must have a vision that acts as the guiding line to chase. I like to have a main sales goal tied to that vision. 
  • Second, conduct a business review to focus on what’s driving growth and holding the brand back. 
  • Third, use our Strategic ThinkBox to come up with key issue questions that are facing the brand. Then, dig in and build out the strategies that answer the issues. 
  • Next, brainstorm tactics with your team. And, build tactics, including brand communication, innovation, and sales or retail. 
  • Last but not least, create goals and measure performance. A main sales goal can be tied to the vision, and can drive parts of the plan, but they can also be used at the end to make sure you measure the strategies and tactics. 

Why is a marketing plan important?

The main role of a marketing plan presentation is to gain approval of your senior management team. Importantly, explain how you will you use your resources to drive growth on your brand. And, the plan becomes the roadmap that everyone on your team will follow and help achieve your brand goals. Clearly, an effective marketing plan will create the brand vision, purpose, key issues, strategies, and tactics.

What are common marketing plan mistakes?

First, the most common mistake I see in marketing plans is when they present a messy story. That’s the reason you should have a good marketing plan template. If you are standing at the front of the room and the boss is confused, it won’t go very well.

Second, the other common mistake I see in marketing plans is trying to do too many things. Importantly, when you spread the limited resources across too many ideas, none of them will have enough resources to make a difference. You will always be disappointed in the results. 

Third, another mistake I see is when parts of the team do not agree with. The brand leader must work to involve the other teams to ensure the team is aligned. Make sure you involve sales, operations, R&D, your ad agency. And, include all those who deliver on behalf of the brand. 

Fourth, I have seen marketing plan presentations get out of control. One year, a small brand had 127 slides. Crazy. You should have no more than 20 slides. 

What is in a marketing plan?

If you are looking for an ideal outline for a marketing plan template, here is our recommendation: vision, purpose, goals, SWOT analysis, key issues, strategy statements, marketing communications plan, sales plan, innovation plan, forecast, and financials. 

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Graham Robertson

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