Marketing Plan

Marketing Builder
marketing strategy & planning software

Old Review. Need to Update:

The Marketing Builder Purchase Experience
The Marketing Builder toolset was available immediately after purchase in the form of a zip file, which I had five attempts over 30 days to download. I was able to download and unzip on the first attempt without incident.
Unzipped, Marketing Builder is a collection of worksheets, spreadsheet templates, and documents, with instructions on what order to work through them. The package requires Microsoft Office (or software compatible to Excel and Word) and includes:
– 156-page PDF marketing manual explaining all aspects of marketing planning.
– 14 Word-formatted templates/directional documents representing different parts of a marketing plan: market, customer, competitor, SWOT, and situation analyses; product plan outline; sales strategy, pricing, distribution channel, strategic alliances, marketing communications/PR strategy, advertising/promotion strategy, development milestones, and implementation plan template.
– 6 specialized marketing plan templates in Word format: B2B company, Internet-based business, retail store(s), service companies, and not-for-profit organizations.
– 7 Public relations templates in Word format: a PR plan, business biography, fact sheet, press release worksheet, and templates for three specialized press releases (retail, service, product).
– 9 Word worksheets addressing various planning activities.
– 15 Word templates for use as supporting documents to the main marketing plan: ad codes, Internet and general JV, marketing consulting, OEM agreement, licenses, project status reports, trademark documents, and a tradeshow checklist.
– 31 Excel spreadsheet tools for use in analysis or to help generate plan appendices addressing these categories and others: pricing, break-even points, customers, competitors, budgets, media, sales, hiring, advertising/promotions, market potential, and product launch.
The instructions for using these files are in a document called “About Marketing Builder,” which theoretically includes planning advice and tips for using the documents.
Getting Started with Marketing Builder
My first impression — that this is a very helpful toolset — held with a couple of exceptions. Everything you need to make sense of the planning process and most of the text and analytical tables you will ever need are included in easily editable format. That said, the “About Marketing Builder” document simply doesn’t do the job it claims — explaining in which sequence to use the tools. In fact, it’s rather confusing.
The first sentence explains: “This document can explain the sequence of using the tools provided (This was taken from PR Builder) – see the Getting Started section below.” OK, good, that’s what I needed to know. I was a bit baffled, though, by the notation that the tool sequence was taken from PR Builder.
A series of helpful bullets followed gratitude for purchasing the product. The first instructed me to click instal.exe to install the application. I sifted through everything several times — even unzipped again in a different location — and could find no such file. OK, well, all the content appeared to be there and editable and that’s a plus. So I moved on…
The next bullet referred to the Handbook of Marketing PDF. I found that it does a good job of covering most aspects of marketing plan development. The table of contents includes: What Is Marketing, Your Marketing Budget, Marketing Ethics, Your Brand Name & Logo, Analyze Your Risks, Market Research, Customer Analysis, Marketing Strategies & Tactics, Specialty Markets, International Marketing, Marketing Communications, Package to Sell, Advertising, Public Relations & Media, Customer Service, Internet Marketing, Sales Planning, Putting It All Together, Government Resources, Associations, References, Recommended Reading, and various resources.
Moving back to the “About Marketing Builder” file, I found a baffling note that details about the Marketing Toolkit Spreadsheets were below, then a reminder to visit the publisher’s Website, with links to Marketing Answers, Articles, and Links. All three links led to 404 not found pages.
Next were four pages about how important it is to have a marketing plan and the advantages of these particular tools. I rapidly skimmed over this the first time through, which was a mistake. I missed a critical paragraph explaining that expert comments were in the hidden text of each planning document. For most documents, you have to manually turn on the hidden text to see the comments.
The Getting Started section followed. As promised, it was taken primarily from PR Builder…explaining how to go about setting public relations goals and some details about different aspects of PR. There was a link to an Online User Manual, which turned out to be about developing a PR plan. As you are no doubt well aware, public relations techniques represent only a small fraction of possible marketing programs.
“About Marketing Builder” was a confusing disappointment, but I still had a lot of material to sift through.
Using Marketing Builder
The unzipped files included the 14 numbered Word files representing the marketing plan outline and five subfolders for supporting information. Diving in with file number 1 — Market Analysis — seemed the logical next step. As I began looking through each file, I at first thought they included only example text to use for each section. Then the light bulb went on and I found the hidden comments (in Word, go to Tools > Option > View and check the “hidden text” box). At that point, the documents became much more helpful.
I was pleasantly surprised to find an article in the SWOT analysis section, previously appearing in the Wells Fargo Small Business Roundup, in which I am extensively quoted. Interesting to note that document 6 — The Product Plan — turned out to be an example, a rough draft of the Marketing Builder product plan, including a SWOT analysis.
Upon reaching the final file, I felt all of the parts of a marketing plan were covered well, but marketing programs mentioned did not include recent technology (To be fair, because technology advances so quickly, any set of tools will be somewhat behind the times. It is always up to you to stay knowledgeable about current techniques).
After reviewing each of the 14 outline files I still wasn’t sure when each of the supporting documents and other files came into play. So, I methodically went through each. For the most part, file titles adequately describe file contents, so the lack of structured directions wasn’t a problem (but better comments throughout the outline explaining which files could be used as background/development documents would be an improvement).
My Conclusions
There is definitely room to improve the Marketing Builder user experience and the lack of a user guide makes this tool set a bit overwhelming at first. In spite of its shortcomings, the toolset is a good value:
* User Friendliness: C- (The limited instructions are inaccurate and confusing!)
* Usefulness: A (90+ templates and spreadsheets, including model contracts and analytical spreadsheets)
* Timeliness: C (Marketing program examples did not include Internet and social media developments of the last couple of years)
* Value: A+ (The spreadsheets alone are worth the $90 price tag)
* Overall Score: B
If your primary needs are to save time writing the marketing plan document and developing analytical tools, you will find the Marketing Builder toolset invaluable. If your primary needs are to be guided through the process with directions, explanations, and multiple examples you will be disappointed (Marketing Plan Pro software would better fit your needs).


Sales and Marketing Pro

The Marketing Plan Pro Purchase Experience

As serendipity would have it, I purchased version 9.0 two days before this new version was released. As it turns out, 11.0 is very different from 9.0, so I could not import marketing plans started in the prior version. Consequently, I chose to take advantage of the 60-day money back guarantee instead of upgrading for $39.95.
I had the option of purchasing the download only or to pay shipping and also receive the software CD and John Jantsch’s Duct Tape Marketing book. I chose the latter. (The next day I received notice, with a UPS tracking number, that the books had been shipped.) After paying for the software I downloaded the file ? as well a free copy of Plan as You Go Business Plan by Tim Berry ? without incident. The software activation code serial number for activation was provided immediately both online and in the emailed receipt. The 60Mb+ file took about four minutes to download on my cable modem connection. Installation proceeded in typical software fashion without a hitch.
Getting Started with Marketing Plan Pro
Upon beginning a new plan in Marketing Plan Pro I was given three plan set-up options. In increasing level of detail: 30-minute (just to get your thoughts down on paper), Basic (scaled down version of a detailed plan), and Standard (detailed marketing plan). I was then asked a series of questions related to the business and plan setup. Next, step-by-step tasks helped me through the process of creating the plan I’d described during set up.
The software helped me through the analyses necessary for an effective marketing plan. Every aspect of a strong strategic plan was included, but the approach was a bit different from Marketing Plan Pro 9.0 (which began with understanding the company, competition, and customers and then helped transform those analyses into logical marketing strategies). Marketing Plan Pro 11.0 started with asking me to describe my ideal customer and why ? through their eyes ? my company/products/services are different from others. From there, the software stepped me through a variety of topics:
Core Strategy
My product or service innovation
Lead generation plan
Lead conversion plan
Marketing materials
Web plan
Service experience
Marketing training
Marketing calendar
Critical numbers
Marketing vision to bring the plan to life
The level of detail I was asked to describe varied depending on the plan option I chose, with the 30-minute plan omitting some sections.
After completing the plan, I could publish it in a variety of ways: (a) send the entire plan or parts of the plan straight to the printer, (b) export it to Word or Acrobat, or (3) make it available to others through a secure, password-protected Website.
Extra Goodies
There is also a resource section, where I found these additional tools:
Extensive online information and seminars for both software operation and marketing support
Market and data research resources
PowerPoint presentation templates
Design your own logo service for free Website use ($49 to purchase copyright)
Other miscellaneous offers
My Conclusions
I have to say I came into this biased. I do, after all, have my own approach to marketing planning for the small business owner (and who, after all doesn’t think their own way is best ). After working through the Duct Tape Marketing approach within the Marketing Plan Pro structure, I have to admit it’s a better system than mine. I believe they have figured out how to better help the average small businessperson more easily grasp basic strategic marketing principals, better understand how to use them in a plan, and how to make ongoing marketing adjustments. (That was not easy for me to say!)
Marketing Plan Pro is the most comprehensive, easy to understand marketing plan method / software combination I have come across. Topic-specific help is always one click away through audio or written help and specific examples. I found it similar in operation to TaxCut. Like the tax return software, this software makes the process painless, allowing you to focus on specifics of the tasks at hand:
User Friendliness: A+ (Very intuitive to use.)
Usefulness: A+ (The flexibility to plan at three levels of detail, one-click help at each step, and numerous resources make this an easy-to-use software for those at all levels.)
Timeliness: A (The software is up-to-date as of September, 2008 on social media and other Web marketing methods, which change often. Other resources within the program will help users stay current as marketing methods evolve.)
Value: A (This software will return the $180 investment many times.)
Overall Score: A
If you are looking for guidance through the marketing plan process ? including directions, explanations, specific examples, and a collection of powerful resources ? you will find Marketing Plan Pro 11.0 Powered by Duct Tape Marketing invaluable.