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-- by Joel T. Patz
Everyone needs a plan. If you're a marketer, you can build your plan with Palo Alto Software's Marketing Plus 2.0. This program provides an easily accessible framework to help create and implement a comprehensive marketing plan from scratch.
The essential marketing-plan concepts and steps are explained in An Introduction to Marketing Plus, one of three books that make up the enclosed printed documentation. Book 2 provides a detailed user's guide, and Book 3 outlines how to work through ideas and get started.
To develop a plan, you need to specify the name of your plan, the starting month and the critical Identifiers for Sales and Expenses comparisons. The Task List shows planning topics and lets you navigate to a specific subject. It shares a three-pane screen containing an explanation of the highlighted topic and tips to help clarify your thought process. Depending on the task, one or more buttons (Text, Table, Pyramid and Review) appear at the top of the screen to take you to the specified information entry area.
In Text mode, a split screen puts instructions, examples and text review on top (selected by radio buttons) and a text-entry window at the bottom (where you create sections of your plan). Bottom-of-the-screen buttons allow you to move within subject headings or to a new area, spell check, and view or create tables and charts. You can customize your plan by using menu choices to add topics and subtopics.
You enter numeric data, such as sales forecasts, expense projections and marketing analyses, into a spreadsheet-like grid. Click on the chart button and Marketing Plus 2.0 displays your data in bar, stacked bar, line or pie style with limited formatting capability. The program offers tables to record your actual sales and expenses. You can also create tables and charts for topics not predefined in the program. A tool that works like an org chart lets you create visual high-level plans, though it's limited to three levels.
Sadly, the program lacks an undo feature, and, while all spreadsheets are integrated into a final document, there is no budget-vs.-actual charting or report.
Despite these shortcomings, Marketing Plus 2.0 provides the tools you need to produce a visually attractive and thoughtful plan for success.