Common Questions About a Marketing Plan

In the Marketing Plan, is it necessary to cover every detail?

Obviously, you want enough details to get the job done. Most plans that I have seen, however, are too shallow–even long ones. They typically don’t take into account the organizational objectives (with the need to hire more help to meet the plan) or the organizational strategies. They also usually lack a step-by-step plan to ensure timely execution–which is why I crank out a Gantt chart at the end of every plan.

How long does it take to produce a well-designed plan?

With a new company, I usually average three weeks from start to completion (including the plan, budgets and Gantt chart) if I lock myself into the office and concentrate. When I am in the fray of things, it will take 3 weeks to crank out the unformatted first draft and about two more weeks to get it formatted, approved and presented. For new markets or new companies, most of the time is spent gathering information and doing market and competitive research.

How many pages should my plan have?

I have had from 18 to 49 formatted pages, depending on the specific needs of the organization. In addition, my budget usually adds about 5 pages and my Gantt chart ads about 8. The total plan with everything can be up to 62 pages.

What are the typical mistakes made within a plan?

I have made my fair share. A typical one is to overestimate the market size and preferences. I have also misread where the product was on the technology adoption life cycle and so I applied early majority tactics to an early adopter market. I caught it rather early, but even still it didn’t feel good to slip up. I have also seen plans that were too formal. They looked good but they were too flowering and didn’t have an easy-to-follow action plan. I would recommend taking a look at several plans–the ones that are thorough, plainly written, and easy to see a path to completion are good–the rest are ineffective.

Should I write my own plan or hire it out?

I would recommend that you hire out as much research as you can afford, and route all your drafts to your most trusted peers or consultants you can find. However, I feel you should pen the document yourself–especially if you are the one who has to execute it. You need to own it and use it. Just the exercise of putting the plan together creates ownership and helps you shore up your thoughts so you can get ready for the finale–to sell your plan to the others within your company. By the way, I have benefited from another’s plan, but I really had to write, or compile it myself to own it. By the way, I would also sub out specific sections to people in your department. It gives them the needed experience and helps them own their specific sections.

How do I get everyone to buy off on the plan?

  1. First, prepare a formal plan. While in process, route pieces to those that may resist later to get their feedback–this helps it to also become their plan and gives you their objections, if any, upfront.
  2. Second, properly format the plan. Once I prepared a management training binder that unfortunately had to be delivered without formatting (I ran out of time). Since it was all text, it looked too formidable and was never used. On the other hand, I prepared a field rep manual with humorous graphics throughout–it is still in use today (6 years later). The Chanimal adage, “lettuce taste better when dressed,” holds true.
  3. Third, prepare a full-scale presentation (multimedia of course) that outlines your plan.
  4. Fourth, hold a formal meeting specifically to present and review the plan with those who need to approve it so you can get complete buy-in (it has usually taken up to four hours but it has always been worth it). Do not leave the meeting without reaching a consensus on the direction you should go. Once you have received buy off, assume the sale and get moving. Most people won’t think twice about the plan after the meeting, they will just look for the results.
  5. Finally, have a one-hour company, or division meeting to present the plan to as many people as possible so the entire organization catches the vision of your efforts and starts working together toward the common cause. I have seen several companies become more synergistic because of this one meeting that all others combined.
  6. Execute, or you will lose all credibility. If you do make it happen, however, you will receive additional support and authority that is necessary to complete the job.

Is Sales the same as Marketing?

Yes…and no. Although many job titles include the word marketing, the job may be entirely sales related. Sales are only one of the functions of marketing (dealing with the Placement (distribution) portion of the four Ps) and is insufficient unto itself to be called marketing.

Can a salesperson go into marketing?

I did. For seven years, rated #5 out of 350 salespeople (but I had the #1 team), I knew I was very effective at sales. I moved into marketing and have been successful with it (of course, because sales is a subset of marketing–I still sell). However, many of the greatest sales producers I have known don’t have the patience or attention to detail to handle the other pieces of marketing. Those that do, and can pick up the other skills, may find fulfillment in marketing.

Can a marketing person be effective without knowing sales?

I have seen some that were. However, I believe the best marketing people need to have some sales background to understand the persuasive sales process. Without understanding sales (placement), the marketing person is only effective with three out of his four controllable variables.

My reasoning: 1) First, marketing often has to support sales by providing sell sheets, product slicks, appropriate pricing, packaging, etc. If you have done sales, you know what you needed to sell and can proactively prepare effective materials. 2) Second, salespeople live and starve by how well they have internalized the persuasive process and format. A marketing person also has to sell to alliances, with pop, with all copy (which is usually both informative and persuasive), with ads, on the web, with direct mail, etc. A sales background helps the marketing person know instinctively know this persuasive process (attention, credibility, problem, solution, best solution, overcoming objections, visualization and step to actuate (the close)).

One very successful company I worked with was so sales-oriented that the president even required his CFO to have a prior sales background so he could relate to the financial needs of the salespeople. See the books and magazine section under “resources” to learn more about sales.

How do sales differ from marketing in two-tier distribution?

Basically, in two-tier distribution, channel sales are responsible for sell-in, while marketing is responsible for a sell-through. Sales call on distributors and resellers to get the product carried by the reseller (placement). Marketing prepares channel collateral (box, pop, etc.), introduce the product with pr, creates awareness and interest with promotions (advertising, trade shows, and the Web site) to brand customers and help pull them into the resellers to move product through the entire channel. One without the other is useless, but they must both work together to be effective.

The following will illustrate how marketing and sales must work together:
Once, when trying to organize and train a new marketing department, I invited the channel sales team to a marketing meeting to learn the differences between the sales and marketing functions (and to try and stop them from treating marketing like a secretarial pool). I asked Sales to sell new software that was just released.

There were only a few problems; 1) they couldn’t know if the software had potential customers, 2) they couldn’t list the features, 3) or give it a name, 4) or a price, 5) or pick diskette colors, 6) or design the labels, 7) or make a package, 8) or even select whether to use shrink-wrap or rubber bands to hold them–because…that would be marketing. On the other hand, I asked marketing to use all in its control to get the buyer to purchase the software. They realized that, without distribution, no matter what they did, they would not sell software. Suddenly both groups understood the vital roles of the two departments and how they worked together.