What Should be in a Marketing Plan

A frequent question asked of me is what should be in a Marketing Plan so I have summarized a response to that question below.

There are as many formats as there are sample marketing plans, as there should be. This is because each plan, or marketing presentation is created for a unique environment in order to provide results that are specific to an organization at a specific point in time.

The subject matter, emphasis and order of the marketing plan or marketing presentation will vary depending upon the situation and audience. The goals of the marketing plan are to inform and persuade a specific audience.  These are the two goals a plan should be measured against in order to gauge overall effectiveness.

An image that summarizes how the marketing plan sets the true north for each group to execute in an integrated framework

The Marketing Plan – Overview

The five key areas to be addressed in any sample marketing plan include:

Explain the Situation

A thorough situation analysis is required. This includes examining historical data, actions and competitive moves through future projections, coupled with a description of “the gap” or changes that the plan must achieve.

Specify the Results

This is a description of the expected results and anticipated position at the end of the annual planning period.

Identify the Resources

People, funding and other resources needed to implement the marketing plan must be identified. This allows evaluation of the plan and facilitates implementation. Some form of budget is generally necessary for this task as well.

Describe Required Actions

This is a description of which people will do what in order for the marketing plan to be successfully implemented and the desired results achieved.

Monitor and Manage the Results

Benchmarks or other measures of success, combined with an assignment of responsibility for monitoring are essential. Doing this ensures control over the marketing plan during implementation, and enables changes in tactics if results are lackluster.

Sample Marketing Plan Outline

Executive Summary

An executive summary presents an abbreviated overview of the proposed marketing plan so that executives can become familiar with the plan quickly.

Current Marketing Situation

This includes any relevant background information on the market, product, technology, competition, distribution, financials, key metrics and overall macro-environment.

Opportunities & Issues

This is a summary of the main opportunities, threats, strengths, weaknesses and issues facing the product.

Product Assumptions

Product assumptions entail documenting the current product, market and competitors as well as highlighting product extensions and new products on a product roadmap.


This is where it is explained how the marketing objectives tie into the corporate objectives.


This section reviews the alternatives that have been put forth, other viable options, conclusions from the analysis and the preferred alternatives.

Challenges in Planning

There are always constraints that exist in any marketing plan, so it is important to document any unmet information needs, organizational constraints, time constraints, potential conflicts with existing mission statements and any concerns with projections.

Proposed Solution

This is a summarized solution with a timeline, responsibilities, required resources, budget and financial impact. It is important to document the anticipated results, the probability of achieving those results, plus benchmark controls and contingency plans if anticipated results are not realized.

Marketing Strategy

To achieve objectives, the marketing strategy outlines the broad marketing approach, both as a whole and for key functional areas.

Action Programs

This section addresses the specific tasks to be done, the people who will do them, when they will be completed, and how much the tasks cost, by group.


This is a summary of the expected financial results (revenue, expenses, profitability, productivity, customer satisfaction, brand awareness, etc.) associated with the marketing plan.


This is where the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and metrics are documented along with the process to monitor and manage the marketing plan.

Communicating the Marketing Plan

Communication of the plan is critical, and includes many formats: written, verbal, email, print, social, web and physical. It’s important to summarize the plan so it is clear who is to do what and when. This way the plan is part of regular communications and engages executive sponsorship. The plan is a live, dynamic document that is responsive to the needs of the business. As such, it is imperative that the plan represents a clear, consistent, bi-directional flow of information.

At the end of the day, the marketing team as well as the entire company will get out of the plan what they put into it –there are no short cuts. The goal of the marketing plan is to inform and persuade a specific audience. The plan itself needs to be approved, funded and supported by the organization in order to be successful. Finally, because it is a living document, it needs to be monitored and managed on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. A complete plan review should be conducted each quarter during a formal operations review.

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