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6 Elements of a Startup Marketing Plan

I recently wrote an updated version of this post – check out Components of a Startup Marketing Plan

Most startup marketing plans are useless static documents. A great startup marketing plan is a dynamic operational blueprint that drives everything marketing is doing. It won’t be a single document but rather a set of documents used to actively manage marketing projects as well as acting as the current record of inputs, assumptions, metrics and results related to the work the marketing team is doing.

In my opinion a great startup marketing plan has these key elements

1/ A Detailed Target Customer Description  – the definition of the current target prospects, and a detailed description of their relevant characteristics (i.e. education, habits, goals, or other things that make them special), a list of places they gather (social networks, forums, clubs, events, associations) and anything you know or are assuming about how they make purchase decisions related to offerings like yours (where they go for information, who they ask, who they read/listen to, how they do research).

2/ A Detailed Offering Worksheet – this will describe from the point of view of your target prospects, what the offering is, the market the offering is in, what they key value points of the offering are, and what the competitive alternatives are in the minds of prospects. Again any assumptions here must be highlighted.

3/ A Documented Customer Buying Process – This documents your understanding of the stages a prospect goes through from understanding they have a need for your offering, evaluating offerings, purchase and renewal. For each stage there will be factors that will move the prospect to the next stage more quickly and factors that will cause the prospect to slow down or drop out of the buying process altogether.

4/ Tactical Project Plans for each Major set of Marketing Tactics – For each set of tactics (for example email marketing, content marketing, SEO/SEM, events, media relations) you will need a schedule and project plans. For example for email marketing you will need a project schedule that outlines the tasks that need to get done (copywriting, landing page development, content creation, list purchases, graphics, etc.) and what the deadlines are.

5/ Metrics Tracking Dashboard/Spreadsheet – the plan will include what metrics you will track, targets and goals and a definition of “good” vs. “bad” results.

6/ Marketing Analysis/Review Schedule – Metrics and results need to be analyzed and reviewed on a regular basis with a broader set of stakeholders (usually other member of the exec team including the CEO, Sales, Support, Product Management). The purpose of this review is to decide how to adjust the plan based on the results and what conclusions can be drawn with respect to any assumptions that were made about the customers, offering or buying process.

That might sound like a lot of work but it isn’t really. I usually can cover the first 3 in a single page each, for metrics I usually have a dashboard and a spreadsheet and the tactical project plans are things you probably have in some form already. And hey, the payoff is you’re now running a well-oiled marketing machine that improves with age rather than wasting your precious time periodically creating a document that didn’t help you get your job done.




  1. Thanks for the hints. It’s a great roadmap for building a “well-oiled marketing machine” for sure. I have bookmarked it for future reference.

  2. April, you’re a great resource. I hope you keep up a brisk schedule of blog posts!

    I know this is besides the point, but it has come up several times for me: For the email marketing example you use in point 4, for a startup, a key task is to develop a permission-based mailing list. Otherwise, you’ve got all the other elements, and no one to mail to.

  3. Just what any startup needs. I will be sure to share the fabulous results (when we achieve them) to all within my reach.


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