Skip to content
All posts

How To Develop Your Marketing Communications Plan

How To Develop Your Marketing Plan - Feature Image (cropped)


There’s never a shortage of great ideas in marketing. 

You read an inspiring article about the latest in connected TV ads. Your favourite business podcast has an episode about the new best practices in content marketing. Your competitor does something amazing at a trade show. Jim in accounting has a teenager who knows everything about social media. 

While all these ideas might really be great, if you go after all of them it’s easy to lose sight of what your marketing is supposed to achieve for you, and how all those great ideas are supposed to deliver against your business goals. 

So, how do you decide what marketing activities are right for your company?

A marketing communications plan can help you focus on the right marketing tactics to support what your business is trying to achieve and deliver the results that you want.


Why you need a marketing communications plan

Simply put, your marketing communications plan sets out what you’re trying to achieve with your marketing for the year (or other planning period that makes sense for you), outlines what marketing activities you will undertake to achieve those goals, and what your KPI targets are for each. By following and measuring against this plan, you and your marketing team have a clear picture of what success should look like and can manage your marketing efforts accordingly throughout the year.

A marketing communications plan also lets you forecast your marketing spend, so that you can allocate your budget against your highest priorities and avoid wasting marketing dollars on “random acts of marketing” or other activities that don’t support your goals.

It also allows you to consider how your marketing activities integrate with one another and with the activities of other departments, like sales or product development, so that you can make sure your projects run smoothly, your communications support one another, and your marketing efforts deliver the best possible performance.


Marketing Audit Graphics - Marketing Process - Planning-1


How to develop your marketing communications plan

1. Start with your business goals

To develop a marketing communications plan that supports your business goals, you have to start by understanding what you want to achieve at a business level. Your business goals are the highest level goals of your company, that span across all your departments and require the concerted efforts of your whole team to achieve. 

For most companies, this will include revenue goals. It might also include strategic objectives like expanding into a new market, launching a new product, or increasing or defending share against competitors. You may have environmental, social, or governance goals that you want to achieve, or goals related to your employees like recruitment, turnover, or satisfaction. Your specific goals will be determined by your company’s priorities and what you want to achieve as an organization.


M Graphics (1-1)-1


If your organization doesn’t have an established business planning process, there are lots of books and online resources that can help you get started. Or, a strategist (like me) can help you and your senior team set your goals through a facilitated process.


2. Develop marketing goals and strategies that support your business goals

Once you know what you want to achieve at an organizational level, the next step is to set marketing goals that ladder up to your business goals. So, for example, if you’re launching a new product, you’d want to set goals around promotion of that product. 

Use SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) so that you and your team know exactly what success will look like, and so that you have clear direction to help you make decisions about what marketing activities to implement. Consider your priorities, budget, and the capabilities of your team to establish goals that are challenging but realistic.

Your marketing goals should also be within your marketing team’s control to execute and deliver. For example, if increasing sales by 10% is one of your business goals, but your sales process involves marketing developing leads and then handing them off to the sales team, then increasing sales can’t be a marketing goal - closing those sales is outside your marketing team’s control. An appropriate marketing goal here might be to increase sales leads, and then one of your sales team’s goals could be to increase their close rate.


M Graphics (1)


Finally, once you’ve set your marketing goals, determine the strategic approach that you will take towards achieving each one. The strategic approach should be designed to leverage one of your company’s strengths or differentiators in the marketplace.

A good technique to set your strategies is by using “by” statements, as in “We will achieve goal X by doing Y.” In our example, if you’re launching a new product, and your existing products are the top choice among your customers, then you might set a strategy to promote the new product by leveraging the reputation of your existing products with your existing customers.

M Graphics (2)-1

This sets forth how your marketing team should go about achieving the goals you’ve established, and it creates a consistent direction for each goal to help determine your marketing messaging and choose your marketing tactics.


3. Choose marketing tactics that deliver against your strategies

Now that you have a clear sense of what you want your marketing to achieve for the year, and the approach you want to take to do it, you can choose marketing tactics that are best suited to meeting those goals.

Just like you used your marketing goals to outline exactly how your marketing team should support your business goals, now you want to understand what you’re asking each marketing tactic to do, and set KPI targets for each, so that you know what success looks like throughout the customer journey and how your tactics should work together to deliver against your business goals.

There are lots of different models for choosing marketing tactics that move your customer from awareness to consideration to sale. I like to use a standard marketing funnel, but whatever model you choose, the idea is that you select tactics to meet your audience where they are at each stage, and that you design those tactics to feed from one to the next so that you encourage your buyer along the path in alignment with your strategy. You also want to set KPI targets for each tactic, so that you know if each one is performing the way you need it to, and what results are needed at each stage to deliver against your final goal.

M Marcom Funnel

The marketing funnel is a buyer journey model to help you plan marketing tactics that connect with your audience at each stage.


What tactics you choose will depend on your strategy, your budget, your timeline, and the capabilities of your team. In our example of launching a new product by leveraging your reputation with existing customers, you might design a marketing funnel that looks like this:


M Graphics (3)-1


These tactics are designed to work together to let your existing customers know about the new product, help them learn about it online, warm up interested leads via email, support your sales team in closing the sale, and provide the customer with the post-purchase resources they need to maintain their good relationship with your company.

Based on this plan, your marketing team knows exactly what they need to deliver to meet their goals for the year, and what performance is needed from each tactic, so that they can work towards meeting those objectives.

How to implement your marketing communications plan

Craft detailed plans before you execute

Once your marketing communications plan is developed, it can be tempting to jump right in and start building out all your different tactics. 

But to get the best results, and to give yourself the best chance of successfully implementing your plan, you should develop detailed execution plans for each tactic. Work with the subject matter experts (SMEs) on your marketing team, like your media planner, web developer, content writer, and graphic designer, to leverage their knowledge and expertise and understand exactly what is needed for each tactic, on what budget, and within what timeline.


Marketing Audit - Workback Excel Image

A workback schedule is one way to plan out all the deliverables, deadlines, and responsibilities of your marketing projects.


By developing your plans in advance, you’ll have a thorough understanding of the work and deliverables involved. You’ll know if there are dependencies and if certain teams will need to work together. And, you’ll know ahead of time if something isn’t going to work within your timeline or your budget, so that you can adjust your plan accordingly.


Measure everything

You’ve established your KPI targets within your marketing communications plan, so you know what you’re trying to achieve with each tactic and with your plan overall. 

Before you set your marketing plans in motion, determine how you will measure each of those KPIs and where the information is going to come from. Not all measurements can be pulled retroactively, and some may require special setup in advance, so by planning your measurement ahead of time you’ll be able to make sure you get all the data you need. Work with your SMEs to figure out where the information will come from and how you’ll report it.


Marketing Dashboard

A marketing performance dashboard lets you keep track of all your marketing KPIs in one place.


Then, monitor and optimize the performance of your marketing tactics throughout their time in market. Instead of just reviewing your results at the end of a marketing program to see if you succeeded or not, monitoring throughout the life of the campaign allows you to course correct or double down on certain tactics to maximize your performance. 


Check-in and collaborate throughout 

Set regular meetings with your marketing team to review how the marketing communications work is progressing and to review the ongoing performance of any tactics that are in market. Work with them to see how things are going, make sure everyone is on the same page, and if there are changes needed or anyone needs help.

Visibility and transparency within your team maximizes your ability to execute your marketing projects as planned and achieve your desired results. And, creating opportunities for them to collaborate and seek help will make your team feel supported and help your marketing projects run smoother.

How a marketing strategist can help

Don't know how to get started? A marketing strategist like me can help.

I’ve developed and implemented over a hundred marketing communications plans for B2B and B2C clients, from pre-seed startups to large-scale multinational organizations. I’ve worked with seasoned global marketing experts and teams who had never done marketing before to help them develop their goals and plan for marketing success.

I also offer additional services like strategic facilitation for business planning, as well as fractional marketing management services to help you with the planning and implementation of your brand within your organization. Get in touch if you’d like to learn more!


Design your marketing to deliver your business goals

Your marketing communications plan lets you align your marketing tactics to your business priorities.

By starting from your business goals, developing marketing objectives that support them, and then choosing marketing tactics that deliver the right kind of results, you can focus your marketing efforts on the right activities and eliminate wasted dollars and time.

Knowing what your marketing initiatives are supposed to deliver and having clear KPIs for success will help you and your team know exactly what you need to do, and will allow you to manage your marketing projects for the best possible performance.

Ultimately, a marketing communications plan provides a focused and strategic approach to your marketing activities. By grounding your efforts in clearly defined goals and carefully chosen tactics, you can ensure your marketing investments contribute to the overall growth and success of your business.