How to Create a Killer Marketing Plan and Spare Yourself a Scare

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I’ve loved Halloween since I was a kid. Back then, I loved dreaming up a costume, sometimes months in advance, and coming up with a plan for the night. And I still love the holiday. I love the fun. The frightful elements of surprise. And, of course, those sugary treats.

Planning for a successful All Hallow’s Eve has odd parallels to creating a successful marketing plan. You’ve got to do some preparation to make sure everything is just right – from the look and feel of campaigns to the route planning to the execution.

Let’s dissect the components of a killer marketing plan so you won’t be caught by surprise. Don’t be afraid – this process isn’t scary. The real horror show would be not having a plan.

Starting down the wrong path

Before we embark, a word of caution. It’s tempting to plan your “costume” first, and your logistics second. But don’t go too far down the path too quickly. You’ll want to have a general sense of your plan before you put the finishing touches on the costume, and, as we know, the devil is in the details. For example, do you know where you’re celebrating? An indoor party is different than traipsing outside through the streets. Who are you celebrating with, colleagues or kids? What’s your budget? All of these things may affect your costume choice.

If you put your marketing plan lens on, you’ll see the parallels. Your Halloween party location is akin to your marketing channels. Your cohorts are your audience. And your budget is, well, your budget. Before you polish up that perfect campaign copy, be sure you have the lay of the landscape.

Elements of a successful marketing plan

Marketing planning: tales, timing, and tactics

First, you need to think big picture. What do you want to do, and where? This includes initial ideation and tactical planning. What exactly is your ghoul … that is, your goal? Plot it out in concrete terms, for example, “launch a new product,” or “run a contest.” Put that stake in the ground.

Casting your vision

If you have initial ideas for your costume – your vision – it’s OK to sketch those out in loose terms. A skeleton outline, of sorts. Just don’t spend too much time here, because things may change as you work through the rest of your plan.

Next, consider your timing.

What is your launch date? Put together a rough workback schedule leading up to that date.

Another time-related decision is the duration of your campaign – when it will start and expire. These parameters are key, and timing really is everything. (Also, here’s a hint: marketing automation can help you launch your campaign at just the right moment on the customer journey.)

Who are you trying to reach?

Think through whether you want to address new or existing customers, or perhaps those former customers who have ghosted you who you want to re-engage. These are people you’d like to put under your spell.

Where will you go?

Consider the channels where you’ll promote. This is the logistical part of your campaign – your route planning. Consider tried and true routes that you know yield lots of proverbial candy, as well as some newbies to add to the mix.

What’s your budget – and resources?

How much mummy – er, money – do you have to spend? What’s your budget?

Also, how many hands are on your deck? How many newts are in your cauldron? Think about resourcing and capacity planning, both from your in-house staff and third parties.

Set yourself up for success

Before you track the results of your campaign, you’ll want to have an idea of your objectives. These should be noted in your marketing plan before you start it – so if you haven’t put some benchmarks and goals into your plans, go back and do that first. It’s important to make sure your goals are measurable and attainable so you’re not haunted by regret later. Remember the industry acronym “SMART” – set goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely.

Remove the cloak of darkness and get everything out into the daylight. How will you tactically measure the results? What tools will you use? Where and how will you share those results – to current colleagues as well as in an archive for future? It’s always good to keep a record of what you do – especially if it was a monster success. (Note: Act-On can help here.)

Don’t forget to hand out the tricks and treats. It’s important to surprise your audience – wow them, delight them, and offer goodies. This may be where you weave in loyalty programs, customer rewards, discounts, and offers, or contests.

Finally, pull your thoughts together and let your team know what the plan is. You know the adage: Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and tell them what you told them. Clarity is the charm. In a marketing plan, this takes shape via the Executive Summary – or abstract – at the beginning. As well, close with a conclusion summing up all the parts.

Then get buy-off, by circulating it to your boss, your colleagues, and whomever else is a key stakeholder. Bewitch them with your brilliant strategy and you’ll avoid the boos.

Creation and design

Next comes the fun part: creating the look – the “costume” – and trying it on for size.

As I mentioned, the creative phase is often where we want to jump first. Once you have a full picture of the overarching plan and parameters, it’s time! Look back to your skeleton notes from above. Now that you have more bones in the plan, are you starting to see a better picture of the finished product?

Now’s the time to cut loose and turn that pumpkin into a jack-o-lantern – to start to write, design, create. Try it on for size – i.e., test it with your colleagues. And remember to bury any elements that are dead on arrival.

Executing your plan

Contrary to its grim name, this is the go-do phase. Be sure you know who is on the hook to do what. Make sure your plan names names. Assign tasks and deadlines to teams or individuals. Be clear about the expectations of who’s responsible for what by when. Don’t let your team get caught in a spiderweb of confusion and mixed messages. (Read this for more reasons on why you need a clear workflow process.)

Measuring success: How much loot did you score?

Once you execute your plans, it’s time to start seeing how they performed. In Halloween terms, this is where you count your candy.

We all want to succeed, to score a lot of loot. But remember that you learn from failures, too, so don’t let them spook you. If you come across some dead ends with no candy, you know you shouldn’t try them again next year.

Not so scary after all

I hope these tips help you feel more confident in creating a marketing plan. I wish you success on the journey – and candy-haul – ahead.