6 stages of writing a marketing plan

Whether you are a marketeer or wearing multiple hats whilst running a small business, it’s important that you have a solid marketing plan on which to base your activity. Far too often people put together what they consider to be a marketing plan, but really, it’s just a list of actions, or how they are going to execute the plan. In reality, there are four steps to consider before you get to that point.

In this blog we will explore the six key stages of writing an integrated marketing plan, and what the core principles are. I’ll also pose a series of key questions you should be asking yourself in order to ensure you are targeting your plan correctly for the outcomes you want.

Creating a marketing plan

Stage 1: Organisation objectives

The first thing you need to do is understand what the objectives of your organisation are, both in monetary and physical terms. What are you or your business trying to achieve and how does your proposed marketing plan help that happen? For example, is your company objective this year to sell 1000 units of your product, make £100,000 profit or an increase in turnover from the previous year?

Whatever your objective, it’s good to put a number on it, whether it be sales units or cash.

Stage 2: Current Situation

You need to take a look at where your business is currently sitting and ask yourself who your audience is. If you don’t identify your audience then you won’t be able to correctly target your marketing. This is an important element of your marketing plan.

A good way to do this is to create an audience persona or profile. You may have several depending on your product(s). Maybe look at what the demographics, income and shopping habits are of your current customers. You also need to look at what your audience insights are. What experiences motive them? What media so they consume (this will help with targeted communications). What do they currently know and believe in terms of the product that you are selling?

You will also need to look at the size of your target audience. This will help you calculate your strategy and ultimately, you return on investment (ROI).

Stage 3: Communications objectives

This is where you need to set yourself quantifiable goals. You need to outline what your communication objectives are. If you don’t set out a clear set of objectives you have no way of quantifying what success looks like. As always, these objectives need to be Smart:

S - specific

M - measurable

A - achievable

R - related

T - timely

Your communications objective should be in line with helping you achieve whatever you’ve set as your business/company objective. E.g. selling 1000 units of your product.

Now, this is the science part! You will need to set three levels of objectives, working backwards starting with your Conversion Objective - the number of sales you need to make, then to your Preference and Consideration Objectives - the number of people who you need to show interest in your product or service before you can convert a proportion of them. Finally, you need to calculate the number of people you need to make aware of your product or service in order to convert a proportion of them down to the end point of making a purchase.

The conversion figures may differ slightly depending on the industry and business that you work within, but it’s usual to work on ratio of 10:1 from awareness to preference and consideration and the 5:1 for conversion.

From this, you will then be able to work out a proposed marketing budget for your campaign, based on the income you are setting as your objective.

Stage 4: Strategy

Strategy planning

What is your strategy? In order to understand this, you need to spell out what your value proposition is and desired positioning to your target audience. In order to do this, you need to walk in the shoes of your customers. What are your customer’s needs? Understanding the origins and drivers of customer needs is a critical first step in building customer understanding. We need to be sure to distinguish between their needs; how these are translated into their value perceptions and how these perceptions influence the purchasing decision they make in terms of your product or service. What is it the customer values, is it economic value (what they think), emotional value (what they feel) or functional value (what they do)?

Ultimately you need to inspire your target audience, engage with them, get them to make a purchase and then hopefully, a return purchase.

Stage 5: Tactics

Chess tactics

In this section you need to think about what messaging you need to use; which communication tools are most appropriate and which media will work best for your objective.

The effectiveness of your communication tool can vary according to your objective. For example, if you are working on your awareness objective then a sales promotion may be most useful, however, if it’s conversion, you may be better off with direct marketing.

When selecting the media you want to use for your campaign there are a number of criteria to think about:

  • The size of your audience

  • The audience type and state of mind

  • The cost of producing the campaign messaging and cost efficiency

  • Timescales in which to get the message out

What’s the big idea and how are you going to achieve it? You need to determine which tools you will use for the task. What is your communications task- is it engaging online content to boost your SEO or compelling sales offers to engage customers? Which tools would work best for this job?


This is your campaign execution or action plan. Many people skip the first stages and just head straight for this part. However, you can’t truly hope to successfully execute your campaign if you haven’t fully planned it using the steps above.

This is the where you outline the actions you will take to achieve everything you have planned, using all the knowledge of your target audiences, objectives, messaging and preferred media.

Stage 6: Measuring your performance

Graphs measuring performance

This is where you look at the control measures you put in place; the budget which you set out at the beginning and the performance of your communications messaging. This will give you your return on investment (ROI).

There are different types of metrics you can use to measure your performance, depending on the tools you used for your campaign:

  • Reach, coverage and frequency of messaging

  • Media coverage

  • Number of materials distributed

  • Behaviour change of target audience signs ups/ registrations

  • Take up f the Call to action

  • Campaign impact

Your ultimate measurement of your return on investment is the gain from your investment (money, sales etc) minus the cost of your investment (cost of marketing strategy).

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