There seems to be a never ending supply of new marketing plan templates. A google search gave 215,000,000 hits on “marketing plan”. The problem most marketing plan templates is that they are just to long. Marketing plan templates often look like a table of contents which you then fill up with substance about your own company and business environment. I have worked with templates that were in themselves over 30 pages long and before you actually start filling them with content. If you followed such a template and answered all the questions you would have a marketing plan of several hundred pages. I was recently visited by a large consulting company who suggested that we should use their template which was a mere 70 pages. Needless to say, I decided not to use their template. Don’t get me wrong, the content of most of these “long” templates is very good and if used as a shopping list over what might be done and not a list of what should be done they can be very useful.
The marketing plan is a communication tool used to give direction to the company. It is not a checklist actions or a demonstration of the marketers analytical prowess. You might think of the marketing plan as a menu describing the food that will be served at a fancy party. This description tells you what will be served and in what order. It does not give you a recipe for every dish, a description of all the various dishes that were considered but not chosen or a deep analysis of why the items on the menu where selected. Naturally someone has to create the menu and a great deal of analysis might be behind every selection but this does not need to be reflected in the menu.
Similarly, strong marketing plans are the result lots of analysis. It may well be that you want to keep all of this analysis together in one place for future reference but the marketing plan is not the right place. The marketing plan should describe target/goals and how they will be achieved during a given planning horizon (typically 1 year) in order to reach the company’s vision. Although marketers can be deeply involved in creating the vision it is typically the CEO’s responsibility. The marketer comes in to describe what underlying customer needs will be addressed with which products or services and to which customers , how will they be packaged, communicated, priced, bundled and distributed.
Some time ago I was asked to speak to a group of MBA students at the Stockholm school of economics about marketing plans. I realized that I was not at all satisfied with the templates we used or any template I had ever used for that matter for the simple reason that they were too long to be used for effective communication.
Below is a template that I created for that presentation and it has been adapted in used in several companies since then with good success. Try to answer each square in the template with no more that one page including diagrams and pictures. This will result in a marketing plan of no more than 24 pages!
The World's Shortest Marketing Plan Template