Original insights in international business and marketing

A Simple Checklist to Make Your Marketing Plan Sizzle


Marketing plans are a dime a dozen.  Almost anyone can throw one together without too much effort.  Quality and usefulness, of course, are an entirely different matter.

Marketing Plans typically range from blabbering 50+ pages on PowerPoint, to complex Excel worksheets and to simple, one-page documents (much better!).  Lately, many Marketing plans have also been streamlined into standard forms and processes.  It’s become almost a color-by-numbers exercise (i.e. cookbook) where you receive a corporate template that gets filled with marketing/finance jargon, briefly discussed, filed and ultimately forgotten.  Having done a number of these over the years, I am starting to questions their merit, but especially their effectiveness at least in their current form.

There is a military saying that goes: “The best strategic plans disappear after the first bullet is fired.”

How many times have you created marketing plans months ahead of a new fiscal year and found that so much has happened in between (reorganization, acquisitions, economic crisis, new regulations, natural disasters, etc…) that the plan itself becomes either meaningless or severely outdated?  I’ve also found that these documents range from being too bloated & complex to being generic to a fault.  The point is that creating a Marketing Strategy document is not especially hard (although they are plenty of ways to make it more complicated than it has to be!) and can be completed in as little as a day.   The trick, however, is to effectively lay out a living marketing strategy that drives behaviors/actions/results, resonates with the audience, has some grip, and brings focus/clarity to the organization.

Everybody has their own “sauce” for making marketing plans.  Here is a simple checklist for things you might want to consider or factor into your next document & strategy:

  1. Internal Obstacles.  Many strategies are purely external and fail to ignore the internal organizational hurdles that need to be overcome even before you reach your first customer.  Think of the sales force(s), the country managers, the business partners, the distributors/dealers who all need to be on-board before you start your customer campaigns.  They are stakeholders who need to be influenced too.
  2. Missing the Why?  So many plans focus almost exclusively on the “Who?”, the “What?” and the “How?”.  Some even include the “Where.”  Too few, however, really address the organization’s “Why?”  Marketing plans need to spell out why anyone internally or externally should believe what you are trying to do, say or sell.  What is the company’s reason for being and what do its people believe in?
  3. Metric Lust.  Metrics are the new in-thing these days.  We just love to plaster metrics all over the place.  Almost as if the more metrics you have the better the plan (and the better the marketer).  The certainly is a place for them but let’s not go overboard, please.  If you have more than 2-3 metrics per tactic/activity or more than a half dozen different metrics in total across your plan, you may have a case of metric-fever.
  4. Less in More.  There is a natural tendency to load a marketing plan with tons of goals, strategies and activities.  Is this done to impress or are each of these line items: 1) important 2) distinctly relevant to the overarching goal and 3) actionable?  Remember, productivity and performance decline rapidly with every project or priority added.  So be realistic about what you can achieve and therefore what goes into your plan.
  5. Carved in Stone.  Is your marketing plan designed to be closely watched and regularly re-visted?  Static plans have a very short shelf-life and need to adapt to the changing circumstances.  Is your plan agile and versatile?  Will it crash at the first setback or is it robust enough to bounce back from inevitable and unexpected deviations?
  6. Don’t be Boring.    Are your strategies and tactics original and fresh or are they merely regurgitations from the old-school marketing textbook?  Here is a quick test:  Ask yourself if your plan could have been created by any of your main competitors?  Could you replace the corporate logo on the top of the slide with somebody else’s and still have a workable plan?  Another thing to look for:  generic and vague words like “Leverage this or that…”  “Build upon” or “Expand.”
  7. Do You Know Where?  Does you plan consider both where to play (segments, markets and countries)?  Does it also clearly spell out where you specifically will NOT play?  Strategy is as much about what you don’t do.
  8. Core Competencies & Strategic Assets.  Does your plan properly address and leverage your firm’s core skills, assets & competencies?  You should spell out what these are and how they will support winning in your selected markets/segments.
  9. Speak English.  Instead of throwing more technical jargon, try using simple English.  Instead of “Increase GM by 3 BP over PY” try something like “raise profitability by 3%.”  Keep the marketing jargon and TLAs down to a minimum.  Make it so that anyone in your company could read your plan and understand it without a decoder ring.
  10. Sex Appeal.  Last, but not least, I recognize that we live in a highly structured and formatted world governed by numbers, charts and tables.  But what if the Marketing plan didn’t have to be so dry and conventional?  What if you could convey everything of importance & significance to your business strategy in an infographic-type format?  Or using video/animation/multi-media?  Wouldn’t that be original?

Thoughts? Comments? Emotional outbursts?  Leave a comment!

photo credit: ctaloi via photopin cc

One comment on “A Simple Checklist to Make Your Marketing Plan Sizzle

  1. Doerthe
    April 23, 2013

    really interesting and inspiring Andrew! thanks!

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April 2013

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Andrew Hyncik

Andrew Hyncik

Parifornia is the creation of Andrew Hyncik, an experienced International Marketing executive who's lived and worked for over 20 years in both Europe and North America.

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