Marketing is a cornerstone in the success of any organization. However, successful marketing is not as wide spread in large part due to the lack of a marketing strategy and marketing plan. To ensure marketing is successful for an organization, companies need to compose long-term marketing strategies promoting their goals with specific actions. A short term marketing plan is also necessary to ensure actions taken are consistent and effective in achieving the long-term marketing strategy. Here we will be discussing the purpose of a marketing plan as well as key components of the design and elements of a good marketing plan.
The purpose of a marketing plan is to create an outline for a company’s marketing efforts, usually over the span of a year. The marketing plan should outline a series of short-term marketing targets, aligned with a long-term marketing strategy. Ultimately, the purpose of marketing plans is making progress towards reaching and capturing the desired customer base and improving both the top and bottom line of financial statements. These plans should not be static – it is meant to be revised on an annual basis so as to remain flexible and avoid becoming irrelevant.
Most entrepreneurs could argue that a marketing plan is time-consuming and unnecessary, simply because they need to spend more time and effort running their business, which is an unfortunate mistake. A well-written marketing plan helps organizations remain focused in building the organization in a focused direction, and guides the stakeholders involved in helping to achieve its short term goals. Overall, the marketing plan is essential in supporting short-term business success and long-term business growth. Without this plan, short-term actions may not be compounding in the desired long-term direction, resulting in a sub-par performance.
Elements & Design
While the design and elements of a marketing plan will be focused on the unique desires and needs of each organizations’ goals, there are some aspects that are similar across all marketing plans. They should be driven by the long-term vision and strategic marketing goals. These elements are the marketing mix, also known as the 4 P’s of marketing: Product, Price, Place and Promotion. This marketing mix acts as a guide to help marketing managers create products, pricing, distribution and promotional campaigns for their products and services in a strategic manner. In order to create the right combination of the 4 P’s, the marketing plan focuses on the following elements:
1. Market Research: Research helps to identify the current situation in the marketplace that ultimately points towards opportunities and threats organizations should be aware of as they strive to move forward.
2. Target market: Find the target market through research and an understanding of the organization’s products and overall goals. This helps to focus and optimize efforts towards a particular customer.
3. Brand/Product Positioning: Here a perception of the brand or product is formulated for the target market. This is important as the perception of the brand/product will have an effect on sales and methods of marketing.
4. Competitive analysis: Similar to market research, this element helps to understand the competition within the market place. By doing so you identify the threats and opportunities your organization has relative to your competition.
5. Budget/Sales Forecast: Here a detailed month-by-month plan and tracking of actual results is done. This allows for decisions in financing, marketing and logistics to be made to better the return on investments.
6. Metrics for Evaluation: Finally, a method to evaluate the plan and efforts made to execute the plan are necessary. Specific metrics such as House hold penetration or more broad metrics like Return on Investment may be used to keep track of the organizations operations. Ultimately aiding in day-to-day decision making.
The Great Marketing Plan
Using these basic elements for a marketing plan, organizations can shape and execute a marketing mix based on their long-term marketing strategy. The format in which the marketing plan can be written and presented is all that remains. While this may seem a rather unimportant matter, the format is critical in the effective communication of a marketing plan. Communication is key, as having team members on the same page allows for a superior execution of the plan. Once again, each marketing plan will have a unique format based on business needs, however there are some common format features of a good marketing plan:
1. Situational Analysis: In this section of a marketing plan, the market research is discussed at length to get an in depth understanding of the marketplace. Reviews of the external environment, internal operations, product category and competition are all discussed in this section.
2. Short-term Marketing Strategy: Here, a discussion on the target market and efforts made to communicate with them are discussed. In addition, positioning remarks are also covered in this part of the written plan. It is vital to understand that this plan compounds on itself, therefore these discussions should be done with the previous situational analysis in mind. It is through this that an effective plan is created and executed.
3. Budget and Forecast: Here a detailed discussion on the financials related to the plan and forecasts based on the plan are made. Often it is recommended that a best case, worst case and most likely scenario be presented to give an understanding of all scenarios and the areas most sensitive to the success of the plan.
4. Controls and Evaluation: In this final section a discussion on the metrics for evaluation are made and the method of evaluation. It is also recommended that a risk and mitigation plan is detailed in this section to reduce the risk of failure.
All in all, a marketing plan plays a crucial role in the short-term success of any organization and ultimately the successful execution of the long-term marketing strategy. By understanding the elements of a marketing plan and communicating the plan through a well thought out design, the chances of success are elevated. When all members of the organization understand the marketing plan this leads to a higher likelihood of a successful execution.