As we approach the final quarter of 2023, it’s time to look forward to the year ahead. How will you achieve marketing success in 2024? One of the key ways to ensure success is to create a comprehensive annual marketing plan.
Without an annual plan, you’ll have no clear guidance on how to achieve marketing and sales objectives — it’s also impossible to figure out the budget you’ll need for marketing projects, hiring team members, and purchasing the equipment and software you need to work efficiently.
Marketing plans can get quite detailed depending on many factors, such as:
Whether you're selling to consumers (B2C) or other businesses (B2B)
The complexities of the goods or services you sell
The marketing and sales cycle
The size of your digital presence
Nonetheless, here are the elements every marketing plan must include.
What Every Effective Marketing Plan Must Include
A business summary is an overview of your organization. It’s essential to include it so all your stakeholders have a foundational understanding of your company, what it does, and what it hopes to achieve. It’s necessary to lay this out before presenting the more strategic components of your plan. Even if you’re sharing a plan with people who’ve worked for — or with — your organization for a long time, it’s a good idea to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Most business summaries include:
The name of the business
Its mission and vision
Company structure and leadership
What the business sells and who it sells to
The essence of the company brand
Include anything it takes to ensure stakeholders “get” your company so they can see how all aspects of your marketing plan support it.
Your marketing plan should also include a SWOT analysis, which reflects the company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Compiling this information allows you to develop marketing strategies that help you make the most of your strengths and address your weaknesses.
Take time to develop your SWOT analysis. You’ll likely uncover more information as you build out your plan. For instance, you may discover a technology weakness if you decide to try out a novel marketing tactic. Plan to come back to this section regularly, updating it as you uncover more information about your own business and competition.
Key Business Initiatives
Include anything your business wants to achieve in 2024 that requires marketing support. Leave out big-picture company initiatives, such as building a new warehouse, which you would find in a broader business plan but marketing typically doesn’t support.
Include goals for each project and how you will measure progress toward them. Every initiative should include SMART goals. They must be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.
If you haven’t already conducted market research, or haven’t done so recently, it’s time. Learn about your ideal customers and why they do business with you. Then, turn this information into buyer personas, which are semi-fictional descriptions of your best clients. You need individual personas for each of your unique customer segments.
Buyer personas include all the critical information required to completely understand the people who make up your client base, including but not limited to:
Shopping trigger events
What they think and feel about your business
Interview some of your top customers to learn about them and why they prefer doing business with you over your competitors. This will help you create personas that include real insights rather than guesses about the people who buy from you.
Including a competitive analysis is essential when developing a marketing plan. You don’t conduct business in a vacuum. The consumers reflected in your personas have choices when solving their issues. They decide the solution they buy and the provider they secure it from.
As a part of your market research, you should think about your competition, what they do well and poorly, and where they have gaps that your business can potentially fill, including:
Document essential information that could influence your marketing efforts in 2024.
Your market strategy leverages information included in the sections we’ve already covered to describe how your company will connect with the market in 2024. What will you offer to the consumers reflected in your personas that your competitors aren't already offering them better?
As you come up with your go-to-market strategy, use the insights from the SWOT analysis, competitive analysis, personas, and other market research to come up with descriptions of how you’ll connect with consumers that will help you set a solid foundation for the tactics and strategies you recommend later in your marketing plan.
A solid go-to-market plan typically references what are known as the Seven Ps:
Addressing all these will help ensure that you include everything in your go-to-market strategy that could impact how your business connects with your prospective customers.
Annual Marketing Budget Breakdown
Your marketing budget explains how much money an organization has allotted — and how it will be deployed — to pursue the initiatives included in your marketing plan.
Itemize your budget based on the categories you need to spend marketing dollars on. Common marketing expenses include:
Outsourcing work to a marketing agency and freelancers
Marketing automation software
Paid promotional activities
Having a thorough understanding of your budget and knowing your company’s sales goals will help you come up with a plan for how much of your total marketing budget to invest in people, equipment, strategies, tactics and more based on an expected return on investment (ROI) in them.
Once you do that, you can develop financial projections for the year. These won't be entirely accurate, but they can help with planning and tracking actual spending and results throughout 2024.
Typically, a marketing plan only includes a summary of annual marketing costs. Maintain a separate spreadsheet to document your budget at a more granular level and track it.
A critical component of your marketing plan is a list of the delivery channels you plan to take advantage of, along with the tactics you’ll use in them, and how much you’ll spend on each. This could include websites where you plan to purchase ad space, along with places where you plan to publish content that educates your buyers, generates leads, and spreads awareness of your brand, such as social media, a website, landing page, or blog.
Use the marketing channels section of your plan to map out which media outlets you will use, what you will distribute through them, and how you'll measure success. This is the heart of your marketing plan and should be able to convince stakeholders that you are promoting your products and services in the right places in sensible ways.
Finally, your plan must include a list of the marketing technology (martech) you will need to market successfully in 2024. It should consist of everything required to help you achieve the goals you outlined in your marketing plan.
Marketing software and equipment are typically costly. It’s necessary to explain the ROI your business will earn from them to make the case to stakeholders about why you need to purchase them.
For each tool, explain what you’ll use it for and connect it to a tactic or strategy in your plan. It will make business leaders more likely to see the value of such an investment.
Your 2024 Marketing Plan: Make This Year a Success
We’ve explained all the marketing plan components and how to populate them. As a final set, it’s critical to connect all the elements into a coherent story that explains your vision for marketing success in the year ahead and how you’ll get there. Not only will this help you earn full support from the people who depend on your marketing efforts, it will also ensure you have a sound plan that generates the sales results your company expects.