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Turning an idea into a functional business requires laser-sharp focus. You must take care of development, marketing, sales, customer success, and whatnot.
While most entrepreneurs start with some form of a plan, they often forget about it soon after.
Blame it on changing dynamics, trial and error to find a product-market fit, or blatant ignorance. But overlooking the planning process is a sure shot reason for failure — as the common saying goes, failing to plan is planning to fail.
An essential part of this document is the sales and marketing segment. The sales and marketing plan outlines everything you need to do to promote your products and generate revenue for your business.
Why do you need a sales and marketing plan?
Having a revolutionary product that solves a genuine problem is great. But it won’t mean anything if people don’t know about you.
A sales and marketing plan helps you get discovered, structure your activities, and move forward with your growth goals.
It’s more or less like a roadmap about what you should do to make things work in your favor.
Your sales and marketing plan will help you:
- Identify the bridge between where you are today and where you want to reach your business goals.
- Get much-needed clarity and avoid conflicts and confusion in case of any disruptions.
- Gain and document insights about your target audience, industry, trends, costs, etc.
- Justify your business model in front of investors and lenders in case you need to raise funds.
- Stay focused on a north star metric, improvise growth tactics and achieve harmony between various growth activities.
- Promote sales and marketing alignment.
Your sales and marketing plan would also help you avoid distractions and save time and money lost.
And you know how easy it is to lose direction and get distracted when starting or running a startup. Documenting everything as a plan will help avoid confusion and add clarity to your everyday affairs and long-term mission.
However, different companies need different plans based on the stage of operations and their unique growth goals.
|Stage of the Startup||What can a Plan Help with?|
|Pre-revenue (Pre-seed and seed stage)||Validating Ideas, finding product-market fit, generating the first set of customers.|
|Growth (Growth and Fundraising Stage)||Reduce churn, expand your team, optimize processes, and justify your spending to investors.|
A clear marketing and sales plan promotes alignment between marketing and sales departments at every stage. This reduces resource waste and creates fewer “blame-game ” occasions in your meetups.
What to include in the marketing & sales plan?
Planning is a subjective activity.
You’d receive several different answers if you read, talk to, and consult multiple experts on what to include in your marketing and sales plan.
So, how should you decide which elements to include in your marketing/sales plan?
Let’s take a step back and understand the “why” of planning.
You need a plan so you don’t get confused and can keep walking towards your goal.
Your plan should:
- Serve as a roadmap for everything related to sales and marketing for the first few months if you’re just starting.
- Outline and articulate the core strategies you’ll experiment with, the desired outcome, and the KPIs to measure performance.
- Set realistic KPIs, outcomes, and objectives based on market understanding, competition, funding requirements, and your target audience’s pain points.
Marketing plan for your startup: The what and why
In an ideal world, every penny you spend in marketing should enhance your visibility, take you closer to your audience, and increase your conversion rates.
But in reality, it takes a lot of effort, time, and investment to make it happen.
A marketing plan helps you navigate through the tricky maze called marketing without getting lost in the process.
Basically, you build a marketing plan to gain enlightenment about how you’ll promote and stay relevant to your audience.
You do it beforehand so that when things get tricky, you have a directional beacon to guide you.
Creating any plan should start with an understanding of the purpose. The same applies to marketing, too. Try to find the reason behind marketing your product – why are you working towards your goal.
Knowing your why would help you gain clarity – an essential element for the success of any activity on the planet. Before you begin, you should try to find answers to the following questions:
- Why are you making the marketing plan?
- What do you want to accomplish with the marketing?
- What will be the value proposition?
- What are the goals that we want to achieve?
These answers will allow you to think better and prepare for strategizing your plan with a better perspective.
Also, while at it, remember that your marketing plan is not a rigid document etched in stone. Instead, it’s a result of an iterative process that depends on five fundamental aspects:
1. Product: What are you marketing?
The product section should explain what you are selling exactly.
- What do you sell?
- How is your offering different from your competitors?
- What are the benefits your potential customers would derive from your offerings?
- What is your core USP?
Answering these questions would help you craft a great positioning statement and marketing message for your marketing campaigns.
2. Place: Where are you available?
This section should outline where you will sell or market your products. How will you get customers to reach out to buy your product or service?
Though this will depend on the nature of business — online or offline, manufacturing or services, answers to the following questions would help you gain clarity:
- Where will you be available for your customers?
- Which distribution channels would you use to be more accessible to customers?
- What percentage of sales/conversions do you expect from different distribution/marketing channels?
3. Price: How much will you charge?
This is an essential part of your planning process. Your pricing decisions would decide how you will generate revenue for your startup.
Your pricing decision should be based on market analysis, competition, value offering, buying behavior, etc.
- What will be the pricing model you’ll adopt to generate revenue?
- What is the most favorable price point that your customers are ready to pay for your offering?
- Will you make any profit/loss at this price point?
- How soon can you break even based on your pricing strategy?
4. Promotion: How will you promote your offering?
You can have the best product, but no one would care if you’re not promoting it.
Moreover, one of the primary reasons to create a marketing plan is to help you promote your offering.
- Who is your target audience?
- How will your reach your target audience?
- What strategies will you adopt to convert your audience into customers?
- Which channels of promotions will you use to promote your offerings?
- How much will you spend on promotions and marketing?
- What will be your team structure for the next quarter, year, and long term?
- How will you track the marketing effectiveness?
5. People: Who will do the marketing?
While most marketing plans you see out there would cover the traditional 4Ps of marketing, often the fifth P, people, is ignored.
And you know there’s no growth or promotion without your team – your people.
This aspect should help you understand your current capabilities and the resources needed in your team. Think about how you will find them, their responsibilities, and where they stand in the big picture.
- Who will do the marketing for you?
- What do you look for in a human resource?
- At what point do you start expanding the team?
- Who are you going to hire first?
- How do you plan to hire for marketing?
- What will be the core responsibilities and KPIs for your team?
- How will you set KPIs/OKRs and analyze your team’s performance?
Sales plan for your startup: The what and the why
Your sales plan would help you generate revenues from your marketing efforts by completing the journey from generating leads to turning them into customers.
A sales plan defines your sales goals, the strategies you’d bet on, your desired results, your challenges, the solutions you have for them, and the structure (people, budget, process, and tools) you need.
Your sales plan would cover everything you need to register sales and generate revenue for your business.
A sales plan is created to:
- Provide a strategic direction to your sales team
- Define the core objectives and goals in terms of sales
- Outline roles and responsibilities
- Analyze and measure your wins in terms of sales.
These reasons help you succeed more than experimental businesses that beat around the bush while trying to make things work in a world where everyone’s selling something. To ensure your sales plan is effective, it should include:
1. Sales goals — What do you want to achieve?
Like any other activity in the world, your sales planning process should also revolve around the end goals for sales
Saying that you want more customers is a generic goal that doesn’t have any tangible metrics attached. Moreover, saying that you wish for more sales is too broad a goal that would involve outlining several action steps.
So, it’s always better to have a SMART goal and break it down into tangible, measurable, and KPI-driven objectives. You can say that you want to:
- Nurture 10% more MQLs into SQLs, and ultimately, customers.
- Reduce your churn rates by 5% before the end of Q1.
- Expand your sales team with 3 people to nurture and convert leads faster — reduce time to conversion by 5 days.
- Increase the customer lifetime value through upsells or cross-sells by $200.
- Expand your sales activities into new territories or regions.
- Optimize your pricing strategy to improve your conversion rates by 8% for new accounts.
2. Tactics — The process and activities
This segment will include the specific tactics, processes, and activities you’ll use to generate revenue for your business.
A solid understanding of your target audience, goals, and capabilities would help you discover exciting and profitable tactics for your industry.
Try to pick and choose the tactics in line with your ideal customer profile. You can conduct a survey and get insights from your marketing team to align your sales efforts accordingly.
An aligned sales and marketing team will help you accelerate sales enablement and strike gold with more leads, higher conversions, and better results.
Interested in exploring new sales tactics? Read this blog on popular sales strategies and techniques for your business.
3. Timelines — The time you’ll need to make things happen
A plan without a timeline is just a wish. You must link your goals, tactics, and sales strategies with realistic deadlines. This will ensure that everyone’s motivated to work towards your goals.
Keep all the stakeholders in the loop by developing a realistic growth goal and attaching a practical timeline to it.
While you’re at it, don’t forget to assign one person who’ll be responsible for ensuring compliance.
This tactic is known differently in business circles.
Some call it a key Point of Contact (POC) for an activity; others call this person a Directly Responsible Individual (DRI).
Another popular approach includes assigning OKR (Objective and Key Results) to an individual in a team who owns up the responsibility of making this happen.
Whatever you may do, make sure you are realistic, practical, and sensible in creating achievable deadlines for your sales teams.
Failure to do so would lead to dissatisfaction among sales team members, ultimately harming your bottom line.
4. KPIs — the metrics you’ll track to determine success
KPIs will help you understand if your sales tactics align with your revenue generation goals. These metrics help enhance sales teams’ performance, optimize the sales funnels, and improve conversion rate.
If you want a solid sales plan, you need to tie everyone (and everything) to a tangible sales metric.
You also need to ensure proper sales and marketing alignment so that all your marketing spends get attributed to some kind of improvement in KPIs.
Here are some questions and corresponding KPIs you can think of adding to your sales plan:
|Question You Can Ask Yourself||KPIs to Track|
|Is your business growth steady?||MRR, ARR|
|Are you setting sales targets and tracking them?||Closed deals, close rate velocity|
|How much does a new customer cost?||Customer Acquisition Cost|
|What is your average revenue per user?||Average Order Value or Average Revenue per Order|
|How much do you expect to earn per customer?||Customer Lifetime Value|
|How many customers do you lose in a particular period?||Churn Rate|
|How long is your current sales cycle, and how to shorten it?||Average Sales Cycle Length|
|Is your lead quality adequate?||Lead to Opportunity Ratio|
|How many qualified leads end up becoming paying customers?||Opportunity to win ratio|
|Are you converting enough leads into paying customers?||Lead conversion ratio|
If you track these KPIs well, you’ll understand the challenges better, predict future problems, and get better at generating revenues from your sales activities.
Moreover, the answers you gather and the KPIs would help you keep an eye on the overall efficiency of the sales process and build a strong sales team.
Apart from these standard inclusions to your sales plan, you can also add the following information:
- Team structure: How big your sales team should be, and what will be the responsibility (job role and KPIs) of each member of the team?
- Resources/tools required: What tools and resources do you need to execute the sales tactics and strategies you’ve planned?
- Current market trends: How is the present market regarding customer interest in your product, competition landscape, and overall sentiment in your industry?
Rethinking the traditional plan for digital businesses, service companies, and SaaS startups
The traditional ways of creating a sales and marketing plan are geared more toward the product economy.
Today, most businesses don’t even have a physical “product”.
Distribution and conversion cycles are not so simple, too.
The sales and marketing ecosystem has transitioned from a single-sales mindset to a culture of lead nurturing, upsells/cross-sells, and experiences to enhance the customer’s lifetime value.
Even users don’t look at companies, products, and solutions like they used to anymore.
Don’t you think the old ways should be reimagined?
In his book, Subscribed, Tien Tzuo mentions how the world economy is transitioning to a digital era powered by subscription-based startups and digital businesses.
Naturally, with changing consumer mindset, the traditional business planning models (including sales and marketing plans) should change, too.
There has been a hot debate about reimagining marketing and sales operations for the future — digital businesses, SaaS products, and the subscription economy.
PADRE is a promising framework with all the elements of a traditional business plan, reimagined for the modern digital economy.
The PADRE framework keeps the customer at the heart of everything and divides all activities (including sales and marketing) into eight subsets:
- Position: How will you create awareness, turn it into demand for your product and build a pipeline of leads?
- Acquire: What is your ICPs buyer’s journey? How will you address their pain points and turn them into customers?
- Deploy: How will you onboard, service, and delight your customers as efficiently as possible so they can use your product, service, or SaaS quickly?
- Run: How will you ensure that your customers get what they expect (and deserve) from your product or service?
- Expand: How will you grow your company through retention, growth, and customer advocacy?
- Product: How will you evolve your product, service, or offering and manage everything?
- People: How will you recruit, onboard, train, and retain the best talent to serve your customers?
- Money: Where and how will you fund and fulfill your need for running and growing your business most efficiently?
If you look at the PADRE model carefully, it has almost all the elements discussed above for sales and marketing plans, just in a different way. This differentiation makes more sense for a dynamic digital business than the traditional sales and marketing business plan.
You can take ideas from the PADRE model to create your version of a dynamic business plan based on your unique business idea.
10 steps to create a solid sales and marketing plan
Regardless of your approach to creating a business plan, you will have to gather data, make some important decisions, and collate everything together.
Remember, your sales and marketing plan is a living document that should be revisited repeatedly for optimization.
Here are the steps you can take to create an actionable plan based on the insights shared above:
Step 1: Gather data based on company insights and external trends
“Always measure the depth of the pool you’re diving in!”
Before you start planning your sales and marketing observing and documenting macro-level industry trends is a must. It will give you an understanding and insight into what to expect in the future.
You can use industry insight to strengthen your assumptions, understand the market, add clarity to your sales and marketing mix, and refine your plan.
Always look for industry insights around sales and marketing trends — what worked in the past, how things are changing, and what future trends will drive growth. While industry trends are not a full-proof solution, it gives you a direction to provide a concrete shape to your plans.
Use industry trends to add “meat” to your hypothesis, and see if you can get data about:
- Consumer behavior and psychology that drives sales. Use the Facebook Ads manager audience tool to find your audience’s topics of interest and behavior trends.
- Psychographic analysis of your target audience.
- Marketing effectiveness of different channels. You can use platforms like Similarweb to peak into the traffic sources of your competitors and get an estimated idea of the volume.
- Sales trends of lateral and complimenting businesses.
- Competitor analysis, including their past financial performance and effectiveness in generating revenue.
|If you’re already an established business looking to improve your plans||If you’re just starting out|
|What to look for?||Compare your past performance with salient industry trends to identify potential for improvement in your marketing and sales tactics.||Competitor performance in sales and marketing to identifying industry benchmarks to define your key metrics and goals|
|Where to look for data?||Your previous year’s balance sheet|
Past sales/marketing plans
Competitor analysis reports
|Industry reports and trend charts |
Secondary research sources like market studies
Personal interviews and case studies with entrepreneurs in the same niche
Financial and systematic analysis of competitors in the same niche
Step 2: Create your ideal customer profile (ICP)
As a business owner, you must know everything about your target audience.
Without a deep understanding of your ICP, you could end up like a door-to-door salesman trying to sell but end up annoying everyone.
This information helps you take the necessary steps to add context and relevance to your marketing and sales plan.
You should break up your ideal customer persona (ICP) into several sections covering all aspects of your persona’s — the demographic profile, what they think, believe, and trust in, their needs, motivations, drives, and psychographic profile.
Sample questions for building an Ideal Customer Profile
|Who is your ideal customer? |
Where do they live?
What do they do?
What age group they’re in?
|What do they believe in? |
What motivates and drives them to take action?
Have they ever boycotted a brand because they’ve acted unethically?
Do they pay more attention to the price or quality of the items you buy?
Where do they go for advice on which products to buy?
Do they prioritize their family, work, or social life?
Which activity do they do most often when they have free time?
Do they actively seek new experiences or prefer to stick with what they know they enjoy?
Knowing your audience allows you to talk the way they want to be talked to. Also, you get to understand what makes them buy, their problems and pain points, and where they spend most of their time. All this is crucial for creating an effective marketing strategy.
Step 3: Assess your current situation
Once you’ve gathered data and foresight, start the self-introspection process.
Ask yourself where you stand in your startup journey.
✓ How is your business performing right now?
✓ Are you performing according to your revenue estimates and KPIs?
✓ Do your business and revenue generation efforts align with market and industry trends? Do they need to align?
✓ Are you marketing and selling where your customers are looking for options?
✓ What are your strengths and weaknesses?
✓ What challenges are you facing in getting your business to the next level?
✓ Is there any better way of doing things than you do now?
All these questions will give you ideas to start the actual planning process. Moreover, you’d understand if whatever you did was even worth it.
Step 4: Define metric-driven objectives and goals
Have you ever traveled without a destination?
Well, maybe you have. But that’s not how you run a business. You need to have an exact destination in mind — where you’re headed to.
That’s why having an objective and goal is essential for making a sales and marketing plan. Tangible and realistic goal-setting should be the #1 priority of anyone trying to succeed as an entrepreneur.
Your goals will will allow you to track if you’re making a real impact on your business. Plus, having a metric-driven goal gives you an understanding of what you need to do for success.
Your goals and objectives should be tied to your business vision and mission.
Often, we see there’s a misalignment between sales and marketing objectives. That leads to confusion and, thus, poor performance. Hence setting a SMART goal is critical for ensuring clarity.
SMART objectives for your sales and marketing plans should be:
- Specific: The goal is clearly defined, and everyone within your team understands the goal and its importance.
- Measurable: The goal/objective should be tied to key performance indicators (KPIs) and visibly measurable.
- Achievable: Being realistic is an important factor in setting an attainable goal. Look at your team’s ability, budget, and current situation to ensure the goal is within your limits. Setting the bar too high will only lead to disappointment and wasted time and effort.
- Relevant: Your objectives should be aligned with your business vision and mission. If your marketing and sales aren’t aligned to your bigger picture, it will lead to losses (and potential conflicts).
- Time-bound: Any objective you define must have a clear timeline, which means there should be a start and end date. Without that, your goal is just a wish.
Step 5: Determine metrics for success (KPIs)
You know you need to measure your goals and objectives in real-time.
That would ensure everything’s on track and help you red flag any deviations from your desired path.
But setting a measurable KPI for any business is a tricky business in itself. Especially when there’s a lot to plan in sales and marketing, and every business is different.
KPI or key performance indicators should be planned based on industry best practices, prevailing marketing trends, and taking stakeholders in confidence.
You can align standard industry KPIs with your business or marketing/sales goals to create your version of KPIs that will objectify your success figures.
Standard Goals and KPIs you should track
|If your goal is to||KPIs to track|
|Increase sales||Number of new prospect calls: total number of first sales calls your sales department completed|
Number of closing calls: total number of closing calls your sales department completed
Contracts sent: number of contracts sent to prospects
New contracts signed conversion rate: total number of contracts signed versus sent
|Grow brand awareness||Number of guest posts on relevant websites with good DA |
Percentage increase in referral traffic
|Generate leads||Number of leads: total number of new leads brought in|
Increase in leads: percentage change in lead generation compared to other time frames.
Cost per lead: amount of money spent to acquire one new lead
Conversion rate: percentage of your traffic that becomes a lead after visiting your website
Marketing-qualified leads: total number of leads that marketing accepts as qualified.
Sales-qualified leads: total number of leads that sales accepts as qualified.
|Improve website performance||Sessions: number of visits to your website|
Unique visitors: the number of unique people who visit your website
Pageviews per visit: average number of pages a website visitor views on your website
Bounce rate: percentage of website visitors who leave your site after viewing only one page
Time on site: the average amount of time that website visitors stay on your site
|Increase social media engagement||Increase in fans/followers: the number of new followers/fans acquired over a certain period.|
Number of comments: number of comments on your social posts
Number of shares: number of times your social content was shared
Number of opt-ins: number of leads generated through your social campaigns and posts
Social media referral traffic to the website: percentage of your website traffic referred by social media sites
|Acquire New Customers||Number of new customers: Customers acquired over a certain period|
Change in new customers: Percentage change of new customers compared to other time frames.
Cost per new customer: the amount of money spent to acquire a new customer
Conversion ratio: percentage of leads that become paying customers
|Increase the customer lifetime value||Number of repeat customers: number of customers who return to buy something from you|
Customer retention rate: percentage of customers who renew their subscriptions
Lifetime spends: average amount customers spend on buying your products or services over their lifetime.
Always ensure that each KPI you track links to the bigger picture — where and how it contributes to your business’s mission and mission. This will add relevance to your sales and marketing plans giving you more accurate insights for the future periods.
Step 6: Build a forecasting model
Forecasting is an activity that predicts what your sales and marketing efforts will lead to on a monthly, quarterly, and annual basis.
Creating a sales or marketing forecast involves taking the opinions of industry leaders, financial consultants, CPAs, marketers, sales managers, and your team members. It also will involve studying and analyzing the insights you gathered in step one.
A forecast will help you make better hiring decisions, budget for your expansion in a better way, and linearly predict your revenues. You can also add dynamic variables to the forecasts to analyze how your KPIs would perform under real-life situations.
Creating a forecasting and budgeting model for your sales and marketing team is highly essential to keep things in check. However, it would be best if you didn’t fall into the lure of creating forecasts for more extended periods as things are changing quite rapidly, especially after COVID-19.
Better to create a forecast for a quarter, review it based on actual expenses and performance, and keep iterating. You can also take advantage of popular forecasting tools for more accurate models.
Step 7: Identify gaps within your assumptions
By this step, you’d have a clear idea about your capabilities, the goals you want to achieve, the industry trends and the forecasts for the future.
This will give you an opportunity to get a bird’s eye view of your sales and marketing activities in terms of your revenue growth.
You can use this information to plug in gaps because of your assumptions and biases, analyze what’s required and the challenges you’d face to make things happen.
Identifying gaps between your existing situation and your goals based on forecasts would help you make informed decisions.
You can choose to hire more people in sales and marketing, increase your budget, try new marketing tactics, or even start an entirely different lead generation and nurturing channel to achieve your goals.
Step 8: Create a team structure and involve stakeholders.
The most important part of the planning process is to understand your capabilities. If you’ve assessed your current scenario correctly, you’ll have a clear picture of who’s responsible for growth, marketing, sales, etc.
And if you’re just starting, this is a great time to start planning a structure for your marketing and sales team, starting with:
- How many people will be needed for each team?
- Who will be responsible for specific KPIs?
- What will be the responsibilities of each member of the team?
- How will teams communicate with each other and ensure alignment between efforts?
- How will the performance be measured?
- What are the challenges marketing and sales teams face in your company (or industry)?
- How will expansion needs be identified?
Remember, if you’re just starting to build a team and have existing team members, take them in confidence and involve every stakeholder before creating a structure.
The more aligned and closely knit your sales and marketing, the faster you achieve your growth goals.
Step 9: Outline action items
By this step, you’re almost done with the planning. You just need to answer two more questions:
- What do you need to do to achieve your goals?
- How will you do what you need to do?
This means outlining action steps, developing marketing and sales tactics, and finalizing the cogs required to run your marketing/sales engine.
You can start by putting together a rough draft of all the insights you’ve gathered, the available resources, the budget, best industry practices, trends, and growth projections. This will give you foresight into what can work in your favour.
Build a list of action steps that you need to take to move in the direction of your goals.
|Sample action steps for marketing teams||Sample action steps for sales teams|
|1. Create marketing collateral |
2. Set up analytics and UTM parameters
3. Strategize a marketing campaign
|1. Write a sales call script |
2. Utilize sales enablement tools
3. Increase the number of upsells
Step 10: Identify and implement tools and systems
Okay! This is the last step of the planning process. After this, you will be left with the exact steps you need to take daily to achieve your KPIs.
But don’t take this step lightly. Think of this as the building blocks of a bridge that would take you from “here” to “there”.
You’ll need to make a list of tools, systems, and solutions you’d need to make things happen.
For example, if you’ve concluded that you need to set up a lead nurture campaign, you need a tool or platform that makes that happen.
You’ll need to evaluate the available options and pick a tool that aligns with your goals and budget.
While picking up any tool, make sure that it should:
- Save time, money, or effort for your marketing and sales team members.
- Have prominent success stories and case studies that closely relate to your goals, tactics, and life stage.
- Is reliable and doesn’t use any under-the-hood tactics to make things happen.
- Has an active developer and customer success team.
- Is supported by a thriving public community of happy users.
Make sure that whatever tech stack you’re finalizing has a solid mechanism to track success and your KPIs.
This will help you ascertain success quicker. Also, communicate with all the stakeholders about the tools and success metrics.
Ready-to-use sales and marketing plan templates
To make things easy for you, we have prepared comprehensive templates for both your sales and marketing plans. To download the template click on the links below and duplicate the document. Then, fill in the blanks.
Your sales and marketing plan is a living document. Keep revisiting!
If you’ve come this far with your planning, you should have a functional plan for supercharging your marketing and sales operations in the coming weeks and months..
But remember, sales and marketing planning isn’t a one-time activity. Keep optimizing your plans with fresh insights to stay on track with changing dynamics. And don’t forget to track the right metrics and KPIs.
A marketing automation platform like Encharge can help you to execute your marketing and sales plans. Don’t believe us. Check the success stories to see how others businesses are amping up their marketing and sales game now.