How to write a marketing plan – In 28 days, an hour a day.

How to write a marketing plan - in 28 days

So it’s a new year for your business, or the business you’re charged with marketing. And you already know that every business needs a clear direction in which to head. Yet, if you’re honest, you’re not really sure where your next year of clients or sales will be coming from.

Let’s agree on two things first:

1. Hope is not a strategy.
2. A marketing plan shouldn’t sit on a shelf.

An annual marketing plan is truly critical element for success. Every business must ‘do marketing’. Yet many businesses – start-up and long established – don’t have a marketing plan.  They have vague goals, ad hoc promotional ideas and a desire to do well…but without a real definition of that looks like. They don’t know how to write a marketing plan.

And I completely understand why.

Putting together a plan can feel daunting, even when it’s what you do for a living (like I do!). It takes thinking, research, action, time and creativity. And that’s before you start the tough task of implementation!

So why don’t we break it down to something completely manageable. Something anyone can tackle.

One hour a day. For 28 days.

You can manage that, right, for something so worthwhile to your business?

And I promise what you’ll have, at the end of your 28 days, is the bones of a well considered, 12 month, action-oriented marketing plan…AND a head start on some of the implementation. Plus, you’ll be miles ahead of your competitors.

Follow this systematic approach –completing every step, every day – and you’ll be set for your best year yet!


Day 1. Start your plan & set your goals

Open a 2017 marketing plan folder on your computer. I recommend you start with both a spreadsheet (with each month across the top and activities down the side) and a word document (as your central planning document), which you’ll add to each day with each task. These two pieces will make up your final plan at the end of your 28 days – although much of the real value will be in the process itself.

Then, the first thing to write in your plan: 3-5 marketing goals for the coming year.

Why is this so important? Because how do you know where you’re going, and if you’ve succeeded, if you don’t have a destination?

Just remember, a goal isn’t “I want to make enough money to survive this year” or “I want everyone to know about my business”. A goal needs to be stated so that it is specific, measureable, achievable, realistic and time-sensitive.

What sort of goals should you be setting beyond financial? You could include size of database, size of prospect list, number of inbound enquiries, website visits, sale by channel, effectiveness of sales people, attendance at events, cost of acquisition.

If you’re new to your business, setting goals can be extra hard, because you don’t have previous years to compare to. But you should know what you need to make and what you need to spend – and how many customers/sales you need to get there. So voila, there’s your starter goals!

Day 2. Review three competitor website and three businesses that inspire you.

Write down three things each does well (their strengths) and three that each does poorly or could improve (their weaknesses). Consider if there’s an opportunity there for you to fill or a new direction to try?

Then subscribe to follow them via social/email. You don’t want to be obsessed with them, but it ensures you keep them on your radar for the coming months.

Day 3. Articulate – in writing – what’s great about your business offering.

Write down what it is that your business does better / differently / what’s a little bit unique about you.

If you are struggling to do this, consider what you could need to change to make yourself more distinct, more special, more marketable. Then write down some steps for how you’re going to change.

Day 4. Decide on your key marketing messages for the year.

This isn’t about a campaign or an email. It’s core to what you’re going to be saying for a year. That is, what are you going to be telling people, prospects, customers, suppliers partners – this year – about what your business can do for them – and why they should work with you.

Critically review what you’ve written – and take out any meaningless jargon or complete hyperbole.


Day 5. Install Google Analytics on your website. And schedule a monthly reminder to review.

If you already have it installed, spend an hour reviewing results – where you’re getting visitors from, what they’re doing when they get to your site, what sort of mechanism are they using to visit.

Why? If you run a website, it’s one of your important promotional or selling tools. It’s a key channel for almost all businesses, even if you sell nothing online. Yet most people build a site and then never look at it again or really understand how customers are using it.

Analytics is free, easy to install and powerful – but only if you look review the results, use them to track any changes or tests and then consider their implications.

Day 6. Install Google search console. And then schedule a monthly reminder to review.

If already installed, spend an hour reviewing it – particularly looking for opportunities you’re missing. By this I mean, what keywords aren’t you getting clicks for that you SHOULD be.

Again, your website is a key marketing asset – make sure you understand what search terms people are using to find you. If you understand this, and happen to be in a market where lot’s of people search for what you’re selling, this could be your most critical – and inexpensive – inbound marketing tool.

Day 7. Conduct a website tune up.

Review your website and look for any out of date information on static pages. Identify typos, broken links, anything the needs updating.

Make the changes as you go or compile the changes to pass onto your developer or action next month when your plan is complete. (And remember to schedule this in your plan!)

Day 8. Perform a website marketing refresh.

Review your website from a communications and persuasion perspective. Ensure your key messages are apparent in your copy.

Add in missing selling queues – testimonials, recent articles, recent customer comments, etc.

Ensure your call to action isn’t missing in action on any page.

Day 9. Build an email sign up form – or test and improve your existing one.

Why? Every business should have a database to market to, to communicate with, to engage with in some way. The best way to do this is still email.

If you don’t have a form, I’d recommend doing this in Mailchimp if you’re just starting out.

If you already have a form, consider if it’s asking what you really need to know and if you’ve got automations set up, such as confirmation and then welcome email.

You should also consider if you need more than one form or list (based on service/product).

Day 10. Put your email sign up form on the home page of your website.

Most people never get past page one of a website. Depressing, I know.

So whilst that says something about the quality of information on your site, it also means you should improve your chance of capturing their details with an email sign up form on the home page. If you have the technical support or know-how, seriously consider an email pop up.

And don’t forget to give people a reason to give you their details.


Day 11. Prepare a list of past clients / colleagues / people you could possibly work with as customers (or partners or referrers).

Ensure there’s at least ten names/emails on your list. Spend the time tracking down their key details, particularly their email address. Potentially add them to your email list or keep them aside in a worksheet.

Day 12. Construct and send a ‘happy new year / how have you been’ update email to your initial list.

This can be brief. It should be friendly, share some information or insight that will be interesting to THEM and ideally you’d include a soft call to action at the end – what you’d like them to do next, setting up a time to meet or what you’d like them to know.

Then…actually send the emails! Or make a call and set up a catch up!

Meet up with contacts

Day 13. Invest time improving your LinkedIn Profile.

Increasingly people check your profile before meeting you or doing business with you. So if your LinkedIn profile the best it can be? Is your picture professional. Is your expertise clear? Are key achievements apparent? Do you have recommendations?

Day 14. Put some thought into partnerships. Who should you be working with this year?

So many businesses have an inner focus. They forget there are many other organisations, that they don’t compete with, who want to reach the same market as their own.

When you have a name or two (I’ve never worked with a single company who didn’t come up with someone when they thought about it!), reach out to at least one potential partner via email – whether for marketing, collaboration or business. Outline who you are and why there’s value to both of your businesses in working together.

Day 15. Research relevant professional networking events, seminars, online groups or conferences that you should get involved in this year.

Then sign up to at least one physical networking event in the coming month….because f2f networking is still as valuable as digital networking.


Day 16. Put together the skeleton of a marketing calendar in your worksheet for the next 12 months.

Add in any activities you should be undertaking, or are already committed to.

Consider giving each month or fortnight a marketing theme to help you with idea generation over the coming year. Be sure to include any key occasions or ‘days’ that you can work with, perhaps an ‘international day of’ or something more obvious, like Mother’s Day.

Ensure there’s at least one outbound email communication in each month and scheduled time to review your performance against goals.

Day 17. Go back to your marketing goals – and draft some initial steps to get you to your goals.

This is the beginning of the ‘action’ part of your marketing plan. See if you can develop 4-5 steps towards each goal. Include a timeline for each step. And then put these steps into a worksheet, by month and goal.

Day 18. Conduct a mini-brainstorming session – with yourself or with trusted colleagues or friends.

If you’re doing this alone, mind mapping is great tool. If you’re working with others, remember that it’s not about eliminating ideas – first it’s about generating them.

Your aim with this exercise is to develop some creative campaign ideas, engaging social posts or competition ideas that could work.

Then add your ‘ideas list’ to your plan, so you’ve got it to refer to – and refine – over the year.

brainstorm ideas

Day 19. Identify any bigger marketing projects or campaigns you’d like to tackle this year.

You’ve already likely got ideas kicking around, so this is your chance to capture them before they’re gone.

Add them to your plan with the thoughts fleshed out, then schedule them into a month and potentially add budget. Flesh them out a little.

Day 20. Decide which social media channel is worth starting OR continuing with. Do some research and be sure of your reasoning.

You can’t be everywhere. Justify why you’re on the channel to yourself, ensuring it makes business sense. Should you be on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram or …?

Once you’ve decided to start or continue a particular channel, ensure it’s correctly set up, from headers to notifications to complete ‘about’ information.

Day 21. Create a basic content plan for the next four weeks of what content you’ll be posting on the social media you’ve committed to.

If you’ve decided blogging is critical, aim for one post a week. If it’s more ‘short and sweet’ like Instagram, aim for 3-4 posts a week.

Think ‘themes’ to help you generate ideas for your content calendar for social media. And ensure any content you’re planning to create for social can also be shared with your email list – because that’s a list you actually own and have some control over.

(If you decide social media isn’t for you, spend this hour working on your marketing calendar.)

Day 22. Spend your hour creating your first piece/s of content.

If it’s a blog post, you’ll need longer, so sketch it out and take an additional hour tomorrow to finish it.

Again, if you’re not into social media, spend this hour writing an article for your own website that goes some way to demonstrating your expertise.

social media

Day 23. Sign up for any relevant online tools for social scheduling.

Should you be using something like Hootsuite or Schedugram or Tweetdeck to help ensure your social media channels have activity even when you might be distracted?

If you don’t need social schedule, spend your hour researching any other tools you should be using. Then sign up and begin set up – e.g.. Mailchimp, Salesforce, blogging platform.

Day 24. Post or schedule your first content pieces.

Also consider how you’re going to share and cross promote this piece of content. For example, should you be integrating your instagram feed onto your website, publishing new blog posts and them promoting via LinkedIn and Twitter, boosting a Facebook post?

Once you’ve thought through this, create a little checklist that you can refer to each time to remind yourself of this sharing practice.

Day 25. Schedule key marketing activity due dates.

This is so that you don’t miss your chance, over and over, to be effective and relevant with your marketing communications and sales.

Schedule in your calendar, or set reminders 7-28 days in advance – in your digital calendar. And if you have a written diary, do the same.

Day 26. Create a corresponding marketing budget line/series of lines for the next 12 months.

Marketing doesn’t need to cost a lot of money – but there are usually SOME costs. If nothing else, you should allocate some expected HOURS of your time, if only so you remember to allow for it as the year progresses.

ensuring you’re adding in any required spend, product/service donations, fees for services – and an estimate of your hours if you’re doing it yourself.

Day 27. Populate success metrics against your activities

In your monthly schedule, add key metrics that relate back to your initial goals you put together on day 1. This could be # leads, # people on base, # sales, $ sales, # speaking engagements – anything measurable for a month and year.

Go back and review results in Google Analytics and Webmaster tools to get an idea of your baseline starting point.

Day 28. Read, review, refine your marketing plan

Take the time to sit down and read and review your plan.

Fix any obvious errors, flesh out your ideas, identify holes to fix today – or tomorrow.

If you like the feel of a big, finished document, compile it all into ONE document (through cut and paste or starting something new).

Then…go forth and implement your marketing plan!


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Most of my work I pitched for



It was so refreshing to hear Julia Green speak at a recent City of Stonnington business breakfast. She opened by saying she hadn’t spoken at a public event before about her business journey, and that she planned to be ‘real’ and ‘honest’.

She certainly lived up to this, sharing both the elements of talent, serendipity – but largely hard work and business creativity – that has seen her business (Greenhouse Interiors) become so successful in just five years.

The key statement from her presentation that stuck with me was this:

“Most of my work – the majority of it – I’ve pitched for.”

I have advised MANY small businesses on their marketing over the years and, honestly, most don’t get this: that being good at what they do isn’t enough. Work will not materialise. You will need to look for it, work for it, pitch for it, sometimes even come up with it yourself. There is almost never a marketing magic wand or marketing silver bullet. Every business must “do” marketing.

One anecdote shared by Julia was about watching her favourite show at the time, Offspring, and suddenly thinking she should pitch to STYLE the Offspring house. And include in it one (or more) artworks from one of the 14 artists she also represents. After all, she said, what better way to get huge exposure, on no budget, than by putting a picture above Nina and Patrick’s bed?

So she called to pitch it. And it took time. And multipe calls. And multiple contacts.

But she made it happen.

Julia pronounced “I’m not the best stylist. I’m an opportunist.”. In my opinion, she’s also extremely business-savvy. She is prepared to ‘put herself out there’ and come up with projects, or new elements to her business, that have helped drive her success in a relatively short period (after a career in pharmaceuticals before this). After all, she says, “I can’t just be a stylist. There will always be someone on your heels. So you need to thinking – what’s next? What can I evolve this into?”

It’s a marketing – and indeed, a zero budget marketing – lesson we all need to learn (or be reminded of if we’ve forgotten).

Work and clients don’t fall from the sky. And business constantly needs to evolve.

In a small business, especially in professional services, the best jobs will almost always come through your network, or through you pitching. Even after you’re established and well known. You will still need to always be selling. As long as you believe in what you’re selling, this doesn’t need to be daunting. But if you retain this focus on driving business, it will mean you’re far more likely to be successful than a competitor who’s largely waiting for their phone to ring.


Images sourced from Greenhouse Interiors website.


The upsell is a great zero budget marketing technique

Why is the up-sell and ideal ‘zero budget marketing’ technique? It’s additional ‘sales’ with no real additional effort!

I was reminded of the power of the upsell recently when I booked a hotel room at The Cullen in Melbourne. After completing my booking, I was offered a selection of potential paid upgrades. And I opted for the Cullen Suite ‘potential’ upgrade.

Now what’s funny is that I’d know about the suite but had decided I should probably just go with the cheaper room. Yet when it was then offered it after I’d already committed to booking with the hotel, I wavered and committed to the upgrade. And thus if the suite is available when I arrive, the hotel makes another $200 off me. And all it took was some clever thinking on their part.

I doubt I’m the only easily swayed consumer out there. In fact, I know I’m not. It’s the same reason it’s easier to convert a subscriber to a buyer at the time they sign up. We make decisions all the time, but they’re rarely set in stone. As consumers, we’re open to persuasion, especially when we think they’re something in it for us: a better deal, a better offer.

So where could you incorporate a ‘good value’ upsell in your sales process?


How to write a more punchy speaker or author bio

Is there anything more cringe-worthy than writing a bio?

Yes, actually: hearing one that you’ve written read out loud as you’re being introduced as a speaker!

So whenever I come across a clever (and mercifully short) bio, I take note. I look for clues about how to communicate better without the cringe.

So imagine my joy when I came across a loooooong page of clever bios. And what makes them even more impressive (or potentially depressing if I think about it too much) is that they’re written largely by teenage girls!

I’m talking about the bios at Rookie Mag, a site for teenage girls that I learned about when I saw the 17 year old founder was coming out to speak at the Melbourne Writers Festival.

A few of my faves:

Tavi Gevinson is the editor-in-chief and founder of this site. She is 16 and lives under your bed, so she can eavesdrop on teenage girls and then report back to Rookie’s advertisers and the Walt Disney Corporation with her findings.

Stephanie Kuehnert got her start writing bad poetry about unrequited love and razor blades in eighth grade. In high school, she moved on to punk rock and feminist zines. She’s published two young adult novels, I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone and Ballads of Suburbia, and is at work on another.  

Ragini Nag Rao lives in Calcutta and writes pretty much anything for a living. She loves dogs, baking, and fashion and considers herself a cyborg because of the ancient iPhone attached permanently to her hand. She occasionally blogs about fashion and feminism at A Curious Fancy.

Gabby Noone is an 18-year-old college student in NYC. When she’s not busy writing to support her glamorous waitressing career, you can catch her tweeting, embroidering, blogging, or definitely not reading Food Network fan fiction.

So I know this sort of irreverant style isn’t always suitable, but let’s look at what makes these work:

– They communicate their skill or experience
– They reveal something personal so you get a sense of why they are
– They are actually interesting and fun to read
– They do all this in no more than three sentences

So there’s inspiration here people!

PS. Why am I talking about bio writing on a marketing blog? Getting out there as a presenter or writer is a great “zero budget marketing” tool.

Review: Cool free image editing tool to check out – Pic Monkey

Oh, I do love a free online tool. The latest one I’ve come across is PicMonkey and I’m rather sad I’ve only just learned about it. It allows you to do a whole host of photo editing but without the complexity (and expense) of Photoshop or the clunky-ness of apps like Acorn.

You can do a bunch of things – colourise, add text, add effects, use filters, fix blemishes, round corners – all very useful stuff. I’ve been a little OTT with the “before and after” below, but you’ll get the idea. This is super-easy to use and uses “real” language to explain the effects.

So if you’re not a graphic design pro but need to make occasional image edits – personally or for marketing activities like social media- it’s a great solution.

And as it’s free it’s a tool to test drive and then bookmark in your zero budget marketing toolkit.

Off to have more of a tinker….



Zero budget sign writing – no budget is no excuse

zero budget sign writing

I always maintain that creativity can overcome the challenges of a low – or zero – marketing budget.

This little sign (that I recently spotted at a market) is such a perfect example of this.

It’s compelling, it makes you smile, it makes you stop and notice it – and importantly: it makes you really want to buy that cake.

A hugely powerful marketing tool – that would have cost around 5 cents.

Whilst someone was pretty handy with their black marker, what is really clever about this sign is the copy-writing. “Shipped down from heaven early this morning” is a visual, new and emotive means of saying “baked fresh”.

So what inspiration can you take from this? What copy can you re-write in a more meaningful, clever, funny, intriguing, engaging, smile-educing way?

Case Study on budget lead generation event – 2000% ROI

Events are a great way to get in front of many people (prospects!) at once. Even if you’re a small business, hosting an event can be an extremely cost-effective way of generating business leads- and demonstrating your business expertise. It’s also a great way to share expertise so that all attendees benefit and think well of you.

I was speaking with a web development company the other day. They run events every month, on various topics relative to the digital space.

They promote the events to their own database and to people they’re currently trying to do business with. They get around 15-20 people to every event. They get great feedback and interaction. They get at least one lead from every seminar. And it costs them the huge sum of….$150!

Yes, $150.

They’ve done a deal with a pub close to their office to get the space, tea and coffee for $150.

Now they tell me they get a sale EVERY time. And a sale for them isn’t just a one-off. There’s upsell opportunities and ongoing maintenance and development work.

Let’s be conservative and say a website with them is $3000.

That’s TWENTY TIMES the investment cost to make the sale. Even if they only got a sale every 2-3 times this is still a great zero budget marketing activity.

Of course there is there time in promoting and running the event. But as zero budget marketers know, sometimes time is easier to supply than cash.

Can you apply this to your business? Do you have knowledge to share that people want or need to know more about? Then taking the plunge and running some free educational events could be a big win for all involved.

PS. Free tools you can use to manage registrations:

Eventbrite – Free for free events (which I’m using for a free event on social media marketing and the law right now -and I can report it’s great. Come along if it’s relevant.)
Wufoo – Great form tool that’s free to use in most cases

Never forget the power of a demonstration in marketing

Way back in the olden days (2001) I started my first marketing job for a television home shopping company. We made (or bought) infomercials. I was always astounded at just how persuasive they could be- even when I was sitting holding a pretty crappy product, after watching a 25 minute infomercial, I was ready to buy – with or without those steak knives!

The reason these were so powerful is that there were always demonstrations. SHOWING how the product or service could be used.  It’s the same reason cooking shows are so popular – even if people aren’t going to cook, they love to watch it unfold.

These days, if you’re selling a product, you dont need to buy expensive air time for demonstrations. You can make a video on your iphone, edit it on your Mac with the free iMovie software, and voila – you have a hugely powerful selling tool for knicks.

Need some convincing?

Check out this FABULOUS demo video on one of my favourite online stationary stores, I know I’m ready to buy some of these markers….even though I can’t draw and have no real use for them!

The art of letter writing in business and fundraising

Copywriting is growing in importance daily, thanks to the proliferation of “online”. One area that’s been relying on copywriting for much longer than the age of the Internet is fundraising. A good appeal letter can make or break a charity fundraising drive. So there’s lots to learn from the space.

I just received one of the best THANK YOU letters (well, an email) I’ve ever received for a donation. Online made it simple to send, thanks to automation, but the content is what’s great.

The first line is brilliant. It subtly recognises that much of “giving” is really about making the GIVER feel good.

It then goes to to give you a little bit of knowledge, followed by a big deal of inspiration.

So it made me smile. And feel like I’m a good person. And that’s I’m part of something.

When was the last time you got all that for $20?

Great letter.

Dear Kimberly,

You are amazing, thank you so much for donating to the Wikimedia Foundation!

This is how we pay our bills — it’s people like you, giving five dollars, twenty dollars, a hundred dollars. My favourite donation last year was five pounds from a little girl in England, who had persuaded her parents to let her donate her allowance. It’s people like you, joining with that girl, who make it possible for Wikipedia to continue providing free, easy access to unbiased information, for everyone around the world. For everyone who helps pay for it, and for those who can’t afford to help. Thank you so much.

I know it’s easy to ignore our appeals, and I’m glad that you didn’t. From me, and from the tens of thousands of volunteers who write Wikipedia: thank you for helping us make the world a better place. We will use your money carefully, and I thank you for your trust in us.


Sue Gardner
Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director

Lessons & insight from copywriting legends

I came across a treasure recently at a fave spot – the Avenue Bookstore in Albert Park. It’s called “The Copy Book. How some of the best advertising writers in the world write their advertising.”

Whilst there’s little room for “traditional” advertising in a blog about zero budget marketing the insights of good copy writing translate to other mediums.

Around 50 legends share some of their insight on writing, and some of their best ads. (Even if you’re not interested in the craft of copywriting, it’s a great book.) I thought I’d share some of the gems from these admen, who’ve all had 30+ years in the game. These are edited extracts, their actual inclusions are much longer.

Oh, and if you only take away one thing, David Abbott’s point 5 is the one to adhere to.

David Abbott

I’ve never been much of a theoriser about copywriting, but here are five things that I think are more of less true:

1. Put yourself in your work. Use your life to animate your copy. If something moves you, chances are, it will touch someone else, too.

2. Think visually. Ask someone to describe a spiral staircase and they’ll use their hands as well as words. Sometimes the best copy is no copy.

3. If you believe that facts persuade (as I do), you’d better learn how to write a list so that it doesn’t read like a list.

4. Confession is good for the soul and for copy, too. Bill Bernbach used to say “a small admission gains a large acceptance”. I still think he was right.

5. Don’t be boring.

Tony Brignull

My own copy improved when it occurred to me that we relate to a company as we do a person. Unless we’re investors, we don’t ask how many employees a company has, what its financial fearing is, where it exports. We as; is it honest, reliable, modest, amusing, trustworthuy. If ti is, that company may eventually become our friend. I have come to think that helping companies turn into friends is the greatest thing we advertising people can do for our clients.

Sean Doyle

– Don’t think, just do, and thoughts will definitely happen along the way.

– Always be collecting

– Wake up early

– Beware of the committee

– Less isn’t always more

– Pick a side

– Avoid brainstorms (if you want to)

Paul Fishlock

– We are not in the entertainment business, we’re in the influence business

– Copywriting is more science than you may think

– Creative prizes are false God

– We influence some of the least important decisions in people’s lives

– Beware (becoming) management

Steve Harrison

It was probably my grounding in direct mail that taught me my obligations to the reader, I was usually entering their homes uninvited and because of that I always felt that my first responsibility was to them – and not the client. I wasn’t there to foist a product or service on the prospect. I twas my job to show how the think I was writing about could solve the reader’s problems.