Modern marketing is complex. But it doesn’t have to be.

Having worked across multiple industries from Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) to eCommerce and gotten sucked into the hype of new marketing channels from social media to influencers to content marketing, I can understand how marketers get tripped up on how to think about building a marketing plan in today’s industry environment and media landscape. New terminology is constantly introduced even when concepts aren’t new but applied to new tools and channels. And, experts in specific fields champion certain tactics as if all marketers across all industries should jump in full force.

Before doing that, stop! It’s helpful to step back and revert to fundamentals that still apply in today’s marketing world. In this article, I want to break down in simple terms what is helpful to have in place before building your Marketing Plan and an approach to building a plan regardless of what new tactics may come into play. The marketing and media world can continue to be complex, but your planning can be simplified.

So, let’s start here. These are the elements you will want to have in place as your foundation before starting to build an annual Marketing Plan:

  • Develop your Brand Platform, including your brand essence or promise, the brand positioning, personality and tone, key messages, and distinct visual assets.

  • You should be clear on your consumer target(s) or audiences. Who is your primary, secondary, and tertiary targets? Or, who are the multiple audiences you need to target to grow your brand? Ideally, have Personas created for each.

  • Finally, understand the Customer Journey for your key audiences—how do they start their shopper journey, how do they learn of product offerings, where do they seek out information to inform their purchase, how are they influenced, and where and how do they buy. You should also understand their motivations for and doubts or barriers around their purchase. Doing a “Day in the Life” exercise can also give you insight into the right apertures around which to reach your audience at a time they will be most receptive to it.

With that in hand, you can then consider these 6 components to building your Annual Marketing Plan.

  1. Articulate your Marketing Objective and Goals. These should, in turn, support your Business Objective and Goals. They will consider your consumer or audience and what action you are wanting them to take. Think about the consumer insight around barriers you may need to overcome or an insight you believe you need to tap into to unlock growth. You may be considering where you are trying to move your brand From and To or the fact that you may be trying to expand your audiences to a new growth target to maintain relevance and to drive growth. You also may be expanding into new sales channels. Your Goals should be metrics; what needs to be achieved to deliver on the business ambitions. What are your household penetration or awareness goals or perhaps your conversion and retention goals? If you don’t have access to that type of data, then what are simply your sales or share goals?

  2. Define key Marketing Strategies. These are the broad approaches that you will take to your marketing that will inform channels and tactics. These strategies should be informed by the Customer Journey to identify the right apertures to reach the customer with the right messages. These can also be informed by your business maturity, your go-to-market model, your category, resources, level of marketing sophistication, and budget.

  3. Prioritize your Channels. Considering your Marketing Strategies, outline in a simple table what Paid, Owned, and Earned channels and tactics you will deploy across the Marketing Funnel from Awareness, Consideration, Trial, Repeat, and Advocacy. (Note that your Funnel may vary depending on your type of business such as if you are B2C vs. B2B.)

  4. Allocate your budget. From there, it’s helpful to have a guide on how you’ll want to allocate your budget across these tactics based both on importance, but also realistically cost. Be careful about placing too much of your spend in the bottom of your funnel. You may want to come back to this after you look at your spend through the lens of your Campaigns for the year. You may need to reallocate across the channels depending on how your campaigns take shape.

  5. Build your Marketing Calendar and Campaigns. Finally, taking all this into account, you want to build your Marketing Calendar and Campaigns. Consider key time periods and priorities for your business. You’ll want to think about how you’ll build the tactics per time period to create synergistic effects. One thing many miss, despite marketing tactics having different ROI’s, is that they build on each other. When thinking of these time periods, think in Campaigns. You may have separate campaigns with different objectives, as well, such as brand building campaigns. You also may have some tactics that are evergreen throughout the year, such as your email marketing. Some emails will be tied to a campaign and some likely will not. Another thing to consider is the potential of using campaign arcs—taking one campaign or idea and maximizing it over time hitting different consumer targets (e.g., releasing the campaign starting with a loyal audience and then expanding out to broader audiences) or building on the idea over time. Or, you may think about how you want to take your consumers on a journey with the brand over the year, telling different stories and building brand themes around key equities. Once you have your Campaigns planned, you can move on to execution and campaign creative.

  6. Plan your Measurement Loop and Test & Learn initiatives. A critical element of marketing is to measure your results. That’s not a new concept that started with Digital Marketing by the way. I’ve been trained to do that for over 20 years. It should be a common discipline that you execute and then measure the results of your campaigns and channels so you can optimize them going forward. Ideally you don’t do this at the end of the year, but regularly after every campaign so you can adjust going forward. Given all the new channels in the marketplace today, you should also have a Test & Learn plan. Never switch all your tactics at once; test your way into new initiatives. But make sure to do it; testing new channels and approaches is critical given our every-changing marketing environment.

So, there you have it! This step-by-step guide should demystify Marketing Planning in today’s crazy, complex modern marketing world.

And make it simple. One can get overwhelmed by the demands on marketing and the number of channels, but if you step back and follow a clear, disciplined approach, you can creatively make your way to an impactful plan that can deliver on your objectives and not make you crazy.


This article was first published at The Agency Oneto.

If you’d like Marketing Plan templates, you can download The Agency Oneto’s templates here.

Read more: Marketing Plan vs. Marketing Campaign: What’s the Difference?