November 23, 2014

No Excuse for No Marketing Plan: A Review of Marketing Plan Pro

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Marketing Plan Pro, powered by Duct Tape MarketingI’m not generally a fan of marketing and business planning software. But when you have Palo Alto Software (still my favorite) and Duct Tape Marketing’s John Jantsch collaborating on marketing plan software, how can any small business owner say “no”?

Join me as I walk you through a review of MarketingPlan Pro Planning Software, powered by Duct Tape Marketing

A Click-by-Click Tour of Marketing Plan Pro

I found the software fairly straightforward to download from the Internet. Of course if you prefer actual physical product, you can order it and get a CD.

My version of the downloadable software also came with an accompanying PDF book written by Tim Berry with a forward by Guy Kawasaki, on business planning. That alone should tell you that this is relatively BS-free. :)

In the beginning you are greeted by John Jantsch and a quick product demo by Terry Eperle, Documentation Manager with Palo Alto. The whole thing takes only about 5 minutes and will get you warmed up for the task of writing your plan. But if you are a “dive right in” kind of person — don’t worry, the software is intuitive enough to get you going without the demo.

Each section has a short introductory audio by John Jantsch. The audio is a real value because it mentally prepares you for writing each section. You don’t have to listen to the introduction, but it helps, especially the first time around.


This brings up my only small disappointment with the tool. If you want to hear the introductory “lecture,” you have to stay on that page. When you click on next to start writing — John stops talking! I was disappointed because I was getting lots of good ideas from John that I wanted to write down AS he was talking. The other issue I had with the introductory audio was that you cannot rewind or fast forward the recording; only play or pause.

Product Details

I click on the “next” button and imagine my surprise when I see several planning options — a 30-minute plan, a basic plan and a standard detailed plan.

30-minute plan option screenshot

As you would expect, each plan has different levels of detail included. The 30-minute plan is more of an overview, the Basic plan adds increased detail around specific marketing strategies such as web or referrals, and the Standard Plan is the detailed marketing plan you might pull together for a larger organization or marketing system.

I decide to go for the 30 minute plan (a plan to get and keep all the customers I could handle, created in 30 minutes — how can anyone say no to that?) I like the idea of getting some quick thoughts down and developing a basic strategy. By the way — that’s the default option (gotta love that).

There is an easy 7-step multiple choice section that outlines how the plan will be set up. Once you’re through the 7-steps, there are even examples that you can use to get you going.

Customer statement screenshot

The financials are really not as scary as you might think. I usually dread the financial component of any marketing plan — it seems really overwhelming — especially since it forces you to think your strategy through month by month, dollar by dollar, unit by unit. I found it perfectly painless with Marketing Plan Pro. John’s intro took the edge off and it was this very simple spreadsheet format that even I could fill out.

Another financial section I really liked was called the “Gap Dashboard.” I had never really seen that before in any marketing plan — or if it was there, it wasn’t as easy to understand. John and Tim Berry did an outstanding job making this REAL.

The Gap Dashboard takes your business AND personal marketing objectives and lays them out in an easy spreadsheet program. The Gap Dashboard is your plan versus actual report. You fill out your plan, and then as your actual results pour in, you fill out the “real” numbers. Then it forces you to explain these actual results objectives verbally. This makes it easy for you to make adjustments to your marketing plan or strategy.

The simple act of explaining forces you to process the information and make better decisions for the future. This is by far the most challenging section. My only issue with this was the lack of an intro by John. This is certainly a section many small business owners would want some more explanation on — I did.

I created a sample plan for a client to test out the system. While you can preview what you’ve written in the program itself, I choose to export the information into a word document. The 30-minute plan was about 7 pages of text. The complete report includes a table of contents and an appendix. You can pick and choose what you’d like to print and what order to print it in as well.

Another plus for me — although it may not be for you — is that the format of the report is very plain. I liked this because I could use a report template of my choice and I did not have to re-format a style I did not like.

Marketing Plan Pro also offers many helpful resources to help you actually implement the plan you’re writing at Mplans.com. There are links to free market research sources such as Harvard Business Online, Values and Lifestyles Psychographics Segmentation. You can also find marketing calculators. Palo Alto has also formed partnerships with Logoworks.com for your logo and design work, Intuit’s Homestead web site development resource, and PresentationPro for PowerPoint templates. So you will have no excuse for not getting started.

Best Points

  • Practical and easy to use — This is not your corporate marketing plan. It is intuitive and uses your natural entrepreneurial thinking. This makes it very easy and quick to fill out.
  • Has audio guides and examples — I love that John Jantsch does these little introductions as audios — it feels like he’s coaching you through the process. There are also several examples for each section — you can read, get inspired or just copy and edit to change later.
  • Resources reduce the risk of procrastination – Love the resources section! This will get you started on creating the business of your dreams.

What They Could Have Done Better

The software won’t write your plan for you — but it comes pretty close.

You have to listen to the introductions — there’s no reading or writing ahead. On the other hand, there was NOT an audio instruction for the Gap Dashboard section, and I felt that many of us would have liked some additional explanation to complement the instructions that were provided.

Who Should Get Marketing Plan Pro

  • Marketing professionals for any size organization — this is a great tool to get your thoughts and ideas out of your head or off of scraps of paper, into an outline.
  • Small business owners and entrepreneurs creating their first real marketing plan, or looking for a painless way to create a plan.
  • Independent consultants who help clients create plans and want a structure to follow.

How to Get Your Hands On Marketing Plan Pro

You can get Marketing Plan Pro online at the Palo Alto Software website, either via immediate download or have a CD shipped to you. You also will get a free copy of John Jantsch’s Duct Tape Marketing book, as an added bonus. Use this special link provided courtesy of John Jantsch, and you get a $25 discount.

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Ivana Taylor About the Author: Ivana Taylor has spent over 20 years helping industrial organizations and small business owners get and keep their ideal customers. Her company is Third Force and she writes a blog called Strategy Stew. She is co-author of the book “Excel for Marketing Managers.”

12 Comments ▼

Ivana Taylor - Book Editor


Ivana Taylor Ivana Taylor is Book Editor for Small Business Trends and publisher of DIYMarketers , where she shares daily do-it-yourself marketing tips, and is the President of Third Force, Inc., a marketing firm that specializes in getting your ideal customer to choose you. Ivana is the book editor for Small Business Trends and co-author of the book "Excel for Marketing Managers."

12 Reactions

  1. Ivana, Thank you for providing a very thorough review. It’s nice to hear someones actual experience with a product before I try it myself. I’m glad to hear that this software is easy to use too. Nothing bothers me more than when I can’t figure out how to use software I paid good money for.

  2. Wow. Thank you for this review, Ivana. Reading from the points you presented really interests me to have a copy of this software.

  3. Ivana – Thanks for the great review. Obviously we are thrilled that you liked the program, but more than that, I am excited because you got and hit on all of the objectives we were out to achieve with this software – easy to use, accessible, not academic, good guidance and practical.

    Also enjoyed your suggestions for making it better. We need to hear how to make it better as we are committed to improving it as we go and hear more from real business users. An audio for the Gap Dashboard is a great idea.

    Thanks again – John Jantsch

  4. Ivana: Great review. Could use the software on a Linux machine, or is only a Windows version?

    John Jantsch,

    By the way: Do you know when Amazon will send me the complimentary copy of your book? I participated in one webinar with you and it was said the we would get a copy of your book. I double checked if you would send it to international addresses too, and I got a positive answer.

    I want to review the book and I want to know if you could track the shipment, or if I should order it by myself to be on the safe side.

    All the Best,
    Martin

  5. There is also Business-In-A-Box that provides a pretty good marketing plan template, as well as over 1,300 other business templates in the same software packgage. Pretty complete!

  6. great product, made me smile :-) then I discovered that the discount isn’t available in the UK and worse still the UK price is the equivalent of $235 :-(

    Why do software companies think we are all seriously rich in the UK?

    Mike Ashworth

  7. For all of you out there who aren’t as tech savvy (take my mother for example), a new Idiot’s Guide will soon be coming out — The Idiot’s Guide to Target Marketing. Susan Friedmann, the author, has also written “Riches in Niches,” and specializes in niche marketing.

    But for the younger generation (take ME for example), this is an excellent step-by-step program to create a marketing plan and promote brand recognition. Excellent review.

  8. Hi Jackie. You’re right. Btw, just recently, Susan’s write up about Niche is previously featured here in Small Biz Trends.

  9. Hi Mike- thanks for your comment about Marketing Plan Pro. You can get the #25.00 off coupon by buying the product from the US store. You will though have to pay shipping and VAT on the product. We need to comply with EU law which means we have to make sure VAT is paid. The only way for us to do that from the US is to require shipping. In the UK the price is different because the exchange rate differs, and because in the UK we run a UK operation, where all of our expense are also in pounds. Unfortunately it is expensive for anyone to operate in the UK and our costs reflect the same margins in the UK as the US.

  10. Very helpful review, Ivana. How much does this cost?

  11. Hi Ivana,

    I followed the link, but didn’t see the discount or the offer for the free book. I purchased the software, and am working on my marketing plan right now (the software is really great so far!).

    How can I get my hands on the free book? It looks like it might be helpful to go along with the software.

    Thanks in advance!

    Heidi

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