If the word “planning” conjures images of endless meetings or hefty documents, the simplicity of using a marketing plan template may come as a relief. Planning should make a process easier, not more complicated. At its most basic, planning is about setting goals and identifying steps to achieve them. Whether you’re working on a new business, a marketing campaign, or a birthday party, having a plan of action can help you realize your desired outcome.
To assist in your planning process, we’re offering a variety of templates below, designed for sales and marketing, tactical marketing, social media, budget planning, strategic marketing, competitive analysis, and more. You’ll find marketing plan templates for Excel, all of which are free to download and to customize as needed.
Marketing Plan Template
This free marketing plan template includes sections for online marketing, media relations, trade shows and events, other branding efforts, and sales campaigns. The plan clearly identifies objectives, along with target market and total costs. Months of the year are broken down into weeks for easy planning. You can modify this template to include any elements that are vital to your marketing plan.
Digital Marketing Plan Template
This digital marketing plan template includes sections for online advertising and analytics, content marketing and SEO strategy, social media, and tools for tracking metrics. The template is divided into months, so you can create a timeline for your digital marketing plan. Use this template to create a comprehensive plan of action for online marketing.
Sales & Marketing Plan Template
This sales and marketing plan template facilitates planning around sales goals and promotional activities. This is an annual calendar template with all 12 months shown on one worksheet. There are sections for public relations, online content marketing, advertising, and research. Monthly sales goals are defined at the top of the template, and there is space at the bottom for metrics to evaluate marketing effectiveness.
Tactical Marketing Plan Template
Keep track of the tactics that need to be completed as you implement your marketing strategy. This tactical marketing plan lists each task, the person responsible for the action, expenses, dates, and status. Use this template to keep your plan on schedule and to assess progress.
Marketing Schedule Template
If you need a simple calendar with room for notes, this marketing schedule template offers a visual layout with separate columns for important events, tasks, and deadlines. View each month at a glance, and create a daily or weekly schedule for your marketing plan. This template offers few details and lots of freedom for modifications to fit your needs.
Marketing Timeline Template
A marketing timeline provides a visual reference for scheduling and tracking your plan. Keep track of which tasks need to be done when, and modify your timeline as your marketing plan changes. This timeline template is a basic Gantt chart that is simple to use and easy to read.
Competitive Analysis Template
This competitive analysis template provides a detailed spreadsheet for evaluating your business and competitors based on different product categories. For each product, compare key attributes and channels, pricing, credibility, promotional offers, and other relevant findings from your research. Identify potential partners and opportunities, and use your competitive analysis to inform your marketing strategy.
Monthly Marketing Budget Plan Template
This budget template shows each month of the year, so you can view monthly and yearly costs. The template includes sections for expenses related to personnel, market research, marketing communications, and more. This simple spreadsheet is a powerful tool for planning your marketing budget.
Blog Editorial Calendar Template
Use this template to brainstorm blogging topics, schedule and assign blog posts, mark the status of each article, and track SEO keywords. This template provides a weekly overview so you can see your editorial calendar at a glance, as well as detailed information for each post. Use the template as is, or edit the columns to reflect your planning process.
Social Media Marketing Plan Template
This template focuses on social media messaging. Make a schedule for the content you plan to promote on social channels so that you don’t miss important events or forget to post on certain sites. Social media has become a vital part of online marketing, and this template provides an additional tool for content planning.
What Is a Marketing Plan?
A marketing plan is a document that outlines your marketing strategy and objectives. The fundamental purpose of a marketing plan is to improve the success of your business or organization. If done well, a marketing plan can provide insight into your business and help ensure that you’re providing effective services or products to your customers.
A sound marketing strategy is becoming increasingly important for businesses in today’s competitive market, in which the content a potential customer engages with largely defines their decision to buy. In fact, a 2014 Forbes article published some surprising statistics:
A buyer completes 70-90 percent of his or her journey prior to engaging with a vendor (Forrester).
A consumer engages with an average of 11.4 pieces of content before making a purchase (Forrester).
Consumers were five times more dependent on content in 2014 than they were in 2009 (Nielsen).
What your marketing plan looks like will depend on the size and type of your business, but even small businesses and nonprofits can benefit from careful planning. Typically, the marketing department drives the strategy and creates the plan. However, because the marketing plan has so much bearing on customer reach and retainment, many other parties will benefit from a strong marketing plan, including the sales department, CMOs, directors, company owners, and consultants or agency account managers.
As you will see from the specific marketing plan templates included below, you can create a plan for a variety of use cases. These include the following:
Social media marketing
Planning a new business
In the following sections, we’ll flesh out the benefits of creating a marketing plan, show you what to include in a marketing plan, and provide tips for optimizing your plan. Plus, we offer several use-case-specific templates that you can download and customize for free.
Benefits of a Strong Marketing Strategy and Marketing Plan
A strong marketing plan can serve as a roadmap for your organization, and taking the time to write a formal plan — rather than relying on esoteric goals or vague strategy — can heighten the success of your overall marketing efforts. A marketing plan can help you accomplish the following:
Set realistic and measurable objectives.
Answer key questions about your business (and how this effort fits into high-level organizational goals).
Identify your target audience/customers and define how to best reach them.
Develop a structured approach to building products and services that satisfy customers’ needs.
Retain your customers.
Save time and money.
Ultimately, your marketing plan acts as a reference document that will hold you accountable and help you execute your marketing strategy.
What to Include in a Marketing Plan
The details of your marketing plan will vary based on the intent of your initiative and the type of industry, but most plans share common elements. A typical marketing plan outline will include the following:
An executive summary or overview of the plan (with supporting documentation)
A background analysis
A mission statement
A description of your target customers and their needs
Clearly defined marketing objectives — consider creating SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-bound)
Marketing strategy, including product, price, distribution, and promotion
A SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats)
An action plan
A method of evaluation, including both metrics and standards of performance
While a successful marketing plan typically includes all of these elements, you can take extra steps to bring your plan to the next level. In the next section, we provide tips on maximizing the clarity and usefulness of your marketing plan.
Best Practices for Creating a Strategic Marketing Plan
You can elevate the utility of your marketing plan by taking extra time to add elements and perform in-depth analysis of your audience, brand, and budget. Below are some tactical and analytical tips that will help you get the most out of your marketing strategy planning:
Create a dynamic marketing plan. With so much information to cover, your plan might end up being a long, text-heavy document. Include a table of contents so that your readers can easily navigate through the plan, attach an appendix for any support material, and provide graphics (tables, graphs, pictures, etc.). Also consider creating a one-page version that captures the most important high-level information.
Understand your audience. A successful marketing campaign hinges on being able to connect your message with your target market. Use Google Analytics or another engagement analysis platform to identify your audience and their behavior, and consider creating audience personas so that you know who you are producing content for. In addition, learn your buyer’s purchase cycle — how, when, where, and why your customer base buys — and the type of content they consume at each stage of the cycle. For reference, a simplified breakdown of the typical buyer’s cycle follows these three stages:
1. Awareness, in which people consume ebooks, eguides, editorial, blog posts, white papers, and reports.
2. Consideration, in which potential buyers consult podcasts, webinars, video, and expert solution guides.
3. Decision, in which people look to product comparisons, case studies, free trials/downloads, and product-focused content to make their final buying decision.
Ensure your brand is strong and stands out. This concept is complex and requires continual attention and iteration. From a marketing perspective, you can begin building brand integrity by defining your unique selling proposition, optimizing your website and all other distribution channels, and creating great content. Be sure to elicit feedback from other departments so that the marketing material is in line with organizational messaging and goals.
Create realistic financial goals. Like all other business concerns, success relies on sound budgeting. Define your budget early on to set expectations around spending and to identify any potential financial gaps, and create some metrics and KPIs that are related to financial success. In addition, make sure you can realistically support any special offers, discounts, or rewards that you offer.
You can also tap into several accessory activities to strengthen your marketing planning. These include the following:
Online marketing strategy
Joint ventures and partnerships
Strategy for increasing transaction prices
No matter what elements you include in your plan, using a template can save time, provide organization, and enhance communication within your marketing team or between departments. In the following section, you’ll find 10 free, downloadable marketing plan templates, all of which you can customize to fit your needs.
Strengthen Your Marketing Strategy and Plan with Smartsheet
Creating a strong marketing plan is the first step in ensuring the success of a new product or service, but you’ll also need to continually manage your efforts to maximize your reach. To do so, consider using a software tool that allows you to collaborate with team members, track work against goals, and view progress in real time.
Smartsheet is a work management and automation platform that enables enterprises and teams to get from idea to impact - fast. Extraordinary marketers rely on Smartsheet for campaign management, initiative tracking, content calendars, event management, and more.
Use Smartsheet to boost accountability by maintaining consistency across channels and campaigns, save time with centralized resources, and increase campaign speed to market. Seamlessly connect marketing efforts to ROI, accelerate delivery of marketing initiatives, and improve alignment with internal and external stakeholders.
Discover how Smartsheet can help maximize your marketing efforts, today.