9 Steps to Planning and Implementing an Effective Marketing Plan

With most any significant endeavor — and particularly in the marketing world, where a long list of elements must come together to make any campaign click — true success typically starts with a well-thought-out plan. And with 2024 just around the corner, it’s high time (and really, it’s never too early) for brands of all types and sizes to start working on their marketing plan for the coming year.

To that end, here at Brandon, we’ve put together a list of what we consider to be the most essential steps to building an effective marketing plan for our clients. Want to set your marketing initiatives up for success in 2024? Make sure your marketing planning for the upcoming year covers these nine critical elements:

1. Understand your business’s biggest challenges and problems

To optimize the business impacts of your brand’s marketing efforts, start by taking a close look at your enterprise, where it stands in the marketplace and what challenges it’s facing. Having a strong grasp of these things as you begin planning your marketing efforts for the coming year can help you choose the direction you’ll take with these efforts — and help ensure that you’re setting the right goals for your campaigns. What are the biggest issues your company faces, and how can your marketing efforts help you overcome them? It’s important to know your top areas of need going into your planning so that you can tailor your marketing initiatives to specifically address them.

2. Know your competition

You should always have a solid understanding of who your brand is competing with, what your competitors are doing, how much they are spending, etc. Such competitive insights can be essential to guiding your brand’s own marketing campaigns — and ensuring that you’re not only effectively countering the competition’s moves, but working to stay a step ahead of them. A good example of this can be seen in a pair of Brandon telecommunication clients HTC and FTC. They both offer high-speed internet, and their biggest competitor in the category is a national brand that’s constantly using promotions to convince customers to switch. If HTC and FTC do not stay abreast of and work to counter those offers, it can cost them customers … and revenues. 

3. Perform a SWOT analysis

By better understanding your brand’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats — all of which can be identified and explored using a strategic-planning tool known as a SWOT analysis — you can put your brand in a position to make better business and marketing decisions. And performing a SWOT analysis before fully developing/implementing your marketing plan serves to elevate your awareness of all the factors that should play into your marketing-related decision-making. (Further, it can drive insights that inform decision-making related to a range of significant company actions, from altering internal policies to launching new products or targeting new consumer groups.) At the very least, your brand should aim to perform a SWOT analysis annually, as small shifts in the SWOT can lead to big opportunities and/or big problems.

4. Carefully consider your business initiatives

Before developing your marketing plan, take a deep dive into what you’d like for your marketing efforts over the coming year to accomplish. What will your brand’s primary focuses and goals in the coming year be? New product launches? Price changes? Channel changes? Make a concerted effort to map out all your upcoming business initiatives and define what success would look like for each of them. Without a deep understanding of your brand’s near- and long-term goals, it’s impossible to come up with an effective plan to achieve them.

5. Better understand your customers

Ultimately, most of your marketing efforts will be designed to reach your existing and prospective customers and drive them to action. What do you know about these consumers? What does the data tell you? Has your brand done any quantitative research? Any qualitative research? When was the last time you actually spoke with one of your customers to get his or her opinions of your brand and garner straight-from-the-source insights on its offerings? Have you developed a consumer purchase journey map? Has it changed in the last year? Where are the inflection points on the journey where marketing can have an impact? All of this information is critical to developing a successful marketing plan.

6. Determine your strategy … and your tactics

This is where things can get difficult. Strategy and tactics are two different things. To better understand the distinction, consider the example of the Trojan Horse. Paris of Troy abducted the wife of Menelaus, the king of Sparta in Greece. Sparta laid siege to Troy for a decade. Troy was essentially invulnerable from the outside, and the Greeks lacked the manpower to win a frontal assault. So Sparta pretended to retreat, built a huge wooden horse, hid its warriors inside the horse, and then presented the horse as a gift to Troy. The people of Troy pulled the horse inside the gates and celebrated. Then, that night, the soldiers hiding in the horse climbed out and attacked. In this case, the strategy was deception, and the tactic was the wooden horse. A strategy is a clever scheme or plan to accomplish a goal. Tactics are the individual steps that get you there.

7. Plan out your tactics and timelines

After identifying your leading marketing goals and the strategies you’ll employ to achieve them, do some brainstorming to determine the individual tactics you’ll deploy to accomplish each of the goals, along with the timelines for when you’ll initiate each to achieve maximum effectiveness. When planning out your timelines, consider when you’d like to have each of your marketing goals achieved, then backtrack from there to decide on the timing for implementing each of your tactics. Keep in mind that some of your tactics may be seasonal, such as those related to marketing any holiday-centered sales, so you’ll likely want to time them such that any assets needed to deploy them are available well in advance of the campaign launch date.

8. Budget

Of course, the budget you devote each of your tactics will have a big impact their effectiveness. Carefully consider your overall marketing budget, then evaluate the tactics you’ve outlined and decide how much of your available funds you plan to devote to each of them. You’ll likely want to devote more funding to the tactics you feel will be the most effective, and as you progress with your plans, you can make budgetary adjustments to optimize and put more funding behind the tactics that prove to be most successful (more on that below). With a detailed budget in hand and all your tactics outlined, you’ll be in a perfect position to put your marketing plan into action when the right time to do so arrives.

9. Track, measure, analyze and optimize

For all your marketing campaigns to deliver peak effectiveness, it’s critical to track them and keep a close eye on their performance once they’ve launched, then optimize and elevate them as you go. After measuring and analyzing, you may want to double down on tactics that prove to be working especially well, and tweak tactics that are producing mediocre results. Conversely, when tactics fall well short of reaching performance goals, you may want to consider scaling them back or even abandoning them — instead devoting your budget and efforts to tactics that are proving more successful. Before launching any of your campaigns, be sure to answer important questions such as: How will we track the progress of our plan? What are the key performance indicators (KPIs) for the overall marketing plan and our individual campaigns? Without answers to these questions, you’ll have no way to determine whether your tactics are proving successful … and are worth pursuing further.

With all these elements in place, your marketing plan should be built and set up for success. Once you put your plan into action, be sure to track your progress — and learn as you go. The insights and experience you develop this year can prove invaluable when creating your marketing plans for coming years, and you can build on your successes one year after another, one marketing plan at a time.

Could your business use the help of a team of marketing pros to optimize the effectiveness of its marketing plan? At Brandon, our team of data-driven marketing professionals is adept at creating marketing plans that cover all the bases outlined above — and we have a proven track record of moving the needle for our clients. Further, as one of only 24 certified brand strategy consultancies in the United States, we possess unique expertise in developing effective branding strategies that can make your business stand out from the competition. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your brand and business grow.