Six Steps to Building a Strategic Marketing Plan


Debra Davenport, Faculty

Building a strategic marketing plan can be a daunting task, but with proper forethought and a strategic approach, what may appear to be a monumental undertaking can actually be streamlined into six logical steps:

How to Create a Marketing Plan 

1. Determine what you want to achieve

Be specific when identifying and articulating your goals, and use quantifiable objectives whenever possible.  You also need to determine your budget as this will dictate the scope, parameters, and duration of your plan.  There is no sense including a national TV advertising component if the budget can accommodate only small banner ads on select social media sites.

2. Determine how you’ll achieve your goal

This will likely involve a combination of market research, social and mass media planning, collateral material development, event(s), promotions, advertising, and PR.  Based on your marketing objectives and budget, what elements of the Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) mix and traditional marketing will be the most appropriate?

3. Assemble tools, resources, people, and technologies

Once you know your objectives, budget, and course of action, it will then be necessary to cull the resources needed to successfully implement the plan.

  • Will you need an audience research expert, web design team, event manager, media buyer, video production team, and/or social media analytics maven? 
  • What technologies will be required to gather pre-launch data, disseminate your messages, and collect and analyze post-campaign metrics? 

This stage of the planning process requires an acute attention to detail, so allow sufficient time.

4. Develop a realistic timeline

Too often, projects fall behind schedule because of poor planning and unrealistic expectations.  It’s critical to remember that delays and unforeseen setbacks are inevitable.  Professional communicators should take the time to become familiar with project management practices, tools, and software that keep campaigns and budgets on track, and provide metrics at critical points.  Examples include Gantt charts and other helpful timeline and collaboration tools.

5. Create a contingency plan

It’s very important that you have a detailed and strategic contingency plan ready to implement should the campaign get derailed at any point.  Because no amount of research enables communicators to launch campaigns with 100% certainty, it’s imperative to plan for the unexpected.

6. Be willing to learn from every campaign

Share this knowledge with the entire team – and the company’s senior leadership.  You can foster a “learning organization” culture by encouraging and demonstrating “knowledge worker” behaviors.  Modeling these behaviors will set you apart as a trusted professional and scholar-practitioner.

Learn More About Building a Strategic Marketing Plan

The online Master of Science in Communication covers numerous topics critical for advancement in the communication industry, including crisis communication, social media engagement, focus group planning and implementation, survey design and survey analysis, public relations theory, professional writing, and communication ethics.

*The views and opinions expressed are of the author and do not represent the Brian Lamb School of Communication.