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Marketing planning - where to start


Marketing involves any promotional activity you plan and undertake. Once you know who your audience is *see our 'Who is your audience' page* you can work out how you want to promote yourself.

Here, we aim to break down marketing into easy steps to ensure that, regardless of your budget and resources, you are able to get the most out of your marketing activity.

Before you embark on any marketing activity, it's important to consider a few simple points.

Where to start

Marketers often use the 'four Ps' as a useful framework to establish:

  • Product
    • What is your museum/event/service?
    • Why should someone visit/use you rather than another attraction/activity?
    • Who do you provide your service to?
    • What can you offer your visitor/user?
  • Pricing
    • Who are you competing against?
    • Are your prices/services competitive? Or are they a barrier to participation?
  • Place
    • Where is your museum/event?
    • Where do you provide your service?
    • What else is available to this audience?
  • Promotion
    • What are the most effective methods of communicating with your target audience?
    • Where should you promote to reach them?
    • What budget and resources do you have?

Thinking about these elements focuses on what you are planning to do.


To ensure that everyone is clear on what you're trying to achieve, it's worth drafting a short plan. This doesn't have to be a novel, but will ensure everyone is clear on the key points, timescales and how you intend to achieve them. When planning, include the following points:

What do you want to market?

Are you promoting a project, exhibition, an event or your whole museum? In marketing, this is known as your 'product'.

What do you want to achieve?

Do you want to get more visitors, reinforce your organisation's place within your local community, or get support for a particular project? Perhaps you want to attract more volunteers or get the local community involved in an ongoing cause?

Who is your audience?

Who do you want to market to? For example, is it a local family audience who'll attend your event, or perhaps students who would be interested in volunteering?

Perhaps more importantly, it's worth considering who your event, exhibition etc would appeal to. To use an obvious example, you might want to think twice about trying to attract primarily parents with young children to a late night film screening. They may come along, but would be less likely to than, for example, a student audience.

Also remember you may have more than one audience you would like to attract or get your message to. For more information, visit our 'who is your audience' page.

What do you want your audience to know?

What is great about your product? What would your audiences find appealing? Is there anything in particular that would make it stand out? Basically - what would your audience get out of it?

What 'channels' would you use?

Marketing 'channels' are what you will use to get your message out there. Where is your audience likely to find out about it? Would posters and leaflets be your best bet (perhaps for a local audience) or would social media extend your reach? For more information see our 'where and how to market' page.

What do you use already?

It's worth considering what you have at your disposal and what you've used in the past. Have you got social media accounts that you already use? Have you tried and tested techniques in the past that you've found effective? Do you have a friendly journalist that you're already in contact with?

What budget and resource do you have?

Before embarking on any marketing activity, you'll have to consider how much money you have to spend and how many staff hours can be spent on the promotion. There's no point in planning activity that is going to be too expensive or take too much time. The best way to plan is to prioritise. That way, if you find that your budget or resources are not stretching as far as you thought, you can more easily adapt your plan, cutting out the least important promotional activities.

What will success look like?

Based on what you want to achieve, how will you know whether you've got there? The measure might be as straightforward as counting the increase in visitors or volunteers you have attracted over the past x months, or perhaps raising a certain amount of money. Whatever you pick as your success criteria, make sure it's a measurable target (eg. we want to increase the number of visitors to x over x months).

What if something changes/goes wrong?

The best laid plans... It's always worth considering some contingency options just in case you find things aren't going the way you planned. For example, if your numbers aren't hitting the targets you set, could you consider doing some additional activity? If your event details change or it gets cancelled, how will you let everyone know? By having a risk brainstorming session before you embark on your activity, you can be prepared if things start to go a little awry.

Evaluate, monitor and review

It's worth remembering that marketing plans can be short term (for a particular event, exhibition, season, holiday) or be more of a rolling thing (year round marketing for your museum).

Whatever the timescale of the plan it's important to monitor how things are going based on what you identified as measure s of effectiveness. If it's a year round plan, are you going to review it quarterly, six monthly, annually or more often?


The plan

There are no hard and fast rules as to how a marketing plan has to look. The main things are to ensure that the factors you considered in your planning process are included in some way. Below are some examples of templates for marketing plans you can use. Some are more operational, some more project overview, but use what works for you and your organisation - or make up your own!


Learn more

Culture Hive, from the Arts Marketing Association, contains articles and other learning resources on a huge variety of topics around marketing and promotion.

The Chartered Institute of Marketing's (CIM) Linked In keeps you up to date with the latest news about marketing and promotion.

The Association of Independent Museums (AIM) also have resources on social media, visitor experience, fundraising and others.

Culture Republic is the audience development agency for Scotland. They have a range of tools, downloads and advice across all aspects of marketing and audience.