What I am about to lay out is no secret. In fact there are probably thousands of sites that talk about this, but I am hoping that I can simplify it and and encourage everyone to understand the importance of planning, and how to do it. I wanted to write about this because it boggles my mind how many business owners/CEOs/Presidents I have met, that do not know how to write a Business Plan. Plus how many Director of Sales/VP of Sales people I have met that do not know how to write a Sales Plan, and how many Director of Marketing/VP of Marketing people that I have met that do not know how to write a Marketing Plan. Not sure how any professional of that level could get hired without the leadership ability to plan, but it seems to happen quite often.
If planning can bring so much success, then why don’t more people do it. One of the reasons I have been told by many is that they are just not sure what to put into a plan. That is exactly what I will address in this post.
Below I have laid out the critical areas that need to be detailed in a Business, Sales, and Marketing Plan. This is not all inclusive, but is more or less applicable to selling products and/or services. Plans get get quite complicated, but lets try and keep it simple.
One thing to note is that there is a lot of similar content in each of the sections, so if you are tackling all three plans, much of the effort can duplicated across the plans.
One thing to note with many common business plans, is that they often will contain a built in sales plan and marketing plan, or perhaps a condensed version of those plans. I don’t like to usually do that, because it becomes an difficult to manage beast. The order of the items below are how I would usually organize them, but depending on circumstances and the type of business that might change.
- Time Frame for the Plan: Generally 1 to 5 years, but updated annually for the coming year.
- 1. Executive Summary – Written last. This section summarizes the entire plan and the company goals.
- 2. Company Summary – Explain who the company is, its mission, vision, values, and keys to success. It also might go into company ownership , facilities, and more, especially if it is a start-up.
- 3. Market Analysis Summary– I like to detail out both primary target segments, and when necessary, secondary target segments. It is generally important to keep your focus as narrow as possible. Try to get good, solid, and current data on the segments you are targeting. This section explains not just the targets and information on them, but also the market needs, market analysis, additional segmentation, competitors, buying patterns, market needs, and anything else to narrow down and understand the markets.
- 4. Products and/or Services Summary– Here you will detail out all the products and services that you intend to deliver. This includes, descriptions, features, benefits, competitive comparisons, fulfillment, sales literature, etc… You have to know what you are selling, and writing it out in a plan is one of the best ways, and it will keep the message consistent, throughout the organization.
- 5. Strategy and Implementation Summary – What is it you want to do and accomplish? What do the operations look like? How will you deliver, support, and profit from the strategy? This section might also go into competitive advantages, sales strategy, marketing strategy, web and social strategies, and much more.
- 6. Management Summary – Details out the leadership of the company that is going to execute the plan. I also like to detail out external consultants, contractors, and other services that might be needed to augment a lack of skills or experience in the organization’s management.
- 7. Financial Plan – The financial plan details out the financial forecast, expected expenses, profit and loss, business ratios, balance statement, margin, break-even analysis, and much more. Often times this is much more chart and table oriented than written text.
- 8. Appendix – The sky is the limit on what goes here. Could be org chart, various reports and tables that the plan references, and much more.
Like I said this is the basics. They can be much smaller, and much bigger, but this is the defacto standard that I like to start with.
Sales Plans are similar in structure to business plans, although obviously focused on revenue generation. Any business can benefit from a sales plan, but generally they are most valuable when there is an actual sales organization, i.e. department/team.
- Time Frame for the Plan: Generally 1 year, can be up to 3 years.
- 1. Executive Summary – Written last. This section summarizes the entire plan and the sales goals of the organization. I like to include a sales recap of the previous year also, as well as the sales theme for the year.
- 2. Market Analysis Summary– This is no different than the Business Plan, although it is usually a little more sales oriented and might go into even more analysis in order to identify behaviors and tactics that need to be employed to achieve the sales targets. As with the Business Plan, try to get good, solid, and current data on the segments you are targeting.
- 3. Competitor Analysis – This section will go into must greater detail on competitors of all kinds: direct, geographical, vertical, indirect, and model competitors. Additionally a Competitor SWOT analysis and summary is detailed out in this section.
- 3. Products and/or Services Summary– Again this is pretty much the same as the Business Plan, although there would usually be more information and resources, with things like battle cards, competing products, and tactics to selling each product and/or service. If this is done poorly, you will have inconsistent results and tactics being employed from one sales person to the next.
- 4. Sales Strategy – Another potentially large section. This section goes into company differentiators, pricing rationale, and sales differentiators. It also goes into new growth strategies, existing growth strategies that the organization is sticking with, sales forecast by month and quarter, key performance indicators, and the lead conversion strategy. Another very important part of this section is sales processes, how are things supposed to be done, including the CRM plan. Sales themes and sales pipeline milestones, sales funnel milestones, and sales quotas. Additionally you would include any information and schedules for sales activities such as events, campaigns, or launches.
- 5. Account Management Strategy – This is a section that is not always needed, but if you need to maintain relationships after the sale, then it is a good idea to document the expected client experience, the retention goals, processes, and everything related to keeping that client happy. This is often combined with the previous section.
- 7. Sales Budget – Pretty self-explanatory, how much money there is, how it is going to be spent and on what. Important to get into the details.
- 8. Appendix – Again this is supporting documentation, reports, and anything else to support the plan.
Marketing Plans are similar in structure to Sales Plan, although obviously focused on lead generation. Every business, of any size, can benefit from a Marketing Plan, even if there is one employee.
- Time Frame for the Plan: Generally 1 year, can be up to 3 years.
- 1. Executive Summary – Written last. This section summarizes the entire plan and the marketing goals of the organization. I like to include a marketing recap of the previous year also, as well as the marketing theme for the year.
- 2. Market Analysis Summary– Pretty much an exact duplicate of the Sales Plan. If available it might go into analysis of marketing trends and analysis to the planned target markets.
- 3. Competitor Analysis – Exact duplication of the Sales Plan. Important for marketing to understand what they are up against.
- 3. Products and/or Services Summary– Another duplication of the sales plan, but might also include sample marketing copy and material that will be used alongside those products and/or services.
- 4. Marketing Strategy – This will be a behemoth section if done right. You will detail out your marketing vision, differentiators, strategies, key metrics, processes, meetings, documentation, collateral, vendors, and all your marketing activities in detail (that is huge right there). Lastly you will detail your marketing schedule, by day, for the entire year. If you are freaking out at that last sentence, let me tell you how valuable it is to plan out your themes for every month, what campaigns will go out when, how much prep time is needed, what events you will be at, etc.. It amazes me the success that can be had when this is done properly. You can always course correct as needed and update the plan if strategies change during the year.
- 5. Marketing Budget – Again, how much money there is, how it is going to be spent and on what. Important to get into the details.
- 6. Appendix – Again this is supporting documentation, reports, and anything else to support the plan.
There you have it Business, Sales, and Marketing Plans 101. I can’t stress the importance of these plans, even in a simple format if that is all that can be done. The more detailed the plan is, the more consistent the results will be. Please share your thoughts or questions about Business, Sales, or Marketing Plans in the comments section.