The Essential Contents of a Marketing Plan

Company Partners sees a lot of business plans, some are very good but many are poorly thought out, the most common problem is a lack of effort on the marketing or sales plan. This is an area that Investors and business partners pick up on straight away. It is often the difference between just a good idea and a real opportunity that will get to market and become a successful business.

Marketing plans can be stand-alone in the sense that although referring and being guided by an overall business plan, the marketing plan can be written as a separate document. Alternatively it can be constructed as a chapter within the business plan.

Whilst marketing plans of course have to fit the business's unique needs and situation, there are standard elements that you just can't do without: analysis of the situation, the marketing strategy, sales and marketing actions, sales forecast, and expense budget.


  • Situation Analysis: Normally this will include a market analysis, a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats), and a competitive analysis. The market analysis will include market forecast, segmentation, customer information, and market needs analysis.

  • Marketing Strategy: This should include at least a mission statement, objectives, and focused strategy including market segment focus and product positioning.

  • Sales & Marketing Actions: Based on your marketing strategy you should spell out specific actions or programmes that you will be carrying out. The more specific you can be, the more likely-hood of it ending up a practical workable plan. For example, part of your marketing may be to have a web page, so include actions on search engine optimization and how you will publicise it. Include dates and who is responsible for the action.

  • Sales Forecast: This would include enough detail to track sales month by month and follow up on plan-vs.-actual analysis. Normally a plan will also include specific sales by product, by region or market segment, by channels, by manager responsibilities, and other elements.

  • Expense Budget: This ought to include enough detail to track expenses month by month and follow up on plan-vs.-actual analysis.


You should also remember that planning is about the results, not the plan itself. A marketing plan must be measured by the results it produces. The implementation of your plan is much more important than its brilliant ideas or massive market research. You can influence implementation by building a plan full of specific, measurable and concrete actions that can be tracked and followed up. Plan-vs.-actual analysis is critical to the eventual results, and you should build it into your plan

What does a Sales & Marketing Plan outline look like?
The following table of contents is taken from a complete Sales & Marketing Plan that was generated using Palo Alto's Marketing Plan software and gives a good example of the structure. Depending on your situation, you may not do every section, but don't dismiss a section until you have thought carefully whether it could help you.

1.0 Marketing Vision   
1.1 Goals   
1.2 Purpose   
1.3 Picture   

2.0 Ideal Customer   
2.1 Market Needs   
2.2 Market Trends   
2.3 Market Description   
2.3.1 Demographics   
2.3.2 Psychographics   
2.3.3 Behaviors   
2.3.4 Geographics   
2.4 Market Growth   
Table: Market Analysis   
Chart: Market Analysis (Pie)   
Chart: Market Analysis (CAGR)   

3.0 Competition & Differentiation   
3.1 Differentiators   
3.2 Direct Competition   
Table: Competitive Analysis   
Table: Growth and Share   
Chart: Competitor by Growth and Share   
Chart: Competitor by Growth   
Chart: Competitor by Price   
Chart: Competitor by Share   
3.3 Indirect Competition   

4.0 Core Strategy   
4.1 Core Message   
4.2 Positioning Goal   
4.3 Key Strategic Indicators   
4.4 Core Branding Elements   
4.4.1 Colors   
4.4.2 Logo   
4.4.3 Images   
4.4.4 Type   

5.0 Product/Service Innovation   
5.1 Strategy   
5.2 Price Rationale   

6.0 Marketing Materials   
6.1 Marketing Kit   
6.2 Marketing Story   
6.3 Case Study Plan   
6.4 Testimonial Plan   
6.5 Multi Media Materials   

7.0 Web Plan   
7.1 Website Marketing Strategy   
Table: Web Development Milestones   
Chart: Web Development Milestones   
7.2 Content Strategy   
7.2.1 Update   
7.3 Search Engine Strategy   
7.3.1 Local Search   
7.3.2 Social Search   
7.4 Email Marketing Plan   
7.4.1 Lead Capture Strategy   
7.4.2 Ezine and Data Mining   
7.5 Social Media Plan   
7.5.1 RSS   
7.5.2 Blog   
7.5.3 Podcast   
7.5.4 Social Networking   

8.0 Lead Generation Plan   
8.1 Advertising   
Table: Pay-Per-Click ROAS   
Table: Advertising Milestones   
Chart: Advertising Milestones   
8.2 Public Relations   
8.2.1 Media List   
Table: PR Milestones   
Chart: PR Milestones   
8.3 Referrals   
8.4 Direct Mail   
Table: Direct Marketing Milestones   
Chart: Direct Marketing Milestones   
8.4.1 Mailing List Source   
8.5 Lead Generation Tracking Plan   

9.0 Lead Conversion Plan   
9.1 Sales Strategy   
9.2 Sales Process   
9.2.1 Qualify   
9.2.2 Present   
9.2.3 Nurture   
9.2.4 Transaction   
9.2.5 Follow-up   
9.3 CRM Plan   

10.0 Service Experience   
10.1 Community Building Plan   
10.2 Loyalty Product/Service Offerings   

11.0 Marketing Calendar   
11.1 Monthly   
Table: Milestones   

12.0 Critical Numbers   
12.1 Sales Forecast   
Table: Sales Forecast   
Chart: Sales Monthly   
Chart: Sales by Year   
12.2 Marketing Expense Budget   
Table: Marketing Expense Budget   
Chart: Monthly Expense Budget   
Chart: Annual Expense Budget   
12.3 Measurement Plans   
12.4 Key Marketing Metrics   
Table: Key Marketing Metrics   

13.0 Marketing Training   
13.1 Marketing Organization   
13.2 Keys to Success Training Plan   
13.3 Numbers Reporting   

Table: Sales Forecast   
Table: Marketing Expense Budget   
Table: Key Marketing Metrics