How to whip up a marketing plan: Six ingredients to create your base

flexible work

When you’re a startup ready to seriously focus on marketing your product, you want to hit the ground running fast. Keeping your marketing plan lean will allow you to adjust it as you go, taking in the feedback and learnings that come from the market.

If you have only just started thinking about sales and marketing, be sure to check out the 10 steps listed in my last post before laying down a plan.

Kotler’s good old four Ps are still my foundation when I build a marketing plan. If you sell a service, you can choose to expand on this, with some services marketers using the seven Ps. However, if this is your first marketing plan, I suggest you keep it simple and focus on the foundational four to start with.

Your target market

Use the information you collected in your market analysis (learn how to do this here). As a starter, using TAM SAM SOM is quite useful. Founders sometimes overestimate how much of their target market is actually addressable.

Goals and targets breakdown

Nothing focuses the mind like a clear set of targets. Start off with the goals you have for your company, ideally mapped out for the next three to five years. Once you have these overall goals — for example, revenue, penetration rate, user base or number of flagship clients — you can break these down and set your targets.

Metrics I have found useful over the years are:

  • Penetration rate;
  • Average order value;
  • Deal lead time;
  • Cost per lead;
  • Conversion rates between leads;
  • Marketing qualified leads (MQLs);
  • Sales qualified leads (SQLs);
  • Opportunities; and
  • Deals.

If you have a portfolio of products, it’s useful to break these down by product. And lastly, break them down by sales representative so you can attach bonuses.


Talking to prospects should give you insights into your product-market fit. Based on these conversations, you can start formulating the value proposition of your product.

When you’re an early-stage startup, the lifecycle of your product is usually pretty simple. But when you’re a bit further down the line, it makes sense to think about where your product is at in the lifecycle, especially when you have a portfolio of different products.

Plotting where each product is at and how they can complement or even start substituting each other is a great way to run your portfolio and ultimately your P&L. The growth-share matrix is an easy-to-use tool to help you decide whether to build, hold, harvest or divest a product.


Price is always a challenging subject. After you’ve conducted your pricing research, it’s time to set a number. You need to know three things before you set your price:

  1. Your customers’ willingness to pay;
  2. Your costs; and
  3. What your competitors are charging.

Pricing is a whole topic on its own, so to keep it simple. Those three considerations will help formulate a sensible price.

Don’t go too low — while you can always lower your price, it is very difficult to up your price going forward.

With that in mind, never discount without good reason. People shouldn’t expect to get a discount — it should always be a pleasant surprise for them if they do. 


Place is an undervalued element within the marketing mix. Partnerships and distribution channel partners are crucial to getting market traction, and this is especially true for startups,

Identifying your channel and how you will get your product to your clients is essential and important to think about very early on.

This has been one of the success factors of Xero. Penny Elmslie, the small business director responsible for marketing and sales in Australia, said: “Making the channel decision very early on has allowed Xero to make the right investment, focus and develop clear messaging.” (But more on Xero Australia’s marketing and sales journey in an interview with Penny in my next blog).


Your touchpoint strategy is really the backbone of your promotions plan. Knowing when and where to speak to your prospects and what message to use is an essential part. But your plan should also tie back to the targets you set yourself: how many leads, MQLs, SQLs, opportunities and deals are you aiming to get out of your promotional activities?

A list of the marketing channels you’ll be using is a great starting point. Will you be using digital (search, EDMs and social)? Will you be attending events? Will you be using offline media (magazines, radio and TV)?

This will inform what type of assets you need. In other words, whether you need display ads, email templates, a booth, et cetera.

Your budget will also come into play. How many of the activities will be paid? For example, advertising. And how many will be organic? For example, PR, SEO, and word-of-mouth.

What messages will you use in these channels in order to convince your prospect to buy your product or service? Each channel has its own dynamics — use it to your advantage when thinking about your message.

In my experience, these six ingredients create a base recipe that can be applied to all startups. Only when you think about your marketing channels holistically are you able to create a smooth customer experience throughout. It’s a jigsaw puzzle — play with it and have some fun!

NOW READ: “Our actions define us”: Five things to avoid when responding to a crisis

NOW READ: Four fundamentals for positive word-of-mouth marketing


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