digital advertising business plan pdf

How to Write a Digital Marketing Agency Business Plan (with PDF Template)

digital advertising business plan pdf

SEOptimer now serves over 2,000 digital agencies around the world and through the years we've had the chance to connect with many of our agency customers to understand their early days in starting their agency. This is incredibly interesting to us because it helps us understand where and how they plan to grow so we can help build the features they need in SEOptimer.

This article is the 3rd in our series focused on starting a new digital agency. For some useful prior reading be sure to check out our previous articles:

  • How to Start a Digital Marketing Agency : a comprehensive guide covering typical agency business models, services, hiring, training, new business, day to day management and more!
  • Digital Agency Lean Canvas : a digital agency business model on a single page! The lean canvas is a popular documentation methodology borrowed from the tech startup world.

Don't be dismayed if it feels like there's a lot of other competing digital agencies in your city. This is perfectly normal. Digital marketing services like local SEO, for example, are dominated by small agencies. Search Engine Land reported that over 50% of local SEO agencies have 10 or fewer clients. Forbes Council Member Jon Hall says, this keeps the industry "weird" - aka diverse as its not dominated by a small handful of big agencies.

Agency Business Plan PPTX

The first step in launching a new digital marketing agency is to write a plan. In this guide, we'll cover two of the more traditional ways to define a business plan document with handy downloadable templates:

  • Digital Marketing Agency Business Plan Document (DOCX & PDF) Template
  • Creative Agency Business Plan Deck (PPTX) Template

Why do you need a Digital Marketing Agency Business Plan?

The days of mandatory 50+ page business plans are long gone. The choice is now yours as to whether you define your digital agency business plan in an in-depth strategic document or not. Some agency founders find it useful to brainstorm this way and document their thought process in a long-form fashion across many pages. Other founders prefer creating shorter slide decks, others opt for a 1-page lean canvas version or some even write their plan in a wiki or business planning tool.

There is no right or wrong way to document your plan. You need to find the documentation method that suits you best. If you're unsure what suits you best, the following factors may help you decide:

Consideration #1: Who is the audience?

Think about who this document is for. Who will read it? In some cases it will just be you and the founding team. If you are raising money, obviously your investors will be a key audience.

You might also have business partners or board members who may be an audience too. When thnking through all these different groups, work backwards from the most optimal presentation format.

Consideration #2: Seek an unbiased third-party opinion

Devin Schumacher is the Founder of SEO agency SERP and says it's easy to get swept up in your own overly optimistic projections.

"Ask an experienced agency founder you trust or admire to sanity-check your plan. Seeking an objective opinion from a third-party detached from your new business is vital."

Devin Schumacher

Devin makes a great point. This type of peer review methodology is commonplace in other industries but sometimes lacking amongst agency founders. Make sure you get at least 1 other unbiased opinion from someone who has already achieved success in your niche.

Don't fall into the trap of asking a friend or your accountant or someone you know personally to review your plan. Doing so will give you a biased opinion. You need an unbiased opinion from someone willing to give you objective feedback.

Consideration #3: Stand your ground

The whole point of a business plan is to take the time and effort to research the market, your competitors and potential clients. This document will distill all your insights into a strategic plan you can operationalize. As is always the case, unexpected distractions masquerading as opportunities (rightly or wrongly) will pop up in your field of view demanding your attention.

Perhaps it's a new client opportunity with a project slightly adjacent to your niche. Perhpas a hiring opportunity for a role you didn't plan to hire yet. Sometimes the hardest thing is to say no, when you're in the mindset of taking every opportunity for growth.

During these situations, revisit your agency business plan and remind yourself of your focus area niche and how you planned to grow within that niche.

Consideration #4: But, be ok with change

Rebekah Edwards

In fact this balance between sticking to the plan and pivoting the plan needs to be navigated by every digital agency founder. It's not easy and often you will be second-guessing yourself.

"Every agency owner I know has had to massively adjust their target audience, pricing structure, competitor analysis, and service offerings based on the way they grow over the first 2-5 years."

Rebekah says that founders need to be prepared for change, afterall, digital marketing is in constant flux and evolution, so change is the norm and we need to write business plans with flexibility in mind.

Trust your performance metrics and continue to do the things that have the biggest quantifiable business impact.

Typical Business Plan structures

We mentioned previously that there's no right or wrong way to document your business plan. So with that said, let's look at some typical marketing agency business plan templates that you can use. After considering all the factors above, choose the structure that works for you and your stakeholders best. We've outlined six of the more common options below:

Option #1: Written business document

This is the more traditional (and still valid) way to describe your business. A written business plan document in MS Word or Google Docs is still the most common way to document your digital marketing agency business plan.

Business Plan document

This type of business plan is considered "long-form", ie: longer in length and suited to more descriptive language. Expect to write longer rationales, longer explanations with plenty of space for evidence, research, insights and strategy. This type of plan will likely be 30+ pages and feel comprehensive. This comprehensiveness is especially needed if external investors or business partners are involved who need to be convinced of the robustness of your plan.

Option #2: Slide deck

The PowerPoint Presentation (or Google Slides or Keynote) has become the go-to corporate communication format. Digital agency founders spend most of their time communicating to staff, clients and stakeholders in PowerPoint so it makes sense to use this format for the purposes of communicating the agency's overall business plan.

Business Plan PowerPoint

The fundamental difference between this option and the written document, is that a slide deck is a presentable format. So typically you might be in the room with your business partners, walking through the presentation on the screen. Whereas in option #1, a written document is not a compelling way to present an idea. It's much more suited as a sent document to be consumed in isolation. That's not to say that a slide deck can't be utilized this way, it's just more common that you would be presenting and talking through your plan with the slides serving as a visual backup to what you say.

There's also a good argument for doing both (ie written document AND slide deck). It comes down to who all the stakeholders are (eg investors, business partners or just you) and whether you intend to present your plan or just document your plan.

Option #3: Lean canvas

The Lean Canvas developed by leanstack.com is a business plan on a page split into 10 boxes. This planning document has become very popular in the tech/startup world and has since been adopted in many other industries, including digital agencies. Be sure to check out our previous article explaining how to use a Lean Canvas for your agency .

SEOptimer - Digital Agency Lean Canvas

The entire business plan fits on a single page which means you obviously need to sweat on every single world and ensure only the most important details are included. We are big supporters of this format because this helps you prioritize and focus your efforts down to the fundamental aspects of your new business.

Option #4: Wiki

In the context of a business, a Wiki is usually an internal website with multiple interlinking articles. The biggest Wiki in the world is Wikipedia and if you want to get really meta, check out Wikipedia's wiki about wikis :

"A wiki (/wɪki/ WIK-ee) is a hypertext publication collaboratively edited and managed by its own audience directly using a web browser. A typical wiki contains multiple pages for the subjects or scope of the project."

Wiki's are generally perceived as internal knowledge bases so if your business plan has executional detail, this might be a good format for documenting processes and methodologies for staff.

Option #5: General Planning tool

Tools like Notion and Trello have grown massively in recent years as more people are working remotely and more work in general is being done collaboratively online.

Notion Business Plan

These types of planning tools are designed to be multi-purpose and fall somewhere between a wiki and a specialized business planning tool.

How to construct the business plan

Now that we've covered the typical business plan structures let's look at the specifics of how you actually go about constructing the business plan and each of the main tasks you need to perform and sections of the business plan.

Market research data gathering

Customer/client research.

Rebekah Edwards, who we spoke to previously stresses the importance of market research with as many potential clients as you can. She interviewed several businesses in their target market when developing their service offerings and pricing. Some of the questions she thought were most helpful included:

  • With no other information, what do you think X would cost from an agency? (X being the service in question.)
  • What is the biggest roadblock for you to accomplish X in-house? (X being basic content/SEO projects, such as article creation/editing/uploading or strategizing new keywords.)
  • How would you typically search for a digital marketing agency? (Referrals, social media, Google search, etc. — this helped us understand how to best market our services)
  • If you already work with a digital marketing agency of any kind, what stood out? Why did you sign on the dotted line?
  • Have there been digital marketing agencies you've specifically decided not to work with for any particular reason? What were the red flags or the issues with a fit that led you to say no?
  • What matters most to you when working with a digital marketing agency? (Examples: data/analytics, frequent communication, hitting deadlines every time, price, niche of expertise, etc.)

Answers to these questions are invaluable as they help you position and market your new digital agency based on customer insight.

Competitor research

The importance of competitor research goes without saying. It's vital you have a good understanding of how your competitors are going to market, how they sell, who they target and what their rough price points are. If you have a friend who owns a small business, ask them to mystery shop at a competitor so they can report back to you what the sales process was like.

Competitor types

The way you position and sell your services should be informed by a combination of both customer insights and competitor insights. Addressing client needs whilst maintaining a unique selling proposition will set your new digital agency up for success!

Building out the business plan

Download our template: digital marketing agency business plan document.

To make edits to the document make sure to download our DOCX template which you can edit directly in Microsoft Word. However if you would prefer a printable PDF, we also provide this option too. Use these templates as a starting point to help you draft your digital marketing business plan:

Business Plan DOCX

Below are some of the highlight areas of the plan:

Market Research Findings

We suggest conducting three types of research to inform your marketing agency business plan:

  • Qualitative research like one-on-one interviews, focus groups and meetings with prospective clients
  • Quantitative reserach like online surveys, mass emails and multivariate testing
  • Competitor analysis to determine their strengths and weaknesses

Market Research

Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and Service Offering

Nailing your USP will be tough especially if you are in a competitive industry / city. Use the previous market research tasks to discover where the gaps are in the market and leverage these insights to position your new agency to be competitive AND different. Perform a SWOT analysis based on your new USP. Then you can determine your actual service offerings and pricing strategy.

USPs

Go-To-Market (GTM) Plan and Org Structure

Define your target market - the exact client types who you want to sell to and list the marketing and advertising activities that you will perform that would be most effective in reaching these types of people.

Also list your people (this might not be many on day 1!), sources of advice and support as well as the strategies you'll use to retain your staff and build their skills and knowledge.

Go To Market Plan

Goals Sales Forecasting

This marketing agency business plan template includes goal setting for the next year and goal setting for the next 3 years. This page is structured to help you set SMART goals.

SMART goals are:

  • Specific : In the '[Enter a goal]' section describe your goal clearly and ensure you attach a person responsible in the 'Who's responsible' section.
  • Measureable : Ensure the actions you list in the 'Actions to achieve goal' have an objective outcome
  • Achievable : Ensure you sense-check your goals with your team and all agree that they are attainable
  • Relevant : Ensure this is a priority goal and will help your new agency grow
  • Time-bound : Enter a due date to ensure the goal doesn't get forgotten

Use the Cash flow forecast table as a simple way to visualize cash-on-hand in your first 12 months. Add rows to estimate your monthly expenses like payroll, rent, utilities, subscriptions, insurance, fees and other ongoing costs.

Goal setting

Tools and Tech

Finally, list out all the tools and technology your new agency will likely need to run an efficient operation. We've listed SEOptimer for you already because it's one of the best, low-cost lead generation tools for your agency. Over 2,000 digital agencies use SEOptimer to generate white label site audits and embed an audit form on their agency website to capture new lead details.

Tools & Tech

Creative Agency Business Plan Slide Deck PPTX Template

If you prefer a slide deck template, use this creative agency business plan example in PowerPoint format:

Business Plan PPTX

Tim's background is in digital marketing working for both large and small digital agencies and diverse client types. He has a passion for tech, software and staying up to date on the latest search engine news.

digital advertising business plan pdf

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Free Digital Marketing Plan and Digital Media Templates

By Joe Weller | January 18, 2021

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You’ll find a collection of essential free digital marketing plan and digital media templates for marketers, enterprises, small businesses, startups, and others. Plus, tips to help you plan and manage digital marketing projects.

On this page, you'll find many helpful digital marketing and digital media templates, including a simple digital marketing plan template  and a  digital marketing project plan checklist template .

Digital Marketing Plan Template

Digital Marketing Plan Template

Use this template to build national, local, public relations, and social media digital marketing plans. Track your campaign’s success in month-by-month columns, and use the content strategy section to ensure the best industry tools are at your disposal. 

Excel | Google Sheets

Digital Strategic Marketing Plan Template

digital advertising business plan pdf

This digital strategic marketing plan template helps you identify the objectives of your marketing campaign, so you can plan, implement, and track its success. Note your marketing plan objectives, target market, budget, and other details on the template. 

With this fully customizable template, you can include marketing-specific components for running powerful digital marketing campaigns. 

Download Strategic Digital Marketing Plan Template

Excel | Google Sheets  | Smartsheet

Digital Marketing Project Plan Template

Marketing Project Plan Template

Use this basic project plan template for week-by-week and month-by-month views into a digital marketing project. Assign task IDs, task names, priorities; track status; designate an owner; and add projected and actual start and end dates and progress notes. 

Keep apprised of your digital marketing project plan’s individual tasks — and gauge its success — with this easy-to-use digital marketing project plan template.

Download Digital Marketing Project Plan Template

Digital Marketing Project Plan Checklist Template

Marketing Project Plan Checklist

Track your digital marketing project plan’s progress with this checklist template. Enter major and minor actions, along with the corresponding task, assigned team member, deadline, and completion status. Cover every detail in your digital marketing project plan with this checklist. 

Download Marketing Project Plan Checklist Template

Excel  | Google Sheets

One-Page Digital Marketing Project Plan Template

One Page Marketing Project Plan Template

This single-page digital marketing project plan template offers a streamlined tool to plan, implement, and track all project stages. Add your business summary, objectives, project plan problems and solutions, competitive-advantage details, target marketing, marketing strategy and objectives, and financial requirements.

You can also enter information about your marketing channels, products, promotional details, prices, and performance standards, as well as how you’ll measure results. This efficient, one-page template provides an overview of how well you are implementing your digital marketing project plan. 

Download One-Page Marketing Project Plan Template

Excel | Word | PDF | Google Doc

Small-Business Digital Marketing Project Plan Template

Small Business Marketing Project Plan Template

Map action items with this small-business digital marketing project plan template. Use this fully customizable template to document digital marketing goals, including strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats . Specify your target market, digital marketing strategy , and research results. 

Download Small Business Digital Marketing Plan Template

Word | PDF | Smartsheet

Digital Marketing Project Plan Template for Startups

Marketing Project Plan Template for Startup Business

This digital marketing project plan template is ideal for startups because it features a pre-built plan and startup-specific tools. Add your executive summary, vision statement, goals, target market, marketing strategy, and financial details to the template.

Find more tips and solutions for startups by reading “ Free Startup Plan, Budget & Cost Templates .” 

Download Digital Marketing Project Plan Template for Startups

Streamline Digital Market Plans with Smartsheet

The best marketing teams know the importance of effective campaign management, consistent creative operations, and powerful event logistics -- and Smartsheet helps you deliver on all three so you can be more effective and achieve more. 

The Smartsheet platform makes it easy to plan, capture, manage, and report on work from anywhere, helping your team be more effective and get more done. Report on key metrics and get real-time visibility into work as it happens with roll-up reports, dashboards, and automated workflows built to keep your team connected and informed.

When teams have clarity into the work getting done, there’s no telling how much more they can accomplish in the same amount of time. Try Smartsheet for free, today.

Improve your marketing efforts and deliver best-in-class campaigns.

COMMENTS

  1. Digital Marketing Business Plan Example | Upmetrics

    1. Executive Summary. Introduction. Mission Statement. Vision Statement. Keys to Success. Objectives. Financial Highlights. Before you think about how to start a Digital Marketing Agency, you must create a detailed Digital Marketing Agency business plan.

  2. Digital Marketing Agency Business Plan - Upmetrics

    Here you go; download our free digital marketing business plan pdf to start. It’s a modern business plan template specifically designed for your digital marketing business. Use the example business plan as a guide for writing your own.

  3. How to Write a Digital Marketing Agency Business Plan (with ...

    In this guide, we'll cover two of the more traditional ways to define a business plan document with handy downloadable templates: Digital Marketing Agency Business Plan Document (DOCX & PDF) Template. Creative Agency Business Plan Deck (PPTX) Template.

  4. DIGITAL ADVERTISING PLAN TEMPLATE EXAMPLE - Smartsheet

    DIGITAL ADVERTISING PLAN TEMPLATE EXAMPLE. Remember to customize the template with your campaign specifics and branding to create a comprehensive and effective digital advertising plan. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY. Write a concise overview of your digital advertising plan's main objectives and strategies.

  5. 3+ SAMPLE Digital Marketing Business Plan in PDF

    A digital marketing business plan allows you to plan ahead, collaborate across departments, and integrate your digital marketing for maximum effect. Feel free to view the digital marketing business plan template provided below.

  6. Free Digital Marketing Plan & Digital Media Templates ...

    Download free digital marketing plan and digital media templates in Microsoft Excel, Word, Google Sheets, and PDF formats.