Marketing Plan 101: What Is A Marketing Plan? +5 Examples

Who handles marketing for you?

According to Vendasta, 47% of small business owners run marketing entirely on their own. Most of these small businesses don’t have a marketing plan.

Before you think, I don’t need one, can you honestly say that your current marketing campaigns generate consistent leads that convert into customers?

The problem is without a plan, there’s no strategy behind your marketing. It’s completely random.

You’ll dabble in social media marketing because an expert told you to. You’ll spend a little on Google Adwords or Facebook advertising. Maybe you sink a chunk of change into a print ad in that magazine you read all the time. But you can’t say for sure that it’s resulted in a bunch of new customers.

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Most marketing newbies focus on tactics or what I like to call shiny objects. But without a strategy (your big-picture planning), your marketing won’t work.

You’ll see money rapidly flowing out of your business, but not much flowing in. This is where your marketing plan becomes critical. I wrote a book to help you. Check it out now. But I digress. Let's take a look at what is a marketing plan?

What is a marketing plan?

Think of your marketing plan as your business’s blueprint for success. It’s an operational plan for getting and retaining customers. It outlines the overarching marketing strategy and tactics that you’ll use to get your target market to know you, like you, and do business with you regularly.

  • It gives you a clear picture of your target market. Who are they? Where do they live? What do they do? What do they struggle with?
  • It helps you to create marketing messages that resonate and ultimately get results to help you grow your business. Your customers expect one-on-one attention which requires a personal approach.
  • It tells you exactly what you need to do next. So, where to advertise? What to offer? How to capture leads? How to engage with prospects? What systems to put in place, what metrics to manage, and much more.
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Then you need to market it. But not just any marketing will do. In my new 1-Page Marketing Plan Course I show you the exact techniques I've used to start, grow, and exit several multi-million dollar businesses, so you can too.

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Stylized illustration of a 1-Page Marketing Plan.

A marketing plan is not a business plan.

Both are independent documents that need to coexist. A business plan focuses on the goals of the company as a whole. It includes the company’s mission statement, vision, financial goals, and sales and marketing strategy. The marketing plan focuses on how it will achieve these goals.

Why do you need a marketing plan?

Because winging it won’t work. I know. I made many costly advertising mistakes during my entrepreneurial infancy. I spent thousands of dollars on ads that resulted in zero customer acquisitions. Nothing! I've also coached hundreds of small business owners.

From experience, I can tell you that if you don't know why you're investing in pay-per-click or opening a Facebook account, or how to monitor and measure its performance, you're not going to get the results you want or need.

A report from Content Marketing Institute revealed that documenting your marketing strategy gives you a 538% greater chance of being successful.

Quite simply, professionals have plans.

Teachers have a curriculum they follow. Doctors follow a treatment plan; pilots follow a flight plan. Why? Because when the stakes are high, you need a plan. You need to know what to do next week, next month, in six months, in a year. And it needs to evolve.

Like technology, your marketing plan should be flexible. It's not something that you create, look at once, and never refer to again. It’s also not something you blindly follow for the next three years.

Your business isn’t static and neither is your plan. It needs to be agile. As you implement your marketing campaigns you should be tracking and measuring its success and optimizing where need be.

More importantly, you need to be able to track how your content performs.

  • How many new leads did you generate from your free webinar?
  • What was the average engagement rate on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook?
  • How much traffic did your website gain during the month? Do you know which pages performed well?
  • Which Google Adwords garnered the most click-throughs?

Perhaps you find that Instagram doesn't deliver a return on investment, but LinkedIn is flying—so you shift and focus your efforts there.

Maybe you wrote a blog article that doubled traffic to your site. Now you know what topics connect with your prospects, so you decide to create more content around it.

That's why having a marketing plan is so important. Without one, without defined key performance indicators (KPIs), you can’t know what's working and what isn't.

But you need the right plan for your business.

Introducing The 1-Page Marketing Plan.

The problem with many marketing plans is they’re overwhelming. They’re pages and pages long—with graphs, stats, and information that isn’t really going to help you grow your business.

Just look at any of the top-performing articles by searching: What is a marketing plan? You’ll find multiple options to choose from—too much to know which is the right choice.

A marketing plan needs to be simple. It’s something that you take out regularly and review. You need to see it. Unfortunately, if it’s 90-pages long, it’s probably going to get read once and never again.

That’s why I developed The 1-Page Marketing Plan template. Think of it as an entrepreneur’s small business encyclopedia.

What is the purpose of the 1-Page Marketing Plan template?

According to Sophia Xiang of The Daily Nova, The 1-Page Marketing Plan provides the proverbial map to treasure: explicit instructions for making money, simplifying what would have been a tedious, complicated task into a manageable, concise plan."

The 1-Plan Marketing Plan is an implementation breakthrough that's simple and easy to do. It’s a nine-step framework that you can literally put together in 30 minutes.

  • It's built for entrepreneurs.
  • It's built to be practical.
  • It's built to be something you use, not leave hidden in a drawer. You can place it on your wall or your desk and refer to it routinely.

Now I've used this marketing plan example in my businesses, and with many of my coaching clients. I know it works. So let's get cracking on building your marketing playbook so to speak.

A three-phased approach to building a marketing plan.

Marketing is a journey that you need to guide your prospect through to make a sale. There are three major phases in a marketing plan:

Phase 1: The Before phasefocuses on prospects

Phase 2: The During phasefocuses on leads

Phase 3: The After phasefocuses on customers

Often, business owners will ask me, What should I start with first? What is the most critical part of my marketing plan?Personally, the entire plan is critical. But you need to nail The Before phase of your marketing plan. If you don’t get this right, your marketing won’t connect.

Marketing Plan: The Before Phase—Focuses on Prospects

Unless you’re Samsung or McDonald’s, your prospect probably doesn’t know who you are.

So in The Before phase, your goal is to be noticed.

I’ll give you an example. You know how, in the movies, the nerd desperately wants to date the cool kid, but because they don’t move in the same circles. Mr. or Miss Popular doesn’t know they exist.

This is pretty much your business. If you want to attract the attention of your ideal customer, you need to become a factor in your prospect’s life. And that’s what The Before phase focuses on. It helps you to identify

Step 1: Who is your niche target market?

Step 2: What message will resonate with your buyer?

Step 3: What media will you use to reach your prospect?

Marketing Plan: The During Phase—Focuses on Leads

So leads are people who’ve indicated some interest in your offer. Now you’ve got to build on this interest and really drive home the benefits of taking your relationship to the next stage. So in The During phase, your goal is relationship-building and establishing trust.

Here’s another example. You hosted a webinar on content planning, in which 30 high-quality leads attended. You held a Q&A and many thoughtful questions were raised. So you take this knowledge and write successful blog articles that directly deal with the problems your leads are grappling with.

You have their email addresses, so you regularly share these tips and tricks. Finally, you offer five lucky subscribers a free content audit and a two-week trial at a massively discounted rate. They see value in this and decide to purchase your services. So let me ask you:

Step 4: How will you capture leads?

Step 5: What will you do to nurture these leads?

Step 6: How will you convert them to customers?

Marketing Plan: The After Phase—Focuses on Customers

Now this is where things get exciting. You're at last dealing with customers. You've done the hard work. You've won their trust, built a relationship, and enticed them enough to spend a little cash.

The goal of The After phase is to create raving fans. The reason why you want to turn customers into raving fans is that they buy from you more often. They buy in more volume and they refer new business to you more regularly.

For example, think of Apple fans. They don't just buy an Apple laptop or iPhone. They buy the iPad, the Apple watch, the TV, you name it. It doesn't matter that Samsung is the camera king. They live, breathe, and eat Apple, and they're never going to switch.

So this is what you want to achieve with The After phase.

Step 7: Outline how you'll deliver a world-class experience.

Step 8: What measures will you put in place to increase the lifetime value of your customer?

Step 9: How will you orchestrate and stimulate referrals?

So let's dive into exactly how to write your marketing plan. Answering these questions will help you to hone in on each step in building out your roadmap to success.

How to write your Plan

The 1-Page Marketing Plan is a framework where, in literally nine steps, you can clarify your whole marketing plan. So we’re talking the strategy, the tools you need to use, the tactics, the assets you’ll build, and the processes you’ll implement.

So we’re going to go in-depth into what is included in a marketing plan. The key is to complete each step as you go.

  1. Identify your niche target market.
  2. What’s your message to your target audience?
  3. What media will you use?
  4. How will you capture leads?
  5. How will you nurture leads?
  6. What’s your sales conversion strategy?
  7. How will you deliver a world-class experience?
  8. How will you increase your customer lifetime value?
  9. How will you orchestrate and stimulate referrals?

1. Identify your niche target market.

The first step in writing your marketing plan is to identify your niche audience. Why? Because targeting a broad market is costly.

Your goal is to become a big fish in a small pond. To do that, you need to home in on the people you like working with or where you can really make a tangible difference.

For example, instead of trying to sell your miracle eye cream to every adult female, target sleep-deprived moms of newborns. It's highly specific which means you're not competing against thousands of other companies.

These are some of the questions you need to answer when deciding whom to target:

  • Who is your ideal target market?
  • Who is your ideal customer?
  • Whom do you love to deal with?
  • Who is profitable to deal with?

Need help finding your niche? Read this article. It includes 8-steps to finding a niche you can dominate.

Top tip: If you’re stuck on who to target, think about segmenting.

Market segmentation is the process of dividing a broad target market like entrepreneurship and business into subcategories. These are niches that are an inch-wide and a mile-deep, so important to your success. I'll give you an example.

When I started Lean Marketing, I thought, which market am I likely to have the greatest impact. I wanted to focus on businesses looking to better their lives and the lives of their people. So I started with success education, and then I focused on business education.

But business education is quite broad. It could encompass mindset, personal development, sales training, managing finances, getting funding, whatever.

So I shifted my focus to marketing education, a subcategory, or sub-niche of business education. I could laser in on content marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing, branding, you name it.

It's more targeted, but it's still a wide sub-niche. And while I have a lot of experience in these marketing areas, my message was still likely to get lost.

So I thought, where are the gaps, where can I gain a lot of traction. For me, the glaring gap was marketing planning. At the time, there was nothing like this available for business owners to use to create a holistic plan around marketing.

And so, that's an inch-wide and a mile-deep.

2. What’s your message to your target audience?

To get your target audience to take notice of you and buy from you, you have to come up with a compelling message.

This isn’t something you do in isolation. It takes field research. You need to be on the ground interacting with your target market. Asking them questions, listening to what they say and how they say it.

Using their language in your marketing collateral is an excellent way to craft copy that connects and gets results.

Here’s what you want to know:

  • What are your customers’ wants, needs, desires, problems?
  • What message would grab their attention and make them act?

Ask open-ended questions and pay attention to their body language. If they’re nodding their heads and responding, you’re on to something good.

If they’re looking a bit bored or are casually reaching for their phone, you’ve lost them.

Then you need to think: How will I package my offer. It needs to be unique.

I’ll give you an example: the Dollar Shave Club. The idea was ingenious. Men need razor blades. Men hate shopping. So these guys created a subscription service for cheap razors blades that get delivered to your door each month.

It was a winner with the market. They didn't invent razor blades or shaving. They just tapped into most men’s hatred for shopping and provided a workable solution. And what would you know, Unilever just paid them a billion dollars for their company.

So when crafting your unique selling point, you want to think about the following:

Dollar Shave Club example of subscription-based business

It was a winner with the market. They didn't invent razor blades or shaving. They just tapped into most men’s hatred for shopping and provided a workable solution. And what would you know, Unilever just paid them a billion dollars for their company.

So when crafting your unique selling point, you want to think about the following:

  • How will your product or service make your prospects’ lives easier, better?
  • Why should they buy what you’re selling?
  • And why should they buy from you instead of a competitor?

You'll also want to tell them about all the effort you go to. So you want to share your business story. Thing is, storytelling in marketing is so effective. It makes you stand out in an already crowded market.

3. What media will you use?

In advertising, the only measure of success is: Did you get a return on investment? Did you make more money in profits than what you spent on advertising?

This, and your budget, will largely dictate what media you advertise in, so whether you use social media marketing, email marketing, digital ads, whatever.

And you might think that you know your target audience. You know where they live online or what publications they read.

A study found that 26% of small businesses don’t have a website because they don’t believe their customers are online. This is proof that you don’t know your buyer as well as you think you do.

So before spending your precious marketing budget, these are some of the questions you need to answer:

  • What is a customer worth to you? What are you willing to spend to acquire a customer?
  • What media does your target market consume? Ask them directly.
  • Do you want to spend a lot or focus on organic reach?
  • Do you spread your budget around, so invest a little in social media (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn), digital (Google Adwords, SEO, pay-per-click), public relations (learn how to write a press release now, print advertising, radio, television). Or do you focus on two lead-generating sources?

And KPIs become so important. You want to set key performance indicators (KPI) for all your marketing campaigns for your technology and the people you work with.

More importantly, you need to be able to track how your content performs.

  • What are your short-term versus long-term goals?
  • How much traffic to your website do you want each month?
  • How many unique visitors do you want to convert to leads?
  • How many leads convert to customers?
  • What’s your average transaction value?
  • What’s your break even point?

A dashboard is a great way to do this. You can use Google Analytics to determine the amount of traffic to your site, time on pages, bounce rates, etc. As long as you measure, manage, rinse, repeat. There’s always room for improvement.

4. How will you capture leads?

It baffles me how many business owners rely on social media to connect with their customers and prospects. What happens if Facebook or Instagram shut down tomorrow. How would you reach them?

According to Vendasta, 41% of small local businesses depend on social media to drive revenue.

The first bit of advice I want to give is never to rely on a single source of lead generation. You need multiple sources, for example, a book your website, a podcast, or landing page, PR, etc.

And you need this all to be funneled into a single location—this is where a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system becomes vital. It allows you to automate and organize information in a way that would be difficult to do manually.

I’ve used many in my time as an entrepreneur. My personal preference is Ontraport, but I’d recommend ActiveCampaign or ConvertKit for startups or small businesses with a database under 10,000. So, ask yourself the following:

  • What will you use to pique your prospects’ interests?
  • How will you capture these leads?
  • What do you do with them?

Also, set goals for your technology.

5. How will you nurture leads?

In many ways, lead nurturing is the most important phase of your marketing process. This is where you take someone from being vaguely interested in what you have to offer, to wanting it, and eventually buying it.

Getting this right requires a mindset shift. Don’t focus on the sale. That will come. You need to focus on educating and building a relationship. It’s about becoming a voice of value—someone your target audience looks forward to hearing from.

So these are some of the questions you need to answer:

  • How will you build trust?
  • What information will you share that resonates, engages, educates, and entertains?
  • How often will you contact your prospect?
  • When can you be sure that it’s the right time to sell?

Consistency is key. Almost half of small businesses spend two hours a week on marketing. If you want to scale your income, this simply isn’t enough.

6. What’s your sales conversion strategy?

Sales is by no means easy. For many, it feels uncomfortable or disingenuous.

My best advice when it comes to selling is: Don’t be weird. Be authentic. Be yourself.

Don’t force a sale.

If you’ve positioned yourself correctly, if you’ve pre-framed your prospect, you’ve delivered value upfront, you’ve educated, you’ve built a relationship, you’ve become a trusted advisor, the sale will come naturally.

Many small businesses make the mistake of positioning themselves on price.

Positioning your service or product as a commodity is disastrous because there will always be another company that offers a lower price.

How you position your business will determine how customers treat you and what they’re willing to pay for you.

For example, as a coach, if you position yourself as an expert authority and you deliver great results, you can charge a premium price for your services, and people will pay what you ask.

So here’s what you need to consider:

  • What is your sales process? Map it out. Think about the different stages your prospect goes through to eventually make a decision, and then sell the next step in the strategy, not the end step.
  • How will you price your product?
  • What sort of package can you offer to make the sale more enticing? Think about a-try-before-you-buy, a risk reversal offer or an outrageous guarantee, whatever.

7. How will you deliver a world-class experience?

There’s nothing quite like a raving fan. Think of them as your personal cheerleader. They can’t wait to talk about your product or service. They’ll tell anyone who’ll listen. Write a review, post on social media. You name it. They’re your champion.

Delivering a world-class experience converts customers into raving fans. But many businesses stop at a sale. They don’t follow up. They don’t stay in touch. And then that customer becomes a one-off transaction.

So part of your marketing plan is to figure out what strategies you’ll use to continually WOW your customers. Ask yourself:

  • How can I go above and beyond?
  • What business systems can I put in place that will help me deliver a world-class experience?

8. How will you increase your customer lifetime value?

Here you want to think about how you will get the customer to buy in more frequency, volume, and quality, perhaps moving them up to the next level in your program or the next highest version of your product? And doing that in a way that actually benefits the customer.

In this blog post I break down how to upsell to your customers. Check it out.

There are five ways to do this:

  • Raise your prices. If they love what you’re selling, they won’t complain about a price increase.
  • Upsell. Instead of discounting your product or service, include an add-on.
  • Offer an ascension plan, that moves customers up to a higher, better value tier.
  • Offer a subscription service, send them reminders, or give them a reason to come back—like a voucher to put towards their next purchase. It works every time.
  • Build a reactivation campaign. It costs five times as much to attract a new customer as it does to retain an existing one. And increasing customer retention by 5% increases your profits by 25% to 90%. So it’s something to give serious thought to.

You also need to consider which critical marketing metrics to measure. I’d advise:

  1. Customer lifetime value - how much does each customer spend over a lifetime?
  2. Monthly recurring revenue - this is the total recurring billing, and, ideally, this needs to grow each month.
  3. Churn rate - this is the percentage of customers who stop buying from you or cancel subscriptions.
  4. Customer satisfaction rate - how many complaints versus compliments do you receive?

These are all numbers that you should measure monthly.

9. How will you orchestrate and stimulate referrals?

Word-of-mouth marketing is powerful but notoriously unreliable. Most business owners quietly hope for a referral. This is a losing strategy. Yes, you want to add word-of-mouth marketing to your plan, but it needs to be an active process. You want to make it part of doing business with you.

So these are some of the questions you need to answer:

Implementing an email reactivation campaign that targets dormant customers is another great way to increase revenue quickly. You can find out more about how to do that here. And that’s the nine steps in your marketing plan.

Marketing Plan Examples: 1PMP Template

To help you get started, I’ve included a few examples of completed 1-Page Marketing Plans. Use these as thought-starters and a guide when filling out your marketing plan template. Build out your marketing plan with the Free 1-Page Marketing Plan Examples.

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Plan Your Way To Marketing Success

Marketing without a plan is a lot like fishing in rough seas, the chances of you catching anything are slim to none. That's just a waste of time and money. So start being intentional with your marketing.

Remember, your marketing plan identifies the steps you have to take to attract high-value leads, build relationships and ultimately convert them to customers, again, and again.

To do that, download our marketing plan template and start fleshing out your strategy for scaling your business. And if you need inspiration, check out our marketing plan examples above or leave a comment below.

If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy our article, “What is Direct Response Marketing?” As a small business owner, it’s the smarter way to market your business.

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