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Arrow Guide to Creating An Effective Marketing Plan

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Section Four: Conduct a Team Retreat

Blueprint For Two Day Workshop / Action Plan Development

While it may seem exhaustive, the following process will build rapport, foster input and ownership among team members. This off site meeting will also serve to validate the assumptions and information you have already compiled, resulting in a concise plan with responsible parties assigned to each task, a clear set of goals and objectives and identified target audiences. To ensure a successful workshop, it is very important that all of the participants have read and considered the background information and preliminary plan documents in advance of the retreat. Also, ensure they know explicitly what will be expected of them at the retreat.

NOTE: It will be very helpful if you can obtain a facilitator who is familiar with the transportation industry and that has the skills to keep your team on track; having one or more note–takers will also alleviate that burden off of your team. Your note–takers can also take digital photos of all lists for future reference and documentation.

I. Introductions. Introduce the team leader and identify his credentials and experience. Ask team members to introduce themselves and give a brief synopsis of their role and/or interest in the initiative.

II. Setting the stage. Provide introduction of the innovation/technology, history, uses and developments to date. Present any marketing tools (i.e., videos, news clips) that may already exist.

III. Brainstorm opportunities and obstacles. Divide team into two or more groups, with no more than six people in any group (Group A, B, etc.) and ask each group to brainstorm opportunities and obstacles to the adoption of the innovation; make sure to ask them to tie opportunities and opportunities to the various established program goals. Record all items on separate white tablet sheets (it will be easier if you get the tablets that already have "post–it" adhesive on the back of the sheets) to be posted for all to see.

IV. Consolidate and Categorize. Bring two groups back together; facilitator to talk the groups through their lists. As a group, agree on and compile a new list of categories of obstacles and opportunities. Post these sheets in a visible location.

V. Readjust and Prioritize. Facilitator will then review categorized lists with team to clarify and adjust wording as necessary. Next, instruct each of your team members that they have ten votes' to apply to what they think is most important on both the categorized opportunities and obstacles lists—five for obstacles, and five votes for opportunities. They may also apply multiple votes to one in particular. (Note: It will be helpful if you have the adhesive dots for your team members to use to indicate their votes.) The top five opportunities and top five obstacles will be assigned recommendations. Ask facilitator to record the top five priorities Guide to Creating an Effective Marketing Plan 13 (of both obstacles and opportunity lists) on separate posted sheets before moving onto the next task.

NOTE: The following are some good questions to consider asking your team in order to stimulate conversation when prioritizing primary and secondary opportunities.

  • Will the resources and time be available even if the innovation makes sense?
  • Will the risk be perceived as being too high?
  • Will the technology make their job easier or will it be perceived as making their job more difficult? (In order for them to consider adopting your innovation, the benefits must outweigh 'changing the course').

VI. Develop Recommendations. Split back into two groups and each generate recommendations as to how to tackle each top five opportunities and obstacles.

VII. Merge recommendations. Bring the groups back together; go over group A's recommendations for both the obstacles and opportunities lists; ask Group B (and C, if there is one) if they have anything to add or modify based on their group's discussion. Post in visible location.

VIII. Ask Team to Invest. Give each team member $100 or $1000 in 'monopoly money' that they can place on the opportunities or obstacle recommendations they want to invest in. (Place lists flat on table during voting.) This method 'forces' team members to think hard about what they believe are the most important actions.

NOTE: By using either $100 or $1000, you will easily be able to identify percentages.

VIIII. Brainstorm and record action plan to include the following for each recommendation: date to be completed, type of activity, location (where activity will take place–––origin of the work), target audience, person responsible and approx. cost. (Note: Be sure to assign only one lead for each action item. Remember, if it's everyone's responsibility, then it won't get done. Make sure one person is ultimately responsible for shepherding the task, and assign others to support or participate.) Have facilitator record during session (with note–takers recording discussion and comments), and then later create a table/spreadsheet or flowchart to include in your marketing plan.

X. Go back through original opportunities " obstacles categories lists. If time permits, this final exercise will ensure that an important thought or point is not lost. The facilitator can also discern if all of the original categories of opportunities and obstacles can be connected to the prioritized top five in each area.

XI. Use some mechanism (informal vote) to identify general acceptance of the workshop products.


Compile a report based on the discussions and outcomes of the two–day retreat, and send to team members, along with the action plan table/spreadsheet or flowchart.

Section Five: Modify Your Plan

Post–Retreat Modification

Upon the completion of your team retreat and your action plan, use the notes and report to validate the assumptions and information you compiled, or modify as necessary. Use the results of the meeting to adjust your goals and objectives, situation analysis, identified target audiences and other sections of your plan.

Distribute the edited documents from your retreat to all of the participants for review comments and finalize the documents by addressing comments. This will build ownership of the products.

Ongoing Reviews and Updates

Lastly, remember that your marketing plan is always a work in progress. It may be current, but it is never "done." It should be a living document, constantly being amended and fine tuned.

Section Six: Appendix of Examples of Marketing Plans

Sample Marketing Plans:

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Scott Wolf
Center for Accelerating Innovation

This page last modified on 04/04/11

United States Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration