Create A Visual Marketing Plan Using A Mind Map

Don't be overwhelmed trying to create a marketing plan. Try this visual alternative that's anything but intimidating.
December 12, 2011

Creating a marketing plan seems like a daunting task. It’s overwhelming to figure out how to create a strategy that gets customers, keeps customers and builds value for your business.

Instead of getting stuck in overwhelm and not doing anything, try something different: create a visual map of your marketing plan using a mind map.

Mind maps are commonly used for brainstorming and visualizing complex topics so that you can explain them clearly to others.

Creating a mind map for your marketing plan not only gives you a place for all those ideas, it creates a logical structure for how you’ll achieve your goal. This logical structure, in turn, helps you make decisions about opportunities on the fly.

Sample marketing mind map

A company decided its focus was creating the best experience for its customers. Its next step looked at a specific customer group (its distributors). Then it asked what would give distributors the best experience. The company came up with this list.

  • Customer research to learn what was important to the target customers
  • An online portal and community to provide customer support and sales materials
  • Sales support with pre-made marketing kits and materials

A hidden benefit of using mind mapping in your marketing plan is that the strategy you’re building your marketing plan around becomes visible. In this example, it puts the best customer experience in the forefront, and then influences the approach to every project that comes out of it. The strategy ensures that the marketing message will be consistent and present throughout every initiative.

How to create your marketing mind map

Creating a mind map before you develop a marketing plan activates the creative visual part of your brain. It allows you to see patterns and opportunities you may not have noticed by using a standard marketing-plan outline. Treat this exercise as a game or as a brain dump and don’t try to make it perfect the first time.

1. Play and draw. The best way to start this process is to play with it. If you prefer to use pen and paper to doodle your thoughts and ideas, start that way. You can find some terrific free mind-mapping tools. Mindomo and Mindmeister are two of my favorites. Look for one that suits your needs. Most mind-mapping tools have free versions and allow you to collaborate with a team virtually or inside your organizations.

2. Allow for multiple maps. At first, I thought that I had to do a single map. I was confused and frustrated until I decided to create several maps, just for fun. The center of your map can be anything you’re focused on at the time: a financial goal, your positioning statement or a specific target market that you want to focus on. Start by drawing a series of circles on a page for each potential mind map. These represent the specific areas you are thinking about for your marketing plan.

3. Pick a central area to focus on. After you’ve brainstormed with your multiple circles and ideas, pick one to focus on. You might choose a goal or a marketing strategy, for example. Then ask yourself, what are the elements that will feed into that?

4. Make connections and rearrange. It’s important not to be afraid to make connections and rearrange things. It will be messy at first, but the visual exercise will bring out connections you may not have realized existed.

5. Use visual elements. Mind maps work best when you use visual elements such as icons, drawings, colors or pictures. You can cut out a magazine picture to represent your ideal customer or use clip art if you’re creating a digital mind map.

6. Step back. Now, look at what you’ve created. Is it simple enough to keep you focused on what matters? Does it give you enough freedom to adapt to potential changes in your market or opportunities that come along?

7. Convert it to a marketing plan. Flesh out the details of your mind map in a more traditional marketing-plan outline. You’ll find this process easier because you have your mind-mapped marketing plan. I use the Sales and Marketing Plan Pro software developed by Palo Alto Software. Another great resource is John Jatsch of Duct Tape Marketing, who leads you through the planning process. He helps you create a plan quickly and easily.

8. Summarize into a one-page plan. If you still need help focusing yourself and your team, summarize your plan into a single page. Philip Kotler, the godfather of marketing, uses these simple categories.

  • Target marketing
  • Market research
  • Positioning
  • Offer
  • Price strategy
  • Distribution strategy
  • Sales strategy
  • Promotion strategy

A sentence or two for each bullet point will serve as a constant reminder of what your strategy is for the next year.

Your mind-map marketing plan helps you keep your ideal customers in mind. You see at a glance what’s important to them and the elements of your strategy that will get them to choose you. Keep it around, post it on your wall and use it as a visual reminder.