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Are you in the middle of writing marketing plans? As someone who has been in your shoes, I can tell you that building compelling marketing plans is no small feat. After years of experience as a former VP of Marketing at Johnson & Johnson, backed by extensive marketing roles at Coke and General Mills, I have reviewed hundreds of marketing plans. While you think you are just writing your marketing plan, this is your biggest chance to impress the company’s senior leadership.  Through my experience, I have identified several common pitfalls that can derail even the most well-intentioned marketing plan presentations. In this article, I will outline the five biggest flaws that I have seen way too many times. And I hope it helps you avoid these mistakes. 

Marketing Plans Biggest flaws

The 5 biggest mistakes I see with Marketing Plans

1. Lack of a clear and cohesive story

  • The Problem: One of the most frequent mistakes in marketing plans is the need for a coherent narrative. I always describe a smart plan as an orchestra arrangement where every part plays the same notes. Disjointed marketing plans leave your audience confused That’s when the plan presentation comes off the rails.
  • Why It Matters: A clear story helps your audience understand your brand’s journey, challenges, and the strategic path forward. Without it, marketing plans can seem like a series of unrelated tactical activities rather than a strategic roadmap.
  • How to Fix It: Start by setting a vision for your brand that describes a better future. Then, use your analytics to define the issues in the way of achieving that vision. The answers to those questions become your strategy. What program are you investing in? What is the focused accelerator that shows the investment is worth it? And what performance result do you expect from that investment?

To illustrate, click on the diagram to see how to organize your marketing plans

2. Trying to do too many things in your marketing plans

  • The Problem: Many marketing plans attempt to tackle too many objectives simultaneously. This can spread your limited resources too thin and dilute the impact of your efforts.
  • Why It Matters: When you try to achieve too many things at once, none of them get the attention or resources they need to succeed. This can lead to disappointing results and a lack of focus.
  • How to Fix It: Prioritize your objectives. As you write your marketing plans, narrow them down to the three biggest strategies and the three biggest tactics that match those strategies. This will help you focus your resources on these priorities to maximize their effectiveness. The visual below demonstrates the dramatic difference in how easy it can be for a plan to get out of control. With 3×3, you can focus on the 9 major projects, while the 7×7 ends up with 49 projects, none of which will have enough money to make the impact you expect. 

To illustrate, click on the diagram to see how to focus your marketing plans

3. Insufficient alignment with key stakeholders

  • The Problem: Marketing Plans that don’t involve input and buy-in from key stakeholders are destined for failure. Sales, product development, operations, agency partners, and finance should be at the table. Misalignment can lead to conflicts, delays, and a lack of support when it comes time to execute the plan.
  • Why It Matters: Alignment ensures that everyone is on the same page and working towards the same objectives. It also helps secure the necessary support and resources from different departments.
  • How to Fix It: Engage stakeholders early in the planning process. Involve sales, operations, R&D, and your ad agency. This collaborative approach ensures that everyone’s perspectives are considered and that there is a unified commitment to the plan.

Take your Marketing Plans to the execution stage

To illustrate, click on any of the 3 diagrams to see the execution plans to include in your marketing plans.

How to write a marketing plan that will impress your boss

4. Not linking your plan to the P&L

  • The Problem: Many marketing plans introduce cool ideas but fail to link to the underlying brand health measures—penetration, frequency, marketing funnel metrics, or market share–that lead to the brand wealth measures–sales, marketing budget, and profit margin.
  • Why It Matters: If we want marketing to be seen as an investment, we must act like investment managers. With every strategy, explain the market impact of the investment and the performance result they will get back. From there, we need to use the plan to build out various investment options and then try to sell the company why the largest investment is worth it. 
  • How to Fix It: Marketing plans are your opportunity to demonstrate why the company should invest and how that will impact sales and profits. To start, build a high, medium, and low investment level. Then, play around with six variables–penetration, trips per year, sales per trip, buying rate, price increase, and cost of goods. This lets you lay out the Net Sales and Gross Margin dollar options.

To illustrate, click on the diagram to see how to link your marketing plans to the sales forecast and profitability.

5. Overloading with information

  • The Problem: Some marketing plans include an overwhelming amount of data points but not enough insight drawn from that data. This can lead to information overload, causing your audience to be confused and miss out on key points.
  • Why It Matters: A concise presentation keeps your audience engaged and effectively communicates your key messages. Too much information can obscure the main points and make your presentation less impactful.
  • How to Fix It: Limit the presentation of your marketing plans to around 20 slides. Focus on the most critical information that supports your story. Use visuals to convey complex ideas effectively. Leave out unnecessary details that don’t directly contribute to your main points. Below is a great way to organize your key strategy slides, including the strategy, goals, tactics, and watch out. 

To illustrate, click on the diagram to see how to lay out the ideal strategy page in marketing plans.

Template to use for Marketing Plans

Avoiding these common flaws can significantly enhance the quality of your marketing plans. By creating a clear narrative, focusing on key priorities, aligning with stakeholders, simplifying your strategies, and keeping your presentation concise, you can craft a marketing plan that impresses your boss and drives your brand’s success. Remember, well-prepared marketing plans are a strategic tool that guides your brand toward achieving its vision.

Marketing Plan template

Get the Marketing Plan designed by an ex-VP of Marketing at Johnson & Johnson – who knows exactly what your boss wants to see

  • Comprehensive Marketing Plan template: Over 30 strategically designed slides to effectively communicate your brand vision, purpose, key issues, and brand strategies.
  • Wide range of marketing execution slides: Covers advertising, social media, search, event marketing, sampling, new product launches, and more. It also includes customer marketing, in-store merchandising, and promotion slides.
  • Easy customization: Formatted PowerPoint slides, key definitions, and a fully completed example plan ready for tailoring to your specific needs.
  • Perfect for brand managers and consultants: This is a must-have for anyone looking to take their marketing efforts to the next level. It is available at just $79.99 USD.

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Our brand toolkit for consumer brands is our most comprehensive template helps you communicate your brand plans, brand positioning, business review and creative briefs.

Our brand plan template  offers slides for vision, purpose, analysis, key issues, strategies, and execution plans, ensuring a thorough approach to your brand’s development. The brand positioning template guides you through defining your target profile, crafting a brand positioning statement, and developing a unique brand idea, concept, values, story, credo, and creative brief. Finally, our business review template provides slides for in-depth analysis of the marketplace, customers, competitors, channels, and your brand.

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Combining strategic slides for insightful planning and marketing execution slides for seamless implementation, our templates are designed to propel your brand towards success and help you make a lasting impact in the market.

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