How to Write a Bad Marketing Plan

By December 20, 2011Blog

A typical task this time of year for small business owners or marketing decision-makers is to write a marketing plan.  There are plenty of articles and posts on how to write an effective marketing plan.  So here is one on how to NOT write an effective plan.


  1. Focus on how much money you will spend.  At some point, marketing became equated with spending money.  Of course, you need a budget – but focus on investing in results, not just spending a budget.  I recommend a “zero sum” approach.  Start with desired outcomes, then establish how much you need to spend to reach those goals.  Keep in mind that word-of-mouth is always free. 
  2. Create a punch list of tactics.  Of course, you need a plan for what you are going to do.  However, a “check box” mentality distracts from the true task at hand – producing results.  This will prevent you from measuring progress by what you’ve done instead of what you produced. 
  3. Establish a target demographic.  Demographic-based target audiences are a relic of media placement.  Unless you are selling to shut-ins and geriatrics, demographic models have mostly been fragmented.  Instead, focus on the psychographic profile of your ideal audience.  How do they think?  What do they believe?  What are their drivers? 
  4. Don’t worry about a message.   Marketing is all about saturation, right?  It doesn’t matter what your message is.  Just get a slogan, a jingle and get your brand in front of enough people and it will produce sales results.  Unfortunately, this happens enough times to perpetuate this myth.  For those of you that don’t believe that “luck” should be part of a marketing plan, your message is the single most important part of your plan.  Simply put, your message is what you would say to your ideal audience that establishes an emotional connection and creates the desired behavior.  Simple, right? 
  5. Don’t worry about quality. This bad marketing plan mistake is partially related to #2 and #4.  The focus on punch lists and saturation often leave a lack of funding on producing quality marketing materials and advertising.  A poorly shot TV ad, a poorly written radio ad, a poorly designed print piece, a poorly designed web site, etc are evidence of a poorly thought-out marketing plan. 
  6. Write your plan for the entire year.  Frankly, we shouldn’t have annual marketing plan.  It locks you in to a plan that has minimal flexibility.  One year in a brand is a long time.  New opportunities will arise, new threats will emerge, and markets/trends will shift.  And you will be stuck in Q3 of your plan using old data and old ideas.  Instead, focus on a strategic plan for the year with 4 – 5 measurable outcomes (i.e. revenue per customer) – then use quarterly marketing plans for the execution side of the plan. 
  7. Don’t establish benchmarks or outcomes.  I’ve used the term outcomes, benchmarks, measurables, and results enough times to sound like a real consultant.  Without them, you don’t have a plan.
So put down the egg nog, quit rooting through that gift basket of goodies your radio rep brought you, and get to work!


If you need to get a last minute Christmas gift for someone you really love, get them this.

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