What’s in the best marketing plan? How do you pull the best marketing plan together?

I went Googling to find that answer and here’s what 5 articles told me.

  • Ask tough questions.
  • Describe your situation.
  • List goals for one year.
  • Identify why people will buy.
  • Your target. Your competition.
  • Your tactics and your brand positioning strategy.
  • Set a budget.
  • Write it in somewhere between 1 and 200 pages.
  • Take 2 months to plan.
  • Communicate your plan widely.

Let me take you quickly to those 5 articles, because I want to explain why that’s the worst advice you could get. What that’ll build you, in fairness I’m aggregating the views of 5 different authors. But none of them nailed it. What that aggregate view will get you is a kind of 101ish response. It will be a marketing plan that nobody understands, that nobody follows, and certainly nobody writes about in books later as success stories.

I’ll show you quickly why that’s the case and then I’ll explain what you need to put in the best marketing plan.

First article by Henry DeVries. Thank you for your article. Really short. Basically he’s quoting a guy called Jim Horn who runs a company called the One Page Business Plan. Guess what he says – you should have a 1 page business plan. For all that, he has a vested interested in that argument and I agree with him.

Couple coming up from Entrepreneur. So the essential argument here is that a business plan can have between 12 and 200 pages. It needs to cover 1 year and take 2 months to build. You need to communicate it widely. I disagree. It should be 1 page. It should have a longer horizon than a year. You should build it faster. You should review it more often. Frankly you should hook it into your actual so you actually know what’s going on so you know what to change mid-course.

In particular, I disagree with the ‘communicate it widely’. I hate plans that are built and then communicated. Build it together. Then you don’t need to communicate it. They know what the plan is. Stick it up on a wall because they already know what it says because they were part of it.

Next article from, also from entrepreneur. Thank you guys – ‘5 steps to create a marketing plan’. All right. They say basically you need to have a situation analysis. You describe your audience, list goals, identify strategy and tactics, and set a budget. All sounds okay, but I disagree. Forget about situational analysis. I think that’s a 400 year old concept that you spend any time at all in your plan describing what is already so. Mostly people know what is so. But secondly it encourages that really sort of lofty plus 20% thinking that’s unhelpful. Don’t bother. Don’t include situational analysis. It’s missing this critical article if this, then that. Logic. If you’re trying to sell problem X, then you must be targeting market Y. There’s none of that in this recommendation. I think that seriality is critical.

‘How to crack effective marketing plans,’ by Katherine Arline. Let’s get to her article. Essentially what she’s arguing – Identify why people will buy. Identify your target. Identify your competitors. Build your brand positioning. Use social media and mobile. I fundamentally agree with where she started on this. Start with the why. I think that’s really good advice. Why?

Now she’s argued the need. I would argue the problem. But for the minute, let’s forgive that difference. She’s arguing start with why they even need your product or service. Not what it is or who they are. I think she’s bang on there. Then moves onto identify the target. I want to just make a point there. Basically I don’t disagree with any of her recommendations, but again I want to see that serial link. If you’re trying to solve problem x, then you should be targeting customer segment y. That’s missing. Maybe it’s implied but I think it needs to be spelled out because we need to be led a little in our planning process. But generally I agree with most of what she said.

Final one I want to show you is ‘Market your book like a bestselling author’. Now clearly it’s a very narrow context and I haven’t written a book for over 10 years so what would I know? Basically, this article though, is full of 75 things worth thinking about. I don’t mind checklists. They’re not trying to recommend that you do these. In a minute I’m going to give you a framework for how to choose which of those things to do. For all that, check out the 75 tips. It’s worth a read.

So as I said earlier, I’ll give you my spin on this shortly. But let me first honour what they’ve said and restate what I think their net conclusions are.

Ask tough questions

  • Describe your situation
  • List your goals for one year,
  • Identify why people will buy
  • Identify your target
  • Your competition your tactics
  • Your brand positioning
  • Set a budget.
  • Write it in somewhere between 1 and 200 pages. Clearly that’s not very helpful advice.
  • Take 2 months to plan and communicate widely.

I’ve got 3 main problems with that.

  1. The first is that there’s no if this, then that. I’ve mentioned that a little bit when I was reviewing the articles. Basically, if this argument is so, how can I say that? There is seriality in planning. This is so, that must be so. Firstly there’s no seriality.
  2. There’s no frame really. We need to have a single page plan that people will read and follow and understand.
  3. You need to build it together. You can’t build a plan in splendid isolation and then share it with people. It’s then you’re plan and they’ll accept some of it and say great, now I understand it. He’s got a great plan. No no, you having a great plan is terrible. We need to have a plan together. You’ve got to build it together.

Let me rebuild that logic, frankly I’m going to use what they’ve done, but I’m going to rebuild it in what I think the order, the sequence, and the importance is. I’m going to drop a few things that are frankly not important.

Here are the 9 lessons we’ve learned from building over 400 go to market plans.

  1. Firstly, plan quickly and often. Don’t take forever.
  2.  Involve everybody who needs to be there. If they know things or they need to buy in, they need to be in the room when you’re planning. We usually take between 6 and 12 people in the room.
  3. Next, set your objectives for 3 years. There’s no point building a one-year plan that assumes you’re going to stop at the end of the year. Because you’re never going to stop at the end of the year. Your momentum needs to continue at the end of the first year. It can only do that if you’ve described a second and a third year. Build a 3 year vision.
  4. Certainly start with why and one of the authors mentioned that. We would argue the problem, not the need. What problem do you solve better than most? Why do people even need your solution? Or any solution from anybody at all? What will happen if they do nothing? If the answer is not much, then that’s what they’ll do. Not much. So start with the why in particular problem.
  5. Target the companies most affected by that problem. When you know what the problem is think about who’s actually most likely to have that problem. Because that’s who your target market should be.
  6. Articulate a complete solution to that problem, but only for that market. If you can’t offer the full solution, that’s fine. Still articulate a complete solution and tell them how to solve the other bits. Don’t ask them to do it themselves because they will go and make it up. They’ll go and talk to others, and they’ll get contradictory advice. You need to at least articulate, otherwise provide the complete solution for the markets that you’re targeting for the problem that you’ve chosen.
  7. Work at what the velocity needs to be to reach your goals. Why?
  8. Because the tactics need to generate that velocity. So we need to know what the velocity is. What tactics will move my buyers through their journey at the required rate? There is no such thing as a must do or a cool tactic. Whatever it will take to get them from A to B, and then whatever it will take to get them from B to C. Then whatever it will take to get them from C to D. There is no magic around the tactics. It’s what will it take, what’s the best way we know how to execute as a company to move them in those stages?
  9. Distil it to one page. Nobody, even the author, doesn’t read a long plan. You can stick it up on the wall. Everybody walks past it and lives it, or argues why it’s wrong. That’s what you need. Don’t worry about situation analysis, don’t worry about competition in earlier markets. Frankly, this doesn’t matter. Focus on the customers. You only need to focus on competition in a high growth market.

I hope you enjoyed that. I did. Clearly I got a little bit excited part way through – I hope that captured positively. Anyhow, that’s what I recommend you should do. Nine steps. If you haven’t already got one, get a copy of funnel plan. You can get a copy for free or you can pay and get a lot more functionality. Our version, the freemium model you get forever for free, a certain amount of functionality, rather than the whole thing for a limited time. That’s what we’re doing at the moment anyway. Go to funnelplan.com. Get a copy of our funnel plan for free. Do all those things that I just argued you need to do and do it with lots of people.