A strategic marketing plan is a formal long-range plan that includes long-term objectives and strategies and provides a blueprint for specific directions, taking into account competitive threats and opportunities, organizational strengths and weaknesses, and how environmental conditions are likely to provide positive or negative reinforcement. Acquisitions and divestments are sometimes factored into such plans.
Depending on the business or project for which the plan is developed, it may, depending on budget, include such activities as:
- performance-based promotion;
- exhibit and convention display;
- point-of-sale materials for retail places of sale;
- field sales efforts.
Benefits of Marketing Plans
- The marketing audit, on which all marketing planning is based, allows self-examination, which uncovers strengths and weaknesses. Strengths can be exploited, and weaknesses can be compensated. Systematic identification of opportunity is a by-product of the examination process.
- Marketing planning produces innovation necessary for future growth. New ideas are generated. New approaches to the marketplace and its needs result from good marketing planning.
- Resources are used more efficiently because marketing operations are coordinated around selected objectives. This clarifies priorities and focuses on key elements in the marketing mix. Costs are reduced with increased spans of control.
- Better organization and accountability are created with assignment of responsibility throughout levels of managerial structure. Individuals on many levels assume responsibility for risks of business as they participate in the planning process. Deadlines are set for accomplishment.
- Planning stimulates the future in a problem-solving manner and foresees threats. Thus, earlier decisions can be made in terms of their probable impact on future activity. Crisis and change that may occur after the plan is put into motion can be more easily dealt with, because alternatives have already been explored in the process of preparing the marketing plan.
- Budgeting is more realistic, because costs are evaluated in advance of expenditure, as part of the plan’s support system and not as a separate control function of the finance department.
- As a communication tool, marketing planning encourages more participation on all levels. It promotes thinking in terms of end results as it anticipates problems and provides for contingencies. Group participation minimizes conflict and ambiguity. A team spirit in which all participants are part of the decision-making process is conducive to better morale and productivity.
- Formal marketing plans will aid in obtaining and retaining avenues of financing. Today, most financial institutions require business and marketing plans as a prerequisite for loans.
Marketing Planning Pitfalls
- Assuming that top management can delegate the marketing planning function to a planner.
- Failing to spend sufficient time on marketing planning or starting late.
- Failing to develop suitable and realistic corporate profit goals as a basis for formulating marketing plans.
- CEO and top-level management’s failure to assume necessary involvement in the process; giving it lip service.
- Failing to use marketing plans as standards for measuring managerial performance.
- CEO’s failure to create a climate in the organization that is open to marketing planning.
- Assuming that marketing planning is something apart from the entire management process, something the marketing departament does.
- Failing to hold regular reviews between top management and departmental or divisional heads regarding marketing plans.
- Top management’s making intuitive decisions that conflict with (or override) marketing plans.
- Trying to do too much in an inadequate amount of time.
- Assuming that the marketing plan is a blueprint that cannot be changed until the next planning cycle; not adjusting plan to unforeseen events in time.
- Ignoring line managers throughout the organization in the marketing planning process.
- Premature and wishful expectations that the marketing plan will solve all marketing problems.
- Centralizing the planning process without enough involvement from divisions or operating units; include key staff from all areas of the organization.
- Failing to recognize or exploit marketing planning as a management tool that can improve management capabilities.
- Marketing plans are not mandates; they are direction. They are not commands; they are commitments.
Calendar for Marketing Planning
Note that 30% of the 20-week timespan (shown below) for examining, preparing, implementing, and controlling a marketing plan is devoted to the first step, a thorough examination of your marketplace.
The planning calendar sets your schedules and deadlines. A timetable spread over 4 months is not inordinately long, and especially if you do formal marketing planning for the first time.
Research required to gather factual information requires a longer timeframe. Hurried marketing planning always leads to poor, faulty marketing programs. Then, too, longer planning time minimizes disruption to ongoing business activity.
Benefits of planning calendar are in its objectivity. In poorly managed cases, hopefully not yours, planning drifts along into the next fiscal year because concerted effort is not made to start and stop on time.
A well-thought-out calendar avoids last-minute, hasty planning. It encourages everyone to work together within deadlines. If you do it correctly, it is an intricate and time-consuming process.
Now if this represents a roadblock, consider the alternatives. Chance and chaos are not a prescription for survival and growth. Conversely, rewards make the task worthwhile and satisfying.
|Week 1||Opening Planning Meeting||CEO and key staff outline goals and marketing planning guidelines in general session.|
|Weeks 1-6||Examine||Perform marketing audit, including previous sales history, markets, products, marketing channels, pricing, competition, advertising, promotion, publicity and marketing relations, staffing, training, and all other marketing activities.|
|Weeks 7-11||Plan||Define marketing planning assumptions, set sales and profit goals, establish marketing objectives, and prepare strategies to attain the objectives.|
|Week 1 1||General Review Meeting||Review assumptions, goals, objectives, and their strategies for adequacy and feasibility.|
|Assign marketing planning tasks and prepare marketing budgets, to include product and sales forecasts with budgets for staffing, advertising, promotion, and marketing relations.|
|Week 1 7||Approval Meeting||Evaluate final marketing plan with participation of key participants.|
|Make final adjustments and issue marketing plans to all “need to know” employees.|
|Launch marketing plan ahead of fiscal year.|
|Week 20 onward||Control||Conduct monthly staff meetings to measure progress and adjust marketing plan as conditions warrant throughout plan year.|
Criteria for a Good Marketing Plan
- Timely – promptly implemented at start of the fiscal period, not yesterday’s old milk.
- Understandable – well organized and understandable-readable.
- Complete – includes ALL components of marketing activity, both internal and external.
- Specific – pinpoints goals: determine objectives, strategies, and tasks to achieve them with accountability for their completion, who, what, when, and where, including expense budgets.
- Adaptable – responds to external and internal marketing environment and is compatible with corporate goals and company’s resources.
- Flexible – adjusts to changing market conditions as unforeseen events require alterations.
Checklist for Marketing Plan Control
- Start early! Formal marketing planning activity should begin no later than early September if the plan period starts on January 1. (Allow approximately 20 weeks before fiscal period begins.)
- Schedule regular meetings to review marketing planning progress. Be sure to include key people throughout the organization who are instrumental in the plan’s implementation. They will be more motivated to execute it if they are part of the marketing planning process.
- Do not take shortcuts! Get facts, not guesstimates.
- Always be specific and thorough.
- Prepare timetables with assignments and deadlines for their completion.
- Communicate marketing plans through all appropriate channels on a need-to-know basis before fiscal period starts.
- Hold regular progress meetings after the marketing plan is in motion, generally on a monthly basis.
- Adjust the marketing plan when marketing conditions warrant change.
- Do not let formality replace originality. The KISS (keep it simple!) acronym is still important to the result!
- Be ever mindful that the greatest problem in communication is the illusion that it has been achieved.
Monthly Marketing Plan Performance Report
|Plan $||Actual $||Variance %||YTD Variance %|
|Sales (total dollars)
Total Marketing Expense
Field sales staff
Training and development
Marketing relations and publicity
Supplies and equipment
Rent and utilities
Guidelines For Making People More Agreeable to Change Imposed by a New Marketing Plan
- Change is more acceptable when it is understood than when it is not.
- Change is more acceptable when it does not threaten security than when it does.
- Change is more acceptable when those affected have helped to create it than when it has been externally imposed.
- Change is more acceptable when it results from an application of previously established impersonal principles than when it is dictated by personal order.
- Change is more acceptable when it follows a series of successful changes than when it follows a series of failures.
- Change is more acceptable when it is inaugurated after prior change has been assimilated than when it is inaugurated during confusion or other major changes.
- Change is more acceptable to people who share in the benefits than to those who do not.
- Change is more acceptable to people new on a job than to people already established in a job.
- Change is more acceptable to people if it is planned than if it is haphazard.
- Change is more acceptable if the organization has been trained to plan for improvement than if the organization is accustomed to static procedures.