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12 Essential Sections of a Great Marketing Plan (Free Template Included!)

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This post originally appeared on THEsmallCOMPANYBLOG.

I’ll never forget the combined feeling of excitement and panic the first time my boss asked me to create a Marketing Plan for a new product.  While part of me was excited by the fact I had finally ‘arrived’ as a professional in my field—much like a doctor being asked to treat a first patient—the remainder of me was scared to death, because in reality I had absolutely no idea what a usable, real-world Marketing Plan actually looked like.

Sure, I had created a handful of semi-meaningless plans while earning my MBA, but this situation was different.  I was being asked to create a comprehensive roadmap that would be used by over a dozen people to release, market, and make money on a brand new product.  And unfortunately, I didn’t have a clue where to begin.

Attempting to climb out of the hole I dug for myself, I spent the following evening at the local bookstore, flipping through everything from college textbooks to home-based business manuals.  Although I came across a number of ideas for sections to include in my plan, the closest I came to finding the parameters of a ‘standard’ marketing plan was information in a textbook on something called The Four Ps of Marketing . . . the worst over-simplification of the Marketing process ever documented in textbook form.

It was after this evening of research and several extended conversations with colleagues that I realized something: in a smaller company environment, there is no such thing as a standard marketing plan.  And over a decade later, I now understand why: because every small company executive and stakeholder who ever commissioned a marketing plan was looking for something different.

Since the research project I conducted nearly a decade and a half ago I have created hundreds of marketing plans, ranging from a single page to well over 50 pages—not counting supporting documentation.  Although each is unique in its own right, I have found over the years that the list of ‘most commonly included information’ in these plans can be narrowed down to a short list of only 12 manageable sections, as follows:

  1. A High-Level Description of the Product or Service
  2. A Description and Size Estimate of the Target Market
  3. Competitive Differentiators
  4. Proposed Marketing Messaging
  5. Packaging, Pricing and/or Bundling Strategies
  6. Marketing Vehicles Used
  7. Required Changes to the Company Website
  8. Initial Rollout Activities
  9. Ongoing Marketing Initiatives
  10. Projected Sales Volumes and Margins
  11. Required Year 1 Marketing Budget
  12. Product Development Assumptions

To further explain each of these marketing plan sections, I have created a downloadable Marketing Plan Template in PDF format, which you may take free of charge.  The file is 4 pages in length, and approximately 150k in size.  Please follow this link to download it:


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September 9th, 2010 at 8:07 am