A Step-by-Step Guide to Building a Marketing Plan Like a Pro Project Manager

When most people think of marketing, they think about marketing for a particular product launch. This is great, but in order to really excel, you need to market your business. Think about brands like Starbucks - you don’t tend to see advertising for particular items (other than seasonal specials), but you certainly see advertising for them.

You might not have the budget of Starbucks - yet. But that shouldn’t stop you from running a brilliant marketing campaign. Before you start buying ad space, however, you’ve got to create a plan.

With that in mind, here’s a step-by-step guide to building a marketing plan like a pro project manager.

1. Set timeframes

If you run the same campaign constantly, it’ll stagnate. No matter how great an idea you have, if you keep repeating the same processes on the same channels, your ROI will fall.

In order to avoid this, start planning by setting clear timeframes. Consider how long you want to wait to see results - is a month enough? Or perhaps a quarter? Before you decide on any concrete ideas, figure out when you want to check in on them. The business efficiencies plan should align with other milestones in your business or company's overall strategy.

This is particularly important if you’re running a seasonal campaign or responding to a current event - we’ve all seen those awkward ‘Black Friday’ campaigns still up a month later!

Monthly, quarterly, and/or yearly planning has numerous benefits. It can help you:

  • Incorporate industry developments
  • Utilize new platforms and techniques
  • Identify your successful practices and campaigns
  • Reduce or remove strategies that aren't working
  • Set new goals and targets
  • Inform your team of their objectives

Remember, you don’t need to completely overhaul your strategy each time - just update it. With a timeframe in mind, it’s time to get into the details.

2. Analyze Your Market

Make sure you have all the core information about your company to hand. That includes your ethos, mission statement, and business goals. This will inform your approach, as well as help you see your place in the market.

Once you’ve done this, carry out a SWOT analysis. That means strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

  • Strengths. What do you do well? Which campaigns and/or products are the most popular? Why do your regular customers keep coming back? Identify the formula for your success.
  • Weaknesses. What do you do less well? In what areas do your competitors consistently outperform you? Be honest and objective.
  • Opportunities. What new practices could you incorporate? Are there unexplored markets you could access? Are there any new services or products you could offer? Be open-minded about the possibilities.
  • Threats. What potential challenges can you envisage? Are there internal challenges relating to staff or working methods? Are there external threats such as competitors or changing buying habits? Being prepared is key.

Once you’ve drawn up an overview of your own company, it’s time to apply the same method to your immediate competition. In addition, research your competitors on other factors, including:

  • Market share
  • Marketing methods
  • Pricing
  • Branding and tone of voice
  • Customer feedback

This market analysis will act as your starting point - it’ll help you see where you’re thriving and what you need to work out.

3. Create Buyer Personas

Buyer persona graph

Buyer personas are a semi-fictionalized profile of your key demographics. They should include basic details such as age, income, gender, and location. On top of that, it’s worth including psychographic details such as:

  • Their pain points
  • Buying and browsing habits
  • Which socials they use
  • Which influencers they follow

There’s no point targeting a high-end lipstick to teenage boys, nor should you try pushing a complete guide to VoIP line content strategy on a middle-aged construction worker. Knowing your target audience is key to maximizing returns on minimal investment.

4. Set Your SMART Targets

At this point, you should have an idea of the market and your audience. It’s time to set targets. The SMART method is a simple way of setting clear goals. Ask yourself if each of your goals is:


Exactly what do you want to achieve? You should be able to write your target in one or two simple sentences. Be clear about each objective.


How will you measure success? What is the figure you're aiming for, and in what unit? This could be a monetary figure, pageviews, social media shares, or downloads.


Is your goal realistic? Based on your resources and personnel, can your target be reached without putting your team under undue pressure?


Are you aiming for the right target? Does it directly relate to your overall business ethos and aims?


What is the deadline for achieving your goal? What is realistic? Is it weeks, months, or years?  

Some examples of SMART goals include:

  • Increase profits by 10% in the next quarter
  • Get an extra 1000 Twitter followers by the end of the year
  • Double the amount of newsletter sign-ups in the next two months

Using this method can put some real-world perspective on your targets and anchor them to quantifiable factors.  

5. Select Your Channels

This step can often be done alongside the previous one, as it is likely to impact which goals you choose. While you could try to focus on every possible channel, you’re likely to have a limited budget, so it’s more cost-effective to choose the best-performing ones. Popular channels include:

  • Company website
  • Online advertising
  • Pay-per-click links
  • Email campaigns
  • Physical advertising (billboards, flyers, magazine adverts)
  • TV and radio spots
  • Social media
  • Phone system online access

Understanding social media

Each social media platform is unique. They are used in different ways and attract different audiences. It's therefore essential to have a thorough knowledge of each one. What are their uses and benefits? Why are their users drawn to them?

Image of social media apps on an iPhone

For instance, if you’re sharing a blog post called ‘What is SaaS marketing?’, you should focus on text-based platforms frequented by business professionals - like LinkedIn. Whereas, if you’re showing off a beauty tutorial featuring a new product, Youtube and Instagram are far better suited.

If your referral customer uses Instagram, then you need to know every feature.

6. Set Out a Budget

Again, this is another step that may overlap with the past ones. Your budget is the cold hard cash you're going to invest in your marketing plan. In your initial plan, these figures may be somewhat speculative, so rely on past data and experience as much as possible. Factor in:

  • How many people are needed to carry out the task?
  • How long will it take them?
  • What resources will they require?
  • Will staff need extra training?
  • Is it more effective to outsource certain tasks to specialists?

Don’t forget to consider both long-term and short-term costs. For instance, short term, you might find it beneficial to invest in paid advertising, but long term, you might be better served with an SEO, content, and better lead time manufacturing strategy. Ensuring you’ve considered both angles will help you avoid a sudden drop-off in popularity when a campaign reaches its end.

7. Consolidate Your Strategy

Now you have a list of goals, you need to organize them into an overall strategy. Having a clear project management method in mind can help here. Clearly map out each target, the deadline, and set a measurable definition of success. Who will do the task, and which channels and methods will they use?

Make sure you have a mix of short-term and long-term goals. The short-term ones should be achievable within a month or two, and give your team confidence and belief as they work towards the longer-term goals. There should be individual deadlines for each task, and an overall deadline for delivering the whole plan.

Two people places sticky notes on a meeting board

Planning Ahead

Drawing up a marketing plan is just the beginning of your journey. You will have to implement your plan, inspire and motivate your team, monitor its progress, then analyze the results to draw up your next plan.

Were all the goals achieved? Was each target delivered on time and on a budget?  This information will help you with your subsequent strategy.

Each marketing plan you draw up should be more effective than the last because it is based on the analysis and experience of the previous one. Over time, you will build a robust and powerful marketing strategy.

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