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More than a marketing plan

What’s in a marketing plan? Well, lots of things I’m sure you would say. Goals, data, challenges, obstacles, timelines, budgets, road maps, research, and intelligence, among many other things… Maybe some blood, sweat, and tears! How about commitment, promises, accountability?

Your marketing plan is more than a list of ideas. In fact, it should be less than a list of ideas. It is a document that captures all of (correction: only) those things that you are committing yourself to achieve, deploy, etc. Those things that you, as the director of marketing, are willing to be accountable for (this quarter, this year, whatever the timeframe is). It’s your promise to your executive director, to your organization, to your board of directors of those things that collectively you’ve agreed are important and needed to move the organization in a certain direction.

And if you look at it through that lens, then it becomes so much more:

1. A tool for negotiating – our 2015 benchmark for communicating in the nonprofit sector survey revealed that 62% of respondents said that lack of budget/resources was their number one challenge yet we see nonprofits forcing themselves to do more with less, rendering many initiatives largely infective versus doing less with more. Also, a tendency to take on whatever demands or ideas are put forward (by board members, by directors, etc.). Use your marketing plan as a negotiation tool. Seek buy-in from your board, and then deflect those items that arise and aren’t part of the plan for future consideration/implementation.

2. A platform for building consensus and asking strategic questions – lack of clear strategy was another popular challenge identified (in our 2015 benchmark survey). By saying “we are only going to do these things this period” and asking the question: do you agree that this will move the needle and that these are the priority areas? It forces decision makers to really think about what will make the final plan. It distributes accountability and rallies everyone behind the final initiatives.

3. An important piece of disclosure – the marketing plan is your commitment to your organization about what you are taking responsibility for and the results you are promising to deliver. Make sure it’s actually doable and that you aren’t over committing or extending yourself. Often fewer really strong successes make for a more powerful story as compared to a number of smaller initiatives that had a lesser impact.

4. A budget – in the true sense: how much are these initiatives going to cost? Or, if you work the other way, this is what we can do with the allocated budget. But also a budget or prediction of the results to be gained. Again, if we look to our survey, “inability to measure effectiveness” was the second most important challenge. Set measurable, attainable, and specific results. When you tackle an initiative (especially a new one) you should have a specific reason for doing so and a specific desired outcome. Define your expectations so that successes can be celebrated and failures can become lessons learned or data for future plans.

5. Aligned with Brand Filters – ps. If one of your goals is building brand awareness, which 72% of you say it is this year. Then ensure to vet all of your strategies and tactics through your brand filters. Read more about Brand Filters and making on-brand decisions and choices here.