In this essay the discussion focuses mainly on the importance of a marketing plan and the role it plays for the development of businesses. In due course the nature of a marketing plan and the key elements of it are also discussed. Whether the elements of a marketing plan are linked or independent? This key issue is discussed elaborately explaining the links between different elements of the marketing plan. A marketing plan is different from a business plan and these differences are also highlighted in this essay. The essay would not be considered complete if the misconceptions about a marketing plan are not discussed. There are some misconceptions prevailing about marketing plan and they are discussed briefly in the essay. The essay has been concluded with a brief summary of the discussion made here.
Role and nature of marketing plan
Before discussing role and nature of a marketing plan it is important to understand what is marketing. Marketing is a function of an organization which involves several processes of creation, communication and delivery of value to customers and management of customer relationship in such a order that the organization as well as its stakeholders are benefitted. In other words, it is a process to identify, anticipate and satisfy customer with profit. It is science and art to create change in the market for the benefit of the organization. Understanding the need and want of the market and to earn profit is called marketing. Marketing is done with a strategic plan (Hatch & Schulz, 2003).
A marketing plan is a written document describing the external and internal business environment, aims and objectives of the organization, its strategy, plan of action and control. Marketing plans for different companies vary according to the requirements and the strategy of the company. Occasionally some companies have only one plan and they call it a business plan but a business plan includes plans of all the functions performed by a company like Research & Development, Production, Financial Management, Human Resource Management, IT as well as Marketing. Hence, a marketing plan is only a part of a business plan (Einwiller & Will, 2002).
A marketing plan is built on the strengths of an organization to exploit it for the maximum benefit of the organization. An integrated and well coordinated marketing plan makes an organization proactive and not reactive. It successfully communicates the purposes and the intent of the senior management. It sets the objectives for actions and it is target oriented. A written plan provides the scope for adjustments (if needed) and monitoring of marketing activities. Besides these reasons marketing plans are used for understanding the needs and wants of the customers for their satisfaction. Customer satisfaction is the prime objective of any marketing plan and that can be measured by meeting their needs and wants efficiently. Needs and wants change with time. Hence, a satisfied customer may be dissatisfied tomorrow with the change in need and want. This makes marketing a rigorous and continuous process. (Ferrel and Hartline, 2005). A marketing plan is based on the information and data from various sources and lack of reliable data is one of the biggest difficulty in making a marketing plan. Complete firm’s picture, product line, present and future of the situation, internal and external environment and customer satisfaction are the key features of a marketing plan. Structure of a marketing plan vary from company to company. (Mathewson, 2009). Generally a marketing plan is structured in the following manner:
- Customer Analysis
- Concentration of customer base for particular products
- Decision Process
- Value Drivers
- Company Analysis
- Market Share
- Economic Environment
- Technological Environment
- Political and Legal Environment
- Social and Cultural Environment
- SWOT Analysis
Following environmental factors are needed to be organized for the SWOT analysis of a business environment
- Strengths and weaknesses of the organization should be considered as internal attributes or internal environment
- Opportunities and Threats are to be considered as external attribute or external environment
- Competitor Analysis
- Market Share
- Market Position
- Segment 1
- Sales percentage
- Wants of the customer
- Way of using the product
- Way of reaching them
- Segment 2
Alternative marketing strategies
Selected marketing strategy
- Price list
- Terms of payments
- Financial options
- Options for lease
- Channels for distribution as intermediaries, distributors, retail and direct
- Motivation of channels
- Evaluation of channels
- Logistics as supply, transportation, warehousing, etc.
- Promotional programs
- Public relation
- Estimating results of promotions
Long term and short term projections
In some cases the structure of the marketing plan of a company is not as detailed and extensively elaborated as above and it is short and simple but focused. It depends on the size and the need of a company. Even a simple marketing plan should be structured as follows:
Summary of Strategic Situation
Objectives and Targets
Strategy for product
Strategy for price
Strategy for distribution
Strategy for communications
A marketing plan is used to serve the end result of building a customer base and creating an environment which could lead a company to success. It serves other functions as well such as a marketing plan is used for introduction of a new product into market, for exploring new markets for a product, for setting up gals and targets and achieving it and for establishing, directing and coordinating between sales and marketing efforts of a company. The potential differences between different structures of marketing plans depend on the nature of the business of the company and their requirements. The end results are same for all the marketing plans.
Elements of marketing plan and links between them
The key elements of a marketing plan are Executive Summary, Challenges, Situation Analysis, Market Segmentation, Alternative marketing strategies, Selected marketing strategy, Product, Price, Distribution (Place), Promotion and Long term and short term projections. These elements are interdependent and complementary to each other.
Executive summary is the brief overview of the content of a marketing plan. It describes the objectives of the plan. It has the description of the strategies of the company for marketing, Before discussing the plan and the strategies for marketing in detail the marketing managers prefer to discuss the challenges which may come across in marketing or the challenges of the market for the company. The business world is changing very fast and the growing competition in the business world is reducing the margins of the businesses and extensive marketing is required to meet this challenge which is again very expensive. Challenges can only be tackled in favorable situation which further requires situation analysis (Hatch & Schulz, 2003).
Situation analysis is done to understand various situations or it can be said that situation analysis is of several types like customer analysis, company analysis and climate analysis. Customer analysis involves factors like number of existing customers and expected number of new customers, types of customers, decision process of customers, value drivers for customers and finally the concentration of customer base for particular products (Einwiller & Will, 2002). The end result of a marketing plan is satisfaction of customer and customer analysis is a very important. Analysis of company means study of strengths and weaknesses of the company, the market share of a company for a particular product, the culture of the company because the output of a company also depends on its culture, the goal of the company and the focus the company has to achieve that goal. Then comes climate which means environment of different types like economic environment, political and legal environment, social and cultural environment and technological environment. In some marketing plans they are also analyzed as external and internal environment (Ferrel and Hartline, 2005).
Collaborators are also called as stakeholders by marketing managers. Stakeholders may have stakes in the company in different ways that is why there are different types of stakeholders. Stakeholders range from customer to the top management of the company which includes workers, employees, suppliers and many others and a good marketing plan must not overlook their stakes. The company keeps the required data about its stakeholders for various purposes including making a marketing plan (Mathewson, 2009).
SWOT analysis means study of strengths and weaknesses as well as study of opportunities and threats. A good marketing plan must analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the company, product as well as customers. Similarly it should analyze the opportunities for the company, product and the opportunity of the market. Opportunities never come without threats and it will be mistake if the threats are not analyzed in a marketing plan. For SWOT analysis information are needed to be collected from both the internal sources of the company and from the market (Freeman, 1984).
There is hardly any business without competitor and the success of a marketing plan substantially depends on the proper analysis of the competitors. Marketing managers must know the position of the competitor in the market, the market share of competitor for a particular product or different products and strengths and weaknesses of the competitor.
Marketing mangers divide the market into different segments and the process is called market segmentation. Needs and wants of all the markets are not same and the market managers have to analyze which segment of the market is useful for a particular product. The factors needed to be kept in mind for market segmentation are the percentage of sales in that segment, description of the segment, what do the customer need or want, how do they use the product, how to reach them, whether the price is suitable for them, etc. They need to collect the information from the external sources. (Mullins, Walker, Boyd and Larreche, 2005)
Every plan should have an alternative plan which can be used if needed. Efficient and experienced marketing managers always ready with an alternative marketing plan. The plan which they execute is called selected plan. Marketing plans have detailed description of the factors like product, price, promotion, distribution, etc (Mullins, Walker, Boyd and Larreche, 2005).
Product is the key factor of the marketing plan and it revolves around it. Ultimately product is the tool through which the company reaches to customers and wishes to satisfy them meeting their needs and wants. It is the responsibility of the marketing manager to ensure branding f the product and to analyze the quality of the product and the scope for it in the market, Proper packaging of the product with genuine warranty adds value to it. After all it is the product only which decides the success and failure of a company.
Price is another key factor and it should be relevant to the market, customer and the competitor. Customers always prefer quality product at affordable price. The marketing managers offer some options for the market to make the offers attractive. They offer discounts, different payment options, financial support and sometimes options for lease. All these information should be provided clearly in the pricelist (Jones, 2005).
Distribution ensures the success of a product and alternatively of a company. All these efforts of marketing will go waste if an adequate system of distribution is not set up. Distribution of products is done by various methods like making channels for distribution such as distributing through intermediaries, distributors, retail or direct. These network need to be evaluated regularly for its proper functioning and the stakeholders associated with the distribution network must be kept motivated. The selection of location for the network should be done carefully and proper care of regular supply, transportation and warehousing must be taken (Dickson, 1996).
Last but not the least another key factor of marketing is promotion and promotion is done by following promotional programs, making public relation, advertisement, budgeting and finally estimating the results of promotion.
Some elements of a marketing plan are interlinked while others are independent. For example, challenges can be estimated by understanding the situation and pricing can be done by valuing the product and the promotion of the product is done (Freeman, 1984).
There are many misconceptions about marketing plan. The most common misconception of customers is that they generally think that the companies make marketing plans to manipulate things and the aim is to deceive. In fact, a marketing plan is made to ensure satisfaction to customers. The aim of a marketing plan is to reach to the customer to satisfy his needs at the affordable price. The advertisement sometimes becomes illusionary and creates confusion (Jones, 2005).
The most common misconception of companies is that a marketing plan and its implementation is an expensive and difficult to measure process to evaluate the return on investment on it. Actually a perfect marketing plan ensures tangible return on it. A marketing plan is made by marketing manager after extensive research and it is aimed to ensure success and earn profitability for the organization. Companies think that investment in marketing plan can be made only if the cash flow allows for it. In fact, marketing plan is the factor which ensures the cash flow and projects in advance the rate of cash flow if planned and implemented efficiently (Dickson, 1996).
A marketing plan is a key to success for any business but unfortunately many businesses confuse marketing plans with investment on advertisements with no assured returns. A marketing plan is a simple act of bringing products and services to market and providing right message to right person at right time. Actually marketing plan can only assure the success of a business by guiding businesses to follow the processes required for its success. Those processes include how to analyze marketing environment, how to decide marketing segment, how to choose the marketing mix. Marketing mix includes five important Ps of a marketing plan. They are Product, Price, Promotion, Place and Process.
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