The Basic Elements of a Marketing Plan (with a Free Template)

Posted on in Blog, Resources, Templates & More

Creating a yearly marketing plan is a crucial part of delivering results for your organization. Using an annual marketing plan template will give goals and objectives shape, define business priorities and serve as a central source of truth that is easily accessed all year long.

While no two businesses are alike, our annual plan template is free, easy to follow and serves as an excellent way to jumpstart your team’s next planning session.

Take it with you; we’ve also created a condensed marketing plan outline PDF version of this marketing strategic planning template. Download it, fill it out and keep it handy!

strategic planning template

How to Develop a Marketing Plan in 9 Steps

Every marketing team should invest time and resources in developing a strategic marketing plan. At Oneupweb, we schedule annual planning sessions for clients in late Q3 or early Q4. This is an ideal time to evaluate past performance and align on business and marketing goals for the year ahead.

What Should Marketing Plans Include?

Marketing plans, like our annual plan template, should answer basic questions about your organization and connect business realities to marketing objectives. Simply put, marketing plans are a pulse check to see how things are going, where your business is right now and how to leverage marketing to achieve broader company goals. Even an outline of a marketing plan can help point your organization in the right direction.

Whether you use our annual planning template or create a format that works better for your team, make sure to include these core elements of a marketing plan as a part of your outline.

1. Write a Business Summary

First, outline your high-level goals for the next year as a business – not as a marketing team. Your marketing objectives should correlate directly with broader business realities. That may include new services, operating in new parts of the country (or globe!), or addressing industry headwinds.

Here are a few questions to ask business stakeholders:

  • Vision – What direction is our business headed, and what does the ideal future look like?
  • Mission – What’s our business’s mission statement? Are we staying true to this statement?
  • Values – What matters to our business, and how is that reflected in the way we behave? Are we successfully communicating our values?
  • Team – Identify roles within our core organization. This will make it easier to divvy up tasks from this marketing plan template.
  • Products and services – Should we expand or pare down our current offerings?
  • Differentiators – How is our brand different from our competitors?

These aren’t always easy questions to ask or answers to hear. It’s sometimes helpful to tag in a facilitator to manage the conversation and provide a fresh perspective. We’re here to help.

persona focus group

2. Assess last year’s performance

Gather the data necessary to provide an honest and detailed assessment of your team’s performance over the past year. Focus on the key performance indicators established during the previous year but be sure to include additional big wins or challenges that surfaced over the previous 12 months.

  • Goals – Did you meet your biggest goals? Were they too broad or too specific? Were they realistic? Were there too few or too many?
  • Accomplishments – What did you accomplish last year? Any proud moments you can expand upon or draw from to accomplish more this year? It’s important to celebrate past accomplishments during strategic planning.
  • SWOT analysis – Analyze your business’s overall strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Identifying these four things will help you refine your goals. How do your goals align with opportunities and threats?

3. Reevaluate audience & market

Clients and consumers aren’t static. One important feature of our annual marketing strategy template focuses on market and audience research. Remember that marketing doesn’t happen in a vacuum; changing consumer habits, economic factors and new market competitors will impact your efforts to a considerable degree.

  • Personas – How has your ideal audience changed? Creating personas is invaluable to an effective marketing plan. Identifying your target audience and their characteristics will help you understand how to best reach them.
  • Existing customer demographics – These details may be a part of your official personas. Do you know what your customer base looks like now? Were you reaching them effectively over the last year? Are current clients asking different questions or in need of new services?
  • Audience discovery – Who else might you market to? Is there a potential audience you have been ignoring or weren’t sure you could reach? Your annual plan is the place to develop goals to reach those people!
  • Competitive analysis – How have new marketing players impacted your business? Look at how your competitors market themselves, their services, how they use social media and if they’re reaching customers in different channels.
  • Market share – Whether you operate nationally, regionally or in a small town, how much of the market share does your business have? Are you happy with where you stand, and what disruptions do you predict? Is your team ready to tackle additional market share and scale up?
  • Industry outlook – Nationwide, how does your industry look in the next one to five years? This will inform many other items on this strategic planning checklist, like service offerings and budget.

4. Create new goals (SMART)

Creating goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based (SMART) is the core of your annual plan. These goals vary from business to business, but the rest of this marketing plan template will help you identify those goals and make them SMART.

Once you’ve identified your SMART goals, go deeper. As you examine your marketing channels below, create 1-3 key performance indicators (KPIs) to gauge your success or identify areas to improve.

5. Assess your marketing channels

Even the world’s largest companies face resource and budget restrictions. You don’t have to be everywhere all the time; instead, evaluate the impact each marketing channel has on your business. Invest time and resources where they offer the best return.

Which channels provide the most value, and which can you put less effort into? How would you like to change the way you’re using each channel?

  • Social – Is your business active on the right social media platforms? Should you be dedicating more paid ads to this space? Do you need to scale back?
  • Video – Video marketing is increasingly popular. Identify how your brand can effectively leverage this medium.
  • SEO – Organic search traffic is the lifeblood of most businesses. Is it time for a technical site audit? Perhaps a refresh of meta descriptions, schema markup and title tags?
  • Content (blog and evergreen) – Is your content based on search trends? Identify topics your target audience is looking for and address those topics in your annual plan. This is key to solid content marketing.
  • Public relations – Are you tooting your own horn when you should be? How do you handle a brand reputation crisis?
  • Email – Channel performance varies by market and industry, but most folks prefer getting emails from brands. Identify how you can better leverage email marketing.
  • Podcasts – Is a podcast the right space to broadcast your business’s voice?
  • Paid – How are you handling paid media management? How efficient is your ad spend? Should you focus more on targeting and retargeting?
  • Referrals – Word-of-mouth marketing is an oldie but a goodie. There are digital equivalents, too, like adding backlinks to generate website referrals from sources with domain authority. How can referrals make a bigger appearance in your marketing strategy?
  • Local listings – Check out your business profiles and reviews on listing sites like Google Business Profile, Yelp and Facebook. Is all the information up to date? Are you actively engaging with your customers?
  • Print and traditional – How do you use direct mail, local radio, local news or billboards? It’s important to marry traditional forms of marketing with digital marketing for a well-rounded marketing plan.

6. Establish KPIs

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are metrics that measure how well you’re meeting your goals. Establishing KPIs is integral to your annual marketing plan. They should correspond with micro-goals throughout the year that will help you accomplish your overarching goals.

  • By department – Who will be responsible for analyzing KPIs and making sure goals are accomplished? Will that analysis be presented internally in a report? Many reports?
  • By channel – If you have goals specific to a channel, such as social media or organic search, you’ll need specific KPIs for each. For example, will you be looking at sessions or pageviews? Time on page or session page depth?
  • Financial – How much revenue would you realistically like to make as an organization? How many new customers would you need? Do you want a hefty percentage of your profit to come from a recession-proof service or product? (See more about financial planning below.)
  • Customers and leads – Do you aim to make your customer base happier in the next year? How will you measure that? Do you need to establish KPIs for customer retention and lead generation?
  • Brand impressions – In your annual plan, it’s important to address all parts of the sales funnel. This includes the very top of it: awareness. Focusing on hard sales metrics is great, but enabling and measuring progress at every stage of engagement will help you accomplish more.

7. Assess marketing technology & team

Even the most skilled carpenter is reliant on their tools to get the job done. Evaluate your marketing technology regularly to ensure your team has what it needs to be productive. Explore new tools that may improve results and dump software or processes that don’t make your work easier.

  • Software – Which tools do you use daily? Do they meet your needs?
  • Hardware – Consider surveying team members to find out what their individual needs are. Do you need hardware to facilitate workforce mobility?
  • Reporting – What tool do you currently use? Do you need to invest in a specific social-media reporting tool or something that has more capacity?
  • People – Do you need more people to accomplish goals this year?
  • Trends – Is it worthwhile to invest in a new technology to keep up with changing trends? For example, do you need a subscription video editing software to support TikTok videos if it’s a part of your long-term strategy?

8. Financial planning

This can be the toughest part to bring into your annual plan for marketing. It’s all well and good to say you want to do seven videos and one cross-channel campaign per month, but is it within your budget?

  • Last year’s budget – What was your marketing budget like last year compared to this year? Was it enough? Too much?
  • Hiring – Do you need to hire more people to accomplish your goals?
  • Freelance – Perhaps a freelancer can get you through busy sprints throughout the year.
  • Paid media – What is your paid media budget looking like for the year? Will your budget limit which types of ads you can run?
  • Technology – From the “Technology and teams” section above, do you need to purchase video equipment or something else to achieve your marketing goals?
  • Diversification – Identify ways to diversify your income, if needed. You don’t want one source of revenue to pull out and leave you stranded.

9. Evaluation

Look over the annual plan to make sure you’ve checked all the boxes (literally and figuratively). Make sure your goals are SMART, your KPIs are specific and all your notes tie into your business’s vision and mission statement.

Finally, it’s usually a good idea to anticipate questions from the powers that be. Think about unique challenges facing other parts of the company and consider how marketing alleviates or addresses these pain points.

Human resources – Has recruiting and retention been tough this year? Connect marketing to highlight company culture or help bring talented people to the organization.

Sales – Remember, sales is marketing and marketing is sales. Make sure your research and resources are readily available to sales and business development staff – and ask the same from them!

We’re Ready to Make Your Annual Plan Work

This annual planning template isn’t meant to be completed in the same way by every business. Think of it more as a starting point; you can adjust and follow it in any order that makes sense. You don’t have to do it alone. Tap into 25 years of digital marketing experience with a fully integrated team of professionals. Get in touch or call (231) 922-9977 today to get started.

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