I like working from a one-page marketing plan for my clients and for my own business, whether or not we have a multi-page written plan as well. I used to use Microsoft Project to create a Gantt chart of the marketing plan timeline, but few of my clients had the program nor did they want to endure the learning curve in order to be able to use it.
I now use Microsoft Excel to show the marketing objective, tasks, resources, start dates, and timeline as well as the estimated and actual costs and measurable results. My clients can more easily maintain the chart if they choose to, which is so important in light of the fact that marketing is an iterative process, ever-changing as we learn about new tactics, new markets, new ways to do things, etc. On one page we can see where we are, what each person has to do, how much we have or will spend, and what results we’ve achieved.
I usually reserve a cell at the top of the Excel spreadsheet to enter in the business goals that the plan supports. Goals should be measurable and achievable, such as close 100 new customers; increase market share by 30%; double revenues… Whatever your goals are, it’s important to keep everyone’s eyes on them and tie your marketing tactics back to them.
I list the marketing tasks to be done in a left side column. These might include trade show marketing, web site updates, creating brochures and white papers, sending out press releases, holding webinars, etc. Next I add a column for who will do the work, either an employee of the company or an outsource vendor. The next columns are for duration and start date.
In the middle I graphically show each task, indicating its start date, duration and end date. The time segments in most of my timelines are by week, so I show beginning and ending dates by starting or ending the graphic in the week in which the date is. I use different colors for milestones, and sometimes I use different colors for activities that fall in different departments, such as marketing and sales.
On the right side are a number of columns for estimated and actual costs, estimated and actual results. You can add columns to track the variance from estimated to actual. For example, if you budgeted $5,000 to update your web site but spent only $3,000, you are under budget by 40%. Or, if you estimate that you will generate 20 qualified leads and you generate 30, you’ve achieved 150% of your goal.
I take the one-page marketing plan a step further and add a column on the far left, which is for category of marketing tasks. Categories include print, web site, social networking, trade shows, etc. I do this so that I can sort the spreadsheet by person responsible, by category, by date, etc. Sorting by category allows you to see at a glance how much you’re doing or spending in any particular marketing area.
Of course a lot more than formatting a one-page marketing plan on an Excel spreadsheet goes into planning your marketing. You need to have a clear vision, mission and goals; an understanding of your target markets and market personae; data on what has or has not worked in the past; analyses of your marketplace and competition; and a clear understanding of a variety of marketing tactics. But the one-page marketing plan is simple and nets out the information I, my associates, and my clients need to know as we implement marketing for the year.
Do you create a marketing plan each year? How? Do you use it? Please comment below.
[Note: I’ve created a sample one-page marketing plan for you to download here. Please provide comments and feedback below – I’d appreciate it!]