Picture of Georg Peppard as Hannibal Smith of The A-Team.

Questions A Marketing Agency Should Ask You: Do You Have a Business and Marketing Plan?

“I love it when a plan comes together”.

We like that familiar catchphrase, too. Especially after a successful client inititiative.

But at the beginning of a potential new client relationship, we like the phrase, “We love it when clients have marketing plans”.

Why? Because reviewing and digesting a current marketing blueprint enlightens the agency about your business. This can help speed understanding of issues, and ultimately develop and implement your communications program.

So, your prospective agency should ask to see a formal business and/or marketing plan.

Now, that’s not say you need to share a thick binder that spells out every bit of data-driven minutia (Although, that would be incredibly helpful). Simply presenting a general idea of what company proposes to enhance its business outlook going forward can help hasten development of the plan to get there.

That said, would it surprise you that many businesses don’t have a formal written business plan, let alone a marketing plan? For too many companies, those formal documents don’t exist.

Based on our own experience, we looked back at the 100 or so prospects we’ve met with over the last 15 years. Of those companies, how many would you guess had formal written plans at their fingertips?

50?  30?  20?

It was two.

As an agency that designs marketing strategies, we excel at collaborating with clients to facilitate soup-to-nuts marketing programs. But we fully recognize how much faster we can get to the execution phase when even basic company intelligence is at our fingertips.

So, if you’re evaluating marketing firms, and don’t have a formal marketing plan to share, you can help make meetings more productive by having the answers to the following elements in place. The good news is you likely have much of this either in your head or collectively across your firm. Coalescing information that includes the following in one place will be a benefit in and of itself.

Business goals and objectives

You have important overall targets for your business, such as sales goals (percentage growth, general revenue, and associated bucket numbers), current and new client objectives, specific internal plans or changes you want to put into place. You’ll have measurable actions in mind to achieve those goals.

Challenges and Advantages

These are the various internal and external barriers you face – as well as the opportunities – to current and future success.

Target Markets

Present the individuals, groups, customer categories and organizations with which you want to do business. Ideally, you’ll also have a grasp on buyer personas and influencers on the sale. What are your market assumptions based on your experience, and what dynamics are at play?


There are those companies with which you compete directly and possible alternative providers your targets could turn to. Exactly how does your firm stack up against these competitors?  Why should buyers choose you over others?

Communications Objectives

Once the above data points are captured, you can set out your marketing communications objectives for the quarter, six months, or the full year. Rather than creating broad goals, these should tie directly to your business objectives and therefore be as specific and measurable as possible. Here is where the agency you choose can provide value, identifying clear objectives, followed by the right strategies and tactics.

Market Positioning & Brand Story

You occupy a unique space within your market. Express how you are distinctive in the way you solve the problems your customers face. In highly commoditized markets, share what you think are your nuggets of differentiation. To communicate most effectively, you should create a brand story and key message points specific to each targeted buyer. (See our article, Why Messaging is Your Most Important Job), for more insights on this topic.)

For each of these categories, consider not just the “who” and the “what” but the supporting rationale behind your responses. Anticipate the agency will likely follow up with “why.”