In a previous article I’ve discussed the go to market strategy and its importance for the business.
It’s now time to focus on the document that provides an overview of the strategic initiatives to be implemented in a particular year and the projected outcome: the marketing plan.
The yearly marketing plan supports the overall strategy, and should be developed after the long and medium term goals have been identified.
The document should reflects the short term changes in the competitive landscape and take into account immediate opportunities and threats that didn’t exist at the time the medium term strategy was developed.
A plan that does not align with the long term business objectives is a waste of time and valuable resources.
Strategic Marketing Plan Outline
This introductory section lists the Marketing goals for a particular year, such as: increases in sales and profits, attracting more customers, generating repeat purchase, increasing awareness and trial, generating more brand loyalty, and establishing emotional connections with the brand.
A realistic marketing plan lists a maximum two to three objectives.
Summary of Recommendations
These paragraphs provide the strategies and tactics to be employed in order to accomplish the yearly goals. This section will offer the members of the management team who are not willing to take the time and read the entire document with the opportunity to understand what it is about.
Current Market Conditions
This chapter provides a description of the market the brand/company competes in.
It details the current market trends and highlights the changes in user segmentation and profiles. An important section should be dedicated to competition, and how the changes in the competitive landscape affect the company.
Details on new mergers and acquisitions, product launches, new distribution channels or a new competitor entering the market will be included here.
This section provides the reader with a realistic overview of the company strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
The strengths and weaknesses are internal, while opportunities and threats are greatly influenced by external factors beyond the company control
. An effective analysis takes a close look at the performance of all departments including Manufacturing, Marketing, Sales, Finance, IT, and Administration.
Yearly objectives are accomplished through effective strategies that should reinforce the company’s competitive advantage.
The plan then details how the company’s competitive advantage is implemented through product, packaging, distribution and promotion strategies.
These are the concrete initiatives (projects) to be completed during the year in support of the strategies above.
Many marketers (and advertising agencies) make the error of starting with a list of tactics, without thinking of the strategy they support.
See my article Go To Market Strategy: Understanding Marketing Objectives, Strategy and Tactics for details on how to distinguish between strategies and tactics.
Marketers are usually required to incorporate some kind of sales projections in the yearly marketing plan. The most common forecast breaks down the sales by brand, product category and distribution channel.
Every sales prediction (growth or decline) has to be justified by the strategies and tactics you recommended in the chapters above.
If this is your first marketing plan for a particular company or brand make sure you ask about the level of detail expected by management.
This will be one of the highly debatable chapter of the marketing plan so make sure you back your numbers by solid arguments.
There are many ways to build the marketing budget, and it all depends on the individual business.
Some companies allocate a percentage of sales (usually between 1%-10%) to Marketing initiatives. The percentage depends on the size of the company, competition, industry, how important marketing is to an organization.
Another methods starts with a list of initiatives to be implemented that are then budgeted.
Other companies will simply match what the competitors are spending, while others will apply the “whatever I can afford after all the other expenditures” strategy. If you are working for a company that using the last method maybe it’s time consider a career move.
Tracking and Control
No Marketing plan will be complete without detailing how success will be measured. It is important for you, as a marketer, to keep track of what works and what doesn’t, and how much you have allocated to each initiative.
It’s good practice to set very quantifiable goals and budgets for each project, and review the performance metrics at least twice per year.
Supporting Research (Qualitative and Quantitative)
If your recommendations are based on primary/secondary research make sure you include the supporting data as a appendix to the Marketing plan. This should help you sell your plan to the top management.
Some final words about the strategic marketing plan format. Some managers prefer a one to two page plan that is easy to read. Others demand a well-documented plan that includes detailed explanations for any action. Before you proceed with developing it, make sure you have a good idea of the format required.