Five Steps to Create a Marketing Plan

Five Steps to Create a Marketing Plan

Video transcript:

Hi! Welcome to the latest episode of The High-Five Nonprofit Marketing Ideas. I’m Julia McDowell, Marketing Strategist for Five Ones. The High-Five is my video series of marketing strategies and tactics for nonprofits and associations, and today I’m talking about something I get asked about all the time—marketing plans. And of course, it’s my most favorite one to answer!

Let’s get started with one of the most common questions: Do I need a marketing plan? The short answer is: Yes, you do. Diving into something without having a foundation in place isn’t beneficial to anyone or anything. (If you follow me on Instagram, you know I talk about this a lot.) You need to understand who you are as an organization, what your goals are, how you want to get there, and what is needed to reach those goals. And all of that starts with a PLAN. While this seems like a lot and can feel overwhelming—don’t worry—I’m going to break it down for you. Here are the 5 steps I recommend to build a successful marketing plan for your nonprofit or association.


Before you can start to share who you are with the world, you need to have a clear understanding of your organization. Start by considering your vision. A vision is the ultimate goal you’re trying to achieve. It’s what you aspire for the future of your nonprofit. Then, think about your mission statement. This is directly related to how you’re going to fulfill your vision but is based in the present.

Now, using the same formula, write down your goals. What do you envision your association accomplishing? Then, brainstorm the objectives that will help you get there. These directly map objectives to goals.


Now that you know who YOU are, it’s time to consider who your competitors are. You can probably think of a few off of the top of your head, so jot them down. Competitors can be direct, similar, or even just in the same industry. And while you’re thinking about other industry players, start to contemplate the industry as a whole. Research the state of it, any trends that have come up, and statistics or facts that may be relevant. With this information, you’ll have a clear picture of where you fit into the industry and how you can ultimately stand out.

But, before you move on, it’s important to take a hard look at yourself. Let’s do this with a SWOT analysis aka Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Write down where your organization excels, where it could improve, what opportunities you see in the industry after doing your research, and the threats that your competition poses.


On the heels of your SWOT analysis, start to evaluate your brand. If you had to give your organization a personality what would it be? Would it be playful or stoic? Assign it different attributes based on your strengths, vision, mission, and goals.

Part of this is also thinking about your audience. Who are you talking to? Or who do you WANT to talk to? Consider:

  • Age
  • Location
  • Hobbies
  • Motivations
  • Daily habits
  • Where they get their media

You can even sketch out different personas to make your audience seem more real. I’m talking about giving them names, faces, personalities, the whole thing. Whatever makes them real to you!


Now that there is a strong foundation in place, we can get into the meat of the marketing plan itself. But, before you start thinking about NEW strategies, let’s think about what you’ve done in the past. The intimidating word for this is an audit (oof, taxes), but it doesn’t need to be that structured. Think about marketing activities you’ve done in the past and write down the results they had. You will start to get an idea of what worked and what didn’t and what tweaks can be made as you look to the future.

Which leads me to brainstorming for new campaigns. First, consider what the end goal of the campaign is, then what ideas you have to deliver the campaign, and the overall theme. We’re not talking prom themes here, instead something compelling that is also relevant and inspiring.

So, now that you’ve laid out your campaigns, it’s time to develop strategies and tactics around them. A strategy is how you’re going to meet a goal and the tactics support your strategy. Again, they all map together! Are you also sensing another theme here?

My top tip? Don’t hold back. Write down any and everything that comes to mind. You can streamline later. My 50-page marketing workbook is the perfect place to brainstorm and dive even deeper into marketing planning. It walks you through all of the steps here (and more!).


It’s finally time to execute! But, before you do, come up with key performance indicators for your various marketing activities. If you’re running a paid ad, what does a successful click rate look like? Assign these benchmarks now.

Then it’s time for the nitty-gritty. Timeline your campaigns and marketing activities. You can even take a birds-eye view and start to plan at a high level for the rest of the year. But, don’t forget to consider your budget. Plan so you can not only get the most out of it, but so it will last you through your entire fiscal year.

Phew! That was a lot. But, creating an entire marketing plan from scratch takes time and effort.

Thanks for joining me for today’s High-Five Nonprofit Marketing Ideas! Don’t forget to check out my Marketing Workbook at You’ll be a marketing genius in no time! Questions? Reach out at