Top 5 elements of a marketing plan

By Kesha Thillainayagam

Congrats! If you’ve made it this far, you have the strategic foundation set for your marketing plan. You know your target audience, have analyzed the competition and assessed your market opportunities and where your organization is strongest with a SWOT analysis.

Hopefully, you’ve written down all that good thinking in a marketing plan that records your decisions. You’ll need to be sure everyone is on the same page with your overall plan, including the campaign goals. Here are some questions you should discuss so you can agree on the answers:

What differentiates our product or service?

Why do our customers love us?

Who are we marketing to?

What does our target audience need?

How are we going to meet those needs?

How will we measure success?

Why do our customers love us?

What does our target audience need?

How will we measure success?

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Not sure everyone is aligned? Try the marketing plan template from Confluence to gather your thinking. Ask all the decision makers to react and sign off!

Before you jump into creating the assets and getting them into market, now it is time to get more granular. Your campaign plan isn’t complete until you’ve also got:

  • An overall content strategy
  • A channel strategy and corresponding KPIs
  • The cadence
  • A plan for your ad campaign
  • The final budget

Here’s a closer look at each of the elements:

Content strategy

If you think you don’t need a content strategy, you’re almost certainly wrong. You may have gotten away without one in the past, but every business today has some element of content production. At the very least you likely have a website or Facebook page, right? You created your positioning that covers what you do, why you are the best one to deliver the product or service, and why customers should pick you — but now you need to explain those things to your audience. You’ll need some kind of content to do it, from ad copy to a web page, tweets to a video. You could also show you’re a thought leader by sharing fresh, regular content in blog posts on your website, which can boost its ranking on search engines. To get the most out of your content efforts on your site and elsewhere, you need a content strategy.

At the planning stage, here is what you will want to outline:

  • What content do you already have? Conduct a content audit, mark down what can be reused, refreshed, or retired. If you unearth useful assets, you’ve just gotten a head start without spending time or money on content development.
  • What types of content will you produce and where will you put it? Can you create and publish blog posts? Video? Web pages? Print, online, or downloadable guides? Newsletters? Webinars? Virtual and/or live events? Audio/podcasts? Consider your internal talent and resources, vendors, or partners who can help you create content.
  • How much content do you need? Do you need to fill a website, keep a blog fresh, or post on social media regularly? Can you create some new content out of existing assets — like making an infographic out of a blog post full of stats? How much original content will need to be created? Think about the talent and budget so you make a plan you can sustain.
  • Who will be in charge of content? All your new content will need to be assigned, written, designed, produced, deployed — and tracked every step of the way. It might also need to be checked for grammar and spelling, for copyright, and perhaps go through a legal and brand internal review. Who will shepherd it through?
  • What topics and keywords will you cover? Refer back to your positioning and messaging, personas, and competitive analysis. Where can you stand out in your field with your content? Are there SEO keywords you should target?
  • What events require content? Are there trade shows, holidays, and theme months that are opportunities for content that meets customer needs or drives leads?

You guessed it: You’ll want to write it all down, share it with your team and stakeholders for their feedback, and then finalize your content strategy.

Content strategy template

Yes, we’ve got a Confluence template for content strategy to help you capture all the necessary info in one place — and make sure you don’t leave anything out.

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If you are expecting some resistance to your plan, it helps to be more data-driven in your approach. Include data points and numbers about where you're at today, and let them inform where you need to go next.

Channels and KPIs

Next, you need a channel strategy, which boils down to picking where it’s best to reach your target audience. There are so many options to choose from. Here are a few ideas to help narrow down the options:

  • Age: Different ages hang out on very different channels. Looking for 18 to 24 year olds? Skip direct mail and Facebook.Go for Instagram, SMS, or newer social channels. Speaking of social media channels, each one has its key demographics listed. Take a look at this data to confirm you are picking the right platform.
  • B2B: For B2B, be sure to set up a LinkedIn company page, send some emails, and have a presence at industry events (virtual or live). These tactics are top-notch for reaching businesses you want as customers. Paid ads work too (more on that later).
  • Competition: Take a look at competitors’ channel selections for “inspiration.” You may find some useful ideas for where they’re doing their marketing, the types of content they’re using, and get a sense of the social engagement they’re getting. It’s fair game to get inspired to try similar tactics for your brand.

Beyond that, you need to set a strategy that works particularly well for your product and target audience. Not sure where to start with picking channels? This is where your personas come in. They can point you in the right direction if you follow your thinking all the way to the channels they’re likely to be using.

Pick some channels to test, and then select the key performance indicators (KPIs) that you’ll use to judge if your marketing is effective. You won’t know for sure until you measure the results.

Here are some KPIs to consider tracking:

  • Email: Open rates, click through rates, unsubscribes, bounces
  • Direct mail: Mail quantity, response rate, pay rate
  • Social media: Likes, shares (retweets for Twitter), comments
  • YouTube (Video): Reach, views, completes, comments, likes, shares
  • Display ads: Impressions, click through rates
  • Website: Visits, new visits, page views, bounce rate, page views per visit, source of traffic (referrals)
  • Audio/podcasts: Downloads, listen time, ratings and reviews

Set your cadence

Of course, even the best content or ad could flop if you deliver it too often or not often enough. That’s why you need a plan for the cadence. The main factor may be your budget, but remember that more isn’t always better. Too many emails can make your open rates drop and your unsubscribes increase. Those are signs to cut back.

And don’t forget that there’s a lot you can do for free. You can even get email and social media management tools you can use for free, if your needs are simple and your cadence is below the threshold.

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