| Mar 15, 2024 | | 6 min read

Craft Concise Brilliance with an Executive Summary for Your Marketing Plans

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A written marketing plan helps you organize efforts toward goals, measure successes, and streamline marketing and advertising processes to support cost savings. Yet only around 40 percent of marketers have a documented strategy, and almost 30 percent don't have any strategy at all (Search Engine Journal).

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Learning to create effective marketing plans is a stepping stone to successful marketing agency ownership, as these documents can help you re-create desirable outcomes with each new client, product launch, or website. It's not enough to have a plan, though—you need all the components of that plan to work together seamlessly. That starts with the executive summary for marketing plans, which is meant to capture the attention of stakeholders to make your document more successful.

What is an executive summary?

The executive marketing summary is the first section of a marketing plan. It’s typically one to two pages long and acts as a concise overview of the larger document. Digital agency staff must know how to craft executive summaries for marketing plans that:

  • Highlight the key findings of any marketing research
  • Provide a big-picture look at marketing objectives
  • Communicate a condensed outline of the marketing plan
  • Summarize marketing pain points and target audience needs
  • Capture the attention of readers quickly

Your marketing plan’s executive summary should be informational enough that someone can understand your goals and overall approach without reading the full plan. At the same time, it should be compelling enough that stakeholders do want to read more.

The importance of executive summaries in marketing plans

Whether you're a digital agency startup looking for investors or you're working with clients and want to communicate marketing strategies, an executive summary is essential.

Not everyone has the time or inclination to read your entire marketing plan. Clients may be busy with customer-facing matters of their own, for instance, or you might be working with department heads who only need the details about one aspect of the plan. The executive summary quickly communicates the entire plan so decision-makers have a solid big-picture understanding of your marketing strategy.

Your executive summary should:

  • Allow busy executives to grasp the essence of the marketing plan quickly
  • Position the plan in a positive light to help secure buy-in and support from stakeholders
  • Provide a working summary that evolves as the plan does, allowing marketing staff and stakeholders to keep up with those changes easily

Benefits of using executive summaries for marketing agencies

Executive summaries are especially beneficial for marketing agencies, which can use them to follow up on lead generation strategies and close deals. When you present an authoritative plan with an executive summary that business owners and others can quickly understand, it showcases your expertise and increases the chance of winning the client.

An executive summary forces your team to move from the nitty-gritty of marketing strategy to big-picture thinking that casts those details in the light of client needs and goals. That slight shift in perspective helps you create better communication and alignment between your agency and its clients.

How to write an executive summary in 5 steps

If you're working on agency skills to enhance your business performance, you might start with learning to write a powerful executive summary for your marketing plans. The five steps below can help.

1. Identify and understand your target audience

Begin with some traditional marketing work and identify the key stakeholders for your marketing plan. When you understand your target audience, you can tailor the executive summary to meet their needs.

For example, if your key stakeholder is the owner of a small business, you know they're likely concerned about budget but interested in growth. In this case, you might customize the executive marketing summary to speak to cost-effective ways of driving growth. Or, if your potential new client is a software business run by technical professionals, you might want to address the use of AI and marketing automation in your summary.

Consider creating a basic target audience persona for the types of clients you work with or might approach. The examples below demonstrate how a few facts about your potential target audience give you the specifics necessary to make an executive marketing summary more impactful.

Image source: Vendasta

2. Focus on the main points of the marketing plan

Depending on the size of a business or the complexity of digital marketing strategy, a marketing plan document can be 50 or even hundreds of pages long. That type of document encompasses a lot of information, so you’ll need to condense the main points to create a logical and easy-to-read marketing summary that only takes up a page or two.

Follow the steps below to condense the plan into some metaphorically bite-size chunks for the executive summary:

  1. Choose one or two main goals the plan speaks to and include them as primary objectives.
  2. Highlight anything unique about the target audience that helps readers understand the overall plan.
  3. Include a unique value proposition to help readers understand message positioning in the overall plan.
  4. Provide a brief list of critical channels and how you plan to use them.
  5. Identify the key performance indicators for marketing success and how you plan to measure and report them, such as ROAS calculation.
  6. Give a very brief overview of key competitors and how the marketing plan helps differentiate a business or product.
  7. End on a call to action so readers know what steps to take next—you might want them to dig deeper into the plan or reach out to discuss it, for example.

3. Craft a compelling opening

The first sentence or two of the executive summary should grab the reader’s attention and highlight the plan’s value proposition. Consider making a powerful statement that highlights the most exciting element of the plan, speaks directly to a specific challenge, or showcases a recent success your agency had that aligns with the goals of the reader.

Employ strong narrative tactics to engage the reader, such as telling a story, integrating data and statistics, or posing thought-provoking questions that entice the person to read on so they can learn the answer.

4. Highlight key objectives and strategies

Include a list of key objectives from the marketing plan and provide a quick summary of the strategies you will use to meet those goals. For example, if your plan includes goals regarding increasing traffic or brand awareness, you might summarize how you will use a website builder, content marketing, and search engine optimization.

To support buy-in, consider pairing each strategy discussed with statistics or social proof to support its inclusion in the plan. For instance, if you're encouraging a client to sell on social, you might note that around 87 percent of marketers who sell via social media say that it's an effective tactic. Likewise, almost 60 percent said it drove increased year-over-year sales in 2023 (HubSpot).

5. Keep it concise and engaging

It shouldn’t take more than 5 to 10 minutes for someone to read and understand your executive summary. Keep it user-friendly by:

  • Using clear, concise language. Remember, you don't need to explain every detail.
  • Avoid marketing jargon. If you have to use a marketing-specific term or acronym, define it briefly for your audience.
  • Support scannability. Make use of section headers, bulleted lists, and other formatting to ensure the document is easy to read.
  • Create engaging copy. Don't just drop in a bunch of bullet points scraped from the overall marketing plan. Embed the summary information within a compelling narrative that includes information of interest to the reader.

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About the Author

Lawrence Dy is the SEO Strategy Manager at Vendasta. His career spans from starting as a Jr. Copywriter in the automotive industry to becoming a Senior Editorial Content Manager in various digital marketing niches. Outside of work, Lawrence moonlights as a music producer/beatmaker and spends time with friends and family.

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