The question:

I need your recommendation as to what program we should invest in that would be most Marketing planappropriate. When I Googled “How to…marketing plans”—whoa, lots of options, and I came upon your site.

We are a relatively small [industry omitted] Company in [omitted] and after 32 years in business, have a very good reputation … I don’t want a plan just for the sake of having one and therefore prefer something that at first might be just a solid basic plan to get us started on the right plan and that the management group of seven and then the rest of the staff of thirty would embrace and support. As president, I would, of course, hope that we select a plan that works for us and not waste money (not to mention de-rail further attempts at a plan) if the first plan fails miserably. 

My answer:

  1. Good plans are made, not found. You don’t select one. Nobody else has ever been in your unique situation. Your strengths, weaknesses, resources, history, culture, and so many other factors are completely different.
  2. Sample marketing plans—pre-existing marketing plans like those at—are just samples. They exist to show you what kind of situations marketing plans deal with. They are food for thought. Don’t ever think any other marketing plan already written could be of more value to you than just that.
  3. Coaches, facilitators, and such can be useful if you have the budget. Please be careful with this, however. Avoid the temptation to think of a plan as a task or a document. It’s a process that begins with the development of a first plan and continues for the rest of the business’s life. It requires regular reviews and revisions.
  4. Software can help a lot, but only software that respects the uniqueness of every plan. Don’t ever get canned text or rehash.
  5. As for what a marketing plan should include, I recommend the Essential Contents of a Marketing Plan, on

Thanks for asking.

Tim BerryTim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.