Why Starting with a Sample Marketing Plan Doesn’t Work

So you realize that your company is in desperate need of a marketing plan and you have never done one before.  Therefore, you begin like any other person would in 2015 by Googling “Sample Marketing Plan” only to find a ton of samples and templates you can purchase and download.

Although it’s overwhelming what your search finds, the real problem with this (as someone who has written a few dozen marketing plans for various businesses) isn’t which one to pick from the hundreds available.  The problem is where you are starting from.

This method would be like saying you want to take a vacation and when you find someone to help, they blindfold you and drop you off somewhere in the middle of the U.S. and say, “…here are some ideas of things you can do around here. Now make it the kind of vacation YOU want it to be.

It’s not how you would ever plan a vacation and should never be how you plan to market a business.

So much of what needs to be considered is missing, and the framework of the sample marketing plan is such that you never “back out” and address what all companies need to think about FIRST.

So What’s Missing?

As I said earlier, we at MEMO Marketing Group have done dozens of marketing plans for companies.  It’s where we start with every client.

The mistake I see most companies make is that they fail to address the 4 biggest problems in their business BEFORE they tackle the strategic marketing plan.  The 4 things I’m talking about are often mentioned in a sample marketing plan, but are written so that they lead you in a path that is generic to YOUR business. It constrains you to ideas that may sound good on paper, but in reality are not specific to your situation — and therefore, becomes more work in the long run to where you need to go.

A holistic approach to strategic marketing, like what was discussed in our last blog post, will require you to think about and address these 4 things before you ever think to create the first word in your plan. They are so important to a company’s success with marketing that we call them “pillars” and address them with our clients before we ever put pen to paper on their plan.

The 4 Pillars of Marketing Success

So what are these 4 pillars we’re speaking of?  Well they are not only the foundation of great marketing, they are the start of all great marketing plans as well.


Pillar One: Your Vision

Imagine putting all your employees, partners, vendors, and referral sources on a bus and then you begin driving them to a destination.  You may know where you are going, but no one else does.  That means they are just along for the ride.  You can ask them to help with things, but they can’t really do much proactively.  This is what happens when you don’t share your vision for the company.

All good plans need to start with the vision of where you’re going, but good “visionaries” share the plan with others so they can help to achieve it.  Your team needs a good description of what success looks like.  Before beginning any marketing plan, start by establishing the vision and share it with everyone who could help you get there.

Pillar Two: Your Ideal Value Proposition

Your ideal value proposition is the best problem you solve for your ideal customers.  It’s important to establish that before starting any marketing plan.

An ideal value proposition must successfully fall into all three of these categories:

  • It’s a problem you LOVE to solve – no one wants to spend their lives doing something they don’t like.  You probably won’t give it your all anyways.
  • It’s a problem customers say you solve well – it’s important you are really good at this.  It helps you have success with clients makes it easier to grow your business.
  • It’s a problem you make GREAT money solving – don’t focus your marketing on any problem that doesn’t make you GREAT money.  

Any problem you solve that covers all three is a perfect ideal value proposition.  

To learn what your value proposition is, talk with employees, contractors, friends and past clients to get their perspectives too.

Pillar Three: Your Target Market

Before you begin your marketing efforts, it’s critical that you define your target market.  This means who is the person that has the problem aligned with your ideal value proposition.

The best way to define this is to develop what we call a “persona” for the ideal customer.  A persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data.  This description needs to be as detailed as possible — including behavior patterns, demographics, goals and preconceived opinions and objections. Basically it helps you to laser focus your message and marketing tools.

Pillar Four: The Buyer’s Journey

This is one that is generally left completely out of a sample marketing plan.  The buyer’s journey recognizes the process a buyer must take to make a decision to buy.  The buyer’s journey includes 6 steps:

  • Create Awareness – first the buyer must be aware of a problem they have.
  • Determine Need – next, they must feel a need to solve that problem.
  • Have a Sense of Urgency – this means they are ready to solve the problem.
  • Match Capabilities – this is where they look to match your abilities with their needs.
  • Evaluate Choices – here the buyer looks at all the other ways to solve this problem.
  • Resolve Final Risk – the buyer asks themselves “will I regret this decision?”

It’s important to remember that a buyer WILL do all of these steps, cannot skip one, and YOU cannot take a step for them.  

By understanding the buyer’s journey, you can use it to your advantage and “help” them through the process.

As you can see, these 4 pillars are important elements of planning that is often NOT a focus of a sample marketing plan.   It’s critical you work through these items before you start any marketing plan.

To help you, we have created this simple workbook.  It asks you all the questions you need to answer before you start any written marketing plan.  You can download it by clicking the image above.

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