Anatomy of a Marketing Plan

Updated: February 20, 2010

I always separate the plan in 4 very basic sections: "Surround", "What", "How", and "Dashboard"

I. The SURROUND section:

This section is all about sensing and completely understanding a 360 degree view of your business surroundings. It includes:

Market Trends: Identify the "macro-trends" that may have an impact in your space over the 2-5 year horizon. Also include market size projections viewed against key variables like customer size, geographic region and vertical industry where possible. Finally, include a thorough assessment of your top 3 competitors and a view of their market share positions and shifts over time.

Customer Analysis: Take whatever raw data you have around your customer's behavior and analyze it by looking at every conceivable angle. Some customers have point-of-sale data, service event history, sales data, web site analytics or some combination thereof. In most companies though, the data sits idle in a database (or worst, yet in spreadsheets on someone's PC). There is a wealth of knowledge you can extract by simply running a few queries and pivot tables on your customer data. Try it. You will be amazed to see elements of your customer's DNA pop up to the surface.

Segmentation: A combination of your past experience and some analytics will start to shed light on the segments of customers you serve. Those segments may be characterized by revenue level, vertical industry, firm size or many other variables. Define 3-4 "tribes" based on the common threads you see among your customers, and start to think of your customers in terms of the "tribe" they belong to. Once you understand each tribe's behavior, wants and needs you will be able to develop lazer focused value propositions, marketing messages and sales tools.

II. The WHAT section:

This section is basically a crystal clear articulation of what you are trying to achieve with your marketing investment in the coming year. It needs to be crisp, to the point and void of "marketing speak". In other words, this is NOT language you'd see in advertising campaigns or on the website. It's the essence of what you are trying to achieve:

Vision/Mission: 1-2 sentence description of what the marketing organization is set out to achieve for the company over the long term.

Example: "To position the firm as a hip, innovative, and agile provider of business mobility solutions that cross both personal and professional boundaries, and help reach #1 market share position in three years".

The key here of course, is to ensure that the mission lines up perfectly with the overall business plan for the company.

Marketing Objectives: Specific and measurable, these are the key marketing objectives that if achieved, will allow us to complete our mission.

Example: "Re-craft the company's brand positioning strategy to transition towards a young/hip brand personality, using rich-media web banners and social networking tools to raise awareness and break through the clutter"

Try to stay focused and avoid "mission-creep" by staying with a maximum of 4-6 key objectives (which may include sub-objectives if necessary)

III. The HOW section:

Now that we know WHAT we are trying to achieve, we are ready to get more specific and determine the HOW:

Initiatives/Tactics: For each objective you will have a number of tactical initiatives/tasks that describe the actual work to be done to support the objective. Again, to avoid losing sight of too many actions, it's best to group tactics together and stay within around 5 tactics per objective if possible (varied depending on the size of organization and the scope of the objective)

Example: "launch a new $50K brand-building campaign using Google SEM and web banners in IT/CIO-focused web properties, to coincide with the launch of mobile 2.0 product in June".

Each tactic should include specific targets that will determine success (eg 1,000 registrants on website, 200 leads, 2x improvement in lead-to-close ratio etc etc). The plan should also identify initiative champions (down to the individual, not just group), expected time of completion, key milestones and budget.

IV. The DASHBOARD section:

No marketing plan is complete without a clear understanding of key metrics that define success for the year, and a mechanism to track progress on a regular basis. One of the common mistakes made is to distribute a marketing plan, get everyone to agree on the initiatives it prescribes and then enter a dark tunnel for the year, only re-opening the plan at the end of the year to see if the objectives were achieved.

Keeping constant (at least monthly if not weekly) watch of marketing goal attainment vs objectives via a dashboard, will allow you to raise yellow flags and make necessary adjustments in a timely fashion. Waiting for the end of the year to determine if goals were achieved is obviously too late to affect the results for the year. Think about it this way: a ship that sets sail from New York to England and veers off course by just one degree a day, will probably end up on the West coast of Africa by the end of the journey!

Some of the marketing metrics that are usually tracked via a marketing dashboard include, but are not limited to:

  • Marketing-influenced revenue
  • # of leads generated
  • Lead-to-close conversion
  • Cost per Lead
  • Brand awareness %
  • Brand consideration %
  • Web metrics (unique visitors, visit duration, pages per visit etc)
  • # of new case studies/success stories published
  • # of press mentions, positive vs negative press, web buzz generated
  • # of impressions, solicits, responders, registrants as part of demand gen campaigns
Featured Research
  • 10 Reasons to Invest in Video Conferencing

    Have you been on the fence about implementing a video conferencing solution for your business? Not quite sure if your employees will utilize it or are concerned about the costs being too high? The modern workforce is adapting and evolving with more and more employees working remotely, it is essential that they have the tools to be able to communicate effectively. more

  • 2017 Business Intelligence Trends

    It's long been thought that business intelligence (BI) could only be utilized by highly trained analysts and was therefore unattainable for most businesses. However, advancements in BI have made it so that everyone can utilize BI solutions to help shape business decisions and drive companies bottom lines. more

  • Your Phone System and Your Bottom Line

    Businesses have been using phones to drive increases to their bottom lines for almost a century now. Telephony, much like the rest of the business world, has seen drastic changes with the increase in technological advancement. Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP), has enabled companies to connect with consumers at levels that have been seen as unheard of before. And trust us when we say this, it is doing wonders for the bottom line. more

  • How to Scale a Contact Center in 2017

    Are you on the fence about scaling your contact center and not sure how or whether or not now is the time? Studies have shown that 93% of executives expect that contact volume will remain constant or increase within the next two years. This means that now more than ever is the time to begin scaling and we are here to help. more

  • Making the Case for a New CRM

    Did you know that having an outdated CRM is just as bad as not having one at all? Do you find yourself working even just a little too hard to make your current CRM work to maintain your contacts and relationships? While it is increasingly more difficult to reduce customer churn, modern CRM tools are much more powerful and provide much more opportunity to develop stronger relationships with your clients that can provide more stability and revenue to your company and bottom line. more