5 Essential Sections Every Marketing Plan Should Have

Whether your organization already has robust marketing efforts in place or not, a watertight marketing plan is an indispensable roadmap to achieving its marketing goals. Maybe you’re running PPC campaigns or Facebook Ads that convert droves of customers, or you’re consistently generating long lists of leads at trade shows to feed to your sales team. Why invest in a marketing plan? Because without looking at the bigger picture, defining your objectives, and assessing your current marketing efforts, you could be missing out on valuable business and opportunities for growth.

Viewing each of your marketing initiatives as complementing steps toward fulfilling the same overarching goal ensures that each asset you build, tactic you implement, and dollar you spend is driving you closer to that goal. Whether your objective is to increase conference registrations, sales, donations, or the number of customers who subscribe to your service, a marketing plan will give structure to your marketing efforts and set you up for success.

Below, I’ve outlined 5 sections that are essential to any marketing plan.

1. Objective
Before you begin researching and outlining your plan, define your marketing objective. Are you trying to attract new customers? Increase sales with existing customers? Grow your revenue by a specific amount? By how much and in what timeframe?

2. Messaging
Clear, precise messaging conveys your value-add to your prospective and current customers as well as how and why your offering is distinct from your competitors’. Before sitting down to rewrite your messaging, do the following:

• Review your companies’ differentiators and target audiences. If you have multiple target audiences, your messaging should address the needs of each group. For example, a B2B company that sells a product to financial professionals, governments, and luxury retailers will have more success selling its product if it articulates the distinct need it fulfills for each group.
• Conduct customer interviews or surveys. This will help you understand what your customers find valuable about your product, which could differ from what you and your team perceive the value to be. Write about this.
• Conduct an analysis of your competitors’ messaging. This will help your business understand whether there are any gaps to be exploited in its competitors’ offerings, as well as how to position itself in a way that sets it apart from competitors.

3. Assets
An audit of all current assets and whether improving them will help you accomplish your Objective belongs in your marketing plan. Assets can include your website, brochures and sell sheets, and even your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. This section should include a recommendation for which assets should be improved and how to update them. If an asset that would help your organization reach the Objective doesn’t exist, it should be recommended in this section.

4. Tactics
Similarly to Assets, the Tactics section should include an audit of current marketing initiatives (such as PPC, SEO, email marketing, or marketing automation) and devise strategies to maximize results from each initiative that is relevant to your Objective. If there are any marketing tactics that your company does not currently use but would help you achieve your Objective, it should be recommended in this section.

5. Timeline and Budget
No marketing plan is complete without a concrete timeline and budget. This section ensures that your plan is actionable and realistic. It also forces you to prioritize initiatives in your strategy. For example, if your business is hoping to sell products through an eCommerce site, it makes sense to build the website before setting up Google AdWords campaigns to drive customers to the website. If your business’s short-term objective is to generate new leads quickly, it makes sense to prioritize lead-generating initiatives like email marketing or trade shows over longer-term initiatives like SEO.