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Marketing Planning

October 30, 2012

‘Tis the season for marketing planning!  Fa la la la la…la la la la…

To some Christmas comes on 12/25 to me it comes in October because that’s when I usually present my marketing plan (the actual day of the presentation may change for whatever reason so I usually celebrate all month) to Senior Leadership.

I’ve written 5 marketing plans so far in my career and I absolutely love the process.  It tests your knowledge of your brand and tests your strategic thinking.  Sometimes the plans can flow easily and other times it can be maddening. There have been a few late nights when I tried to put pen to paper and nothing would come out.

The best plans are the ones founded on real data and deep analysis.  No marketing plan should including statements like “We should run a TV ad because it would be cool” as justification for a strategy or tactic.  They should be as specific as possible, i.e. coupons will be used to support new products versus a vague statement like “we’ll support new products.”  They should also be measurable in that they include objectives such as “Bring national buying rate back to 2004 levels.”  If you see a line that says “the 2013 objective is to grow sales” reject that plan like it’s a bad check.

There is no correlation between the size of your business and the size of your marketing plan.  I worked at a global manufacturing company and my plan was no more than 12 pages.  I’ve worked at a small, regional food company and my plan was almost 30 pages long.  It all depends on the story you’re trying to tell and the data you need to support the story.  I think the more data the better.  You can’t ever have enough data.  I had a user study done on our core consumers and used every page I could to justify the strategies and tactics for the following year.  Not surprisingly the brand had one of its best years ever.

At this point I’ll get into the process so you can understand the framework and use these points as a reference in the future.  When I train interns I find it hilarious that they think a marketing plan is this magical document that only those who know ancient languages and can read runes can write them.  However, the process is quite simple.

First, you want to provide a score card.  This is where you grade yourself relative to the strategies you published for the prior year.  For example, say you were going to launch 5 new products generating $10MM in incremental revenue.  If you launched 5 new products that generated $10MM in incremental revenue than you can give yourself an “A.”  If you didn’t launch 5 new products and didn’t achieve the $10MM goal, than you need to give yourself the appropriate grade.  It has been my experience that management teams love self-criticism so this is a good way to build your credibility.

Second, you have to start with the state of the business.  You can’t decide where you’re going if you can’t explain where you’ve been.  You should go in depth as needed in order to provide the clearest picture of your brand’s situation.

I usually start off with top line data such as the YTD unit and dollar volumes.  Explain what you’re seeing and try to provide context.  Maybe your numbers of down for an obvious reason that everyone knows about.  For example, a brand I was managing once lost a major account so the brand’s unit and dollar volumes declined; that’s pretty obvious.  Other reasons might require more information.  Once you’ve given the top line perspective you drill down from there.  You could look at sales by region, sales by channel, sales by product type or sales by UPC.

Third, you discuss the lessons learned.  This is where you literally lay out what you’ve learned that year.  For example, you launched several line extensions that included raspberry flavoring in them.  However, the extensions failed so that would tell you that the brand should not pursue products with raspberry flavor.  Or you learned that Catalina coupons perform better than FSIs so you would include that learning as well.

Fourth, you build your objectives for the coming year followed by several strategies and a list of the tactics.  For example, the objective is to increase the distribution of a product by 10% in the next operating year.  The strategies to meet that objective could be “Leverage partnerships with local sports teams” and the tactics would be something to the effect of developing themed POS and packaging for the partnership.

Fifth, you go into more detail about your strategies and tactics.  As you provide more detail make sure that you approach it from the viewpoint of those who would ask questions as your making your presentation.  Doing that will help you explain things better and talk through your points.

The details could include a sample of a package (if you have one); the timing of an execution and if your company is like mine, the budget allocation for the strategy/tactics.

Your new product list (if that’s part of your strategy) would go here as well.  That could take several different forms, but the most common that I’ve seen is a list of new products with a sales forecast and launch schedule.

Finally, you include your marketing calendar and your marketing budget (sometimes considered the most important part of the plan).  The calendar doesn’t need to be anything special.  I usually build mine using Excel and just use colors to fill in the time lines.  I do the same for the budget as well because I have a separate, official budget format that I use on a daily basis.

For reference I am including a marketing plan template that you can download and use as you please.  Don’t be afraid to change it to your needs and your company’s expectations.

Good luck!

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