An overview of the best FREE and PAID marketing plan templates guaranteed to save you time and raise your budget.
A marketing plan is a guide that helps you to find and keep customers and to grow your business. It answers various fundamental marketing questions like:
- How do we position the company and the brand?
- Who are our customers?
- Who are our competitors?
- What is our SWOT analysis score?
- What are our strategic goals?
- How do we translate goals into tactics?
- How do we monitor and measure results?
Depending on the marketing plan, you will find different planning items and in various levels of detail. The variations seem to be endless.
What is consistently similar across all marketing plans, however, is their purpose: it is to structure thoughts, set goals, guide activities, align the team and to justify any requested marketing budget.
As you’re writing a marketing plan, you’re forced to consciously think about how to grow the business, which is a valuable additional benefit. But are you sure you are doing it right?
Is the grass greener in the other Marketing Plan format?
You probably work with a marketing plan format already. But it can still be beneficial to just go through a couple of checklists to see if you included all important elements, and to occasionally check if you’re keeping up with current market standards.
Or maybe you want to start from scratch and use an off-the-shelf, battle-tested template to start the next planning cycle. Whatever the reason, we did the work for you.
[bctt tweet="Use an off-the-shelf, battle-tested marketing plan template to start the next planning cycle" username="Boardview_io"]
We tested 6 popular marketing plan templates, listed the elements included, named the main differentiator and suggested when to use. Checking this list will save you hours of time and will prepare you for the next marketing plan frenzy.
Here are the contenders, from lightweight to sophisticated:
Click image to enlarge
Claim to fame: With these templates in hand, along with our blog post of marketing plan best practices, you're on the road to creating a marketing plan that is more effective, measurable and actionable.
Features: From the 6 templates we checked, this template is by far the most “lightweight”. Do not expect any advanced content or features. There is a Word doc with a small set of placeholders and definitions. The order of the topics feels a bit random and they reveal the agency’s focus on digital marketing. The Excel shows similar topics as the Word doc. and it does not include a calculation sheet for budgets.
Marketing Plan Sections:
- Competitive Analysis
- SWOT Analysis
- Target Market
- Buying Cycle
- Content Marketing
- Social Media Marketing
- Email Marketing
- Measurement and KPIs
- Marketing Strategy and Tactics
Output Format: Excel, Word
Price: FREE. You have to register and it’s clearly a lead gen tool for Vital.
When to use: For SMEs with zero marketing background this planning guide might offer very basic guidance. For marketers this Planning Guide will offer no added value. The word “comprehensive” in the title is misleading.
However, R.E.S.P.E.C.T. to Vital. With this minimalist template this agency managed to end up on position #3 in the Google search results page for the popular term “Marketing Plan Template”.
Our verdict, don’t choose Vital for their Marketing Plan Template, but contact them for their SEO and inbound skills. They are clearly doing things right.
Author: Dave Chaffey and Dan Bosomworth
Claim to fame: We make you look like the smartest person in the room. SmartInsights is helping marketers and businesses get more from integrated digital marketing, to make the most of the great opportunities and avoid wasting time and money.
Features: The Digital Marketing Planning Template is based on Dan and Dave's 15+ years of experience in creating and reviewing digital marketing plans for companies small and large, across many sectors. If you look back at earlier publications, you can see the basics of the SmartInsights model evolving and improving over time. It is nice to see and shows how insights find their way to newer versions.
The template is structured around the RACE Planning framework, which stands for Reach, Act, Convert, Engage. Per RACE area it shows a one page summary checklist of key online marketing activities, structured under the sub headers Opportunity > Strategy > Action.
Marketing Plan Sections:
- Introduction. How to use this RACE Planning Template
- PLAN. Create a digital marketing strategy
- REACH. Grow your audience online
- ACT. Encourage brand interactions and leads
- CONVERT. Increase sales through optimization
- ENGAGE. Build customer loyalty and advocacy
- Resources. Tools to help you create and implement your plans
Output Format: 9-page A4 page-size PDF Ebook with infographics and checklists
Pricing: Free access, but have to leave contact details.
When to use: If you want to be the smartest person in the room, and if you are looking for a structured approach to plan your digital marketing plan, this eBook offers you a quick, crystal clear and powerful guidance. It is one of the few marketing templates that suggests concrete KPIs, so you’ll actually know when you’ve achieved success. The set-up is logically consistent and for structure freaks like ourselves it reads like a charm.
The template is a framework. It is not a concrete and practical “fill-in-the-blanks” Word doc or Excel sheet. The good news is that, without making any framework adjustments, the SmartInsights RACE concept can easily be set-up in Boardview.
Author: BDC, an abbreviation for Business Development Bank. It is the only Canadian financial institution dedicated exclusively to entrepreneurs.
Claim to fame: A marketing plan is your road map for finding and keeping customers. By planning your marketing step by step, you give your company the best chance of success in today’s competitive marketplace.
Further down the webpage we found a phrase which makes our hearts fill with joy: “But keep in mind that your marketing plan is not a one-time effort you can allow to sit in a binder on your desk. It has to be updated regularly so it reflects the changing needs of your business and your customers.”
Canada… such a beautiful country.
Features: This 11 page template offers most of the elements you expect in marketing plan. There is no budget breakdown, just a placeholder for the overall yearly budget. Which is a bit of a pity, especially when the author of the template happens to be a bank.
Marketing Plan Sections:
- Define your brand
- Identify your customers
- Understand your competitors
- Identify your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
- Define what makes your business different
- Map your customers’ purchase journey
- Create your marketing action plan
- Monitor, measure and improve your marketing tactics
Output format: Word
Price: FREE download. No registration
When to use: For SMEs that like to have the basics straight, this template is worth a closer look. As a sub-item it includes a “Persona versus customer journey stage” overview, a topic that can count on an increasing interest from most marketers. For the other planning elements the template seems to cut some corners, with a selection and clustering of sub headers that cover most topics, but could not intuitively be reproduced by us.
And then, at the end of the template, an ironic yet iconic statement can be found:
“What is your marketing budget? How much can you afford to spend this year?”
Not “How much do you require to achieve your goals…” or “How much does your ROI calculation justify…”, but “How much can you afford to spend” almost as in “…afford to waste”. This is not the preferred approach for a topic like marketing planning to my opinion, but I do realize that it is the way many people historically have looked at marketing, especially in SMEs.
(I can see myself walking into a BDC business centre asking, “How much can BDC afford to lend me?”)
Canada, oh Canada what happened? We started out so well. Let’s see how they deal with marketing plans on the opposite side of the globe.
Author: business.gov.au is an online government resource for the Australian business community. They offer access to all of the Australian government information, assistance, forms and services, but nobody’s checking if you are actually from Down Under. It's a service providing essential information on planning, starting and growing your business, wherever you are from, apparently.
Claim to fame: A Marketing Plan helps you to coordinate all your marketing efforts and ideas so you can market your business effectively. It'll also help you take a structured approach to develop products and services that meet and satisfy your customers’ needs.
A good marketing plan helps you to identify your customers, identify your competitors and develop a marketing strategy to make your business stand out.
Features: The marketing plan template is an extensive and well-structured 50-page document (when empty). It includes placeholders with definitions of required content. It also offers links to relevant follow up articles if you need support, or to learn more about specific tactics or models. The list of topics is complete and contains all relevant Marketing Plan elements you’d expect in a classical marketing plan.
Marketing Plan Topics:
- Marketing Plan Summary
- The Business
- Business overview
- W.O.T. analysis
- W.O.T. activity sheet
- Sales/marketing personnel
- The Future
- Vision statement
- Mission statement
- The Market
- Unique selling position
- Your customers/clients
- Your competitors
- Market research
- Market targets
- Environmental/industry analysis
- Marketing strategy
- Advertising & sales
- The Finances
- Expected sales
- Marketing budget
- Monitoring/measurement activities
- Supporting documentation
Output Format: Word
Price: FREE download. No registration.
But wait, there is more. FREE APP!
The app helps you develop a marketing plan that’s tailored to your business. You can carry your plan with you wherever you go and store it online. There are prompts and handy tips to help you every step of the way, making it easier for you to reach your target audience, boost your customer base and, ultimately, increase your bottom line.
But wait, there is even more… a pretty decent alternative bonus template “Writing a marketing plan” from Business.gov.au’s younger relative, the Australian state of Victoria.
When to use: Business.gov.au offers a lot of value for money, and not only because it’s free. With this textbook marketing plan template you cannot go wrong in terms of topics to cover. It even includes a marketing budget table with a monthly breakdown per tactic. Lovely.
The format is there, now it is up to you to put all your energy in the contents. You need to put in some serious effort to complete it, but when you are done, you’ll have delivered what most people will surely consider to be a solid, archetypical marketing plan. Check in the box.
Author: Growthink; a consulting and information products firm that has helped over 500,000 entrepreneurs and business owners to start, grow and sell their businesses. Dave Lavinsky, the co-founder and President of Growthink, is author of the book “Start At The End: How Companies Can Grow Bigger And Faster By Reversing Their Business Plan”.
Claim to fame: The World’s #1 Marketing Plan Template -- it’s the quickest and easiest way to create a winning marketing plan, period! The secret to marketing success is “increasing conversion rates” related to 4 major conversion points:
- Number of leads
- Conversion of leads into paying customers
- The amount the customers pay you
- The number of times they buy from you
If you increase all these 4 points by 20%, your profits will increase by 300%.
Features: The GrowThink marketing plan contains 15 key sections plus 28 suggested strategies you can choose from. Yes, it is a bit of work, but it can be finished in a day and should boost your profitability considerably.
Marketing Plan Sections:
The 15 key sections you must include in your marketing plan
- Executive Summary
- Target Market
- Unique Selling Proposition
- Pricing and Positioning Strategy
- Distribution Strategy
- Marketing Materials
- Promotions Strategy
- Online Marketing Strategy
- Conversion Strategy
- Joint Ventures and Partnerships
- Referral Strategy
- Strategy for Increasing Transaction Prices
- Retention Strategy
- Cost of developing marketing materials
- Microsoft Word®
- Microsoft Excel®
- 365-day 100% money back guarantee
- Lifetime access and no recurring fees
- A free example can be found here
- Dave’s sales pitch why you should invest in the paid version can be found here
When to use: If you want a sophisticated marketing plan with a lot of possibility to write down detailed information, this is it. It is not for free, but the fee is well spent. Especially if you realize the template includes 28 different pre-fab strategies you can re-use and tweak to fit your own marketing situation.
The secret to marketing success, increasing the 4 major conversion points, is a setup some Boardview customers reportedly use. It is a format we can confirm is useful for shaping marketing strategy.
If you like to have additional support from marketing planning specialists, there is a team of GrowThink consultants that can help you to plan and grow your business. We didn’t ask, but we assume the “Lifetime access and no recurring fees” does not apply to the consultants’ assistance.
Author: Mplans is part of a network of Palo Alto Software sites dedicated to helping small business startups, entrepreneurs and marketers plan for business success. Sales and Marketing Pro was created by Palo Alto Software in partnership with sales and marketing veteran John Jantsch.
Claim to fame: The largest collection of free sample marketing plans available online. In addition to the pool of plans and selection of helpful articles, we also provide the best marketing software to turn your bold vision into a well-formed strategy.
Features: to avoid any confusion, Sales & Marketing Pro is software, while Mplans.com is a resource pool for finding content and research options for those looking to write a marketing plan. There are 3 kinds of marketing plans; the 30-Minute Marketing Plan, the Basic Marketing Plan and the Standard Marketing Plan. They offer different levels of detail and basically cover the levels of detail in this overview. You can switch from one level to the other.
There are 4 larger blocks of topics:
Situation Analysis: In addition to the good old SWOT, the market situation analysis will include a market forecast, segmentation, customer information, and market needs analysis.
Marketing Strategy: Vision, mission, strategy, goals, segments and product positioning.
Sales Forecast: month by month sales forecast and a planned - vs. actual results analysis.
Expense Budget: month by month expenses and planned - vs. actual results analysis.
Marketing Plan Sections:
- Marketing Vision
- Ideal Customer
- Remarkable Difference
- Core Strategy
- Product/Service Innovation
- Marketing Materials
- Web Plan
- Lead Generation Plan
- Lead Conversion Plan
- Service Experience
- Marketing Calendar
- Critical Numbers
- Marketing Training Game
A sample report can be found here [https://www.mplans.com/assets/pdf/standard-marketing-plan.pdf]
Output Format: A plan written in Sales & Marketing Pro outputs to a Word document, or a PDF mainly. You can also export your tables to Excel, export pages to PPT, and make your plan into an HTML document if you like.
Price: $129.95 - Try It Risk Free! If you are not satisfied, simply email for an immediate refund, no questions asked.
When to use: This is a very complete marketing plan template. Texts, graphs and tables show you all the essentials. There are indeed many, many samples you can check out to get inspired. MPlans’ knowledge base and tool is also helpful for small companies.
Bonus kudos to Quinn from the online chat, he is friendly and to the point.
How do these marketing plan templates relate to Boardview?
The above marketing plans, as they are, can live in coexistence with Boardview. What’s more, some of the templates mentioned are a perfect match to boost productivity.
Marketers experience two problems with the traditional marketing plan that can be tackled using Boardview.
1. It is not always clear to everybody how single tactics add up to overall company success. With Boardview you can create a Growth Map visualizing how goals and sub-goals will drive company success. You’ll be able to show how goals relate to each other, so you can prioritize them and skillfully streamline the planning discussion.
Every individual marketer will be able to see how their specific tasks and targets contribute to company growth, which will get your team more engaged. Boardview makes marketing the driver for company success.
2. The marketing plan gets outdated quickly. This is the especially the case for the ‘action plan’ part of the marketing plan, not that much for the market analysis or product positioning. With Boardview you can plan your monthly projects or sprints based on the latest insights and make them completely short-term insight driven, whilst keeping a long-term value focus.
Using ‘goal collections’ and a weekly/monthly ‘progress infographic’, you can continuously update the teams and stakeholders on strategic marketing progress. The Marketing Strategy can be managed by the minute, so to speak.
Marketing planning is not something you do just once a year anymore, it’s a rolling forecast based on the newest insights. An outdated marketing plan implies a budget wrongly spent. Boardview will have you spend every dollar in the best place year-round.
Using a solid marketing plan template will pay rich dividends in the long term. But there are short-term benefits too. The planning exercise itself is worth every minute. You will have essential debates before you spend the money, instead of after.
Don’t ask what your company can afford to spend on marketing. Show what marketing can do for your company and reel in the budget.
Good luck. And have fun.