Q: How do you eat an elephant?

A: One bite at a time.

Often, a marketing strategy can feel a lot like an elephant, enormous and overwhelming. It is, in essence, the big picture of your marketing efforts, primarily shaped and informed by your overarching business goals. But your work doesn’t end after completing a strategy, and turning theory into practice requires a plan of action. This is where a marketing plan comes in.

What is a Marketing Plan?

Like taking a bite out of that figurative elephant, a marketing plan takes specific aspects of your marketing strategy and breaks them into smaller, achievable chunks.

When putting a marketing plan together, you ask yourself questions like:

  • What is the specific goal I want to achieve? 
  • Who is the particular customer persona or target audience I am trying to reach?
  • What is the message I want to deliver? 
  • What platforms, channels, and tactics are best suited to accomplish the goal?
  • What does success look like, and how will I measure it?

While your marketing plan is based on your marketing strategy, it is different because it is actionable. It outlines the platforms, tactics, campaigns, initiatives, and promotions you’ll run in a specific amount of time. 

Marketing Plans Vary Greatly 

When it comes to creating a marketing plan, one size doesn’t fit all. Depending on what tactics you employ to achieve a goal, you could use many types of marketing plans, such as paid marketing plans, social media marketing plans, content marketing plans, new product launch plans, and more. Marketing plans will also vary in timeframe and be flexible to accommodate any shifting priorities. 

Regardless of the type of marketing plan you create, it will usually contain:

  • Campaign goals
  • Timeline 
  • Tasks and milestones
  • Channels and platforms to be used
  • Content (visuals, key messages)
  • Budget

How Do a Marketing Plan and Strategy Work Together?

The line between a marketing strategy and a marketing plan can be so blurred that the terms are often used interchangeably. But generally speaking, marketing strategy informs the marketing plan. While the marketing strategy gives you the what and the why, a marketing plan focuses on the how. However, everything that your marketing strategy lays out should eventually be addressed in a marketing plan. 

Let’s look at an example of how you might take one point of a marketing strategy and turn it into a marketing plan.   

Marketing Strategy: Grow traffic to your site by 20%

Marketing Plan:

  • Goal: Boost website traffic by 5000 visits and get 150 conversions 
  • Timeline: 2-months
  • Target: New customers, specifically women 35 – 55
  • Channels: Instagram and Facebook
  • Task 1: Paid ad campaign offering a limited-time discount on select product line
  • Task 2: Retargeting on any visits to the website
  • Key Measurements: Traffic and conversions

In this example, you plan to run a 2-month paid ad campaign on Instagram and Facebook targeting your ideal customer, women between the ages of 35-55 years old. Because you want to expand your audience, perhaps you’ll use a lookalike audience based on your current customer list or you will try targeting another way. You are going to feature a specific product and offer a limited-time discount. You plan to track the number of site visits and conversions. You think a successful campaign would drive 5000 visits and convert 150 sales on the site. At the same time, if the ad campaign wasn’t enough, you want to retarget people who interacted with your site but did not convert to see if the additional exposure will improve conversion rates.

Marketing Plans Are Ever Evolving

The above offers only a high-level example to illustrate the difference between strategy and the plan. As you work through the plan, it will undoubtedly become even more detailed. You’ll need to work out a budget for your specific ad and retargeting campaigns. You would need to choose images and copy for the various ads you would run during the two-month timeframe. You may even decide you need more than one marketing plan because your efforts could prompt additional growth strategies, including targeted follow-up emails with the new customers you gained. 

Final Thoughts

Are you starting to feel the weight of that elephant again? Take a deep breath and tackle it one bite at a time. You now understand the elements of a general marketing plan, so try one out for yourself and see how it goes.

Remember, what makes any plan good are both the planning and execution of the details and how you respond to the results, good or bad. Marketing is an iterative process that requires constant learning and improvement. So make your plan, execute it, review it regularly, and revise as needed.

I’ll be curious to know how it goes, so do let me know in the comments below.