DEFINITION of 'Marketing Plan'

A marketing plan is a business's operational document for advertising campaigns designed to reach its target market. A marketing plan pulls together all the campaigns that will be undertaken over a period of time, with additional information on how they will be measured and monitored. The marketing plan interacts with other business operations in several ways, including:

  • Providing market research to support pricing decisions and new market entries.

  • Tailoring the main messages to different demographics and geographic areas.

  • Selecting the platforms for promoting the product or services - digital, radio, internet, trade magazine, etc. - and the mix of those platforms for each campaign.

  • Setting up the success metrics and the results reporting timelines.

A marketing plan is built off of a company’s overall marketing strategy.

BREAKING DOWN 'Marketing Plan'

Marketing plans and strategies are often used interchangeably. This is because a marketing plan shouldn't exist without the big picture strategy backing it up. Sometimes you'll find the strategy and the plan are one document, especially for smaller companies that may only run one or two major campaigns in a year. In the strictest sense, however, the plan is what you are going to do on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis. The marketing strategy tackles the bigger question of what the value proposition is.

Creating a Marketing Plan

A marketing plan takes the value proposition of a business and sets out the schedule for a set period of time. Some marketing plans only cover a single quarter while others might cover a whole year. Ideally market research will have identified the platforms to reach the target audience - radio, social media, online ads, regional TV spots, etc. - as well as helped in crafting the key messages. The marketing plan covers the rationale for decisions and the overall marketing strategy in brief, and then focuses on the creation, timing and placement of specific campaigns and how the outcomes will be measured.

Executing a Marketing Plan

A marketing plan can be tweaked at any point based on the results. If digital ads are performing better than expected, for example, budget within a campaign can be moved to the higher performing platform or a new budget can be initiated. The challenge for the people managing the plan on any specific campaign is to give every platform the time to show results properly. Digital marketing tends to fire off results in near real-time, whereas TV ads require regular rotation to get any kind of market penetration. So there is a fine line between giving a specific element of a marketing plan too much or too little time to succeed.

In the traditional marketing mix model, a marketing plan would sit primarily under ‘promotion’ as one of the four Ps.

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