Create Your First Marketing Plan

Create Your First Marketing Plan

As part of my 2014 to-dos, I'm working (and writing this) from Thailand for the next couple of weeks!

It’s funny, I spent over $25,000+ to major at UC Berkeley in one of the top undergraduate business programs in the world and I don’t use any of the knowledge I learned there in my career.

That includes product management at Facebook, marketing for and marketing at Over the years, I’ve learned how to organize an effective marketing campaign.

For the month of February I will showcase different marketing methods to help you grow your own business.

Today, I want to help you set the foundation. Instead of talking theory, I want to take you step by step through my own thought process for marketing OkDork.

If you haven’t read it before, one of the best places to start is my post about quant based marketing.

Step 1: Pick your objective

OkDork started 2014 with 12,250 email subscribers (a year ago it was only 2,900--a 4.22x increase in a year).

Because I prefer email for my personal blog, my goal is to grow the number of email subscribers. (I prefer email because I can track open rates and it’s more consistent than relying on Google or social media in driving engagement of my site.)

One common mistake I see from people running sites is that they want more revenue, or more traffic or more usage but they never quantify it.

Given that fact, I set a marketing goal of 50,000 OkDork email subscribers by the end of 2014.

500,000 would be too ambitious and getting to 20,000 would happen naturally.

“Start with the destination and then planning the route there is much easier.”

Step 2: Figuring out your multiple

After deciding on my objective, I looked at the average daily email growth over the past 3 months: ~40 new subscribers join every day.

Knowing I get 40 signups a day, then multiplying that out by the year (329 days left) gives me 13,160 new subscribers this year for a total of: 27,160 (Total subscribers today 14,000 + anticipated new subscribers 13,160.)

Bottom line: To reach 50,000 I need 110 new subscribers daily. This is a 2.75X increase from the current 40.

Just knowing that number is significantly helpful.

Each strategy I consider and each change I make needs to aim for a 2.75x increase. This helps me say, “No” to a lot of ideas that might be fun to try, but don’t bring results.

What’s your goal this year?

(Note: I’d HIGHLY discourage you from having more than One. Simplify your focus)

Get the Marketing Plan Checklist for your business

Step 3: Budgeting for your traffic

To increase your number of email subscribers (or buyers, etc…) there are two major options:

a) Increase your conversion rate

b) Drive more traffic to your site

Here is a useful spreadsheet to help.

First let’s look at the numbers.

For OkDork:
Daily visitors: 700
% new visitors: 75%
New visitors: 525
Current # of emails a day: 40

Option A) Increase conversion rate

Right now, OkDork hovers around a 7% email conversion rate. This means for every 100 visitors 7 sign up.

In order to reach 110 new daily subscribers, I would have to have a 2.75X increase in my conversion rate.

In this case that adds up to a 20% conversion rate (110 / 525).

Option B) Increase site traffic

The alternative to increasing conversion is to increase your traffic.

When figuring this out we can only include NEW VISITORS (you can see this easily in Google Analytics). I assume old visitors have signed up or are not interested in it.

The total number of new visitors each day is ~525 and I get ~40 new email subscribers.

40/525 = 7.62% Conversion Rate

In order to get 110 email subscribers without increasing my conversion rate I would need to increase my traffic to 1,925.

To get 110 emails at that conversion rate is 110/7.62% = 1,312 daily visitors

Daily Visitors (1,925) * New Visitor Percentage (75%) * Current Conversion Rate (7.62) = 110 New Subscribers Daily.

Okay, the point of this budgeting helps you see which seems more likely. To double my conversion rate I don’t have to go and get more traffic. I already have it.

Whereas, to get more traffic I have go back out and promote.


Step 4: Quant based marketing (qbm)

Let’s play out both scenarios.

A) For QBM to improve your conversion rate list out EVERY single idea you can have to increase it.

1- Add an email pop-over
2- Create an ebook for free that people have to give email to download
3- Turn your homepage into an email collect, feel free to use the same one I do. Grab it here.
4- Optimize your site for the mobile experience
5- Add more email collection boxes throughout your site
6- Add an email collect on your social media accounts
7- Link to your email on Youtube videos/descriptions/annotations

Next to this list create two columns: 1) Conversion Increase (%) and 2) Ease of Accomplishing.

(Rate “Ease of accomplishing 1 through 5, with 5 being the most difficult)

Then in a third column, MULTIPLY the two numbers. This creates an assumption on your behalf and the calculation gives you a place to start by prioritizing your list.

B) For Traffic Increase list out EVERY single idea to bring in more traffic to your site.

1- More guest posts
2- Increase advertising on Reddit
3- Do a podcast
4- Grow your Instagram presence
5- Post articles (old and new) on Social Media

Next to this list create two columns: 1) Increase in Traffic and 2) Ease of Accomplishing

Then in a third column, DIVIDE the two numbers. Again this gives you a guideline to prioritize. For example, if ads are working and you can just spend $500/month more to reach your goal that would be worth it.

One quick note: Unlike conversion rates, when growing your traffic you have to look for two key attributes:

PREDICTABLE: You need to know that if you repeat the marketing activity, that you’ll get similar results each time. For example, you might get lucky on Reddit’s homepage 1x. This is not predictable, every time.

SCALABLE: If the marketing activity works but can’t get you the 2.75x growth you need, don’t continue it.

Grab the marketing toolkit here.


Step 5: Get off your ass

Everyone knows the 80/20 rule or “Pareto Principle”. As with everything else, it also applies in marketing. My good buddy Derek Halpern suggests spending 80% of your time promoting your content and 20% making it. I fully agree.

I believe another 80/20 for marketing is repeating the one marketing activity that drives 80% of your signups / traffic. Use only 20% experimenting with new methods.

For instance, with OkDork I spent much of 2013 growing my YouTube presence. I got over 5,000 subscribers. Oh my. As I’ve said before "Don't believe the hype”. When I tracked how much actual traffic that drove me, over a 60 day period I got 80 visitors. Yeah....shitty.

Check your results. For example, content marketing is all the rage these days. Write articles, get SEO traffic, people share your content, they learn from you and subsequently want to buy your product or sign up for your service.

The problem (for me) is that, depending on your business, it’s not predictable. You can dedicate 8 hours to a great blog post that gets nothing in return. Not to say the strategy can’t work for you, but focus on seeing the results you get from the effort you put in. What works for someone may not also work for you.

So now you go and do the things you’ve listed above in order of potential impact.


Step 6: Daily targets and weekly reviews

A) I setup a daily target to know what I have to aim for. I find using a daily accountability sheet helpful. For Okdork, my target is 110 and just knowing each day that I’m below it and by how much drives me to figure out quicker, better methods

B) Every week you should be reviewing / updating your quant based marketing to see the results from your efforts. Then you can continue more of what’s working and eliminate the ineffective activities.

Step 7: Defining your customer

You need to spend time working backwards to define:

A) WHO your customer is

For me: I know many of my readers want to start a business, are college graduates with professional jobs, potentially work in a marketing role, like self-improvement books, aren’t boring, and like eating tacos. Age wise they are 25-40. They tend to be (or want to be) geographically independent. The MORE you can define and narrow this down the better. It’ll help you with the following step.

B) WHERE your customer is

I know my customers love my friend Tim Ferriss so I’ve subsequently written 2 guest posts on his site. Knowing who my ideal subscribers are makes it easier to work backwards to find out where they are online.

You can ALWAYS send an email to your current subscribers asking their fav twitter people, blogs and places to go online. As well, on Google Analytics you can see where your people come from.

One thing to note on Google Analytics is to set up a goal for email subscribers. Instead of just seeing which sites send you the most traffic, a goal shows you the sites that actually send you the most subscribers. Quality > Quantity.

(Note: This also means the subscribers/customers will be a better fit for your content/product. And they’re more likely to engage long term and refer others.)

Here’s an example of my Google Analytics referral traffic:

Here’s an example ad for my demographic:

Step 8: Enjoying your whisky

Overall marketing is easy if people want what you are offering. Chances are what you are offering (or how you are selling it) is not what people want. It’s something I cover extensively in

If email growth is not your main focus, there’s still a lot to learn. The real takeaway when creating your plan is to have A specific goal that drives your business forward.

Remember, be patient. With a plan, spreadsheets, and weekly reviews you’ll be better prepared to see where you came from and how to do more of what works.

Over the next few posts you’ll get different hacks and case studies of how different businesses grew.

It can be too easy to read a post and forget it. If you want, here is an a free, easy to use Marketing Plan Checklist that you can download, print, and keep on your desk.


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24 responses to “Create Your First Marketing Plan”

Wouter De Bruycker
September 7, 2016 at 6:46 am

Though a somewhat dated article this is still 100% relevant. Nice work.

July 18, 2016 at 5:23 pm

Sharply said. I like this as a tight microcosm of what's possible.

July 3, 2016 at 6:13 pm

"It’s funny, I spent over $25,000+ to major at UC Berkeley"

90% of college is a complete waste of time. The remaining 10% is partying.

January 28, 2016 at 3:18 pm

Great post. I liked the spreadsheet and your informative writing style. Thank you for sharing.

November 7, 2015 at 8:10 am

Thanks for the great information!

April 15, 2015 at 10:42 am

Awesome Piece.. I am going to follow it and this is a perfect piece of marketing plan. Thanks a zillion for so detailed work. Thank You

Okii Eli
December 31, 2014 at 4:03 am

Today marks the end of 2014!
Did you hit your goal ?

Sinal Meas
November 20, 2014 at 11:59 pm

Thanks for sharing this awesome plan. I will use it for my own plan.

Eric Z
August 13, 2014 at 9:45 am

Hi Noah, thanks for this post and great usable content!
One thing though, how do you measure people that are interested in you+your product but don't want to give you their Email? I for one would rather subscribe to the feed and read in my Feedly or other aggregator. I am in the process of minimizing my inbox mercilessly and nevertheless am a loyal subscriber.

March 14, 2014 at 5:57 am

Thanks great advice!

Rachel Henke
February 17, 2014 at 2:51 am

After reading this I'm glad I was one of the 7% 😉 Will be back for more!

Clay Hebert
February 15, 2014 at 2:24 pm

Awesome! Super excited to try out the Atlas! Thanks, guys!

bob rush
February 14, 2014 at 8:41 am

You know everyone is saying they dont use anything they have learned in college in their jobs today. I wish someone would open a college where they would teach these skills that people actually use! I'd go back to school for that, or even to an online University. HMMM Idea?!?!

Alfred Lua
February 9, 2014 at 11:59 am

Hi Noah, it's so interesting that I almost match all the description of your target reader - I am a college student who wants to start my own business, interested in marketing and like to read self-help books. I just started my own blog and am struggling in defining my target reader. Do you have any advice? Thanks, Alfred

Micky Deming
February 8, 2014 at 9:39 am

Brilliant stuff. Good way to think of 80/20 - 80% of time on stuff that works and 20% trying something new.

Christopher Kavinsky
February 6, 2014 at 5:18 pm

Very informative and easy to comprehend the materials covered.

David. Glynn
February 6, 2014 at 4:40 pm

Where can we find part 1 ?

L.C. Giroux
February 6, 2014 at 4:31 pm

Noah, I am loving these posts so I thought I'd ask you a question that plagues me and almost every other self-pubbed author I know. I write romance novels. I sell moderately well, could always sell more though. I'm sold on the importance of newsletters but frankly, there isn't a heck of a reason for readers to come to my site. I offer a free novella to people that like/friend me on Facebook and if they sign up for the newsletter they get a free full length book. I'm in the process of creating new content (a sort of new reader's gift package) to sweeten the pot so to speak but how do you get people to invest (emotionally) when they are buying through a 3rd party? I can sell a ton on amazon but I don't have access to those customers unless they come to my site and sign up. I put links to my website in all my books, got a pop up that asks them to sign up for the newsletter and tells them what they'll get if they do. I feel like there is a link I'm missing. Suggestions?

February 6, 2014 at 4:42 am

Noah in tha house! 1.. 2.. 1.. 2.. check.. ha!

Thanks for the numbers lesson, that was tasty! Can't wait for what's to come.

Rock on

Caroline Dahllof
February 5, 2014 at 6:02 pm

Noah, great advice about dividing your goal into smaller goals. I did crew in college and I used this method for the erg test. I would divide the distance into smaller parts and make sure I was pulling at the right power for each section to reach my time goal.

Terry Savage
February 5, 2014 at 2:31 pm

Hi Noah,
great post and thoroughly agree that working backwards from your objective brings insights that are often overlooked. I've used this approach with Clients whose eyes are opened for the first time about the resource and skill demands required to achieve the blind objectives that corporate planners have imposed.
I'm now really interested to read Pt 1but how/where do I find it?

Christopher Welber
February 5, 2014 at 10:43 am

GREAT stuff as always Noah. I'm in your 1K course, and I highly recommend it. I agree with the 80/20 unless you actually write for a living, and then I wonder if it's the other way around. If you're writing for a blog to drive traffic then what you're saying makes sense.

One question I have is do you have a way of measuring the effectiveness of your content and adjusting it to be more effective with your existing subscribers who maybe a great source of new referrals?

Thanks again for a great course!


Grant Taylor
February 5, 2014 at 10:24 am

I just launched a redesigned website yesterday, so this topic is very timely. I'm already working on ideas for conversion and traffic that I'll implement this week. Thanks for sharing.

Tyler V
February 5, 2014 at 8:43 am

Love the spreadsheet and marketing tool kit! Simple, but easy to use.