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

Becoming a Car Salesman: 6 Steps to Get You On the Path

Becoming a Car Salesman: 6 Steps to Get You On the Path

Best car rental. Handsome young car rental manager giving a copy space documents on clipboard to smiling client sitting a new luxury car

Did you know that over 17 million vehicles got sold in the United States each year? Doesn’t that sound like selling cars is a lucrative business venture?

Selling cars isn’t as easy as it looks. If you want to become a salesman, you must have a certain set of skills to ensure you get the most out of the job. But without prior experience, you won’t know where to start. 

Don’t feel hopeless yet. 

With this guide, you’ll learn how to become a car salesman. That way, you’ll get started with your dream career. Read on and find out more. 

1. Prepare Your Education and Experience

Some dealerships are kind enough to hire applicants even without prior experience. But most will prefer job applicants with some background in sales. That’s why you must start preparing for your job in high school. 

To get a basic understanding of finance, you must take the necessary courses. This includes both economics and business since they serve as solid foundations for your knowledge. Be diligent and strive to get the best grades whenever you can. 

As for your part-time job, it need not be in a car dealership. Any job involving customer sales and service is great. It’s because it allows you to sharpen your communication skills and become more comfortable interacting with people within a professional environment.

2. Gain More Sales Experience and Training

Did you fail to get a car sales position as soon as you graduated high school? Worry not since you can use that time to gain more experience by working in other retail sales jobs. Car dealers are fond of salespeople with effective communication skills and talents for customer service. 

With this, if you get more experience in face-to-face customer interactions, your likelihood of getting hired increases. While you gain hands-on experience, consider getting more classes in the following: 

  • Sales 
  • Marketing 
  • Psychology 
  • Finance 
  • Public speaking 

To get an even more reputable education, take courses from either the National Auto Academy or the Automotive Training Academy.

3. Get Hired by a Reputable Car Dealership

No matter what your prior experience is, the majority of the 16,600 franchised light-vehicle dealers in the United States have training programs. As a new employee, you must finish this before you can work full-time. This course will often cover most of the dealership’s aspects, such as: 

  • Business culture 
  • General operating systems and procedures 
  • Customer service and sales strategies 
  • Negotiation techniques 
  • Car model features 

After the training, you’ll work closely with a senior salesperson for a certain duration. This ensures you learn more of the details and various nuances of your employment.  

Also, lots of dealerships will sponsor various staff training and workshops. They use various professional organizations to help, like the above-mentioned National Auto Academy or Automotive Training Academy. Some dealerships prefer having formal apprenticeship programs from time to time. 

4. Get a License (When Required)

Some states will require car salesmen to get a license before they start practicing. For example, if you live in California, you must pay a fee and then apply to the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles). For Colorado residents, you must take and pass an exam before you remit a bond, finish an application, and pay the fees.

5. Continue Your Education

For you to stay competitive as a salesman, you must update yourself with new knowledge regularly. The good news is that the National Automobile Association (NADA) can sponsor you with various training types. Their academy has six various programs catering to careers related to dealerships.

Some of these include the following:

  • Department Management
  • Consumer Sales
  • Fleet Sales
  • Operations

In the NADA General Dealership Management Academy, you become a prepared professional for general management roles. It’s because it offers various classes in decision-making and financial analysis.

If you want to take it to the next level, go for the NADA Special Ops program. This offers deeper, specialized training for managers. With this, you’ll know more about sales, service, and car parts.

6. Get Post-Secondary Education

After you gain a few years’ worth of experience, you might finally get the opportunity to advance and get a senior role. To accelerate this process, you must have the right level of education.

Take note, some dealerships will promote you to management positions or their equivalent trainee positions as long as you have the experience. But to become the most desirable candidate, you must have an associate or bachelor’s degree in either marketing or business administration.

This means you must join programs with courses in advertising, economics, and statistics. You might even study automotive eCommerce. Regardless, you’ll gain a more competitive advantage if you invest both time and effort into furthering your knowledge.

How to Be a Good Car Salesman

Now you know the steps toward becoming a car salesperson. But to stay employed in your dream career, you must learn the best practices. Here are some:

1. Remember Names

You’ll stand to earn more if you remember all your new prospects’ names. To help with this, you must use their name immediately after you learn it. After that, repeat it silently several times and use it occasionally as you talk.

After they leave, write the name somewhere accessible. Focus on a particular facial feature and connect their name with it. This allows you to remember it easier.

2. Ask the Right Questions

After asking their name, you must ask questions that give context about your buyer’s desires, budget, and personality. Depending on their answer, you might gain opportunities to cross-sell or upsell. For example, if your customer prioritizes safety, consider telling them about your four-wheel drive package and other safety features.

3. Build Rapport

If you notice disinterest, stop selling and focus on building rapport. If you continue pushing, you might alienate them. This will likely discourage them from buying a car.

Start Selling Cars Today!

These are some of the things you must do to become a good car salesman. Use these to ensure that your career stays on track for years to come.

But why stop here when there’s more to learn about selling cars? To pick up even more tips and tricks, why not go over more of our marketing guides today?

How to Create a Facebook Group in 3 Easy Steps

How to Create a Facebook Group in 3 Easy Steps

Facebook Groups have some of the best engagements on Facebook. Members are encouraged to post and comment, and are sometimes even rewarded for doing so! This is a space where people who don’t even know each other and would otherwise have no means to come in contact with each other are given a platform to meet and interact based on similar interests.

The amount of engagement that Facebook Pages used to have is now evident in Facebook Groups, which is why it is popular nowadays to create a group and connect it to your page. This can help improve engagement rate with the latter, and can even help increase the number of likes.

If you want to benefit from this as well, it would be smart to create a Facebook group for every Facebook Page you have, and of course, link them to each other. If you haven’t put one up already, here’s how to create a Facebook Page.

Now, let’s start building your group.

Create a Facebook Group Using Your Personal Account

Facebook Groups have become one of the core parts of this social network that they have now included Groups at the top navigation of the new Facebook design. It is possible to create a group both on your computer and on your phone.

Step 1. Click on Create a Group

There are a couple of ways to create a group on desktop. One is by clicking on the plus sign (+) on the upper right side, which is present whatever tab you are using. The other one is by clicking on the Group tab and then clicking on the Create New Group link on the left pane.

On mobile, you would have to go to the Group tab, and click on the Create button at the very top of the Facebook screen.

Create a Facebook Group

Step 2. Name Your Group and Set the Privacy Setting

A pop-up window will open up, requesting for only three details

  • The group name
  • The privacy setting
  • Name of Facebook friends you want to add to the group.

The first two details are required, while the last one is not. Be careful when choosing a privacy setting, as a private group cannot be shifted to public later on. Click here to understand more about this policy.

Facebook Group Privacy Settings

If you choose to make it Private from the get-go, you will be asked whether you want the group to be publicly visible for searches, or hidden from non-members.

On mobile, you will only be asked the first two details and will be asked to invite friends to the group on the next page. You can skip that part if you like.

Step 3. Add More Details to the Group Page

Essentially, your group is already up and running by the end of Step 2. However, in order to attract more members, you need to make the group page more appealing. The next recommended steps will actually be shown to you the moment you enter the group page.

Setting up a new Facebook Group

The next tasks are the following:

  1. Invite friends – you can invite your friends to be the first members of the group. Having 5 to 10 members is enough at the beginning.
  2. Add Cover Photo – the ideal image size for a Facebook Group photo is 1640 x 856 pixels.
  3. Add Description – this is one of the most important parts of the group. You need to provide possible members with an idea of what the group is all about, and what they should expect.
  4. First Post – if your page is a public one, this post (and all other succeeding posts) will be visible to anyone on Facebook who searches for your group.

On mobile, these recommended tasks are still part of the group creation. You can skip these steps for later, or you can get them over and done with.

The next step on mobile is your group description.

Finally, you’ll be asked for the first post. The first post will serve as a welcome post that the first members will see.

And you’re done! The next steps will then be to build your group by inviting like-minded individuals, and improving the rules when it comes to sharing and commenting within the group.

Connect Your Facebook Group to Your Business Page

It is possible to connect your Facebook Group to an already existing Facebook Page. It’s actually pretty simple.

On your Group Page, have a look at the left pane. Scroll down until you reach the bottom and see the Settings link.

On the next page, scroll down to the very bottom, until you arrive at the Advanced Settings part. You will see the option named Linked Pages. Click on the edit (pencil) button.

Linked Pages on Facebook Groups

Choose from the list of pages you have available, and that’s it! You have successfully linked your Facebook Group to your Page.

Create a Facebook Group Using Your Facebook Page

Facebook has recently launched its updated design, hence navigating around the platform can be a bit tricky right now. Creating a Facebook Group directly from your page is not as easy at the moment, as the option is currently unavailable. You would have to build one from your personal account and then link it later on.

However, if you have connected your business page to a Business Manager account, you’ll be able to see the Group creation option when you access the Page from within the Business Manager.

After clicking on Create Group, you will be asked to add a group name and set the privacy. Please follow the same steps above when building a Facebook Group using your personal account.

Adding the FPTraffic App to your Facebook Group
You can automatically schedule content and post it to your Facebook Groups using FPTraffic. The first step is adding the FPTraffic App to your Group. Click here to learn how!

Final Thoughts When Building a Facebook Group

Whichever way you prefer to create a Facebook Group, the important thing is that you can arrive at the same result.

Because of an FB Group’s high engagement rate, you can interact with individuals here more than you can on your Facebook Page. There is virtually no disadvantage to creating and building a group side by side with your page. It all comes down to the amount of effort you can put into managing both.

This is where FPTraffic can help you. Aside from being able to find and schedule content for your Facebook Page, you can do the same for your Groups.

All you have to do is to link your Group profiles within your FPTraffic dashboard and then add the App to the FB Group using the Group Settings.

Once you have completed this step, you can start searching for content and scheduling them in your FPTraffic dashboard. This can make the management of both your pages and groups easy as a pie!