Every business needs a marketing plan. It helps guide your marketing efforts and keeps you on track to hit your marketing objectives.
The problem is that creating one can get complicated, really complicated.
It’s not so bad if you’re familiar with marketing jargon and acronyms like SWOT and KPI. But if you’ve never created one before and want to hit the ground running, it can feel like you need an MBA in Marketing just to get started.
You’ll learn how to fill it in shortly but first, let’s make sure we understand the basics…
A marketing plan is a roadmap for executing your marketing strategy over a given period of time, usually a year.
Despite many people using these terms interchangeably, they’re very different things.
Here’s the simplest way to explain them:
- Objective: What you want to achieve.
- Strategy: How you’ll do it.
- Tactics: The methods you’ll use.
- Plan: Everything mapped out so you can take action.
For instance, imagine that you want to get from London to Paris on a budget. Your objective, strategy, tactics, and plan might look something like this:
- Objective: Get from London to Paris for under $100.
- Strategy: Use public transportation.
- Tactics: Bus, tube, and Eurostar.
- Plan: Get the bus to the tube station, get the tube to St Pancras, get the Eurostar to Paris.
You can see how it would be hard to execute your strategy without the plan because you wouldn’t know whether to get the train, tram, or metro first. The plan explains how everything fits together so you can take action.
Start by making a copy of the marketing plan template. You’ll see that it revolves around answering four simple questions. Let’s go through how to answer these.
Question 1. Who are you targeting?
If you’re creating a marketing plan, you should already have done your market research and developed your marketing strategy. And that means you should already have a pretty good idea of who you’re targeting. However, it’s helpful to reiterate this in your marketing plan to keep you focused and on track.
For example, if we were putting together a marketing plan for Ahrefs, we might put:
SEO professionals and website owners who want to drive more traffic to their websites.
This is a very simplified version of who we’re targeting, but it’s enough to set us on the right track.
Question 2. What are your objectives?
You’re not creating a marketing plan for the fun of it. You’re creating one to map out how you’ll (hopefully) achieve some marketing objectives. So you need to define what those objectives are.
These can be pretty much anything you like, but they should ideally be SMART.
Unfortunately, this is one piece of marketing jargon we have to tackle, but it’s pretty straightforward and just means that your objectives should be:
- Specific. They should clearly state the desired outcome.
- Measurable. They should be something you can track the success of.
- Achievable. They should be realistic.
- Relevant. They should align with your overall business objectives.
- Timely. They should have a time frame attached to them.
For example, here’s a bad marketing objective:
Increase organic traffic
Here’s a good one:
Increase organic search visibility in the US from 3 to 6% in the next 12 months.
Only the latter is SMART. The former is too vague, has no time frame attached to it, and isn’t measurable. The latter, on the other hand, is specific, has a 12-month time frame, and is easily measurable in Ahrefs’ Rank Tracker:
Generally speaking, it’s best to have a few objectives but no more than a handful. Any less, and you won’t achieve much. Any more, and you’ll spread yourself too thin.
If you’re struggling to think of relevant marketing objectives for your business, you might want to take inspiration from the examples in our guide to setting marketing objectives.
Question 3. How will you achieve your objectives?
Placing goalposts is easy, but scoring a goal is hard. That’s why you now need to get specific and think about the tactics you’ll use to achieve your marketing objectives and how much they’ll cost.
Remember that your tactics should always align with your marketing strategy and objectives. Don’t just pluck them out of thin air or opt for shiny new tactics. Consider what tactics align with your marketing strategy and go from there.
For example, our marketing strategy is pretty simple at its core:
Help our target audience solve their SEO and marketing problems with the help of our tools by creating informative and useful content about topics they’re searching for
Because your strategy should always dictate the tactics you use, it’s clear that any tactics we use will be content-related. This is also clear from the objective we set ourselves in the previous section:
Increase organic search visibility in the US from 3% to 6% in the next 12 months.
So what tactics should we utilize to achieve this objective?
Given the objective itself, there’s really only one thing we can do here: SEO. However, if we really want to create an actionable marketing plan for ourselves, we need to be more specific.
This is where a bit of research is needed…
If we scroll down to our tracked keywords in Rank Tracker and sort by estimated traffic, we can see the keywords where our search visibility is low or non-existent:
To improve our organic search visibility for these keywords, there are a few tactics we could use. However, to keep things simple, let’s say that rewriting the posts that target them seems like the most viable tactic.
Let’s also assume that we don’t have the manpower to rewrite all of these posts, so we’ll focus on the most low-hanging opportunities. That would probably be the posts that target high-volume keywords and currently rank okay but not great.
Here’s how we can filter for these keywords in Rank Tracker:
Now, it looks like a few of those keywords (“youtube tags”, “what is https,” etc.) don’t align particularly well with our target audience of website owners, so we’ll exclude those.
This leaves us with around 80 keywords, which equates to 80 posts to rewrite.
Next, we need to estimate how much all of this is going to cost us.
This is a crucial step that you shouldn’t neglect as there’s no point in creating a pie in the sky marketing plan. It needs to be realistic, doable, and any numbers should actually be based on something (not plucked out of thin air).
Given that we do content rewrites in-house, it makes the most sense for us to base cost estimations on how much time we think all of this will take our team (and how much we pay them).
To keep things simple, let’s say that the numbers look like this:
Time per rewrite: 20 hours.
Cost per hour: $20
Number of rewrites: 80
Based on these numbers, it looks like it will cost us around $32k and 1,600 man hours to execute this tactic. That might sound like a lot but it’s less than one full-time employee’s yearly working hours.
Repeat this process as many times as necessary to build out a list of tactics you’ll use to hit your marketing objective(s).
Learn more: 16 Marketing Tactics That Work in 2021
If you’re working to a specific marketing budget, don’t be tempted to “make everything fit” by randomly allocating and re-allocating budget between tactics. The budget for each tactic needs to make sense. If your proposed tactics end up costing more than your allocated budget, it means that you simply don’t have enough money to achieve all of your objectives. In which case, you should cut the less important objectives until your proposed tactics and budget align.
Question 4. When will you do everything?
Marketing plans cover a specific period of time, so it might seem like the answer to this question is obvious. If you’re creating a 12-month marketing plan, then the tactics you outlined in the previous step need to be done in that timeframe.
Although this is true, simply having a list of things to do over the course of a year isn’t very actionable. It’s better to break things down into manageable chunks so you can track progress throughout the year.
How much you break things down is up to you, but a quarterly plan is a good starting point.
Here’s what that might look like for our tactic of rewriting 80 low-performing blog posts:
|Rewrite 20 low-performing blog posts||Rewrite 20 low-performing blog posts||Rewrite 20 low-performing blog posts||Rewrite 20 low-performing blog posts|
This might seem like a small and insignificant change, but it means that we can review our progress every quarter to keep things on track. For example, if we find that only 10 posts have been rewritten after the first quarter, then we might need to intervene and optimize workflows to ensure we meet our objectives by the end of the year.
Planning tactics on a quarterly basis also helps you to allocate resources more efficiently.
For example, let’s say that another one of our marketing tactics was to update a bunch of blog posts in Q4 to maximize traffic from “2022” queries in the new year. Our content team would be pretty overwhelmed if they were also expected to rewrite 20 low-performing posts in the same quarter, so this would probably be a better plan:
|Rewrite 25 low-performing blog posts||Rewrite 25 low-performing blog posts||Rewrite 25 low-performing blog posts||Rewrite 5 low-performing blog posts|
|Update 10 blog posts for 2022|
You might even want to consider color-coding your quarterly plan to show which team is responsible for which task. This will make it easier to spot when teams are likely to be overloaded and plan accordingly.
Given that most marketing plans run dozens or even hundreds of pages, our one-page plan is admittedly very oversimplified. But that’s the point. It helps you get the basics down on paper as fast as possible without having to contend with endless marketing jargon and acronyms.
Got questions? Ping me on Twitter.
B2B PPC Experts Give Their Take On Google Search On Announcements
Google hosted its 3rd annual Search On event on September 28th.
The event announced numerous Search updates revolving around these key areas:
After the event, Google’s Ad Liason, Ginny Marvin, hosted a roundtable of PPC experts specifically in the B2B industry to give their thoughts on the announcements, as well as how they may affect B2B. I was able to participate in the roundtable and gained valuable feedback from the industry.
The roundtable of experts comprised of Brad Geddes, Melissa Mackey, Michelle Morgan, Greg Finn, Steph Bin, Michael Henderson, Andrea Cruz Lopez, and myself (Brooke Osmundson).
The Struggle With Images
Some of the updates in Search include browsable search results, larger image assets, and business messages for conversational search.
Brad Geddes, Co-Founder of Adalysis, mentioned “Desktop was never mentioned once.” Others echoed the same sentiment, that many of their B2B clients rely on desktop searches and traffic. With images showing mainly on mobile devices, their B2B clients won’t benefit as much.
Another great point came up about the context of images. While images are great for a user experience, the question reiterated by multiple roundtable members:
- How is a B2B product or B2B service supposed to portray what they do in an image?
Images in search are certainly valuable for verticals such as apparel, automotive, and general eCommerce businesses. But for B2B, they may be left at a disadvantage.
More Uses Cases, Please
Ginny asked the group what they’d like to change or add to an event like Search On.
The overall consensus: both Search On and Google Marketing Live (GML) have become more consumer-focused.
Greg Finn said that the Search On event was about what he expected, but Google Marketing Live feels too broad now and that Google isn’t speaking to advertisers anymore.
Marvin acknowledged and then revealed that Google received feedback that after this year’s GML, the vision felt like it was geared towards a high-level investor.
The group gave a few potential solutions to help fill the current gap of what was announced, and then later how advertisers can take action.
- 30-minute follow-up session on how these relate to advertisers
- Focus less on verticals
- Provide more use cases
Michelle Morgan and Melissa Mackey said that “even just screenshots of a B2B SaaS example” would help them immensely. Providing tangible action items on how to bring this information to clients is key.
Google Product Managers Weigh In
The second half of the roundtable included input from multiple Google Search Product Managers. I started off with a more broad question to Google:
- It seems that Google is becoming a one-stop shop for a user to gather information and make purchases. How should advertisers prepare for this? Will we expect to see lower traffic, higher CPCs to compete for that coveted space?
Cecilia Wong, Global Product Lead of Search Formats, Google, mentioned that while they can’t comment directly on the overall direction, they do focus on Search. Their recommendation:
- Manage assets and images and optimize for best user experience
- For B2B, align your images as a sneak peek of what users can expect on the landing page
However, image assets have tight restrictions on what’s allowed. I followed up by asking if they would be loosening asset restrictions for B2B to use creativity in its image assets.
Google could not comment directly but acknowledged that looser restrictions on image content is a need for B2B advertisers.
Is Value-Based Bidding Worth The Hassle?
The topic of value-based bidding came up after Carlo Buchmann, Product Manager of Smart Bidding, said that they want advertisers to embrace and move towards value-based bidding. While the feedback seemed grim, it opened up for candid conversation.
Melissa Mackey said that while she’s talked to her clients about values-based bidding, none of her clients want to pull the trigger. For B2B, it’s difficult to assess the value on different conversion points.
Further, she stated that clients become fixated on their pipeline information and can end up making it too complicated. To sum up, they’re struggling to translate the value number input to what a sale is actually worth.
Geddes mentioned that some of his more sophisticated clients have moved back to manual bidding because Google doesn’t take all the values and signals to pass back and forth.
Finn closed the conversation with his experience. He emphasized that Google has not brought forth anything about best practices for value-based bidding. By having only one value, it seems like CPA bidding. And when a client has multiple value inputs, Google tends to optimize towards the lower-value conversions – ultimately affecting lead quality.
The Google Search Product Managers closed by providing additional resources to dig into overall best practices to leverage search in the world of automation.
Google made it clear that the future of search is visual. For B2B companies, it may require extra creativity to succeed and compete with the visualization updates.
However, the PPC roundtable experts weighed in that if Google wants advertisers to adopt these features, they need to support advertisers more – especially B2B marketers. With limited time and resources, advertisers big and small are trying to do more with less.
Marketers are relying on Google to make these Search updates relevant to not only the user but the advertisers. Having clearer guides, use cases, and conversations is a great step to bringing back the Google and advertiser collaboration.
A special thank you to Ginny Marvin of Google for making space to hear B2B advertiser feedback, as well as all the PPC experts for weighing in.
Featured image: Shutterstock/T-K-M
5 Social Media Advertising Tips to Nail Your Efforts and Get Your Expected Results
This Week on Xbox: Grounded is Here, Upcoming Releases and Much More
Daily Search Forum Recap: September 30, 2022
B2B PPC Experts Give Their Take On Google Search On Announcements
The 21 Best Lead Generation Tools in 2022
UK teen died after ‘negative effects of online content’: coroner
Critically-Acclaimed CRPG Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous Comes to Xbox Today
Daily Search Forum Recap: September 29, 2022
LinkedIn Rolls Out 3 Updates To Pages
The Best Programming Languages for Web Services and Their Advantages In 2022
Google Updates Documentation On Meta Descriptions
Explore the Path to Digital Future: Interconnect, Integrate and Innovate
Daily Search Forum Recap: September 5, 2022
Microsoft Advertising Gains Pinterest Import, More Google Imports, & More
Google Again Says Spikes In Crawling Activity Not A Sign Of The Helpful Content Update Rollout
How To Launch Your First Google Ads Remarketing Campaign
Confusion Over Google Search Console’s HTTPS Is Invalid And Might Prevent It From Being Indexed
The Ultimate Timeline of Google Algorithm Updates (+ Recommendations)
Google Adds More Options to Manage Ad Assets and Extensions
7 Tips For Creating Instagram Story Ads That Convert