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How to Build a Marketing Plan

Snakes and ladders board game

I hate plans, including marketing plans. But, I have to say, without one we’re all just lost souls wandering about aimlessly.

Most of us do have a plan – it just lives in our head, and we have to hope everyone around us also has a plan and it doesn’t mess ours up.

So, to make those plans into something that’s useful to you, your team, your boss and your business, here’s how to build a marketing plan.

1. It starts with a list

Doesn’t everything? If you’ve developed a marketing strategy, you’ll already have high-level aims, channels you’ll use and some idea of the tactics involved.

Put your Big Things For This Year in a list (it pains me to say it but Excel is the easiest program for your starter plan). Videos, new products, big website updates, social media campaigns…all your grand plans. This is the strategy level, and how I work things out is: strategy > tactics > tasks.

Strategy example:

  1. Social launch
  2. Web presence update
  3. PPC launch
  4. PR drive

2. Add your tactics

Under each Big Thing, put in the individual activities that will be required. For a new business, you might have ‘Social launch’ as a Big Thing but that involves an awful lot of sub-headings to map out your approach.

Tactics example:

Web presence update

  1. New web page
  2. Google MyBusiness
  3. Website SEO audit
  4. Webchat

3. Add your tasks

Now, add the steps you’ll need to take towards completion – in chronological order under each tactic. The little things that will achieve the Big Thing. For the huge heading of ‘Launch PPC for a new product’, you’d need your market research, keyword research, targeting planning, ad copy, sign off and Google Ad build.

Tasks example:

Web presence update

New web page

  1. Project scoping – one week
  2. Wireframing – one day
  3. Copywriting – two days
  4. Design – one week
  5. Sign-off – two days
  6. Build – one week
  7. Sign-off – two days
  8. Live – one day (this is your deadline day)

In this example, you end up with a four-week project plan that can dovetail with other things going on and help you find where the resource is available. If you were keeping that in your head, you definitely wouldn’t have that visual awareness of who’s doing what and when.

4. Add the dates

Plan your dates for tasks backwards from the deadline, bearing in mind that we’re keeping things loosey-goosey right now and dates can change. Put in a final deadline for each Big Thing or individual tactic, then block out the time needed to complete each task.

If it turns out you don’t have the time needed to hit that deadline…this is why we have a marketing plan. Move your deadline, tighten up on the time you’d allocated to each task or get started earlier. Imagine what would have happened if you hadn’t made this plan!

5. Eyeball your dependencies

You can’t launch product A in three weeks’ time if the website it’s due to launch on won’t be finished until five weeks’ time. Your marketing plan gives you a bird’s eye view of dependencies so you can be sure every planned activity flows.

6. Check your resource

Having everything in a plan also means you can see which weeks are going to be insanely busy and think about shifting things around, particularly if it looks like your designer is going to be working 24 hours a day one week and part-time the next.

It’s important that the people involved get to see the marketing plan on a regular basis to catch this kind of issue. Plans can change but they need to change in good time before a problem arises – two days short of the deadline.

Remember: strategy > tactics > tasks.

Sample project on a marketing plan spreadsheet