create a marketing plan with this free template & expert advice

Just a few decades ago, Nike was a Greek goddess who personified victory. Apple was the fruit you polished and gave to your teacher. And subways were simply underground transit systems. Today, well-planned marketing campaigns have replaced a goddess with shoes, fruit with computers, and trains with sandwiches.

The lesson is clear: marketing matters. You can have a great product or service, but without an engaged, informed group of customers, you’re only going to be selling it to your family and friends.

But for even the savviest entrepreneurs, the idea of coming up with a marketing plan, and sustaining it, can seem daunting. It shouldn’t. Because it isn’t. Step back and think about why and to whom you’re marketing your product or service. Ask yourself (and someone who’s really good at taking notes), these questions:

  • What’s the point of this thing we’re offering?
  • Why should anyone care about it?
  • Who should care about it?
  • What does that target audience need?
  • How are we going to meet those needs?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll be more effective in choosing media for advertising and in deciding strategies to stay ahead of competitors. You’ll have a foundation on which to build your plan.

Templates help you build a solid marketing plan

A well-thought-out plan outlines where you want to be and how you expect to get there, just like a roadmap. With a good marketing plan onboard. Nobody feels lost on the journey, stakeholders (backseat drivers) have confidence in your decisions, and everyone involved has a point of reference – a way to check on progress and make corrections along the way.

Your marketing plan should include everything you need in order to successfully promote your business for a given period of time or for a particular project. While it can be any length, there are benefits to keeping your plan brief – even as brief as a single page.

At Atlassian, we use a marketing plan template in Confluence to help our teams to build a strategy based on this simple structure:

  • Background and objective
  • Goals
  • Competitive analysis
  • Target market
  • SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis
  • Messaging and positioning
  • Programs and timeline
  • Budget
  • Risks

Marketing plan template

Step 1: say a little something about yourself

Context matters. That’s why you should begin the marketing plan with a peek inside your organization. Take stock of where you are today and how you got here. This background information can include:

  • The market opportunity you’re pursuing and why
  • Your progress, including key milestones
  • Problems you’ve faced and overcome
  • Short-term growth plans

Sometimes it helps to be more data-driven in your approach from the very beginning (especially if you think you’re going to have some resistance to your plan). Include some convincing data points and numbers about where you’re at today. Numbers can play a huge role in making your case for why you’re here, and why you want (or need) to get to there, there being your goal.

By providing this brief history, you show all stakeholders the arc of your company’s progress and give a clear outline of what its next steps might be.

Step 2: explain what you’re trying to do here

Once you’ve described the company’s history and status, get down to the nitty-gritty. What is the objective of this plan? What are your goals? Set the long-term vision for your brand or product – if you want to be the next Apple or Nike, this is the time to declare it. Look at the incremental improvements that will add up to get you to your big goal.

Founder of Calendar and popular marketing influencer John Rampton stresses that setting clear, measurable goals is integral to a marketing plan’s success. “Some people just care about increasing metrics, but if you don’t know what those metrics are then you’re going to fail,” he says. Rampton suggests being specific about what you want – whether it’s increasing Twitter followers or sign-ups – and setting exact numerical goals so you can accurately track your progress.

Step 3: describe the competitive landscape

Provide an analysis of what your top competitors do and don’t do well. Be honest. Be clear. Be detailed. Then, describe what you offer in detail, expanding on the overview you gave in the first section, putting it in the context of the rest of the marketplace.

This competitive analysis is critical. It’s at the heart of why you have a marketing strategy. So dive into what makes them tick and what makes you tock. Honestly examine how you measure up and acknowledge where you fall short. An accurate analysis will help define important opportunities for you and your team.

Step 4: define your target audience

Marketing plans quite often are about shaking up the status quo and expanding customer bases. But they’re also about focusing on key demographics. You don’t want to waste marketing dollars chasing customers that don’t fit your niche. And you can’t customize messages to specific groups unless you identify who those groups are.

Think of who you need to communicate with in order to accomplish your objectives. Use a persona template to build out key members of your target audience and get a good understanding of why they are the right people to pursue. Remember, their role may evolve over time. A buyer may purchase a product for someone else but not use that product. That buyer becomes a user if they keep the product.

Write down everything you know about your ideal customers. And don’t stop with gender and age. Add in the details about interests and buying habits, their hopes and fears, what makes them good potential customers, and why they aren’t your customers already.

Step 5: bring in the SWOT team

Take the proverbial good hard look at each of these areas and how they could have an impact on your marketing plan and on your company’s overall progress: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

SWOT Analysis in Confluence marketing plan template

Step 6: control the narrative

Rand Fishkin, founder of the marketing software SparkToro, said that during this stage of planning, he focuses on building a strong narrative for his product. “I try to tell a story that has emotional resonance and that matches up to the product’s purpose and the audience’s desires and goals,” he says.

At Atlassian, we use the “message house” technique to organize our thoughts around narrative, positioning, and specific messages.

A template for creating a message house.

In order to form that story, Fishkin researches the pain points that customers may be facing so he can empathize with them and start to see the world through their eyes. Follow his lead and list customer pain points in your marketing plan along with goals and strategies around how you will address them. Phrase them so that you can easily measure your results against them.

Complete this process goal by goal. Working with your team, list strategies, messages, and tactics that will help you reach each goal. Then set target dates for accomplishing each one. Assign owners responsibilities for key tasks and steps. Finally, create a timeline to give a visual representation of what needs to happen when.

Step 7: crunch those numbers

The final step before the implementation of a marketing plan can be the most challenging: setting the budget. To do so, start with how much money you have for marketing and promotion. Then begin to assign numbers to the action items in your plan.

As this budget process unfolds, you’ll find it’s a powerful reality check. You’ll end up debating the value of many of the tasks you want to do, and deciding where the money will come from to do them well. This is a time for some healthy discussion, maybe some gritting of teeth, and a touch of angst. But it’s the smart thing to do before you launch the plan, not several months into it.

✅ Tip: Try the trade-off sliders technique if your team can’t agree on how to optimize your budget.

Step 8: do a final gut-check

Take one last look at the risks. What are the greatest challenges to success? How could your plan go awry? Atlassian teams often run a “pre-mortem” exercise to help anticipate problems while there’s still time to avoid them.

But although completely avoiding conflict would be ideal, Rampton suggested that marketers be ready to encounter and embrace failure as they execute their plans. If you face bumps in the road, he noted, learn from them or use them as an opportunity to adjust your goals. Your marketing plan should be fluid, not something that’s set in stone.

Step 9: execute your marketing plan!

After you’ve taken that one last deep breath, go for it. Launch the plan and watch it work. Who knows? Your brand could be the next household name. Just don’t make it Nike, Apple or Subway. Those names are taken.

. . .

Set yourself up for success with our collection of page templates for Confluence. Not a Confluence user? No worries: they’re available in PDF form, free of charge.

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Looking for even more Marketing tools for Confluence Cloud? Check out our curated list of Marketplace Apps you can use to supercharge your Marketing game in Confluence.

How to create buzz-worthy marketing plans using a simple template