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Sales and Marketing, Part 1: How to Create a Marketing Plan


Sales and Marketing, Part 1: How to Create a Marketing Plan

This is the 1st in a 4-part series about how to create marketing and sales plans.
Part 2 covers telling your marketing story.
Part 3 shows you how to create a sales plan.
Part 4 is all about creating a sales funnel.

Burger and fries. Horse and buggy. Peanut butter and jelly.

Sales and marketing?

For some reason, somewhere in the long-forgotten dictionary of business jargon, these two tactics became inseparably linked. And today, most people are so used to “Sales and Marketing” as a singular Thing that they don’t even question it anymore. There’s one group of people who (rightfully) can’t wrap their brains around it, though — business owners.

And that’s because when you try to make “sales and marketing” actually function as one unit, it makes about as much sense as Dads and Grads — the annual sales ritual that’s based on 2 groups who have literally nothing in common beyond the rhyme and general time of year.

It happens a lot when people get excited about catchphrases or clever headlines. Stuff sounds award-worthy on the surface, but if you dig deeper, you find yourself up to here trying to sell products that appeal to both graduating, college-bound kids … and their fathers. (Go ahead, try it. I’ll wait.)

Sales and Marketing Can Date, but They Shouldn’t Be Exclusive
First, the phrase is reversed. A business must do marketing before it can start selling. Second, why are they the only commonly paired set of business units? Sure, marketing leads to sales. But sales leads to operational growth, which leads to HR, which leads to company-wide Taco Tuesday. And I’ve never seen a sign that said, “Operations and Sombrero Department.”

So let’s break sales and marketing apart, put them in separate rooms, and get to why each business tactic is important in its own right. This article will focus on marketing. (To read about sales, click here for sales plans and here for sales funnels.)

Marketing 101
When a business engages in marketing, it conducts activities that will make people (read: the market) aware of the products they can buy from the business. If it’s really good marketing, it will also make them want the product.

Take Coca-Cola, for example — perhaps one of the greatest marketing successes in the history of marketing successes. Does Coke need to raise product awareness these days? Heck no. But because the company sells something consumable, they use their marketing prowess to keep people drinking and wanting and buying their products. (And let’s face it, those adorable, animated polar bears are magical.)

Whether you’re the world’s most recognized soft drink or a brand new one, however, marketing plans usually consist of the same tactics: sponsorships, referral campaigns, and retail signage, to name a few.

Probably one of the most-used tactics in marketing is advertising. An ad that shouts “Come buy a car at Dick’s Discount Cars!” for example, informs the listener that there’s a guy somewhere named Dick, and you can buy a car from him. At a discount. What a guy!

And since the world has gone online, many marketers have gone there, too. The sponsored news stories that get mixed in with the real ones? Marketing. Like, subscribe, and #hashtag giveaways? Marketing. An interactive brochure that demonstrates 50 features of a toaster? Also marketing. (Also, a lot of features for a toaster.)

How to Create a Marketing Plan
When you grow to become a multibillion-dollar conglomerate, your marketing and sales plans will contain big budgets, address regional variations and geopolitical factors, and finish with ambitious-yet-unrealistic wish lists for celebrity spokespeople.

Until the day you can hire someone to do the work for you, however, you can create both marketing and sales plans for your company that practically fit on one page!

To start, ask yourself these questions:

Question 1: What Are You Trying to Sell?
To start, remember that this is your marketing plan, not your marketing writing. Many first-timers try to be all existential with this question, giving some sort of vague statement like, “An excellent customer experience!”

In reality, though, the answer here for most small businesses is between 3 and 5 actual, tangible items. Imagine the answer you’d give an IRS agent if they were glowering at you over a desk. Just the facts, please.

Your answer might be a service (in-home plumbing repair or sewer inspection services), products (new sewer lines for homes), or a combination of the two (residential interior design and home furnishings).

Question 2: To Whom Are You Trying to Sell It?
Again, imagine that angry IRS agent staring at you. This isn’t the time to spend hours cutting out paper outfits and coloring them in to put on paper dolls representing your customers. Just identify these 5 data points for 2-3 different groups that make up most of your clients.

  1. What types of jobs do they have?
  2. How much money do they make?
  3. How old are they?
  4. What are 3 adjectives that apply to them?
  5. Why do they buy your product?

Here’s an example featuring a different type of business — a karaoke bar. Here’s how your clientele might break down:

Group 1: Retail Workers

  1. Their jobs include server and store clerk
  2. They make $13-$17/hr.
  3. They’re 20-30 years old
  4. Fun-loving, excited, hurried
  5. They buy our product because it’s an affordable way to have a great time with friends

Group 2: Executive Women

  1. Their jobs include account manager and department director
  2. They make $50K-$75K/year
  3. They’re 35-50 years old
  4. Stressed, busy, and sad
  5. They buy our product because they can mix food, drinks, and fun in the same hour, and they feel happy doing it

Question 3: Through What Channels Do You Sell It to Each Group?
The answers here will be short and sweet. They’re going to be things like, “Google Ads” and “billboards” and “a referral program.”

Question 4: What’s the Monthly Budget for This Plan?
Unless you have good industry data that says otherwise, an average business spends between 8% and 12% of their revenue on the people and costs associated with marketing. This means if your business currently makes $10,000/month, your marketing allocation should be $800-$1,200/month.

Question 5: Who Is in Charge of Running This Plan?
Very simple, just a name, like “Nareej” or “Dave.” Sometimes “Nareej and Dave.”

Put it all together, and you have a solid picture of your current marketing plan. Yes, there are many more questions, like “How do I know if my plan is working?” and “How do I allocate my spending?” that we address in other articles. But the above, in just half a page of text, will get you a clear and concise understanding of how you do marketing today.

Let’s go back and flesh out the car dealership marketing plan:

Dick’s Discount Cars Marketing Plan

What Do You Sell?

  • Certified used vehicles
  • Extended warranties
  • Oil changes

To Whom?

Group 1: Teenagers

  • Hourly workers, fast food employees, delivery drivers
  • $12-$15/hr.
  • 16-19 years old
  • Excited, green, broke
  • They buy from us because they need a car to get to work or drive to school, but they’re broke, so they want the cheapest car they can find.

Group 2: New Families

  • Early career corporate jobs, assistant, sales person, junior manager
  • $25K-$40K a year
  • 21-30 years old
  • Stressed, broke, embarrassed
  • They buy from us because they’ve had a child and their old junker isn’t safe enough or large enough for the family. They prioritize safety first, price second, everything else third.

Marketing channels
First-timers: Social media, local in-app ads
New Families: Local workforce magazine and website, billboards


Who’s in Charge?

Up Next…Bringing Data to Life
Once you have a marketing plan in place, Step 2: Telling Your Marketing Story brings your customers to life via your marketing story. It’s an important exercise that bridges the gap between your marketing and sales plans and gives you a solid grasp on the real people behind the profiles.

Related content:
Sales and Marketing, Part 2: Marketing Your Business in 6 Easy Steps
Sales and Marketing, Part 3: How to Create a Sales Budget and Plan
Sales and Marketing, Part 4: How to Create a Sales Funnel for Free
Sales and Marketing, Sidebar: Marketing Case Studies from the BigCos


Whether you’re the world’s most recognized soft drink or a brand new one, marketing plans usually consist of the same tactics.

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