This is the third in a four-part series on Creating a Marketing Plan, which includes:

  1. Setting your goals and targets
  2. Market positioning
  3. Drawing the plan together
  4. Marketing measurements

Our first and second posts in this series focused on identifying the business goals you are trying to achieve with your marketing and where you are positioned in your market in comparison to your competition. As this post is all about drawing these components together, it’s a good idea to revisit the first two posts for a recap.

When making your marketing plan, budgets and timelines are the two factors you need to consider.

What’s the cost of gaining a customer?

You may have heard that you should attribute between 2-5% of your sales revenue to marketing. That is a simplified way of creating a budget; an alternative is to consider the lifetime value of a potential customer and, in turn, decide what a reasonable cost per customer acquisition is. The cost per customer acquisition (i.e. your marketing and sales costs) needs to come out of your existing profit, so it’s worth understanding how much room you have to work with and how long it will take to make the money you’ve invested in acquiring the customer. After all, there is no point in increasing your sales if it costs you all of your profit unless you’re playing the long game.

Planning for profit

Marketing is an investment that can take time to provide a return, so in the short term at least, you either need to be able to afford the marketing as a cost or have a forecast for when you will get your investment back. As your sales increase, you may decide to attribute a higher or lower amount of your profits back into marketing.

The following diagram provides an example of how an investment in marketing might look over time. Your increase in sales may be more significant or less, you may reinvest a larger or smaller proportion of your profits or even borrow to make the marketing investment. There are a lot of variables that will impact how quickly your sales revenue increases. Only some are within your control but ultimately an investment in your marketing is an investment in the future of your company.

Repeat sales vs one-time sales

For companies who have subscription services, fast-moving consumer goods, or can command brand loyalty, it can be worth investing a lot more than they make back in one sale because, in the long term, you expect to make back more than it costs, even if it takes years. Of course, cash flow needs to be considered if you play the long game.

However, suppose your customers typically only buy once, and you can’t encourage repeat sales. In that case, you need to know that your cost per customer acquisition will provide a return on investment within one sale.

Consider these two factors and your profit figures to define what you can afford to devote to your marketing efforts.

Setting a timeline

Look back at your business goals – what timeline did you set your sales goals against? Now, look at your budget; what marketing spend can you devote and over what period? You’ll need to strike a balance and potentially adjust your business goals if you don’t have the marketing budget you need to achieve them in the timeline you initially set out. Once you know what kind of budget you have, you can investigate your marketing options. Many people focus on choosing a certain marketing channel when they start investing in marketing because they know lots of people are using that channel – such as LinkedIn or YouTube. However, this kind of unresearched decision comes with a high risk of failure and wasted time and effort.

Marketing channel options

Your target audience should heavily influence your marketing channel depending on where they can be found. However, your budget and timeline will dictate what is possible/desirable, and audiences can usually be found in multiple places. I don’t recommend only picking one channel; as you’ll read below, no channel is good for everything. Different channels help at different customer journey points and have different costs and timelines.

Review the table below for an idea of what channels might work best for you.

Type Cost Timeline to see results Good for Bad for
Content marketing ££ ⏳⏳⏳ Taking a potential customer through the marketing funnel on autopilot from attraction to sale. Quick results, as some of the content required are long-form guides and videos that take time to build but are worth it!
SEO £-££ ⏳⏳ Helping your ideal clients find you. Keeping customers sticking around rather than landing on your site to read what they came for and leave.
Organic social media £ ⏳⏳ Keeping potential clients thinking of you, aware of what you do and building trust in the brand. Converting leads into sales. People turn off if you sell too hard and only promote yourself. Also, social media algorithms don’t favour self-promotion.
Email marketing £ ⏳⏳⏳ Easing potential customers through a marketing funnel, encouraging current customers to come back to you and building trust in the brand. Attracting customers: since GDPR has enforced good quality email marketing, you need to build a list that provides great content consistently, which can take time.
Digital advertising £££ Getting in front of your target market FAST and filling your marketing funnel with prospects. Long term plans and small budgets – depending on the platform, you’ll need to make a minimum commitment and the minute you switch off the ads, your marketing mechanism is gone.
PR ££ ⏳⏳ Raising awareness of your brand and building a positive impression of your expertise and authority. Slower results and it can be difficult to prove return on investment. It’s hard to predict what will be picked up by the media and challenging to prove the exposure and impression PR makes. However, PR has the potential to make a big splash without high costs.
Direct mail


£££ Getting in front of new potential customers and getting noticed, particularly if you’re creative with your mailer. Long term results – once you send a campaign, you’re done unless you rerun it to another area.

Create your plan and progress tracker

Once you have decided on the marketing channels you’ll use and the budget you can devote to each, break everything down into step-by-step activities and plot them into a marketing plan. Download this handy template and fill in what you can now and the rest as the plan progresses. The fields include:

  • Task
  • Status
  • Anticipated start date
  • Anticipated end date
  • Actual start date
  • Actual end date
  • Estimated cost
  • Actual cost

This format works best because the plan can update as the situation evolves. Activities may take longer than you anticipated, costs could fluctuate, and if they do, you’ll have an easy way to keep on top of things in one place.

The alternative to making a marketing investment could be staying where you are, or it could be a decline in business. It’s important to remember that if your competitors are investing and you’re not, you could be left behind.

If you follow these steps, you’ll be well on your way to creating a successful marketing plan. And if you need any help along the way, we’re always here to lend a hand!

Once you have your marketing plan in place, you’ll want to think about how you’ll measure success! But we’ll cover that in the next post.



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