How to Create an Online Marketing Plan that Will Grow (Nearly) Any Business

by Neil Patel

September 13, 2016

Neil is one of the giants in internet marketing.  Enjoy! (ed.)

marketing plan

If you’re new to the world of online marketing, it can be hard to know where you should first focus your efforts.

After all, by now you’ve probably read so much marketing content–  that you’re just left feeling overwhelmed and not sure of what needs to be done.

When you feel like this, it’s important to take a step back and create a plan.

In this post, we’re going to take a look at how you can create an online marketing plan for nearly any type of business.

We’ll examine how you can build a rock-solid plan, from the ground up and how you can adapt your plan, if changes need to be made.

By the end of this post, you should feel less overwhelmed and more confident about how you can take your business and market it online.

Let’s begin. 

The difference between Goals, Strategy and Tactics

When you’re creating an online marketing plan, it’s important that you understand the difference between goals, strategy and tactics.

When you do, you’ll be better able to adapt your approach, when conducting a marketing campaign.

On top of that, you’ll also be able to better judge how you can implement things that you learn from various articles that you might read in the future.

So, what’s the difference between goals, strategy and tactics?

A goal is the overarching result that you’re looking to achieve.  It’s often what you focus on first, as shown above.

So… a goal of yours might be to drive $100 per day in revenue, using online marketing.

Strategy is high-level thinking related to how you might achieve that goal.

So…the strategy might be to get people through a conversion sequence, where they’re then eventually sold a product.

Tactics are the specific set of actions that you take, in order to achieve the strategy.

So, tactics might include spending $20 a day on Facebook Ads, using Lookalike Audience targeting.

Download a quick how to guide to create an online marketing plan that will grow (nearly) any business.

A lot of the marketing content that you’ve probably read by now focuses on tactics, rather than goals and strategy.

For example, a blog post, telling you how you’re going to get more Facebook Fans, doesn’t always include strategy, in terms of how you can turn those Facebook Fans into $100 per day in revenue.

As a result, after reading such an article, you probably tried to get more fans and quickly gave up, because you didn’t see how obtaining fans would contribute to the larger picture of generating revenue.

When creating future online marketing plans, based on content that you have read, it’s important that you know how to set marketing tactics apart from strategy and goals.

When you can, you can instantly work out the steps, from A-Z, about how that marketing tactic will help you achieve your goal.

As you’ll discover in this post, you can always change your tactics to help achieve your strategy and goal.

If Facebook Ads aren’t getting enough people into your conversion sequence, so that you can generate $100 a day – change your tactic and use YouTube Ads instead.

You’re not changing your goal or your strategy – just the set of actions that you’re using to achieve your strategy and goals.

Note: When you’re working on this stage of your marketing plan, it also helps to decide on a figure that you’re willing to spend, in order to achieve your goal. Having that figure in mind will help make it easier to select the tactics that you can take advantage of.

Okay, so now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s move on to the next section – understanding your customer.

Understanding your end customer

As with all marketing and especially online marketing, it is absolutely essential that you know who your end customer is.

There’s so much noise on the internet and you need to find a way to break through and get your marketing efforts to the right people.And, you can only do that when you know who the right people are.

If you know who the right people are, you’ll be able to customize your tactics, so that they’re bringing you the best possible results.

The ideal way to understand who your customer is, is by creating a buyer persona.

I’ve covered how you can create a Buyer persona here.

Here’s a good template that you can use, if you want to quickly develop a buyer persona.

Aside from making it easier to reach your ideal customer, knowing who your ideal customer is will help, because your marketing efforts will also resonate better with them.

That’s because you’ll be able to customize your copy, so that it only speaks directly to them, making your marketing tactics more engaging and more likely to produce a positive ROI.

Plus, if you’re looking to do some content marketing, something we’ll touch on later, the creation of a customer persona can lead to content effectiveness improving by 60%

Pick one marketing channel

When you’re just starting out in the world of online marketing, it’s important that you keep things simple, for now, ensuring that you do not spread yourself too thin.

That means that it can often be a good idea to pick just one marketing channel, for the moment.In the long term, you don’t want to rely on just one marketing channel, as this can have negative effects on your business.

That’s because if that marketing channel changes its rules or suspends your account, your business could disappear overnight.

Therefore, focus on one marketing channel for now.  But, when you begin to see results, consider simultaneously working on another marketing channel, as soon as possible.

Here’s an example of how the above can be achieved –

Marketing channels might include YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Search and email.

Note: If you want to get really specific, you might also want to divide channels, in terms of organic and paid – so organic YouTube marketing and paid YouTube Ads would represent two channels.

The channel that you pick is going to depend on where your strengths lie and what you feel comfortable with. Sometimes, you might need to combine channels, in order to get peak effectiveness.

For example, you might want to use email marketing as a channel, especially when you consider that 31% of marketers believe email is their strongest marketing channel.

However, in order to get people onto your email list, you might have to combine the use of this channel with a form social media PPC advertising, like Facebook Ads.

Figure out how to use a marketing channel by studying your competitors

Studying competitors is important, because doing so lets you know what tactics are already working in your niche and on which marketing channels.

Note: We’re not talking about stealing anything that your competitors are doing. What we are talking about, though, is learning from those who have come before us.

Let’s take a look at how you can study various marketing channels.

If you’re looking to do some Content Marketing, it can be a good idea to study the content that is doing well in your niche. You can use Buzzsumo to achieve this.

Using Buzzsumo, you can find out what content is achieving a lot of shares for a given topic.As a general rule, actionable content works well, when it comes to Content Marketing.

Therefore, make sure that you combine your ‘niche keyword’ with something actionable, like ‘tips’ or the phrase ‘how to,’ when searching the platform.

After having performed a Buzzsumo search, you’ll then see examples of content marketing that are working well within your niche.

If you want to hit the ground running and get the best results with the content marketing channel, identify the top performing pieces of content and then go aboutcreating something better.

If you’re looking to use paid traffic as a marketing channel, then it can be a good idea to use PPC intelligence tools to figure out what approach you need to take.  

If you want to study PPC Search ads you can use tools, like SpyFu.

Spyfu, provides a lot of keyword research, in general – but it really stands out when it comes to competitive AdWords Search ads analysis.

Let’s suppose that I wanted to start an ecommerce platform that allows others to set up online stores. I’d find a company that’s doing well in that niche, like Shopify and I’d then enter their URL into SpyFu.

Upon doing so, I get an overview of their AdWords activities.

If I scroll down, I can see which keywords they’re bidding on and what their actual ads look like.

I now know what keywords are worth targeting for my ads and what my target market cares about, when it comes to writing ad copy.

If you want to use organic search as a marketing channel, it helps to identify keywords that are bringing a lot of traffic for your competitors, but also keywords that have been ignored by them, too.

You can do competitor analysis on Google organic search keywords, using a tool, likeSEMrush.

If you use the SEO Keyword Magic tool, within SEMrush, you’ll be able to identify high competition keywords and low competition keywords that will generate a return.

Note: You can also use this information to make your content marketing efforts better, as the keywords provided can be used to generate blog post ideas, too.

SEMrush is an incredibly powerful tool.  If you poke around, you’ll find that it can provide insight into Google Display Ads, too – another marketing channel worth checking out.

Competitor analysis isn’t really available for the Facebook Ads marketing channel.

However, you can always keep tabs on competitor Facebook Pages, to see how they’re promoting themselves. You can also take a look at Facebook Advertising case studies, to get a general overview of how to market, using Facebook Ads.

If you’re going to be using YouTube as a marketing channel, consider subscribing to the ‘Channels’ of your competitors.

Study the quality of their videos. If they have some videos that have performed exceptionally well, question what made them perform well.

If you’re using email marketing as a marketing channel, sign up for all of the email lists of your competitors.

Pay attention to the content that they send you, as well as what kind of offers they put in front of you. Timing is also a key factor that you may want to monitor.

Okay – so that’s how you can study marketing channels and figure out how to get the best results out of them.

Now, let’s talk about how you can combine everything.

Combining everything – Decide how your marketing is going to make money

Once you’re clear on your goals, who your customer is, the marketing channel that you’re going to use and how you’re going to use it, you then need to decide how you’re going to make money.

That’s a blunt way of defining how you’re going to take someone stumbling around the internet, turn them into your customer and then eventually into proponents of your brand.

Here’s how marketing legend Seth Godin puts it.

One of the best ways to achieve the above, is by bring everything together and creating a conversion funnel.

Having a conversion funnel is helpful, because it directs your marketing efforts. It gives you a bird’s eye view of how your marketing machine is going to work.

It’s very easy to complicate conversion funnels.

But, essentially you’re looking to do the following.

Make people aware of you -> Build trust and authority –> Make an offer

You can make people aware of you, by using the any of the marketing channels that we’ve discussed.

You can build trust and authority by using content, an autoresponder sequence, a webinar, a phone call – these would be your tactics.

Note: Similar to what I mentioned earlier, if you want to really build trust and authority, then you may need to combine marketing channels.

Now, this might sound contradictory, but stick with me for a moment.

As I mentioned, you should start with only one marketing channel that exposes people to the stages in which you build trust and authority.  

You shouldn’t try to make people aware of you in different ways. So, in the beginning, don’t run YouTube Ads and Facebook Ads, in order to promote a piece of content – just pick one.

As an example, you might use PPC advertising as the channel that builds awareness, to expose someone to your content marketing that gets them on your email list and eventually sends them to a webinar that makes an offer.

As I mentioned before, once you’re generating a decent income from using one marketing channel to build awareness, you can then move on to other channels to achieve the same goal.

If you’ve really tried hard to make a certain tactic work, but you’re not achieving anything, then you’re free to move on to another one.

That’s the whole point of tactics.

That applies to the marketing channel that you’re using or the way that you’re presenting people with an offer.

Before you make a change, however, make sure that you’ve done everything in your power to understand how to get the best results from a specific tactic.

That includes studying your competitors, but also reading case studies that document how that tactic was successfully used by others.


The foundation of nearly every successful marketing campaign comes down to a well-conceived plan.

It’s important to know the difference between tactics and strategy, when you’re formulating your plan – otherwise, you might just end up going around in circles.

It also helps to see what’s already working well in an industry, so that you can learn from those who have come before you.

Get started now on your plan and using what you’ve learned in this post to grow your business, using online marketing.


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