How to Create a “Back of the Napkin” Marketing Plan

a back of the napkin marketing planIt’s the New Year–time to review last year’s marketing efforts and determine what worked and what didn’t–and set your goals for the New Year.

Most small to midsize companies have a marketing budget but no formal marketing plan. If that’s you, turn over a new leaf and outline your plan. You have a far greater chance to reach your revenue goal if you commit your plan to paper.

“Academic” marketing plans address a lot of market theory and competitive analysis. To learn more, read a marketing planning book, take a class, or buy software like Marketing Plan Pro or Marketing Builder. It’s great if you can do it, but many small to midsize businesses are stretched for time and are thin on resources, so they skip this planning process.

A Back of the Napkin Marketing Plan

A great alternative is to create a less sophisticated–but equally functional–“back of the napkin” marketing plan. Your revenue forecast is the place to start, but hey, your CEO probably already created that, right? Your goal is to sketch out, on paper, how you’re going to spend your marketing budget to achieve that goal.

In the end, you’ll have a 2 page marketing roadmap. For now, scribbles on a napkin will do.

A 60-Minute Marketing Planning Process

To start, spend 5 minutes thinking through each of the six following steps. Record your notes on your “napkin.” This will take 30 minutes total.

Record your goals. What are your targets? List your revenue targets and unit sales or number of customers. Break them down by product and channel or lead source.

List your distribution channels. Do you sell direct? Indirect? Or a mix of both? For example, direct channels could be internet, catalog, and telemarketing.

Add marketing mediums. List the marketing mediums you plan on using. Examples could be email marketing, SEM, direct mail, telemarketing, partnerships, publicity, online advertising, events and traditional media.

Jot down campaign concepts. Stay high-level, but record some campaign ideas. Examples: new product launch, inventory blowout, spring event, celebrate company milestone etc.

Define your sales process. What steps do prospects take to become customers? Record this for each distribution channel. Make sure your campaigns mesh with the way your customers buy.

Review your sales tools and literature. Do your salespeople have everything they need to move prospects through the process? Your job is to help them. List anything you should create or update.

Ok, you’re halfway home. Now it’s time to move to the numbers. Fire up a fresh Excel spreadsheet for your calculations.

Outline campaign metrics. Record general marketing metrics for the marketing mediums you plan on using. List the conversion rates from impressions to suspects to prospects to customers. For example:

Online advertising (on email newsletters)

    • CPM $150
    • 10,000 impressions = $1,500
    • 2% response rate to suspects
    • 33% conversion rate to prospects
    • 15% conversion to customers
    • 10 customers for $1,500 in media costs

Evaluate your media costs and conversion rates to determine where to spend your budget to hit your customer target. Use this as a general guide. Are any out of whack? If so, consider cutting them.

Define your budget. If you’re still determining your budget, use your plan to help arrive at your final number. If it’s already set, allocate the budget to your campaign ideas to see if you have a chance to hit your revenue forecast.

Create your final summary. Formalize your “napkin plan” by recording your key ideas on a 1 to 2 page summary document. Your plan will change throughout the year, so keep it on the top of your desk. Review it weekly. DON’T file it on the shelf to dust off this time next year to see how you did.

Remember, your plan will change. Update it as you gain more intelligence about your results. You’ll improve your marketing, and also improve your planning.

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