They say a failure to plan is a plan to fail. So it comes as no surprise that at some point, every marketer or entrepreneur faces this same important question:

How can I actually create a great marketing plan without it dominating my life for the next three months?

The real pain is not the writing or planning itself, but descending into the endless rabbit hole of questions and contradictory answers:

  • What are the most important steps in marketing planning?
  • What’s the best digital strategy framework?
  • How to target the audience, perform competitive analysis, and define KPIs?
  • Which communications plan template should I use?
  • How to craft a great digital marketing or content plan?

We’d like to suggest a shortcut. Why not just adopt the cheat codes and mentality of someone who writes marketing plans for a living? That’d be us, The Walk, an integrated marketing agency with a knack for strategy.

We’ve summarised years of marketing plan writing across industries and continents in a compact step-by-step guide packed with tips, tricks, hacks and examples. You can grab the
free ebook right here, or keep reading to get a sneak peek of the wisdom inside, presented in a fun journey-esque format.

Buckle up, and let’s get going!

1. The Pilot: you and your current situation

Who are you? How are things going? You’ll want to start with these critical questions to kickstart your marketing planning process, and you’ll do that by doing the following:

  1. Define a crystal-clear unique selling proposition (USP)
  2. Craft an elevator pitch that puts USP it in the right context
  3. Conduct a situation analysis with a brutally honest SWOT

The steps above are best done sequentially, and if you follow the examples, tips and tricks in our ebook you’ll master them in no time. What’s less easy to master – or in fact recognise – is the challenge many marketers face: they get so caught in daily exposure to their company that they find it hard to focus on the big picture, which hinders their planning efforts.

So, our piece of agency secret-sauce-advice is this: think big by forgetting. Start from a blank slate and pretend you’re encountering your company for the first time, and you’ll get many more variable insights.

2. The Passenger: a customer you know by name

These days, savvy marketing is all about relationships. Intimate, honest, human relationships with the customers riding shotgun on you journey to success. To achieve that, you need to see these customers as real people, instead of numbers on a spreadsheet.

That’s why you’ll want to craft audience personas: hypothetical people who represent the common traits of the audiences that you’re targeting.

It’s a bit tricky to get personas just right, but the general idea is to average out traditional segmentation criteria and craft them into a lifelike personality with real interests, goals and aspirations. Read the ebook to learn the step-by-step process and meet our sample persona: a small-town Aussie family entrepreneur with a very particular opinion on IT…

3. The Departure: market and brand positioning

Just like GPS has latitude and longitude, your departure point also needs two coordinates:

  • Market (competitive) positioning: where you are in the competitive battlefield
  • Brand positioning: where you are in the minds of consumers

The tricky challenge at this stage is to determine the “resolution” of these coordinates. Just the city, or do you need the full address? Across many clients, industries and marketing research budgets, we’ve found a pretty neat cut-off point after which intel gathering turns into “stalking,” and brand analysis into an exercise in self-consciousness. In the ebook we’ll show you how to find your own sweet spot, considering things such as:

  • The optimal number of competitors
  • Researching indirect competition (substitutes)
  • How to compare USPs and intersections
  • Channels to analyse (traffic, sales, outbound etc.)
  • How to make a perceptual map that you can actually put into action

The same principle applies to brand positioning: you’ll want an effective, yet simple process. We love using a tried-and-tested formula adapted on Amazon’s legendary statement from back in 2001, when they mostly sold books:

For World Wide Web users who enjoy books, is a retail bookseller that provides instant access to over 1.1 million books. Unlike traditional book retailers, provides a combination of extraordinary convenience, low prices, and comprehensive selection.

Can you spot the “evergreen” elements in there? Hint: there are as much as 8, and you can apply them to your marketing plan in minutes. Of course, the answer is in our ebook, right here.

4. The Destination: SMART goals, objectives and KPIs

Ok, sweet. With all that info, we can now decide where we’re going, and how will we track our progress in getting there. Will it be layover time? Fuel efficiency? Calories burned? Sunsets instagrammed?

This is the stage where we define:

  • Goals — the top-level intentions, those found right below the business’ overarching purpose
  • Objectives — measurable targets you need to hit to achieve goals
  • KPIs — Key Performance Indicators that track progress quantitatively

The list is hierarchical, i.e. KPIs measure objectives, which in turn define goals. For all three elements, you’ll want to quantify everything you can, and quantify well:

  • Make goals and objectives rigorously S.M.A.R.T. – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound
  • Choose KPIs that work well for your industry and business model, with the optimal mix of sales, marketing and digital KPIs (e.g. sales per rep, CPA, email open rate)

Excellent. Ready to hit ‘navigate’!

5. The Journey: strategy & six-month communication plan

Finally, the really fun part: the journey itself. This is where we set real change in motion with strategy and tactics.

There’s no “right” way to do strategy. Most of it is gut feeling and testing, which is why this hack is particularly useful: the buying cycle, a marketing plan template model to offer your customers:

The right message, at the right time, through the right channels.

Customers go through six predictable stages as they discover your solutions – awareness, research, comparison, purchase, retention – and in the ebook you’ll find extensive guidance on how exactly to tackle each stage.

With the strategy defined and ready, it’s time to plan tactics in your 6-month communication plan. In our experience, this time frame works best, and in the guide, we share the content plan template we use daily for ourselves and our clients.

Bring the goodies! Grab our template in the ebook.

Now, your turn to hit the road

Writing a marketing plan doesn’t have to be daunting when you see it as the exciting journey that it is and pack the right travel guide in your suitcase.

Whether you’re getting started with your first marketing plan or you’re a seasoned marketing exec trying to save time and multiply results, our marketing plan ebook is for you. Go ahead and download it for free to learn all steps to follow and indulge in examples, downloadables, and every trick in the marketing (e)book.

Thanks for lending your time to this article. We hope you’ve found it helpful and that it has inspired you to aim for the stars with your marketing plan. If you didn’t know, The Walk is a results-oriented agency that lives and breathes strategy. We’ve let go of the old media-dependent model: we don’t just make “print,” “digital” or “events,” but with a mix of any medium and idea that gets our clients results.

We’re based in Melbourne, Australia, but we work for clients across Asia Pacific and the USA. Come say hello!