A marketing plan is integral to the success of any growing business. A company can have excellent products, but no one will ever know they exist if they’re not promoted well. Marketing bridges the gap between a business and the rest of the world, communicating a product’s offering, bringing in customers, and generating sales — but that bridge needs a sound strategy as its foundation.
Whether you’re trying to expand your marketing team, get your business off the ground, maintain momentum, or secure outside financing to expand, a marketing plan is essential. Although a marketing plan is key to running a successful business, it’s not a substitute for a business plan; the two strategic documents have distinctly different goals and serve different purposes.
Business Plans vs. Marketing Plans.
A business plan outlines a company’s overarching vision and goals. It provides a broad look into a company’s staff, operations, structure, and finances, and it can show lenders whether a business is financially stable and sound. The smartest companies use business plans not only when they’re new and working to establish market share, but also when they are well-established. No matter the stage, business plans keep companies competitive and aligned.
A good marketing plan, however, is just one piece of an overarching business plan. By detailing a company’s target markets, competitive analysis, and tactics used to generate customers through an array of marketing methods, it shows how that company can overcome challenges and find success in its industry.
How Marketing Plans Complement Business Plans.
The main goal of a marketing plan is to answer key questions: Who are the customers? What should your marketing achieve? Which marketing tactics will help you reach that goal? How much money needs to be allocated to marketing for you to meet your goal? Defining the elements of a good marketing plan will give you a strong foundation to answer each of these questions — and to achieve overarching business goals.
A good marketing plan should be more than just an extension of a business plan. The two plans should complement each other, depend on each other, and grow together. If a business plan changes because company goals shift, the marketing plan should adapt accordingly.
It’s smart to review these plans regularly to ensure they are dynamic and in sync. A company should review its business plan at the beginning of each fiscal year and its marketing plan at least once per quarter. This keeps strategies updated and goals consistent.
What Does a Good Marketing Plan Look Like?
To create a stellar marketing plan that matches your business plan, follow these five steps:
1. Align your goals.
Every marketing plan should be rooted in a solid, well-formed business plan. It needs to outline actionable goals regarding how marketing will help the business achieve success. Because of that, ensure the goals in your marketing plan align with the goals of your business plan.
2. Analyze everything.
When it comes to building your marketing plan, analyze every aspect you possibly can. Audit your entire website. Scour online communities that mention your brand. See what your competitors are doing. Check in with your customers. The more you analyze, the more of an expert you’ll become. The more of an expert you become, the better your plan will be.
3. Balance proven tactics with new ideas.
Your marketing plan should strike a balance between innovative ideas and tried-and-true approaches. Certain marketing tools have proven their value — SEO, for example. But to complement those established approaches, use cutting-edge tactics that showcase your creativity. As you gain insight into what works and what doesn’t, you can iterate and improve.
4. Answer the “why.”
If someone were to ask “Why?” about every point in your marketing plan, you should be able to provide an answer. Question yourself when creating the plan, making sure you have an explanation for everything. Not only will this help you understand your ideas better, but it will also help you communicate the plan to teammates and company leadership. Pro tip: Answer the why directly in your plan for easy reference when somebody asks.
5. Communicate with stakeholders.
Once your plan is complete, roll it out to all stakeholders involved. Organize a companywide meeting to explain the plan at a high level, and then host smaller, more intimate gatherings with anyone directly affected. Your team members should be crystal clear on the tactics you’re asking them to use and their roles in executing the plan. Finally, make sure a copy of the plan is available so anyone can access it at any time.
It’s important to understand the difference between a business plan and a marketing plan, but it’s even more important to know how the two work together. With clearly aligned goals and thoughtful strategies for execution, your business and marketing plans will drive success.
Annabel Maw is the director of communications at JotForm, a popular online form builder that’s on a mission to make organizations more productive and people’s lives easier. This all-in-one data collection solution is perfect for gathering, organizing, and analyzing important business information. With more than 7 million users worldwide, JotForm is a trusted global brand that’s growing every day.