The answer to this question has many possibilities, and it comes down to what you want your marketing plan to do for you. At its very basic, a marketing plan is a step-by-step strategy to expose customers to your products or services. Your plan should be as long or as short as is necessary to achieve that exposure.

In previous posts, we’ve discussed what a marketing plan is, and when in the life of your business to create a marketing plan.

By now, you should know your:

  • strategic analysis which includes your particular market’s niche
  • your competition
  • best practices for distribution of your product
  • SWOT for your business (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats)

You’re in the perfect position to set your marketing goals. While you don’t need to set long-term goals, you should always work backward to medium- and short-term goals. You can take steps now knowing they are ultimately in line with achieving your long-term vision.

For example: want to surpass your competitors in sales?

Analyze how they’re marketing and identify their weaknesses. Perhaps their customer service is slow, or their story is bland. Aha! You should advertise your 24/7 customer service line where people will never wait longer than 15 minutes for any request. Or tell your amazing origin story of how the company was built on the last dollar you had and an innovative 2 a.m. idea. Then reverse engineer your marketing plan to start building a strong advertising and marketing campaign around that strength you have and your competitors don’t.

A Quick Reference Outline

Having a quick outline you can revisit often that details your most immediate steps can keep you on track for the short term.  It has the benefit of being flexible for a time frame that suits your business most, whether that’s weekly, monthly, or quarterly. Something short and to the point for your most immediate marketing strategy can also keep overwhelm at bay, so you’re not looking at your long-term goals and wondering how you’ll ever get there.

A Long-Term, Detailed Outline

On the other hand, having a detailed outline of medium- and long-term actions you can take (and when to take them) can keep you on track for success for years to come, one step at a time. Over time, a multi-tiered, complex plan can help you gauge if the steps you’ve taken are succeeding, and looking back in three or five years, you’ll be able to see how your actions have helped you achieve your goals. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as knowing a business you’ve built a step at a time has taken on the shape of a successful venture.