HANDBOOK: THE MARKETING PLAN "WRITE IT"

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The marketing plan is a written document that defines a company’s goals, delineates a course of action aimed at achieving these goals, and provides guidelines for evaluating the progress of the goals.

The success of the marketing plan depends on its ability to successfully apply marketing theories and frameworks to the specific problems faced by the organization.
Accordingly, the first part of this book presents an overview of the key marketing concepts involved in developing a marketing plan. In particular, the first part of this book comprises two chapters:

Chapter 1 discusses the role of the marketing plan as a strategic business document, focusing on issues such as the purpose of the marketing plan; the key principles and entities involved in writing a marketing plan; the target audience for the marketing plan; the scope, focus, and length of the marketing plan; the time horizon for implementation; and the frequency of updating the marketing plan.

Chapter 2 offers a big-picture overview of the marketing fundamentals and outlines a streamlined framework that serves as the basis for marketing planning. It identifies the logic underlying the processes of setting a goal, defining an offering’s strategy and tactics, as well as developing an implementation plan and a set of marketing metrics to monitor performance. These two chapters establish the foundation for the more detailed discussion of the individual components of the marketing plan laid out in Part Two of this book.

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CHAPTER ONE THE MARKETING PLAN AS A BUSINESS DOCUMENT
A good deal of corporate planning is like a ritual rain dance; it has no effect on the weather that follows. Moreover, much of the advice and instruction is directed at improving the dancing, not the weather. —James Brian Quinn Management Professor, Dartmouth University.

The marketing plan is a written document that identifies a specific goal and outlines a course of action to achieve this goal. It can concern a particular offering, a product line, or the entire company. The key principles of developing a marketing plan are the focus of this chapter.

Overview Writing a marketing plan is often confused with strategic planning, partially because strategic planning is frequently driven by the need to generate a marketing plan. Strategic planning and writing a marketing plan, however, are two different activities. Strategic planning is the process of identifying a goal and developing a course of action to achieve this goal.

A marketing plan puts into writing an already identified goal and the decided-on course of action. The marketing plan is the tangible outcome of a company’s planning process.
Because marketing covers only one aspect of a company’s business activities, the marketing plan is narrower in scope than the business plan (Figure 1).

In addition to focusing on the marketing aspect of the company’s activities, the business plan addresses financial, operations, human resource, and technological aspects. The marketing plan may include a brief overview of other aspects of the company’s business processes, but only to the extent they are related to the marketing plan.
Figure 1. Marketing Plan: The Big Picture In addition to developing an overall marketing plan, companies often develop more specialized plans.

Such plans include a product development plan, service management plan, brand management plan, sales plan, promotions plan, and communication plan. Some of these plans can, in turn, comprise even more specific plans.

For example, a company’s communication plan often comprises a series of activity-specific plans, such as an advertising plan, public relations plan, Internet plan, and social media plan. The ultimate success of each of these individual plans, however, depends on the degree to which they are consistent with the overall marketing plan.

The Purpose of a Marketing Plan
The primary purpose of a marketing plan is to effectively communicate the company’s
goal and the desired course of action to relevant stakeholders (e.g., company employees, collaborators, shareholders, and investors). In particular, the marketing plan can serve the following functions. Outline the proposed course of action.

Because marketing plans are written documents, they often force managers to be more specific in their analysis and articulate in greater detail different aspects of the proposed action. This greater level of detail enables the marketing plan to serve as a guide for tactical decisions, such as product development, service management, branding, pricing,
promotions, and distribution.

Verify the internal consistency of the proposed course of action. Explicitly articulating
the details of the proposed course of action often uncovers potential inconsistencies that might have remained unnoticed in strategic planning discussions.

Inform all stakeholders of the goal and proposed course of action. By providing uniform information to all stakeholders, the marketing plan helps ensure that all relevant parties are on the same page with respect to the specifics of the offering.

Because most offerings are developed, promoted, and distributed in collaboration with other entities, having a common understanding of the ultimate goal and the proposed course of action to achieve that goal is essential for an offering’s success.

In addition to informing stakeholders of the specifics of the offering, the marketing plan identifies the composition of the team managing the offering and the allocation of responsibilities among individual members of the team.
“Sell”the proposed goal and course of action.

An important and often overlooked function of the marketing plan is to persuade the relevant stakeholders of the viability of the set goal and the identified course of action.

The marketing plan is a key element in senior management’s decision to proceed with
the proposed action and a key component in an investor’s decision to fund a given project.
Three Key Principles in Writing a Marketing Plan Most marketing plans suffer from a common problem.

Rather than fulfilling their vital mission of steering company actions to attain a stated goal, they are frequently written merely to fulfill the requirement of having a document filed in the company archives. As a result, marketing plans often substitute exhaustive analyses of marginally relevant issues and laundry lists of activities for a meaningful course of action.

The lack of internal logic and cohesiveness often leads to actions that fall far short of helping the company achieve its strategic goals. To be effective, the marketing plan must outline a sound business strategy and communicate this strategy to its target audience.
Therefore, the plan must be:

Actionable. The marketing plan should include a course of action aimed at achieving a specific goal. The proposed course of action typically involves developing or modifying one or more of the seven key marketing mix variables: product, service, brand, price, incentives, communication, and distribution.

Clear. The primary goal of the marketing plan is to inform the relevant stakeholders about a company’s action plan and convince them of the viability of the proposed action. Therefore, the marketing plan should be very clear in delineating the essence of the proposed action and the goal the company aims to achieve.

Because the marketing plan contains information concerning different aspects of the proposed action—its goal, strategy, marketing mix, implementation, and metrics for evaluating its performance—it is imperative that this information be presented in a systematic manner and underscore the logic of the proposed course of action.

A poorly structured marketing plan is unlikely to achieve its goal of informing
the target audience of the specifics of the proposed action and convincing the group of its viability. The clarity of a manager’s thought process is reflected in the organization of the marketing plan; streamlined marketing plans indicate streamlined business thinking.

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Succinct. Most marketing plans suffer from a common problem:
they are unnecessarily long. Managers developing such plans are often driven by a misguided notion that longer plans are perceived to be more thorough .While it is true that the length of the marketing plan is often used by some managers as an indicator of quality, more managers have come to realize that shorter plans are often better than longer ones.

Most managers lack the time and/ or desire to read long documents, especially when they abound with information that is not directly related to the issue at hand.

Managers are overloaded with information, and the marketing plan should help them make sense of this information rather than contribute to information clutter.
Who Is Involved in Writing a Marketing Plan Developing a marketing plan involves multiple entities that play different roles:
Project leader—the person in charge of managing the offering and the planning process. Depending on the organizational structure of the company, the project leader is typically a brand manager, a product manager, or a product-line manager.

Management team—individuals working with the project leader to develop and manage
the offering. The management team is typically cross-functional, comprising experts from different areas, such as research and development, information technology, operations, finance, marketing, purchasing, and the sales force.

Influencers—entities outside the management team that affect the development of the marketing plan by sharing their preferences and providing recommendations. Gatekeepers—entities that must approve the plan before it is put into action.

For example, an offering’s pricing policy, exclusivity agreements, and the content of communication campaigns often need to be approved by a company’s legal department before the marketing plan can be put into action.

Endorsers—entities that must give the final approval of the plan before it is put into action. Endorsers can be individuals (e.g., senior managers) or a group (e.g., board of directors).

In cases of companies with regional offices, the approval for plans containing major marketing initiatives typically comes from their headquarters or regional offices.

Unlike the gatekeepers, whose primary function is to ensure that a specific aspect of the plan conforms to a set of policies (e.g., legal regulations, technical specifications, or financial requirements), endorsers have the power (and the responsibility) to give the final “go ahead”to the marketing plan as a whole.

The Target Audience To develop a meaningful plan, managers need to know their audience. Most marketing plans target three major audiences: employees, collaborators, and stakeholders. Employees.
Often viewed as the primary target audience for the marketing plan, company employees comprise three different groups:
(1) members of the cross-functional team managing the offering,
(2) company employees not directly involved in the offering, and
(3) senior management.

For the members of the team leading the offering, the marketing plan provides information about the specifics of the proposed action plan and outlines the particular actions to be taken, their sequence, and the time frame.

For employees not directly involved with the offering, the marketing plan provides an overview of the goals and the key aspects of the proposed course of action. For senior management, the marketing plan aims to show how the proposed action fits the company’s strategic goals and seeks to gain management’s approval to implement the plan. Collaborators.

An important function of the marketing plan is to inform and bring on board all external entities whose collaboration is essential for implementing the plan. These entities include product development partners, communication
(e.g., advertising and public relations) agencies, suppliers, distributors
(e.g., wholesalers and retailers), sales force, and marketing research companies.

Ensuring that these collaborators are aware of the key aspects of the company’s goal, strategy, and tactics is an essential precondition for the offering’s success. Stakeholders.
The success of a company’s offering also depends on the support from the company’s stakeholders.

These stakeholders include entities with a direct or indirect financial interest in the company (e.g., shareholders, bondholders, and creditors), as well as entities that are directly or indirectly influenced by the company’s actions
(e.g., regulatory agencies, trade organizations, and consumer activist groups).

The marketing plan should inform these stakeholders about the company’s proposed actions to ensure their approval and support. Because it targets a broad audience with different levels of functional expertise and different levels of involvement, the marketing plan must be written in a way that is understandable, informative, and meaningful to each audience segment.

The Length of the Marketing Plan
The length of the marketing plan depends on the specifics of the underlying offering.
Plans for relatively complex, broad-in-scope offerings involving multiple actualized through the specific offering( s) the company designs, communicates,
and delivers to its target customers. The key aspects of developing an offering are discussed in the following section.


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Marketing Tactics: Designing the Marketing Mix
The term tactics comes from the Greek taktika—meaning “arrangement”—used in reference to the deployment of troops during battle from their initial strategic position. In marketing, tactics refer to a set of specific activities, commonly referred to as the marketing mix, employed to execute a given strategy.

The strategy is an abstract depiction of the way in which an offering aims to create superior value for the relevant market entities. The company designs an offering that aims to fulfill customer needs, thereby creating value for these customers, the company, and its collaborators. Whereas the strategy defines the value exchange and the optimal value proposition, the tactics define the aspects of the offering that create market value.

The Seven Tactics Defining the Marketing Mix Tactics are defined by seven key elements, often referred to as the marketing mix: product, service, brand, price, incentives, communication, and distribution. The tactics represent the key marketing decisions that embody an offering’s marketing strategy.

The seven marketing mix factors can be summarized as follows:
Product reflects the offering's key functional characteristics, including performance, consistency, reliability, durability, compatibility, ease of use, technological design, degree of customization, form, style, and packaging. Products typically change ownership during purchase; once created, they can be physically separated from the manufacturer and distributed to buyers via multiple channels.

Service also reflects the offering's functional characteristics but, unlike products, services typically do not imply a change in ownership; instead, customers obtain the right to use the service for a period of time.
Because they are simultaneously created and consumed, services are inseparable from the service provider and cannot be inventoried.

Brand involves a set of unique marks (brand elements) and associations that identify the offering and create value beyond the product and service aspects of the offering. Brand elements define the identity of the brand through factors such as name, logo, symbol, character, slogan, jingle, and packaging.

Brand associations create value above and beyond the value created by the product and service aspects of the offering and involve factors such as emotional benefits
(e.g., the satisfaction from using and owning the brand), social benefits
(e.g., group acceptance resulting from owning a particular brand), and self-expressive benefits (e.g., using the brand to express one’s identity).

Price refers to the amount of money the company charges its customers and collaborators for the benefits provided by the offering.
An offering’s price is often defined by two key components:
(1) retail price—the price at which the offering is likely to be sold to end users, and
(2) trade price, the price( s) at which the offering is sold to channel members
(e.g., wholesalers and retailers).

In diverse markets, both types of price (retail and wholesale) can be given by pricing schedules, rather than single prices, to enable the company to vary price across customers and distributors. The monetary aspect of the offering is also a function of various monetary incentives—volume discounts, price reductions, coupons, and rebates—which are often considered as integral components of the overall price.

Incentives are tools used to selectively enhance the value of the offering for its customers, collaborators, and/ or employees. Incentives vary in their target: customer incentives (e.g., coupons, rebates, price reductions, volume discounts, premiums, rewards, and sweepstakes); collaborator incentives (e.g., advertising, slotting,

stocking, display, and market-development allowances; volume discounts; volume rebates; off-invoice incentives, cash discounts, financing, contests, bonus merchandise, buyback guarantees; and sales support and training); and company incentives (e.g., performance bonuses, monetary prizes, spiffs, contests, recognition awards, free goods, and vacation and travel incentives).

Depending on the type of benefits they offer, incentives can be further divided into
two categories: monetary (e.g., volume discounts, price reductions, and coupons)
and nonmonetary (e.g., premiums, contests, and rewards).

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Communication refers to the process of informing current and potential buyers about the specifics of the offering.

Communication typically involves one or more of the other marketing tactics, whereby the message can focus on product, service, brand, price, incentives, and/ or distribution aspects of the offering.

Distribution defines the channel( s) through which different aspects of the offering (product, service, brand, price, incentives, and communication) are delivered to target customers and collaborators.

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Comments

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