5 Steps to Create an Outstanding Marketing Plan [Free Templates]

5 Steps to Create an Outstanding Marketing Plan [Free Templates]

Do you take a good, hard look at your team’s marketing strategy every year?

You should. An annual marketing plan helps you set your marketing on the right course to make your company’s business goals a reality. Think of it as a high-level plan that guides the direction of your team’s campaigns, goals, and growth.

Without one, things can get messy — and it’s nearly impossible to put a number on the budget you’ll need to secure for the projects, hiring, and outsourcing you’ll encounter over the course of a year if you don’t have a plan.

Keep in mind there are variations to the marketing plan you need, depending on your industry and the goals of your marketing team. To make your plan’s creation easier, we’ve put together a list of what to include in your plan and a few different planning templates where you can easily fill in the blanks.

Download Now: Free Marketing Plan Template

To start, let’s dive into how to create a marketing plan and then take a look at what a high-level marketing plan has inside.

In this article, we’re going to discuss: 

1. Conduct a situation analysis.

Before you can get started with your marketing plan, you have to know your current situation.

What are your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats? Conduct a basic SWOT analysis is the first step to creating a marketing plan.

Additionally, you should also have an understanding of the current market. How do you compare to your competitors? Doing a competitor analysis should help you with this step.

Think about how other products are better than yours. Plus, consider the gaps in a competitor’s approach. What are they missing? What can you offer that’ll give you a competitive advantage? Think about what sets you apart.

Answering questions like this should help you figure out what your customer wants, which brings us to step number two.

2. Define your target audience.

Once you have a better understanding of the market and your company’s situation, make sure you know who your target audience is.

If your company already has buyer personas, this step might just mean you have to refine your current personas.

If you don’t have a buyer persona, you should create one. To do this, you might have to conduct market research.

Your buyer persona should include demographic information such as age, gender, and income. However, it will also include psychographic information such as pain points and goals. What drives your audience? What problems do they have that your product or service can fix?

Once you have this information written out, it’ll help you define what your goals are, which brings us to step number three.

3. Write SMART goals.

My mother always used to tell me, “You can’t go somewhere unless you have a road map.” Now, for me, someone who’s geographically challenged, that was literal advice.

However, it can also be applied metaphorically to marketing. You can’t improve your ROI unless you know what your goals are.

After you’ve figured out your current situation and know your audience, you can begin to define your SMART goals.

SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. This means that all your goals should be specific and include a time frame for which you want to complete it.

For example, your goal could be to increase your Instagram followers by 15% in three months. Depending on your overall marketing goals, this should be relevant and attainable. Additionally, this goal is specific, measurable, and time-bound.

Before you start any tactic, you should write out your goals. Then, you can begin to analyze which tactics will help you achieve that goal. That brings us to step number four.

4. Analyze your tactics.

At this point, you’ve written down your goals based on your target audience and current situation.

Now, you have to figure out what tactics will help you achieve your goals. Plus, what are the right channels and action items to focus on.

For example, if your goal is to increase your Instagram followers by 15% in three months, your tactics might include hosting a giveaway, responding to every comment, and posting three times on Instagram per week.

Once you know your goals, brainstorming several tactics to achieve those goals should be easy.

However, while you’re writing your tactics, you have to keep your budget in mind, which brings us to step number five.

5. Set your budget.

Before you can begin implementing any of your ideas that you’ve come up with in the steps above, you have to know your budget.

For example, your tactics might include social media advertising. However, if you don’t have the budget for that, then you might not be able to achieve your goals.

While you’re writing out your tactics, be sure to note an estimated budget. You can include the time it’ll take to complete each tactic in addition to the assets you might need to purchase, such as ad space.

Now that you know how to create your marketing plan, let’s dive into the elements that a high-level marketing plan should include.

Marketing Plan Outline

Marketing plans can get quite granular to reflect the industry you’re in, whether you’re selling to consumers (B2C) or other businesses (B2B), and how big your digital presence is. Nonetheless, here are the elements every effective marketing plan includes:

1. Business Summary

In a marketing plan, your Business Summary is exactly what it sounds like: a summary of the organization. This includes:

  • The company name
  • Where it’s headquartered
  • Its mission statement

2. Business Initiatives

The Business Initiatives element of a marketing plan helps you segment the various goals of your department. Be careful not to include big-picture company initiatives, which you’d normally find in a business plan. This section of your marketing plan should outline the projects that are specific to marketing. You’ll also describe the goals of those projects and how those goals will be measured.

3. Customer Analysis

Here’s where you’ll conduct some basic market research. If your company has already done a thorough market research study, this section of your marketing plan might be easier to put together.

Ultimately, this element of your marketing plan will help you describe the industry you’re selling to and your buyer persona. A buyer persona is a semi-fictional description of your ideal customer, focusing on traits like:

  • Age
  • Location
  • Title
  • Goals
  • Personal challenges
  • Pains
  • Triggering events

4. Competitor Analysis

Your buyer persona has choices when it comes to solving their problems, choices in both the types of solutions they consider and the providers that can administer those solutions. In your market research, you should consider your competition, what they do well, and where the gaps are that you can potentially fill. This can include:

  • Positioning
  • Market share
  • Offerings
  • Pricing

5. SWOT Analysis

Your marketing plan’s Business Summary also includes a SWOT analysis, which stands for the business’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Be patient with your business’s SWOT analysis; you’ll write most of it based on your market research from the sections above and your strategy below.

6. Market Strategy

Your Market Strategy uses the information included in the above sections to describe how your company should approach the market. What will your business offer your buyer personas that your competitors aren’t already offering them?

In a full-length marketing plan, this section can contain the “seven Ps of marketing”:

  • Product
  • Price
  • Place
  • Promotion
  • People
  • Process
  • Physical Evidence

(You’ll learn more about these seven sub-components inside our free marketing plan template, which you can download below.)

7. Budget

Don’t mistake the Budget element of your marketing plan with your product’s price or other company financials. Your budget describes how much money the business has allotted the marketing team to pursue the initiatives and goals outlined in the elements above.

Depending on how many individual expenses you have, you should consider itemizing this budget by what specifically you’ll spend your budget on. Example marketing expenses include:

  • Outsourcing costs to a marketing agency and/or other providers
  • Marketing software
  • Paid promotions
  • Events (those you’ll host and/or attend)

8. Marketing Channels

Lastly, your marketing plan will include a list of your marketing channels. While your company might promote the product itself using certain ad space, your marketing channels are where you’ll publish the content that educates your buyers, generates leads, and spreads awareness of your brand.

If you publish (or intend to publish) on social media, this is the place to talk about it. Use the Marketing Channels section of your marketing plan to lay out which social networks you want to launch a business page on, what you’ll use this social network for, and how you’ll measure your success on this network. Part of this section’s purpose is to prove to your superiors, both inside and outside the marketing department, that these channels will serve to grow the business.

Businesses with extensive social media presences might even consider elaborating on their social strategy in a separate social media plan template.

9. Financial Projections

Knowing the budget and doing analysis on the marketing channels you want to invest in, you should be able to come up with a plan for how much budget to invest in which tactics based on expected ROI. From there, you’ll be able to come up with financial projections for the year. These won’t be 100% accurate but can help with executive planning.

Free Marketing Plan Template [Word]

Now that you know what to include in your marketing plan, it’s time to grab your marketing plan template and see how best to organize the six elements explained above. The following marketing plan template opens directly in Microsoft Word, so you can edit each section as you see fit:

Cover page of free marketing plan template

Download your marketing plan template here.

Social Media Marketing Plan Templates

As marketing departments grow, so will their presence on social media. And as as their social media presence grows, so will their need to measure, plan, and re-plan what types of content they want to publish across each network.

If you’re looking for a way to deepen your social media marketing strategy — even further than the marketing plan template above — the following collection of social media marketing plan templates is perfect for you:

Download 10 social media reporting templates here.

In the above collection of marketing plan templates, you’ll get to fill in the following contents (and more) to suit your company:

  • Annual social media budget tracking
  • Weekly social media themes
  • Required social media image dimension key
  • Pie chart on social media traffic sorted by platform
  • Social media post calendar and publish time

Below, let’s review the social media reporting templates, and what you’ll find in each one.

1. Social Media Questions

Social media publishing analysis and questions.

This template lists out questions to help you decide which social media management platform you should use.

Once you know what social media tactics you’re going to implement in your marketing plan, it’s time to figure out what channels are right for you. This template will help you do that.

2. Hashtag Holidays

Social media hashtag holidays.

If you’re going to lean in to social media in your marketing plan, you can use hashtag holidays to generate ideas.

These holidays are a great way to fill out your social media publishing schedule. With this template, you’ll get a list of all the hashtag holidays for the year.

3. Facebook Live Schedule

Facebook live schedule template.

If Facebook live is one of the marketing tactics in your plan, this template will help you design an editorial calendar. With this template, you can organize what Facebook live’s you want to do and when.

4. Instagram Post Log

Instagram post log for social media publishing management.

Are you going to begin using Instagram regularly? Do you want to increase your following? With this template, you can organize your Instagram posts, so everyone on your team knows what posts are going live and when.

Additionally, you can organize your assets and campaigns on this doc.

5. Paid Social Media Template

paid social media template for annual budgeting

With this template, you can organize your annual and monthly budget for your paid social media calendar.

6. Social Media Audit

Social media audit template.

Conducting a social media audit? You can use this template to help you gather the right analytics.

7. Social Media Editorial Calendar

Social media editorial calendar template.

With this template, you can organize your social media editorial calendar. For example, you can include social media posts for each platform, so your team knows what’s going live on any given day.

8. Social Media Image Sizes

Social media image size template.

With this template, your team can have the latest social media image sizes handy. This template includes image sizes for all major social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

9. Social Media Marketing Proposal

Social media marketing proposal template.

With this template, you can create an entire social media marketing proposal. This will outline the social media goals, scope of the work, and the tactics that you plan to implement.

10. Social Media Reporting Template

Social media report template.

With this template, you’ll gain access to a slidedeck that includes templates for social media reporting. If you plan to implement social media in your marketing plan, these reporting templates can help you track your progress.

Simple Marketing Plan Template

Of course, this type of planning takes a lot of time and effort. So if you’re strapped for time before the holidays, give our new Marketing Plan Generator a try. This tool simplifies yearly planning and lays your strategies, initiatives, and goals out in a simple template so you can identify what’s most important for the coming year.

Try our free Marketing Plan Generator here.

Once you’ve filled in your information, you’ll come away with a plan that helps you:

  • Outline your annual marketing strategy
  • Identify your most important annual initiatives
  • Nix the projects that won’t help you hit your goals
  • Track the right metrics throughout the year
  • Align your team through a common mission

Pro Tip: The best way to set up your marketing plan for the year is to start with quick wins first, that way you can ramp up fast and set yourself (and your team) up to hit more challenging goals and take on more sophisticated projects by Q4. So, what do you say? Are you ready to give it a spin?

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in December 2016 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

Marketing Plan Template

How to Easily Create a SlideShare Presentation

How to Easily Create a SlideShare Presentation

You know how hot visual content is, and you want to jump on board to enjoy the engagement, traffic, and leads that follow. But maybe you’re not keen on writing a blog post, and you don’t have the production resources to create videos. What to do? Create a SlideShare presentation.

→ Free Download: 4 PowerPoint Presentation Templates [Access Now]

I know, I know. You may have felt personally victimized by PowerPoint sometime in your career. When you open it up, you’re hit with stark black Calibri font on a white background, killing any creative spark you may have felt. It’s daunting enough to create a 10-slide deck to report your monthly marketing metrics — never mind putting together slides that can be seen by the large volume of SlideShare users.

Well, there’s good news: Creating a SlideShare presentation in PowerPoint doesn’t have to be that daunting. With the right templates and tools at your disposal, you could easily create an engaging, visual presentation — all without fancy design programs, huge budgets, or hiring contractors.

How to Create a Stunning  SlideShare Presentation in PowerPoint

To help you make a SlideShare of your own, we’ve created some free PowerPoint presentation templates for making awesome SlideShares. That way, your presentations will look great and be a breeze to put together.

Download the free PowerPoint templates, scroll down, and we’ll walk through how to use them. When we’re done, you’ll know exactly how to create a sexy presentation that gets featured on SlideShare’s homepage. Ready? Let’s dive in.

1. Get a feel for the types of presentations you can find on SlideShare. 

Just as you’d master any other medium, it helps to consume other content in that medium to get an idea of the format and what works. Go to SlideShare.net and discover SlideShares that interest you. You can view them on the platform or download them to your computer and peruse them on your local machine. 

SlideShare Presentation Download

Here’s how to download a PowerPoint from SlideShare:

  1. Sign up for a SlideShare account.
  2. Navigate to the SlideShare presentation that you want to download.
  3. Click the button labeled “Download.”
  4. When asked if you want to clip the slide, click “Continue to download.”
  5. Click “Save File” and then confirm by clicking “OK.”

Some may not download as a .ppt file, and some may not be available to download at all. However, this method works in all other cases.

2. Decide on fonts and a color scheme. 

Before you get too caught up in the specifics of your storyline, figure out which fonts and color scheme you want to use. (If you’re using our free templates, you can skip this part.) 

When you’re choosing fonts, consider two different ones to use throughout your presentation — one for your headers and one for your body text. Your header font should be bold and eye-catching, and your body text font should be simple and easy to read. The contrast between the two will make it much easier for your SlideShare viewers to grasp your core messages. 

For your color scheme, pick a scheme that will have enough contrast between colors to make colors stand out. Whether you decide to use two, three, or four different colors in your presentation is up to you — but certain color combinations go together better than others.

Below is an example of what certain fonts and color combinations can look like. Notice how the header fonts stand out much more than the body? You can also see what different color palettes might look like: The top is monochromatic, the middle is complementary, and the bottom is analogous. 

3 combinations of header and body fonts.

3. Outline main takeaways and crucial sub-bullets.

Next up: Creating an outline for your SlideShare’s narrative. I like to treat SlideShare outlines just like I would blog posts — you decide on the working title and main takeaways first. Then, you elaborate on those sections with a few supporting points.

For each of those components (title, section headers, and a few supporting points), create a slide. Below is an example of what those slides might look like: 

Title

title slide using hubspot powerpoint template

Headers

header slide using hubspot powerpoint template

Supporting Points

supporting point slide using hubspot powerpoint template

You’ll also want to create slide placeholders for the call-to-action and conclusion slides (you don’t need to elaborate on them just yet).

Keep in mind that these slides should not be complex — just a title and maybe a few details that you want to remember down the road. No paragraphs. No supporting images. Nothing that’s not built into your template already. 

4. Fill out the body of your presentation.

Then, fill in the meat of the content — all the slides between the headers. Just make sure you’re not relying too much on text. SlideShare is a primarily visual platform — people are used to breezing through presentations. So if your presentation reads like an ebook, you should edit down the text and rely more heavily on visual content. 

Another thing to remember is to switch up your format from slide to slide. Try doing a checklist slide followed by, say, a quote slide — it keeps people on their toes as they flip through your presentation.

checklist slide in hubspot powerpoint template

quote slide in hubspot powerpoint template

5. Add introduction slides. 

After you’ve created the majority of your SlideShare presentation, head back to the start. Wonder why we didn’t begin here? It’ll be much easier to tee up the bulk of your content if you already know what that content is about. In this step, just introduce what you just wrote about — it’ll be a breeze. 

6. Wrap up the conclusion.

Then, head to the end of your SlideShare and wrap it up in a slide or two. There is nothing more jarring than going from a body slide right to a CTA slide. You only need a slide or two to conclude your presentation, but it should naturally tee up the CTA that you will have next. 

7. Add a call-to-action slide.

At the verrrrrry end of your SlideShare, you want to keep your viewers engaged by providing a call-to-action. The CTA could be about downloading an ebook, attending an event, or even just visiting your website — pretty much any CTA you’d like to include. Here are two CTA slide examples that we included in the SlideShare template:

cta slide in hubspot powerpoint template

cta slide in hubspot powerpoint template

8. Edit, edit, edit.

You’re almost there! Next, you need to go through and edit your copy and design components. Try to get another coworker — marketer or not — to give it a once over. If you need some direction, you can use our ultimate editing checklist to make sure you’re catching everything you can.

9. Add “animated slides” and clickable links.

Though it’s easy to create a presentation in PowerPoint and upload it immediately to SlideShare, not all of the same features will appear in both programs. As a result, there are two things you’ll need to add in: “animated slides” and clickable links. 

As far as slide animation goes, SlideShare does not support PowerPoint animations. This means that all of those smooth entrances you planned for your text boxes and objects go out the window once you upload your presentation to SlideShare. But, it’s easy to manually introduce new elements on a series of slides to make it seem like it’s “animated.”

Once you’ve built in your animations, you’ll also need to make sure people can actually click on the CTAs in your presentation. 

10. Upload your PDF to SlideShare.

After you’re finished with your clickable links, your presentation will be in a PDF format. At this point, you’re ready for the final step: uploading your PDF to SlideShare. When you do this, you have the option to add a description and tags, and even schedule the SlideShare to go live at a certain time. Once your SlideShare is live, you should spend some time promoting it on your blog and social media accounts, and to your email lists. (For more SlideShare promotion tips, check out this blog post.)

Just follow this process when you need to create a SlideShare presentation, and you won’t have to fear that blank PowerPoint template ever again. 

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in August 2013 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

powerpoint slides


How to Create a Stunning Presentation Cover Page [+ Examples]

How to Create a Stunning Presentation Cover Page [+ Examples]

When you’re focused on creating a meaningful, persuasive presentation, it’s easy to overlook the cover page. But giving that first page of your deck a little more love can actually go a long way towards grabbing your audience’s attention early on and setting the tone for the rest of your presentation.

A stunning presentation cover page can intrigue your audience into wanting to know more and increase engagement with the information you’re presenting. On the other hand, a lackluster slide, or even the lack of one, can dampen audience enthusiasm for your presentation, and maybe even your own.

You’ve put so much work into your presentation — why waste that valuable real estate on the first slide of your deck?

In this post, we’ll cover the basics of creating a presentation cover page that’s informative and attention-grabbing. Let’s dive in.

→ Free Download: 4 PowerPoint Presentation Templates [Access Now]

What’s included in a presentation cover page?

A good presentation cover page accomplishes three simple things:

  • It introduces the topic with a straightforward title.
  • It introduces you (and your organization, if applicable)
  • It sets the tone of your presentation.

Title

We probably don’t need to tell you this one, but your presentation cover page should be centered around a title. And ideally, a title that’s straightforward, descriptive, and simple. If you’re finding it hard to keep your title short, add a subtitle (in smaller print) to clarify what you’ll be speaking about.

Speaker

Next, identify the person (or group) who will be giving the presentation. In some cases, this will be as simple as including your own name, and in others, you’ll want to include your company name, logo, department, or other identifying information. As a general guideline, you’ll need less identifying information if you’re giving an internal presentation.

If your audience is mainly folks outside of your company (or there are plans to distribute your deck externally) you’ll typically want to include more information to identify your company clearly.

Tone

A successful cover page sets the “tone” of your deck — but what does that really mean? The colors, imagery, fonts, and placements of different elements on your cover page all create a specific visual style that the rest of your deck should follow.

A well-designed page conveys a sense of professionalism and preparedness that a simple monochrome text slide simply cannot. Even if you’re not a design expert, you need to pay attention to the aesthetics of your cover page. Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to find free, professional-looking presentation templates without needing a degree in graphic design. Whatever you choose, it’s important to remain relevant to your presentation (and, if applicable, your company’s branding).

We’ll explore a few examples of cover pages below so you can see how different elements converge to set the tone for a variety of different presentations.

Presentation Cover Page Examples

Below, we’ve compiled a number of presentation cover pages that succeed in different areas. Remember: there’s no single perfect format for a presentation cover page, but hopefully, you get some inspiration from this list.

Setting An Emotional Tone

The right presentation page can set an emotional tone as well as a visual one. This presentation cover page for a nonprofit conveys a mission-driven approach to protecting nature, with a well-selected, relevant image, and a call-to-action directly in the subtitle. (Photo by Andy Køgl on Unsplash)

Focusing on a Photo

You don’t need to overcomplicate the format of your cover page, especially if you have a great photo to use as a full background image. A simple stock photo here provides a clean backdrop for this presentation on remote work. Just make sure your title text is legible over any background photo you decide to use. (Photo by Corinne Kutz on Unsplash)

Leading With Your Brand

Even if you’re the central speaker for a presentation, it might make more sense to highlight your team or brand on your cover page, instead of including your own personal information (you can always include your own contact info at the end of your deck for follow-up questions). Context (if you’re speaking at a particular event or annual meeting) can be important to highlight as well on your cover page.

Go Minimal

There’s a big difference between a cover slide you didn’t put much thought into and a slide that makes good use of whitespace and leans on strong copy. Sometimes, the best way to lead an audience into your presentation is to create space for a little mystery.

If you’re giving a more casual presentation or a pitch that doesn’t need to follow a particular format, consider going the minimal route and opening with a simple cover page slide that asks your audience a question (one that you of course plan to answer).

Set a Purpose

Many presentations include an agenda slide directly after your cover slide, but that doesn’t mean you can use your cover slide to set a clear purpose upfront. Consider using your subtitle to explain a more robust (but still simple!) description of what you’ll cover.

Presentation Cover Page Templates

Instead of creating your presentation cover page from scratch, using a template can take much of the work out of the process. Check out these websites for templates that you can use for your presentation or for inspiration to create your own designs.

Canva

A tried-and-true favorite of many marketing teams, Canva offers up a wide selection of modern, drag-and-drop presentation templates with truly unique cover pages. If you’re on the hunt for a cover page that looks like you hired a graphic designer to create it just for you, Canva is a good place to start your search. Canva offers both free and paid options.

Beautiful.ai

Beautiful.ai has an intuitive, highly-customizable presentation builder that allows you to import your own visual elements directly from your computer or a Dropbox folder. Like Canva, they offer a number of free and paid template options (with great cover pages). Their biggest differentiating feature is their (frankly, very cool) adaptive AI technology, which intuits how you’re trying to design a slide and makes changes automatically to suit the direction of your project.

EDIT

For a completely free option with cover page starter template to suit a wide range of different projects across different formats, check out EDIT. Their online tool is specifically designed to create cover pages in a simple, easy-to-use interface.

Visme

Another highly-customizable template source is Visme, which gives users the ability to select a starting template from their (expansive) library and customize elements in a simple web editor.

VectorStock®

VectorStock® has a massive selection of PowerPoint presentation cover page templates for purchase if you’re looking for something that’s ready to plug and go without the need for customization (beyond adding your own name and title, of course).

First Impressions Matter

For better or worse, audiences will judge a presentation by its cover page. Because of this, it’s vital that you give your cover page the care and attention that it deserves. Ultimately, a cover page isn’t simply a placeholder, it’s a vital component that can drum up interest for your presentation. The best part is that with the tools available online, you don’t have to be an artist to create a stunning presentation cover page.

The featured image on this post was created using a Canva template.

powerpoint slides