What Is a Marketing Plan?

A marketing plan is an operational document that outlines an advertising strategy that an organization will implement to generate leads and reach its target market. A marketing plan details the outreach and PR campaigns to be undertaken over a period, including how the company will measure the effect of these initiatives. The functions and components of a marketing plan include the following:

  • Market research to support pricing decisions and new market entries
  • Tailored messaging that targets certain demographics and geographic areas
  • Platform selection for product and service promotion—digital, radio, Internet, trade magazines, and the mix of those platforms for each campaign
  • Metrics that measure the results of marketing efforts and their reporting timelines

A marketing plan is based on a company’s overall marketing strategy.

Without the correct metrics to assess the impact of outreach and marketing efforts, an organization will not know which campaigns to repeat and which ones to drop; maintaining ineffective initiatives will unnecessarily increase marketing costs.

Understanding Marketing Plans

The terms marketing plan and marketing strategy are often used interchangeably because a marketing plan is developed based on an overarching strategy framework. In some cases, the strategy and the plan may be incorporated into one document, particularly for smaller companies that may only run one or two major campaigns in a year. The plan outlines marketing activities on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis while the marketing strategy outlines the overall value proposition.

Fast Fact

A study for 2019 conducted by CoSchedule, a provider of marketing software solutions, found that marketers with a documented plan or strategy are 313% more likely to report success in their marketing campaigns. The company surveyed 3,599 marketers from more than 100 countries.

Creating a Marketing Plan

A marketing plan considers the value proposition of a business. The value proposition is the overall promise of value to be delivered to the customer and is a statement that appears front and center of the company website or any branding materials.

The value proposition should state how a product or brand solves the customer's problem, the benefits of the product or brand, and why the customer should buy from this company and not another. The marketing plan is based on this value proposition to the customer.

The marketing plan identifies the target market for a product or brand. Market research is often the basis for a target market and marketing channel decisions. For example, whether the company will advertise on the radio, social media, through online ads, or on regional TV. 

The marketing plan includes the rationale for these decisions. The plan should focus on the creation, timing, and placement of specific campaigns and include the metrics that will measure the outcomes of marketing efforts.

Key Takeaways

  • The marketing plan details the strategy that a company will use to market its products to customers.
  • The plan identifies the target market, the value proposition of the brand or the product, the campaigns to be initiated, and the metrics to be used to assess the effectiveness of marketing initiatives.
  • The marketing plan should be adjusted on an ongoing basis based on the findings from the metrics that show which efforts are having an impact and which are not.

Executing a Marketing Plan

A marketing plan can be adjusted at any point based on the results from the metrics. If digital ads are performing better than expected, for example, the budget for a campaign can be adjusted to fund a higher performing platform or the company can initiate a new budget. The challenge for marketing leaders is to ensure that every platform has sufficient time to show results.

Digital marketing shows results in near real-time, whereas TV ads require rotation to realize any level of market penetration. In the traditional marketing mix model, a marketing plan would fall under the category of "promotion," which is one of the four Ps, a term coined by Neil Borden to describe the marketing mix of product, price, promotion, and place.