5-part marketing plan template to stay on top of your game

Rudimentary marketing plan made with sticky notes

If you are anything like me, you already have your entire life envisioned and coming out of your imagination as a 3D billboard. Vision is never an issue for most of us. It’s the action-taking part that bugs us. And I’d say it’s not a big deal because in most cases, letting things fall into place ends up leading us close to our goals. But when it comes to marketing, we need to be a bit more proactive with our planning. There are too many moving pieces for it not to be a mess if we let our marketing strategy “fall into place”.

So, let’s get planning! It all starts with having the right marketing mindset and boils down from there. From strategy, to planning, to execution. In this post, I’ll share the marketing plan template that forces me to focus only on what matters. No tangents, no wastes of time.

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To follow along, you only need a well-crafted marketing strategy.

But if you don’t have it yet, you can check out my simplified, 6-step marketing strategy framework. It’s not mandatory, but I’ll be building on top of the framework and examples I shared in that guide.

What’s a marketing plan for?

There are two terms I often hear people use interchangeably: “strategy” and “plan”. Not to be picky, but these ask for a little explanation. A strategy is like the route that we have to follow to get to a certain destination, our goal; whereas the plan is more like an itinerary. The plan determines whether our trip is safe and enjoyable or erratic and messy. In other words, it contains the details that’ll make or break the strategy.

A marketing plan is essential so we don’t neglect important aspects of our strategy, missing the forest for the trees. Or derail entirely, changing the tactics, which would make it hard — if not impossible — to measure our results accurately.

Minimalist marketing plan template

Just like a marketing strategy, marketing plans can be super long. But they don’t need to. There are only 5 questions a marketing plan needs to answer to be effective:

Carylis Palacios' marketing plan template preview
  1. Why are we doing this, and how does it push our strategy?
  2. Who do we want to target and at what stage are they at?
  3. What are we offering that’s so irresistible for our target, at this stage?
  4. Where can we reach them with this irresistible offer?
  5. When exactly will we present the offer, within the strategy’s timeline?

If you don’t know all the answers, don’t worry. Together, we’ll go through each of them and some best practices to make it crystal clear. I promise, it’s more straightforward than it seems!

#1 Why?

Each and every one of your marketing plan activities should tie back to your goals. So, look at your strategy’s goal and be critical when asking, “Why are we doing this plan?” and, “How can this plan help us achieve our goal, realistically?”

Preview of marketing plan template, section “Why?” about relevance

Free marketing strategy template

This is a question you want to ask at every step of the planning process and at multiple levels.

#2 Who?

With your strategy done, your customer avatar should be more than clear to you. But, there’s more to it than knowing your audience. You also need to know their customer journey. So, the next question is, “Who is our target audience?” Or, more specifically, “Who will we need to persuade, and where are they at in their journey?”

Preview of marketing plan template, section “Who?” about the customer avatar journey

Free marketing strategy template

Being targeted is easier and more likely to drive results. Think about it, what does it sound better…?

  1. Convincing someone who doesn’t know a thing about your product or service how amazing it is?
  2. Placing your offer to someone who knows what they need and actively wants to get it?
  3. Targeting both segments at once and hoping both understand and value what you have to say?

Not the last option, that’s for sure! But, even in the first two scenarios, we need to focus on making our message as targeted as possible. That’s why you want to empathize with your audience’s needs, wants, and desires.

#3 What?

On the same note of targeting the right audience, we have to be specific about what it is we are promoting. Awareness of our products and services unique use cases is key. And I know this is hard to hear, we all want to believe what we offer is outstanding, but… Is it? And even if it truly is, ask yourself, “What is our unique value proposition?” And consider, “What makes this offer stand out and irresistible for our target audience?”

Preview of marketing plan template, section “What?” about the offer and unique value proposition

Free marketing strategy template

What’s a superb offer for some market segments might not be valued by others. So, be honest about the offer, don’t sugarcoat the benefits yet, and try to position it correctly.

#4 Where?

Based on your target audience behaviors and your strategy breakdown, choose the best channels to execute the strategy. I’d also go as far as looking at the medium and formats for it, even if it’s just a loose suggestion. Because this point ties back to our strategy’s budget and timeline constrains.

Ask yourself, “Where does our audience hang out, at this stage of their customer journey?” Also, “What can we afford to do at this point?”

Preview of marketing plan template, section “Where?” about the channels, medium, and formats

Free marketing strategy template

Note that there’s a fine line between being ambitious and being outlandish. Be realistic, and you won’t set up yourself for failure.

#5 When?

Finally, it’s time to put a date on every deliverable in this plan. Look at your strategy timeline and breakdown sections to ensure your plan gets done on time. Depending on the complexity of your strategy, how you calculate times will vary. Widely.

But the question to ask is, “When exactly will we present the offer to our target audience, within the strategy’s timeline?”

Preview of marketing plan template, section “When?” about the timeline and deadlines

Free marketing strategy template

The best practice — specially when it comes to inbound marketing — is to craft an editorial calendar. The only rule you must follow with yours is to clarify it, accessible, and easy to use.

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Free marketing strategy template

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Free marketing strategy template

Easy and customizable marketing strategy template preview on a tablet