A marketing plan and communications plan can be two separate planning documents, but even as two documents they should be developed jointly. To be effective and gain the best return on investment, the communications plan should support the marketing plan objectives. For example, as the marketing plan details the demographics of its target customers, the communications plan needs to develop strategies, such as using advertising, best suited to those demographics.
Key elements of the marketing plan include the marketing mix, commonly referred to as the 4Ps. These are product, price, place and promotion. Your product description should include product benefits and differentiators vis-à-vis competitors. Detail your pricing, including margins against production costs. For place, explain where the product will be offered and why. Promotion includes all communications aimed at your customers to influence them in their purchasing decision.
Your communications plan needs to use communication mechanisms that will reach the target customer. This is determined by market research, such as buying habits, as well as viewing and reading habits. Based on this research, your communications plan should detail the best strategies to reach these customers. This can include public relations, advertising, media outreach, trade show support, online communications and special events aimed at getting target customers in one place.
If your company provides services, your marketing plan includes three additional elements: physical evidence, process and people. The physical evidence is your tangible presence and the location where you provide the service. It includes your website, logo, storefront or anything customers touch and see as proof of your existence. The procedures you use to deliver the services is the process. The people include everyone involved, from your employees to the customers whose participation is necessary to receive the service.
Your budget is how much it will cost to implement the marketing and communications plan. You may have a preset budget that is finite. In such cases you will have to develop your plan to fit the budget, prioritizing items to maximize cost benefit. You can also set the marketing budget as a percentage of sales and from that figure set aside another percentage for communications. You can research budget figures in your industry for typical marketing and communications budgets. Industry trade groups are good sources for these percentages.