Nature and content of a marketing plan

Just as you need Google Maps to travel from the West Coast to the East Coast, your business needs a roadmap to guide your marketing efforts. The roadmap — a marketing plan outlines the strategies, tactics, and everything else your business needs to target your audience and generate leads and revenue. In this article, let’s examine a marketing plan’s importance, nature, and content. 

What is a marketing plan? 

A marketing plan is an operational document that outlines a marketing, outreach, and advertising strategy to reach an audience and attract leads/customers. A part of the business plan, the marketing plan offers a guideline on achieving the marketing objectives in the short and long run. 

Marketing plans are created based on customer insights & market research and are adapted based on the changing demand/supply dynamics (and campaign performance).  

Fundamentally, a marketing plan identifies the target market, highlights the value proposition of a business, documents the market research insights, and lays out the strategies, tactics, and metrics to run successful marketing campaigns. 

A marketing plan ensures that all marketing efforts are aligned with the overall marketing strategy and growth objectives of the company by: 

  • Identifying the target market and defining value proposition: Market research while creating a marketing plan helps identify and outline the core target audience. Documenting the ideal customer persona — their pain points, agony, dissatisfaction, and desires helps define the unique value proposition and decide on the product’s positioning. Clarity towards the target audience improves chances of influencing potential buyers and converting them into customers. 
  • Knowing the competitors: The marketing plan includes a SWOT analysis of all the competitors. This helps understand what will help a business stand out in a crowded market and create a differentiation in the minds of potential customers. 

Market research is a critical component of the marketing plan development process as it helps to identify potential customers, their needs, and the competition. 

Read More: What is market research?

Nature & components of a marketing plan.

Think of the marketing plan as a living, breathing, operational document. You need to constantly optimize the marketing plan based on fresh insights about your audience, competitors, marketing mediums, and the effectiveness of your initiatives. 

Marketing plans ensure that all marketing efforts are aligned with overall marketing objectives, making it a solid guiding beacon for marketers, entrepreneurs, and startup owners. 

In essence, the marketing plan should be seen as a document that requires continuous improvements. So, it’s a fluid document that adds structure to the marketing plans and activities. 

There may be different types of marketing plans — product launch marketing plans, time-sensitive marketing plans, and long-term marketing plans. Irrespective of the nature or type, every marketing plan should ideally have the following components/sections: 

  • Market research to support product, positioning, placement, and pricing decisions; 
  • Strategies to target specific demographics or audiences through compelling marketing messages; 
  • Marketing mediums for promotions — digital, social media, TV, paid ads, trade magazines, or a mix of platforms for each campaign; 
  • Key performance indicators and metrics to measure the results of marketing efforts and their reporting timelines. 

Content of a marketing plan. 

Woman at desk with a notepad, thinking about the nature and content of a marketing plan

A well-developed marketing plan outlines the process, activities, and information a business needs to reach its target audience and attract them to its brand or products. Here’s what an ideal marketing plan should contain: 

Executive Summary

The executive summary highlights the plan’s key points and provides insight into how marketing will help the business achieve its goals. Generally, the executive summary is usually limited to a single page and serves as an overview of the entire marketing plan. 

Competitor Analysis

Competitor analysis is generally a deep analysis of the current market situation, including the existing competitors. This section usually consists of a SWOT analysis, highlighting the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of marketing in the current ecosystem.

The analysis helps understand the ecosystem and assists in making informed marketing decisions — particularly about positioning, pricing, and promotion tactics. 

Target Market

This section contains information about your ideal customer profile (ICP). Generally, the target market is categorized based on demographics, psychographics, behaviors, aspirations, or pain points. 

Market research is important in understanding the target market and its desires. Many businesses conduct research surveys to know their target audience and create detailed target audience personas. Here are some pointers to help you document your target audience: 

CategoryInformation to Document
DemographicsAge, gender, income, education, occupation, and location.
PsychographicsPersonality traits, attitudes, interests, values, lifestyle, and behaviors.
Needs and Pain PointsWhat are their needs and wants? What problems are they trying to solve? What are their pain points or challenges?
Buying BehaviorWhat motivates them to buy? How do they prefer to purchase products or services? What is their buying cycle or decision-making process?
Competitive LandscapeWho are the competitors targeting the same audience? What sets your product or service apart from the competition?
Communication PreferencesWhat channels do they use to receive information? How do they prefer to be communicated with? What type of messaging resonates with them?

Product, price, place & promotion. 

Known as the 4Ps of marketing, this is the central element of any good marketing plan. This section defines: 

  • Product: What product (or service) are you marketing? How is it different from competitors? 
  • Price: What’s your pricing model? How much will you charge? How soon can you break even at this price point? 
  • Place: How will you distribute your product? Where can customers find you? What are your distribution channels? 
  • Promotion: What marketing tactics, strategies, and channels will you use to promote your product? 

Marketing strategy & tactics. 

This section outlines the overall approach to marketing, including the strategies, mediums, operations, and tactics to achieve marketing goals. Basically, this section documents answers to the following questions: 

  • How will we reach and attract the target audience? 
  • What marketing mediums will we adopt in the short and long term? 
  • What conversion marketing strategies will be used to convert the audience into paying customers? 
  • How much will be spent on marketing across channels? 
  • What tools will be used to execute marketing strategies? 

Financial projections & budget. 

This section contains the financial projects and the budget for marketing. Essentially, this will outline how much you will spend on marketing over time. So, you should ideally research the cost of customer acquisition across different channels. Accordingly, align your available budget with your goals and target audience’s behaviors. 

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).  

Key performance indicators (KPIs) measure the success of marketing efforts. So, this section should include the metrics you’ll use to evaluate the marketing plan’s effectiveness. Some important marketing KPIs include 

Marketing Channel/MediumKPI to TrackWhat the KPI is About
Email MarketingOpen RateThe percentage of email recipients who opened the email.
Click-Through Rate (CTR)The percentage of email recipients who clicked on a link within the email.
Conversion RateThe percentage of email recipients who took a desired action, such as purchasing.
Social MediaEngagement RateThe rate at which followers engage with social media content, such as likes and shares.
Follower Growth RateThe rate at which the number of followers on a social media account grows over a certain period.
Click-Through Rate (CTR)The percentage of people who clicked on a link within a social media post.
Paid AdvertisingCost per Acquisition (CPA)The cost incurred to acquire a new customer through paid advertising.
Click-Through Rate (CTR)The percentage of people who clicked on a paid advertising link.
Conversion RateThe percentage of people who took a desired action, such as making a purchase, after clicking an ad.
Content MarketingTime on PageThe average amount of time visitors spend on a page of content.
Bounce RateThe percentage of visitors who leave a website after viewing only one page.
Conversion RateThe percentage of visitors who take a desired action, such as filling out a form or making a purchase.
Search Engine MarketingClick-Through Rate (CTR)The percentage of people who clicked on a paid search engine ad.
Cost per Click (CPC)The cost incurred per click on a paid search engine ad.
Conversion RateThe percentage of people who took a desired action, such as making a purchase, after clicking an ad.

Marketing plans start with deep market research. Start yours now! 

A marketing plan helps you understand your target audience, their needs, and their competitors. Basically, it provides insights you need to stay relevant, relatable, and succeed. With GapScout, you can speed up creating a marketing plan by gaining valuable insights about your audience, competitors, and pain points.

GapScout scans all online platforms for audience reviews and provides insights to create an effective marketing plan that attracts, engages, and converts your audience.

So, why wait? Start your marketing research with GapScout today and get ahead of your competition today. 

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Anmol Sachdeva
Anmol Sachdeva
Anmol is an independent content marketing consultant who loves to write actionable pieces on small business growth, marketing automation, market research, and growth as a solopreneur. Reach out on Twitter.

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