Marketing is a hot topic in any organization, so you may wonder why you need a marketing plan. How should it be built and what are the elements that make it valuable for an organization? Why do businesses need one?
If you are a consultant, freelancer, an agency and enjoy the freedom of entrepreneurship, your success will still depend on implementing a brilliant marketing plan. Let’s take a closer look at the marketing plan concept, what it should contain and how it should be adapted to your business model.
What you risk not having a marketing plan
Any strategy needs a red thread, a brand promise or primary goals. If you choose not to build a marketing plan and decide to operate on a campaign basis by staying always in beta with your initiatives you should assume important risks and consequences:
- Increase team’s stress by creating confusion on your long-term goals
- The marketing budget would not be practical anymore
- Expect losing discounts from suppliers due to lack of budget planning
- Assume a super-reactive organization, which normally increases errors
- More administrative work with creative suppliers – you have to write a Pitch Client Brief for every single campaign
Is the marketing plan strategic or tactical?
First of all, a marketing plan depends on its parent process, the business plan. For this reason, if you decided to build your own plan, you need to focus primarily on an in-depth analysis based on historical data that should cover at least two years.
You need a marketing plan build on historical data
First, you need historical data for your plan because the consumer and market trends usually suffer significant structural changes every 2-3 years. There are exceptions, however, like the 2020 pandemic that altered much faster the supply and demand. In general, by collecting and analysing 2-3 years of statistical data you will identify more strategic insights and dynamics not only for your company’s performance but also at the market level.
Additionally, a more scientific approach will help you organize, forecast, execute and track better the impact of your marketing actions.
Last but not least, depending on the size and structure of your company (whether is a flat, matrix or hierarchical team structure), data research & validation when working for the marketing plan will improve cross-function collaboration and work as a solid on-the-job training.
The marketing plan is a strategic task
So the marketing plan is a strategic document that is correlated with the business plan and fiscal year. The activities in the plan however can be continuous (strategic), on/off or one-offs (pure tactical). Correspondingly, marketing planning is a mid-term activity and mindset, while its implementation is ultimately tactical.
Why is a marketing plan always changing?
Despite what you may have read in marketing literature, a marketing plan is constantly changing its content, both before and after its approval.
The reasons why you need a marketing plan and are linked with how much it is influenced by your business objectives and market dynamics:
- It gets its main structure from the business objectives
- Continues to be built within the marketing department
- Gets submitted to top management as a pre-read
- The marketing plan is presented and the team collects feedback
- A second submission is being done
- Management agrees on the final version
- The financial year starts and marketing actions are implemented
- Sales and market trends influence marketing goals
- The marketing plan and marketing budget gets updated (usually quarterly)
Steps 8 and 9 may be repeated at least quarterly depending on how well the market and sales perform.
Have a clear logic for the marketing plan
My advice is to build your marketing plan with a clear structure and do not go into millions of details, because updating it will be a burden and it might end up archived or as a smart presentation that you prepared several weeks in a row.
Differences between marketing strategy, marketing plan and its tactics
The correct take on these differences is as follows: the marketing plan includes both strategic actions and tactics, but the marketing strategy is a red thread that transcends all plans’ components.
Think of the marketing plan as a map, with certain key points to the final destination and split by brands or services. This map is like a synapse connecting the business strategy with the marketing goals.
Why you need a marketing plan ASAP
If you want to perform a significant change in your services or brand portfolio or get more clients, you need to allocate proper resources and time in order to have a marketing plan prepared and implemented. Not every company needs a sophisticated marketing plan, but some scenarios definitely require more complex work.
Here are top business scenarios when you need a complex marketing plan:
- Launch a new product
- Reposition an existing brand
- Rebrand a leading product
- Unlist or replace existing products or services
- Address a new consumer niche or segment
- Start a new retail channel
There can be other scenarios too, but at the end of the day, you want to sell new products or concepts on the market, to increase brand awareness and to convince consumers to love your brand.
The right mindset is to think strategically and act tactically
The risks of going for a niche with your marketing plan
Naturally, many entrepreneurs believe that it is harder to compete in an established market and often choose the creative but hardest way, to develop their own niches. That’s absolutely ok for a business that has a solid core business already. On the other hand, focusing on a niche implies generating a new type of demand, which takes time and investments. An additional risk for going niche is that if you do not secure it properly, you could be copied quickly by other companies and lose your competitive advantage in no time.
That’s why your mindset needs to be strategic, taking the right business decision: to get in competition with the best market players or to be unique in the chosen niche. Professor Michael E. Porter states that a manager with strategic thinking will include both how attractive a market is and its competitive advantage. An entrepreneur should think about the health of the industry, not just the company’s position in that market.
Tactics fulfil the strategy. How the marketing budget is affected
On the other hand, you need to be prepared to act tactically according to the marketing plan activities. My advice is to keep it printed on your desk or wallboard at all times. Don’t forget that the marketing plan includes also the marketing budget which can be very volatile if you are in an unstable market or in a deteriorated economic environment as it is now during the pandemic.
Statistics that should explain why you need a marketing plan
In business, you constantly need to grow your leader instinct. The more experienced you get, the more reliable your gut feeling will be as you will gather more experiences.
However, the higher you succeed in your career, numbers and statistics increase their role in your strategic decisions. So as an entrepreneur, freelancer or SME executive you have to rely on numbers, too.
Here are some interesting statistics regarding the reasons to write a marketing plan:
CoSchedule 2019 study (answers from 3,217 marketers)
- 66% of marketers state that their marketing is somewhat or very successful
- 74% set marketing goals
- 16% have a documented strategy that drives your marketing efforts
- 45% have partially documented strategy
- 37% of respondents implement sometimes or always agile marketing processes