Behind every scalable online business is a solid marketing plan.
Planning helps you maximize your marketing spend by tracking all your marketing tactics, goals, and costs. Without one, even the best marketing ideas end up being like spaghetti thrown at a wall: nothing sticks.
The hardest part of planning is knowing where to start, and that’s where we come in. We’ve put together a free marketing plan template to help you think methodically through your marketing strategy and put it down on paper.
Use this marketing template to stay on track—and on budget—as you prepare for another year of creative campaigns and experimental ideas.
Download the marketing plan template example (.doc)
What is a marketing plan template used for?
A marketing plan template provides structure and guidance to help businesses build marketing plans that help them reach their goals and objectives. When a marketing plan is well-developed and implemented, it can help a business reach new customers, increase sales, and build brand awareness. Additionally, marketing plans can help to identify customer needs and preferences, as well as track and measure the success of marketing campaigns.
What is the 6-step process of filling out a marketing plan template?
- Write an executive summary
- Set your budget and projections
- Conduct market research
- Develop a marketing strategy
- Set up plans for measurement and reporting
- Stay on track (and under budget)
On its own, a marketing plan template isn’t going to catapult you into the marketing campaign hall of fame. It’s what you write inside that counts. The more time and effort you put into building an actionable marketing plan, the more you set your business up for future success by operating under a well thought out marketing strategy.
1. Write an executive summary
Your marketing plan should start with an executive summary that includes the important elements of your marketing strategy, like marketing objectives, goals, and the people on your marketing team. Here’s what you should include in your executive summary:
- Company name. The registered business name of your company.
- Year founded. The year you started your business.
- Location. Where is your headquarters? If you’re a store with several locations, list them here.
- Mission statement. Your mission statement is a one-liner that explains why your business exists. Starbucks, for example, uses the following mission statement: “To inspire and nurture the human spirit—one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.”
- Business objectives. What do you hope to achieve in the coming year? Most often, business goals include financial projections or big-picture plans, like opening a physical store or launching a new product line.
- Marketing goals. How do you plan to achieve those company goals with your marketing strategy? This could be anything from “Increase brand awareness with a social media strategy” to “Improve customer return rate.”
- Marketing team. List the name, job title, and responsibility of everyone in your marketing department—including stakeholders. This will keep the team accountable and make the marketing plan operational.
2. Set your budget and projections
Next, get clear on how much money you have to play with when executing your marketing plan. Use the marketing plan template to detail your total budget for the year.
For each quarter, list the channel you plan to use alongside a budget and SMART goal for tracking. For example, if you’re using Google Ads to promote new products, your budget might be $1,500 per quarter. The SMART goal could be “Drive new customers to the website at a CPA of less than $25.”
3. Conduct market research
Market research can help you uncover buyer personas, get to know what your target customers care about, find product-market fit, and do some competitive analysis.
There are several ways to do market research—from surveying previous customers, evaluating analytics, and browsing social media. We’ll cover them in this section of your marketing plan template.
Figure out your target market
To successfully market to new customers, you need a solid understanding of your target audience: who they are, what they like, and where they hang out online. That’s where market research comes in.
“If you understand who this group of people is and what set of experiences they have,” says marketing expert Ezra Firestone, “you can relate to them through shared experiences.”
Once you go through the process of developing a buyer persona and better learning who your target market is and what interests them, you’ll be better suited to market to them in a way that resonates.
Develop buyer personas, and prepare future marketing messaging, by considering:
- Age. Which demographic purchases your product the most?
- Education level. Do they have a 2.0 GPA? Are they college educated? The education level of your target audience helps fine-tune your messaging.
- Job title. If you’re selling to a business, list the job title someone purchasing your products would have—such as “merchandising manager.”
- Annual income. How much does your target customer earn per year? Those with lots of disposable income are more likely to invest in premium products.
- Hobbies and interests. What does your target customer do for fun? Tying your product in with those activities can continue the positive association with your inventory.
- Pain points. What problems does your product solve? Joe Markham, owner of KONG, created a pet chew toy after struggling to find an alternative to the rocks and sticks his dog used when teething.
- Goals and motivations. What does your target audience want to achieve in life? Ideally, your product will play a role in helping them reach it.
- Sales objections. What problems does your customer base need to overcome before purchasing? Common objections include price, lack of trust, or no urgency. Brainstorm ways to overcome them in this part of your marketing plan template.
Do competitive research
Customers have more choices than ever. Get insight into their purchase process and the triggers that would cause them to purchase your products by entering the following information on your marketing plan template. (Repeat this competitor analysis for your business/product and up to three competitors.)
- Unique selling proposition (USP). What’s the one fundamental part of your product that makes it better than any other option available to a customer?Pipcorn, for example, sells popcorn for health-conscious consumers.
- Tagline. A short, descriptive sentence that people associate with your products—like Nike’s “Just Do It.” Use Shopify’s free slogan maker if you’re still unsure of yours.
- Product price. How much do your products sell for? Benchmark its price and USP against the competition. A more expensive product will still sell if you can prove to customers that it’s worth the extra money. Once you decide on pricing, you should also detail your pricing strategy in your marketing plan.
- Sales channels. Where do competitors sell their products? Whether it’s at trade shows, through Facebook Shops, or via marketplaces, list them in this section.
- Marketing channels. Which channels do your competitors use for their marketing activities? From social media to SEO, this section shows the channels you should consider in your marketing plan.
- Audience size. For each marketing channel used by a competitor, jot down how many followers they have. A competitor crushing it on Instagram likely means you can add the same social media platform to your own marketing mix.
- Messaging. How does each competitor position their product? Magic Spoon, for example, uses clever copywriting to communicate with health-conscious adult customers. Its product is described as “high protein,” like a customer’s “favorite childhood cereal.”
Got a hero product? One that flies off the shelves faster than others? Invest more time into this competitive analysis process. In-depth product research often shows a faster—and more profitable—route to sales.
Free Reading List: Copywriting Tactics for Entrepreneurs
Is your website content costing you sales? Learn how to improve your website copy with our free, curated list of high-impact articles.
Get our Copywriting Tactics reading list delivered right to your inbox.
Almost there: please enter your email below to gain instant access.
We'll also send you updates on new educational guides and success stories from the Shopify newsletter. We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe.
Conduct a SWOT analysis
Following on from your competitive research, run a SWOT analysis to uncover your:
- Strengths. Where does your business or product excel? This could be anything from a diverse supplier list to owned intellectual property.
- Weaknesses. Which areas of your business do you struggle with? For small businesses, this may be a small customer list or lack of awareness outside your own country.
- Opportunities. What external factors could positively impact your business? These are often outside of your control, such as increasing consumer awareness of the problem you solve or a competitor’s declining market share.
- Threats. What external factors could negatively impact your business? Again, these are often outside of your control, such as declining market size or a change in regulations.
Use this marketing plan example from Bplans for inspiration on how to complete your SWOT analysis:
4. Develop a marketing strategy
This section of your marketing plan template details the marketing strategy you’ll use to reach your target market, grow your business, and make sales.
Duplicate this section for each marketing channel you’re using—such as search engine optimization (SEO), email marketing, or content marketing—and for each social media channel you plan to be active on, for both paid and organic.
Tip: As you develop marketing strategies for each of your marketing channels, remember to integrate the findings from your competitive analysis.
- Stage of the marketing funnel. Which stage of the marketing funnel is each channel designed to reach? Social media posts are typically for those at the top of the funnel, whereas email marketing campaigns might aim to convert those sitting at the bottom.
- Budget. How much money do you have to spend on each marketing channel? Get granular with each channel so you know exactly how you plan to spend your overall marketing budget.
- Software and equipment required. Which apps do you need access to for each channel? Consider associated costs in your budget. If you’re hosting Facebook livestreams, for example, you’ll need a high-quality webcam and microphone.
- SMART goal. What do you want to achieve through each marketing channel? Make it specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound—like “Increase Twitter reach by 50% in Q1.”
5. Set up plans for measurement and reporting
Plans often fail because we forget we created them. Instead of letting your completed digital marketing plan template rot in your computer folder, set a reminder to check in and report on marketing efforts. It’s the best way to make sure next year’s digital marketing campaigns improve on this year’s.
For each channel and objective, set key performance indicators (KPIs) at the beginning of each quarter. Whether you hit them or not will give you key insights into whether your strategy is making headway toward your goals. If that’s “Increase search traffic via SEO,” for example, record the average number of organic visitors arriving to your website each day.
Arguably, the most important part of your marketing plan is the analysis of your results.
If you achieved your marketing goal, detail why you think it happened. Using the SEO example above, you might say, “We met our goal of increasing organic traffic by 10% each quarter. Our investment in internal linking, optimizing product pages, and writing blog content paid off. We plan to continue this in 2022.”
For strategies that didn’t go as planned, explain:
- The reason you fell behind
- How you’ll rectify it next time
If you failed to reduce the cost per lead (CPL) of Facebook ads, for example, your analysis could be: “We didn’t meet our expectations of reducing cost per lead via Facebook ads by 20%. We think this is because consumers were oversaturated with ads in the lead-up to Black Friday. We’ll fix this in 2022 by repurposing this year’s top-performing ads. We’ll also lean on the expertise of a marketing agency, if budget allows.”
6. Stay on track (and under budget) with your marketing plan template
Whether you’re just getting started or scaling an existing ecommerce business, planning is the key to healthy, sustainable growth. A little upfront investment of your time can pay dividends in the long run—especially when you build a solid marketing plan that turns into a marketing machine that hits all of your objectives (and more).