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Free Marketing Plan Templates That Help You Design An Efficient Strategy

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How do you create a marketing plan?

To create a marketing plan, we recommends the following steps:

  1. Take a realistic account of your firm’s competitive position.
  2. Create realizable marketing objectives and strategies.
  3. Design several marketing mixes, test them, and approximate your budget.
  4. Design an implementation plan.

If you find it hard to pin down the concepts, content, and format of your marketing plan, no worries. It’s not your fault. Marketing is a really broad term. It is hard to pin down what it is and what it means for your business. Furthermore, researchers and practitioners have different views on what marketing is and should be. And hear this–there is no singular marketing plan template and definition. But you can adopt what the gurus are using and have proven effective.

In this article, we are going to provide you with marketing plan samples and templates based on Malcolm H.B. McDonald’s bestseller, The Marketing Plan. Also, we will offer a helpful marketing plan definition and some alternatives for your operational use. Furthermore, we included a breakdown of marketing plan components and a quick discussion of marketing strategies, as well as how marketing tools can help. We will also present this in a step-by-step manner based on the work of experts.

free marketing plan templates

Formulating your marketing plan steps can make or break you. Ultimately, your marketing plan serves as a reference for your marketing objectives, goals, and activities. It is your model about what value your company brings to the market, how you go about it, and your future. To wit, it should satisfy renowned marketing expert Josiah Go’s definition of marketing: “…a process of continuously and profitably satisfying target customer’s needs, wants, and expectations more superiorly than competition.

Failure comes in many forms and for several reasons. For example, a business generates extreme demand for a product yet fail to have an adequate supply. McDonald’s, in 2017, experienced this debacle when they brought back their Szechuan Sauce only to receive a backlash from unhappy Rick & Morty fans. Also, McDonald’s rolled out a new product to an existing market in the form of the Mighty Wings in 2013. Unfortunately, their marketing mix failed them. This marketing failure left 10 million tons of unsold chicken wings.

marketing plan fail

The face of a marketing plan fail: McDonald miscalculated Rick & Morty fans’ demand for its Szechuan Sauce by a mile.

Marketing, understandably, is very difficult. Most businesses fail because of marketing one way or the other. And, many businesses are failing now. Coresight Research reports that there will be a 29% increase in store closings this year than the last. This amounts to 7,600 stores to be closed this year alone. Additionally, Payless ShoeSource accounts for 37% of these closings. This failure was a mix of bad inventory management and a late rolling-out of an eCommerce while in debt. As a result, it is being selected out of the retail market.

You do not want to be a part of this statistic. Instead, learn from mistakes like these and strive to keep your marketing on track by having a solid marketing map.  Let’s start the engine.

First Phase: Goal Setting

Create the Mission Statement

The first thing that needs to be clear for all business operations is the mission statement. Malcolm McDonald notes that the mission statement is often the most difficult part of marketing planning for managers. This is because it is qualitative and can be a bit philosophical. However, this is very important to master. Many times, organizations have different departments and groups pulling away in different directions. There exist no clear bounds on what a company wants to do and how to achieve its goals. A mission statement prevents this. Here are things to consider in writing a good mission statement.

  • Role or contribution of the company. This includes either the specific profit, service or the opportunity that it seeks.
  • Definition of the business. This should be in terms of the benefits the company provides and needs that the company satisfies instead of its products or services.
  • Core competencies (distinct). These include the essential skills or capabilities that a company possesses that are key to its current success. Also, competence can be a set of skills or a particular skill in comparison with target competition. If you rank equally with them in a certain skill, this shouldn’t be included as a distinct competence.
  • Indications for the future. This consists of what the organization will do, might do, and will never do.

Set Corporate Objectives

Corporate objectives relate to the business as a whole. Per McDonald, this involves the application of business planning to several units of the whole business. Corporate objectives should include the following:

The desired level of profitability. This should be as specific as possible. Also, you should also use the SMART guidelines: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.

Business boundaries. This includes other business components surrounding the marketing aspect.

  • The kinds of products to be sold to what kinds of markets
  • The kinds of facilities that are needed to be developed (for R&D, distribution, information systems, etc.)
  • The size and character of your labor force
  • The types and levels of funding needed

Other corporate objectives. This contains other objectives like corporate image, employer image, stock market image, and social responsibility among others.

Also, Peter Drucker suggested that corporate objectives should cover 8 key areas. This is related to McDonald’s notes above and is a breakdown into important segments below.

Second Phase: Situation Review

Conduct a Marketing Audit

Many successful companies, according to McDonald, start their planning cycle each year with a formal audit process. This auditing process takes into account everything that has an important influence on marketing activities. In a deep sense, you will be creating a benchmark for your marketing objectives & strategies.

McDonald recommends that you treat the information taken from the audit as a database. You still need to turn this into intelligence, the information crucial to decision-making processes. In practice, business intelligence tools are pretty useful for this task. The marketing audit is split into two categories: internal and external. See the table below.

Additionally, there are two popular tools for external auditing: PESTEL and Porter’s Five Forces.

Firstly, PESTEL stands for Political, Economic,  Social, Technological, Economic, and Legal. This gives you an overview of the macro-environmental factors that can affect your business and marketing efforts. You can download your free PESTEL analysis template here.


Secondly, Porter’s Five Forces is a tool that helps you take into account the influence of external industrial forces. These are Supplier Power, Buyer Power, Threats of New Entrants, and the Threat of Substitutes. Feel free to download your Porter’s Five Forces template here. Both templates contain tips and instructions.

Porter's Five Forces template

Porter’s Five Forces template.

Create the Market Overview

Many marketing efforts fail because of working with bad definitions. This is more so when a bad definition is given to a key concept such as a ‘market’. As a general rule, experts note that a market should be defined in a “needs-based” manner instead of a “product/service-based” definition. Failure to do this can result in big failures. Imagine this. If Sony acted as if it is in the Betamax or Walkman “market”,  the company wouldn’t have survived when those “markets” disappeared. Instead, they define their target markets based on needs like the need for technologically-assisted entertainment activities.

A good definition of ‘market’ comes from Malcolm McDonald. He defined it as “the aggregation of all the alternative goods or services which customers regard to be capable of satisfying the same customer need. ” So, when you gather information to create your market overview, you should keep in mind all of the objects, processes, and players that satisfy such needs.

Thus, when you create your market overview,  McDonald recommends that you include:

  • What the market is
  • How it works
  • What the key decision-making points are
  • What the segments are

A market map, according to McDonald, is a useful tool to capture how value is created and used in your target market. Furthermore, it should also be “balanced” like a balance sheet where if n number of products were made then n products must be distributed. Surely, if these products are purchased, there were decision-makers for these purchases. The market map helps in clearing these activities quantitatively. Feel free to download a generic market map template here.

Additionally, should you really want to start from scratch, you can always make use of a good mind mapping software.

marketing map

How a marketing map looks like.

Do a SWOT Analysis

A SWOT analysis, according to McDonald, is basically a summary of the audit. You place these summaries under the headings of internal strengths & weaknesses as they relate to external opportunities & threats (i.e. information in PESTEL and Porter’s Five Forces). Also, please note that it is better to write down differential strengths and weaknesses compared with competitors. It is not really a strength when your competitor is also really great at it too. You can download your SWOT analysis template here.

SWOT template

SWOT template.

Furthermore, McDonald recommends that you score your differential strengths & weaknesses and your target competitors’. Use a max score of 10 for each critical success factor (CSF). These are key factors for winning customers in every market segment. Then, multiply each by the weight of each factor for success (the total weight should equal a hundred). The weights should be chosen according to their relative importance to customers in those segments. This will give you a clearer view of where you stand in the market including your competitors.  You can download your free CSF worksheet here. Further instructions are included.

critical success factors

Critical Success Factors matrix.

Third Phase: Strategy Formulation

Write Down your Assumptions

Now that you have completed your audit and SWOT analyses, you have to write down your educated assumptions. These are your outlooks and projections within the market as defined here. Assumptions, according to McDonald, should be few in number. They should be related to the CSFs you have laid out in the previous step.

Examples of assumptions include:

  • A major competitor is rolling out a flanker brand in the last quarter of next year
  • A new entrant is poised to appear and will take about 5% of the market share in the next quarter
  • Suppliers for product X are hit with new tariffs, the market price for product X will increase by 10%

Determine your Marketing Objectives & Strategies

Now, we’re in the meat of the matter. However, it is important to note that we confuse ‘marketing objectives’ with other things like sales promotion objectives, advertising objectives, and pricing objectives. Marketing objectives, McDonald stated, is just all about products and markets. Advertising, pricing, and so on are just the means and strategies to achieve them. We should stick with the big picture.

Additionally, your marketing objectives should also follow the SMART principle. When terms such as ‘penetrate’, ‘maximize’, & ‘increase’ will be used, be sure to have a quantifiable measurement attached. Otherwise, McDonald warns, these are not objectives at all.

Marketing objectives can easily be determined using the Ansoff Matrix. Also, every cell in the table corresponds to a general strategy. McDonald noted that objectives are usually just about one, or sometimes more, of the following:

  • Existing products for existing markets (Market Penetration strategy)
  • New products for existing markets (Product Development strategy
  • Existing products for new markets (Market Development strategy)
  • New products for new markets (Diversification strategy)

You can use this tool to plot your objectives and determine your strategy for every target market. When you do, you should then create your marketing mix based on your objectives and strategies. The marketing mix is comprised of the tools you have to influence your target customers. These are traditionally the 4Ps: product, price, place (distribution and touchpoints), and promotions. You can download your Ansoff Matrix template here and your 4Ps worksheet here.

ansoff matrix

Ansoff Matrix template

4Ps worksheet

4Ps worksheet.

Estimate Expected Results and Identify Alternative Plans & Mixes

In this phase, you will be employing judgment whether what you did in the previous stages are sound. You can carry out field tests and run the numbers whether your strategies can really meet your objectives. Moreover, be sure to test the feasibility of your objectives and strategies as well. According to McDonald, you should do this in terms of costs, profits, market shares, and others. Also, it’s safe to have alternatives.

Historically, there have been many marketing plans and products that have been rolled out and failed. Surely, the planners really thought that their plan is bound for success. But having this subjective view and bias to one’s own work can be detrimental. This is why testing and having alternatives are good practice. You don’t want to end up to be a part of the marketing team behind Colgate frozen dinners or Gerber food for adults. Yes, these products actually existed. And, marketers were behind them both.

Phase Four: Resource Allocation

Calculate the Budget

In this step, you want your tried and tested strategies properly funded. As they are already critiqued and tested, you should treat them as an investment rather than an expense. Therefore, you want to be smart about it and account these properly to approximate their costs. Also, you want your budget to be dynamic. You should be able to make changes and updates along the way. You can prepare your marketing budget using any of the leading marketing automation software solutions. You will be able to automate key processes and keep everything marketing-related in one place securely. Platforms can be on-premise or in the cloud. One such tool is HubSpot Marketing, which is highly recommended by our experts.

Come Up with a Detailed First-Year Implementation Program

Now, you have reached the final stage of your marketing plan. Also, this is where you break down your strategies into detailed tactics for the first year of your operation. Your objectives will be broken down into sub-objectives. Also, each should be supported by detailed strategy and action policies as McDonald suggests. Again, we recommend that you use programs that will make keying things in easily and securely.

You can use a project management program for this. You can set up tasks and automate interdependent assignments for your team. These tools usually include visual ticklers like Gantt charts and other tracking tools. The best software that we’ve reviewed so far is

Now, this detailed plan will be based on your strategic marketing plan. This may involve a detailed advertising plan, product development plan, and whatnot. As a result, there will be many details to include. Therefore, we highly recommend using software for this and just export reports for easy presentations.

The Marketing Plan Format

Finally, you have your data and analyses ready. Now, you should just arrange them in an understandable structure. Your company may already have a format for that. If not, you need to find an example of a good marketing plan format. Look no further and download this Excel marketing plan template, Marketing Plan for Edita Wafer. It is good to note that there is really no single marketing plan template pdf for every firm or industry. You simply have to create one that fits your needs.

However, for strategic marketing or even digital marketing plan template, most marketers simply use something similar to Malcolm McDonald’s example below (also, include an executive summary in the beginning):

The Strategic Marketing Plan (Planning Process Output)

  1. Mission Statement
  2. Financial Summary
  3. Market Overview
  4. SWOT Analysis
  5. Assumptions
  6. Marketing Objectives and Strategies
  7. Three-Year Forecasts and Budgets

Putting Everything Together (free templates)

All you do now is input your database and analysis into a template or sample using a clear format. Additionally, please note that you should include your external audit matrices (PESTEL and Porter’s Five Forces) in the market overview. Furthermore, it is preferable to present your financial summary in a graphical form. To make this easier, we recommend that you use accounting platforms for this. They generate graphical reports that are readily exportable. Moreover, you should take advantage of the many free accounting tools out there. Also, there are also premium tools that don’t cost that much. To wit, the best accounting tool right now for our experts is FreshBooks. It’s paid plan starts low at just $15.

Free Marketing Plan Template Downloads

So, we hope that we helped you a bit with your marketing planning needs. Also, before you go, here are the marketing plan templates, tools, and components embedded in the article:

By Nestor Gilbert

Senior writer for FinancesOnline. If he is not writing about the booming SaaS and B2B industry, with special focus on developments in CRM and business intelligence software spaces, he is editing manuscripts for aspiring and veteran authors. He has compiled years of experience editing book titles and writing for popular marketing and technical publications.

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