Anatomy of a Marketing Plan

Marketing plans are not really fun to write and they don’t often get read in detail, but without them you wouldn’t think through every question that might be thrown at you and be prepared to answer them on the fly. This post is really a high-level outline I’ve used in the past. So, without further ado:

The Executive Summary

This is the one part that the executive team might actually read, so make sure it’s well written and brief. If it’s more than a page, it’s probably too long. Sometimes I add a bullet list at the bottom of the summary called “Main Objectives” which lists the goals. I follow that with another bullet list entitled “Keys To Success”, which is a list of strategies at match up to each goal.  The real purpose here is to create an overview of the goals and strategy while pointing to supporting details that can be found in the body of the document. Which is why a short table of contents should follow …

The Table of Contents

As the name suggests. You might need sub-bullets depending on how involved your plan is:

  1. The State of The Market
  2. The State of The Brand
  3. Plan Goals
  4. Marketing Strategy
  5. Tactical Plan
  6. Budget
  7. Metrics & Controls

The State of The Market
Markets are constantly changing, the goal of this section is to define the current market, how it’s changed, and where it’s going relative to your brand. This begins with an update of the competitive landscape, a review of market segments, and information about their purchasing behaviors. Ultimately this is an overview of internal reporting and market research from the past year.

In this section you’ll also have a chance to review your existing product lines:

  • how they are positioned in the market relative to competitive products,
  • how they are distributed,
  • how they are priced,
  • provide information about which products are the most/least profitable,
  • and allude to where market opportunities exist.

It might help to think about articulating the state of the 4 P’s (product, placement, price, promotion) as you write this section.

The State of The Brand aka The SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats)

If you haven’t already read my previous post on the SWOT Analysis Model, now’s a good time to check it out. In this section of the plan you’ll want to focus on the opportunities and threats areas of the swot model, while building on the competitive landscape information you presented above. The goal here is to highlight where the opportunities are, what requirements come with the opportunities, and what you must avoid along the way.

Plan Goals

This is where you go on the record and state what goals you think are attainable based on the above information and discuss the possible means of achieving that goal.

Marketing Strategy

If you haven’t already read my previous post on strategy tools, now would be a good time to check it out. Now that you’ve set some goals, this is where you present your plan on how you’re going to meet them. You don’t have to get into all the details quite yet, but you should support the rational behind your strategy decisions, and what kinds of tactical steps will be required to support them.

Tactical Plan

In many ways, this is the real meat of the presentation because it’s where you share the details of how you’re going to support your strategy through a series of tactical steps. Each tactic must be associated with information about resources required, projected outcomes, and contingencies. In order to provide a convincing presentation you may have to do research, budgeting, and resource planning. I recommend presenting a version of the strategy arc from the exercise I mentioned above.


This is the flip side of the written plan, where all the expenses are accounted for. The budget should tie in well to your strategy arc and tactics to demonstrate how your plan is phased out to respect organizational cash flow and other budget requirements. In essence, this is a profit and loss statement with each month shown along with quarterly and year end totals. How you assign line items really depends on your specific organization’s needs. Similarly, adding key performance indicators (KPI) into the sheet as well can give the management team additional perspective.

Metrics & Controls

In this final section, you’ll outline what processes are in place to insure that things are going according to plan and what happens if things get off track.

SWOT Analysis Model For Competitive Analysis

One of the first things that marketers do when they come to a new brand is to try and understand how that brand fits into the competitive landscape. This post isn’t focused on a methodology for conducting a competitive analysis, but it does present one model that is a useful by product of that activity. It’s called the SWOT Analysis Model, and it is an acronym for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of your business.

It can be a helpful visualization to keep posted to the wall when you start doing strategy work. You can click on the image below to see a larger version:


A Model To Manage Loyalty Programs

In my earlier post about customer satisfaction assessment practices, I shared information about the Apostle Model and how it can be a useful tool for segmenting your customers by loyalty profile. Today, I’d like to share an additional model which also has a four quadrant structure like the Apostle Model, but which is focused on understanding the value and growth potential of specific customer segments.

This model was cited in the Harvard Business Review by Werner Reinartz and V.Kumar in their paper entitled The Mismanagement of Customer Loyalty. (download the full paper as a PDF by clicking the link). One of the big takeaways from this paper is that loyalty does not necessarily equate to profitability. In fact, their research shows that companies have a tendency to keep investing in customers who may not be loyal now but who were loyal in the past, or who purchase at unprofitable levels.

It also appears that long-term customers don’t cost less to serve, are not willing to pay more for products, and don’t necessarily promote your brand more. So, the key to loyalty programs is to segment the market so that you invest in only the customers that are loyal as well as profitable and outspoken about your brand. The latter point is probably the most important because brand advocacy is the area where loyal customers can have the greatest impact. The researchers propose a model to segment customers, thus assisting the direction of resources, which I’ve interpreted below (you can see their version in their paper). You can view a larger version by clicking on the image below:


True Friends tend to be satisfied with their relationships with companies. For them, managing programs is about maximizing returns without going too far. Offer overload can lead them to start ignoring communications all together. Butterflies on the other hand are easy come easy go, so you have to get the most out of these relationships while you can with promotions or other incentives. But, make sure to stop investing in Butterflies as soon as they leave, because any extra spending will cut into your profits. Barnacles are the most challenging, but they do hold potential. The key is determining if they’re just hanging around for low-profit deals, or if they have the potential to buy different and upmarket products. If the latter is true, then carefully crafted loyalty programs may help, but make sure to have strict controls in place to make sure you don’t spend more on loyalty than they offer in profit. Finally, with strangers you just have to make sure that each transaction comes with some profit.

With the above chart it is possible to define a strategy for investing in loyalty programs based on these four specific segments, but I do want to add a final note about how to assess customer loyalty. The researchers talk about an over reliance on the use of recency, frequency, and monetary value (RFM) calculations which can produce misleading results. I don’t want to dig into this topic here, but the key is to base loyalty assesments on each individuals’ buying patterns, rather than on community standards or simple weighted additive RFM measures. This is because buying patterns vary widely and could cause you to interpret a True Friend as a Butterfly. Check out the research paper for a more detailed explaination, or consider talking with a predictive analytics company about how their model works.

Twitter Digest


Here’s what the week had in store from the Twitterverse:

Have a great weekend.

Brand DNA

The term brand DNA seems to be coming up in meetings and boardrooms with increasing frequency, but I have yet to come across a formal definition for what people are talking about when they use the term. In this post, I’ll try and pull apart what people really mean by brand DNA, how it relates to actual DNA, and how the metaphor might help us understand brands.

Some Background On DNA

I often hear people using DNA in the context of something being “woven” into the fabric of a brand. This make some sense because DNA is a double helix made of base pairs of proteins, which are linked together by nucleotides. Without getting too picky about the language, DNA is not technically woven together but is more like a twisted ladder of bonded base pairs. Each of the base proteins is itself composed of atoms that form molecules, which you can see in the animation to the right.

DNA as a Metaphor

With a basic understanding of DNA, it seems clear that what people are really talking about is some sort of blueprint, or code, that underlies how brands express themselves in the world. It also implies that there is something essential about brands that gets expressed over a period of time. Perhaps what people are getting at has to do with brand personality.

Brand Personality

In the interest of exploring brand DNA as a metaphor further, I should mention that there is a significant scientific connection between DNA and personality, though there are also important environmental factors. While DNA is expressed in many ways that go beyond personality, my sense is that this is one area that marketers are talking about when they bring up brand DNA. If we assume that this is the case, then we should be able to use the metaphor as a guide for communications and human resourcing.

A Brand Personality Exercise

In my previous post on how to write a creative brief for branding projects, I talked about identifying at least five words to establish brand personality for the creative team. Here is an exercise to help come up with those words, and think about how they relate to each other. It is designed for teams of 4 or more active participants, with data collected from as many as 30 company stakeholders and community members. The individuals submitting data should pick five words to represent the brand in question. The active participant team is then responsible for collecting all the submissions and grouping them into categories. Each category can then be organized into structured affinity groups, or molecules. Finally, the most representative word from each group can be combined into the master brand DNA molecule, which has five primary words and may have secondary words related to one of the primaries. Click on the image below to download an enlarged version as a pdf:


As always, thanks for reading and I’d enjoy hearing what you think brand DNA is all about, how it is expressed, and what use it has for marketers.