Vikram Rajan

Has Your Marketing Plan Failed You?

How using a dashboard can make all the difference.

September 20, 2010
by Vikram Rajan

A marketing plan is typically a bound document, predicting the right actions for growth. It usually covers more than a few months, often a year and sometimes longer. It includes your vision, interim goals and other purpose statements of why you’re doing what you intend on doing. Writing a marketing plan sounds great. Actually finishing a comprehensive market analysis can feel even better.

A marketing plan, by itself, can be pretty ineffective. Rather, for our clients, we implement “Marketing Action Plan (MAP) Dashboards.” An actively-managed Dashboard can help your marketing team stay nimble, pro-active, strategic and focused on the most time- and cost-effective marketing efforts.

In its simplest form, a Dashboard is a scorecard of metrics. More than just measuring past results, your Dashboard should keep track of who’s doing what and when. You can see a blank example of a MAP Dashboard at Dashboard.BrandedExpert.com. You can copy it into Excel or use GoogleDocs.

As a quarterly planning tool, a “completed” MAP Dashboard is similar to a marketing plan. It is meant to be continually updated, referenced daily and revised monthly.

The main sheet of the Dashboard has two sections: the goals on top and the actions on the bottom. The simplest way to establish a goal is to decide on a “number by date.” The number can be revenue, profit, prospects, clients or whatever else is important and measurable. The dates cascade from yearly, quarterly, monthly and weekly priorities.

The numbers should reflect seasonal slowdowns, vacations and busy times. Remember, the Dashboard is not an end-all, be-all, comprehensive and exhaustive documentation of all marketing matters, but rather a constant reminder of your most important controls.

Dashboard Content

Marketing actions are broken into two categories: Processes and Projects. While some processes can be automated, they still need to be entered here. Processes should be scheduled into your calendar, such as goals, which can be cascaded from quarter or month to week. For example, how many e-newsletters will you send out this quarter, month and week?

The six processes spell your trademark marketing channels (action categories) of focus: WATERS. These are: Word-of-mouth networking; Advertising: E-mail and Internet focus; Telephone habits; Events: Seminars and Tradeshows; Regular mail; and Sales prospects pipeline for follow-up.

On the right-hand side, you should list the six types of Projects you will encounter. Typically these projects consist of marketing materials development, requiring multiple tasks and revisions over time. Here you can use WATERS to stand for Website improvements; Audio/video; Texts (Articles, PowerPoint slides, etc.); Event materials; Regular mail and postcards; and Steps for prospects (proposals, etc.).

In this form, the MAP Dashboard shows what you are doing, but not necessarily how frequently and does not assign priority. Dashboard.BrandedExpert.com is a blank template that requires insight, planning and accountability. Focus your actions on your Target Market. To help in this area, the MAP Dashboard includes supporting worksheets in addition to the main worksheet.

Don’t get bogged down by being overly focused. In the Target Market tab of the Dashboard, there is a column to nickname your Target. Here you can outline your target’s measureable demographics, identify the dates important to them, list their associations and media, recognize their influencers (by name or category/profession) and finally, catalog the buzzwords relevant and specific to them (a handful at best). This worksheet outlines what to say, where, when and of course, to whom.

The other supporting worksheets of the MAP Dashboard further monitor your marketing efforts, including marketing costs, top referral sources and external projects for the groups in which you are active.


The MAP Dashboard can keep you on the right track and help produce results. Marketing is much like fitness: Daily exercise and eating less aren’t as exciting as the next fad diet, but are likely to produce the long-term results you desire. More than creativity, marketing relies on identifying and repeating the basics.

In the end, the results of a MAP Dashboard can be more exciting than spending lots of time and money on splashy ad campaigns.

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Vikram Rajan is a Practice Marketing Advisor™ for CPAs and other practicing professionals. His PracticeMarketingBLOG.com receives over 100 hits every day. This November in New York, Rajan will be serving on a Social Networking for Your Practice panel, moderated by the AICPA’s Journal of Accountancy.

© 2010