Does Your Business Really Need a Marketing Plan?

Defining Marketing Plans and 3 Essentials to Include in Yours

Whether you operate a local business with a modest marketing budget or a Fortune 5000 company growing at an unprecedented pace, developing a marketing plan to guide your efforts is a step towards continued growth. However, to create an effective plan, you must have a full understanding of what a marketing plan is, how it differs from other business documents and the areas it should cover.

Your Marketing Plan Is Not Your Business Plan

Before we dive any deeper, there is an important distinction to make—a business plan is not a marketing plan. That being said, these two documents are closely connected and must be consistent. Your business plan delves into the what and why of your company (what you do, why you exist, what your goals are). Your marketing plan covers the how (how you will meet or surpass those goals).

Key Elements of a Marketing Plan

While this is not an all-inclusive list, marketing plans for businesses of all sizes should cover the following three key areas.

In-Depth Look at Your Target Audience

Who is your ideal customer? Most businesses have a condensed version of this answer—the elevator pitch of target audience descriptions. Your marketing plan is an opportunity expand on that description to create detailed, psychographic-heavy, behavior-focused profiles.

Identifying your target audience, down to their mindset, purchasing habits and influences, means having a true understanding of why consumers make the decisions they do. Once you know who you’re talking to, your marketing plan should outline how best to reach them.

Marketing Channels and Tactics

Developing a marketing mix begins by identifying your company’s goals—remember, your marketing strategy is how you will meet those goals. Your marketing plan should outline key performance indicators (KPIs) to determine the success of your strategy. For example, KPIs for a credit union running a mortgage campaign for first-time homebuyers may include the number of mortgage applications completed, calls to mortgage specialists or contact form submissions.

With your objectives in mind, your marketing plan should detail any tactics to be employed as part of your strategy. Which social platforms will your brand be active on? Will you run online ads or purchase ad space in the local paper? Channels and tactics are not limited to print and digital formats, these can also be corporate partnerships, speaking engagements, community events, etc.


Marketing without measurement is a recipe for wasted spend and missed opportunities. The only way to reach your brand’s goals or improve on past efforts is to know how your marketing strategy is performing.

Your marketing plan should cover how you will measure the success of your efforts. From website visits and conversions to ad impressions and return on investment, set clear parameters for how this information will be gathered, analyzed and distributed, as well as if/when adjustments can be made to bolster results.

One final thing to note, like many other business practices, writing a marketing plan is not a one-size-fits-all process. Marketing plans are unique to the organization they represent and may differ greatly from company to company. When writing your own marketing plan, remember it should embody your brand and what makes you unique.