The Value of the Marketing Plan - dummies

By Alexander Hiam

If you have a very simple business that makes more sales than it needs to and is already growing as fast as it can, then you don’t need a marketing plan. However, most businesses are a tad more complex and therefore do require a marketing plan.

A marketing plan is basically just a description, in words and numbers, of how you plan to run your marketing program. Here’s how to draft your own plan or revise your current plan so you can improve your bottom line.

Having a marketing plan is important because it helps you identify, execute, and control the marketing activities that will produce a successful year. You should write one if you

  • Have a big enough business that organizing, controlling, and budgeting all your marketing activities is too complex to hold all the details in your head: Most businesses are too complex for the marketer to reliably hold all the variables in his or her head. A plan helps you identify the best practices, eliminate the unprofitable ones, and keep everything on schedule and on budget.

  • Face challenges or uncertainties that can affect sales or profits: The planning process helps you think through what needs to be changed to improve your results.

  • Don’t already know exactly what the best way is to handle your business’s branding, pricing, communications, sales, and other marketing matters: Planning helps clarify and control all the elements of your marketing plan.

Naturally, planning takes time and energy. But its payback is rapid and large. Unplanned marketing rarely, if ever, pays off.

Another big benefit of planning is that it gets you thinking creatively about your marketing program. As you plan, you find yourself questioning old assumptions and practices and thinking about new and better ways to boost your brand and optimize sales and profits.

Software programs, like JIAN’s Marketing Plan Builder can simplify and support marketing planning. If you want to make your planning a group effort and/or you’re looking for planning templates, consider online options, the best of which offer both of these benefits and can shorten the time it takes to produce a coherent and competent plan.

LivePlan from PaloAlto Software makes it easy for a team to work remotely on the same plan at the same time. SecurePlan, also from PaloAlto Software, offers sales and marketing plans as well as general business plans from the same source. Also check out enloop’s online planning tools (slanted more toward financial plans but still of some use.

If you want to write a more free-form plan using basic aps like spreadsheets, calendars, and word-processing documents but want to make them accessible to a team of authors and post them interactively on a website, you might spend quite a lot to have a web developer put all these functions on a secure part of your website. Or you could just use the free Google Apps for Business.

Other options include

  • Smartsheet is a cloud-based planning platform that carries through to project management by the team. It also offers links for crowdsourcing, which may, to a creative marketer, be a cool new way to do living marketing research during the planning phase and even as the plan is being implemented.

    It’s very likely that marketing plans will be designed and implemented entirely in online environments such as Smartsheet within the coming decade.

  • SCORE is the nonprofit set up to help U.S. small businesses and offers a suite of free templates for marketing strategy and plans, hidden away beneath the category Business Planning & Financial Statements Template Gallery at the Templates & Tools tab.

    You may also pursue mentoring and other forms of direct assistance by real live experts from SCORE or the nearest Small Business Administration District Office, Small Business Development Center, Veteran’s Business Outreach Center, or Woman’s Business Center, mapped on the U.S. SBA’s website.