I have developed a healthy cynicism regarding business plans. I have seen my share of multi-volume plans that never leave the shelf they are filed on. I have been at enough “kick-off” meetings that spark creative growth ideas – only to be quickly lost in the day-to-day fires back at everyone’s desks.

But I have also learned that without a plan 2012 will not be any better than 2011 (or 2010, 2009,…)

This month I will share my process for marketing planning. In many ways it is a mash-up of the plans and processes from my work over the years with companies large and small. I think of it as a roadmap – a direct route to get to my goals as quickly as possible, with detours as needed. There are three stages:

  1. Preparation – What critical data do we need to gather to benefit from the learnings and experiences of the past year?
  2. Planning – How do we prioritize our goals and ideas into a clean, clear one-page roadmap that we can glance at for guidance throughout the year?
  3. Execution – How do we make sure we actually do the plan – especially when mired in daily activities?

Preparing Essential Data


It is easy to get lost in the details of data or the war stories of individual client experiences. To prepare for annual planning, I assemble three four chunks of marketing information:

  • Client Profiles: Who do we serve? What are their challenges? Have these changed over the past year? (Click here for details on generating a client profile.)
  • Marketing Audit: What are our current marketing channels and what has been the performance? (Use the chart above for a template for capturing metrics.) Where are the “big leaks” in the sales funnel? – not enough leads? Too few referrals?
  • Marketplace: What are the main trends both in our industry and in our markets? Who are our competitors and how do we stack up in the minds of our customers?
  • Resources: What is our budget (time and money) for marketing and sales? What activities have had a positive ROI over the past year? What other company issues need to be included in the plan such as manufacturing costs, suppliers, etc?

With this information in mind, you are ready to plan for the next year.

Next week: Creating Your One-Page Marketing RoadMap.


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