Marketing plans too often sound alike, even for completely different brands in completely different industries with completely different objectives.
I’ve tried to capture a few common marketing plan slide clichés in this cartoon, but marketing plans can easily swell to hundreds of slides and appendices. They often take the form of what Garr Reynolds once dubbed the “slide-ument” — an awkward union of presentations slides and a document.
The biggest mistake in marketing planning is what Mark Ritson calls the “tactification of marketing” — jumping to the tactics before framing a strategy. Frequently these tactics are the same chased by other brands.
In 2021, Mark wrote one of the best step-by-step primers I’ve seen on how to write a marketing plan. The whole 14-step article is worth keeping as a reference, but I like the overall back-to-basics reminder of following three simple sequential phases:
“First, we diagnose the situation using data. Second, we put together a strategy. Third, we plan the tactics that will deliver the strategy and success in the market. Then, all things being cyclical, it is back to a new diagnosis the following year to see if the strategy worked and start the process again…
“A good marketing plan will follow these three phases in its structure. Diagnosis should lead to a strategic section and finally to tactics and the budget associated with them…
“There is no single ideal marketing planning format. Every young and desperate marketer searches online and in vain for a magical standard template that you fill in the night before the big presentation day. But Google rewards you with 100 dumb-ass versions of different stupid plans. No standard exists….
“But this overall three-part structure of diagnosis feeding strategy, which drives tactical choices, is inarguable if you know what you are doing. Try and stick to it.”
This approach sounds obvious, but it is often overlooked.
Mark’s other observation I liked is this:
“If you cannot organise your marketing plan in such a way that it be communicated in 20 slides and 60 minutes, you are almost certainly too disorganised to execute it down the track.”
Here are a few related cartoons I’ve drawn over the years: