I have been developing marketing plans for the past 10 years or so. Over this period, I have written, a few 5-year plans, a couple of 3-year plans and numerous one-year plans. I do not pretend I know everything but I wanted to share, in a very candid manner, the few lessons learned from my past personal experiences in marketing planning . So here we go, in bulk, and not in order of importance…
- Do not ever try to plan for 3 or 5 years in advance. You can certainly work on your wished positioning and vision with a 5 year span in mind, but do not waste time trying to figure out the details of a tactical activity you will do during the summer of 2011. A well articulated 1-year plan worth much more than a 5-year plan full of motherhood statements. In most marketplace, nobody can predict what will happen in 6 months from now (Was the financial crisis part of your last year’s plan?). So, there is no value in trying to plan with precision what you will need to do in 3 years from now to be successful in your environment. But yes, having a good idea of where you are heading can certainly help you building your one-year plan. 😉
- If you look back at your previous year plan (if you had one…). You can monitor whether you achieved the expected objectives or not. (Many marketers do not have the courage to do that. Be courageous and admit what did not go as planned). Then you should ask yourself if you could have achieved same (or better) results in a more cost effective manner.
- Do not mix up « Marketing Plan » and « Marketing Research. Your plan should be focused on actionable stuff you will do in the forthcoming year, not what you’d like to do nor the tons of information, market data and methodologies you have gathered to come up with these strategies. Yes, I know you are really proud of all the homework you did and you’d like to share it. Resist. Give access to the people who might be interested in the data demonstrating « how » you came with these strategies in another document. You can put these marketing research reports in annex if they are not too heavy.
- As mentioned in my post on Powerpoint presentations effectiveness (in French), create 2 documents: A presentation document (real straightforward) of your plan and a leave behind document which is your complete detailed marketing plan (for the details lovers and for you to use it as a management tool throughout the year). Do not EVER use the same PowerPoint document to act as both your presentation support document and your « leave-behind » document. Keep them separate. If you go with a one-doc-fits-all approach, you think you save time but you do not do justice to your work.
- Before I start to work on the PowerPoint or on the complete written document, I always try to throw my core ideas, structure and informal thinking in an Excel Spreadsheet. If you suffer from the White Page Syndrome, this could be a good starting point to tie your ideas together. However, I recommend doing your plan in MS Word Format. Use a nice template with lots of free space to ease the reading and let the reader take hand written notes on the printed document.
- When writing the plan, make sure you include all the details about your data sources whether it is in the text body or in the foot notes as long as it is there (Quite basic but often forgotten) and the main highlights about how the research you did carved your proposed strategies. Marketing research details should be put in annex.
- Do not work completely alone. As you move forward in the writing process, make sure you validate your direction and core concepts with key people in your organization. Typically, your sales team, R&D team and operation’s folks are must-see people in order to avoid wasting your time on stuff that is too funky for them. This validation exercise will help you to build a realistic plan. Ask them to feed you with their ideas, comments and thoughts. They will become key ambassadors of YOUR plan. Make sure they own portions of it.
- Invest the equal amount of time in your PowerPoint presentation document than you did writing the detailed plan. Typically, we start working on the presentation the evening before the event… Try to plan ahead. See Garr Reynolds discussion on presentation preparation here. Last minute presentations done by pasting your key elements in bullet points format do not do justice to your work.
- Make sure your plan answers the key questions identified in my post « Le plan Marketing le plus court du monde » or Guy Kawasaki’s « Shortest Marketing Plan« .
- Invest time and efforts. It worth it. Remember, in your complete marketing plan document, the more efforts you put in crystallizing your ideas and your vision in a very clear and concise manner, the easier it will be for you to develop the impactful PowerPoint presentation that goes along with it. If your presentation document is well done (following the Presentation Zen principles), you will be more convincing when presenting to your colleagues. (Thoroughly practice your delivery before the real show). If everything is clear for all the people who will make your plan happen, it eases your day-to-day management job in the course of the year and you will be able to spend more time thinking about the strategies for the year after…;-)
Ok, now you have your plan. I will discuss the execution of it in a future post.