The marketing planning (concretized in the marketing plan) is an essential organizational activity, considering the hostile and complex competitive business environment. Our ability and skills to perform profitable sales are affected by hundreds of internal and external factors that interact in a difficult way to evaluate. A marketing manager must understand and build an image upon these variables and their interactions, and must take rational decisions.
Let us see what do we call a “marketing plan”? It is the result of the planning activity, a document that includes a review of the organization’s place in the market, an analysis of the STEP factors as well as a SWOT analysis. A complete plan would also formulate some presumptions on why we think the past marketing strategy was successful or not. The next phase shall present the objectives we set, together with the strategies to achieve these objectives. In a logical sequence, we will further need to evaluate the results and formulate alternative plans of action. A plan would consist in details of responsibilities, costs, sales prognosis and budgeting issues.
In the end, we should not forget to specify how the plan (or plans) will be controlled, by what means we will measure its results.
We will see how to build the marketing plan, what is its structure: after we will see how to build the traditional marketing plan, we will take a look at the e-marketing plan and see how the unique features of the internet will require some changes in the approach of writing a marketing plan.
But, before we continue, we must understand and accept that steps of the marketing plan are universal. It is a logical approach of the planning activity, no matter where we apply it. The differences you meet from a plan to another consist in the degree of formality accorded to each phase, depending on the size and nature of the organization involved. For example, a small and not diversified company would adopt less formal procedures, because the managers in these cases have more experience and functional knowledge than the subordinates, and they are able to achieve direct control upon most factors. On the other hand, in a company with diversified activity, it is less likely that top managers have functional information in a higher degree than the subordinate managers. Therefore, the planning process must be formulated to ensure a strict discipline for everyone involved in the decisional chain.
II. The general marketing plan
The classical marketing plan would follow the following scheme of 8 stages:
1. Declaring the mission: this is the planning stage when we establish the organizational orientations and intentions, thus providing a sense of direction. In most cases, this is a general presentation of the company’s intentions and almost has a philosophic character.
2. Establishing current objectives: it is essential for the organization to try to determine with preciseness the objectives to be reached. These objectives, in order to be viable, must be SMART. SMART is an acronym and stands for “Specific”, “Measurable”, “Attainable”, “Realistic” and “Timed”. The objectives must also convey the general organizational mission.
3. Gathering information: this stage is based on the concept of marketing audit. After performing the audit of the macro-environment by analyzing the STEP factors (social, technologic, economic and politic), we should turn the focus upon the immediate extern environment (the micro-environment) and analyze the competitive environment, the costs and the market. Finally, we will conclude with the SWOT analysis, by this way we will have a general view upon the internal environment compared to the external one. The SWOT analysis combine the two perspectives, from the inside and from the outside, because the Strengths and the Weaknesses are internal issues of an organization, while the Opportunities and Threads come from the outside.
4. Re-formulating objectives: after the close examination of data gathered in the previous stage, sometimes it is needed to re-formulate the initial objectives, in order to address all the issues that might have come up from the previous stage. The distance between the initial objective and the re-formulated objective will be covered by appropriate strategies. We must ensure the re-formulated objective is SMART as well.
5. Establishing strategies: several strategies are to be formulated, in order to cover the distance between what we want to achieve and what is possible to achieve, with the resources at our disposal. As we would usually have several options, we should analyze them and chose the one with more chances to achieve the marketing objectives.
6. Plan of actions: consists in a very detailed description of the procedures and means to implement the actions we want to take. For example, if the strategy implies a raise in advertising volume, the plan of actions should establish where the advertisements will be placed, the dates and frequency of the advertising campaigns, a set of procedures to evaluate their effectiveness. The actions we plan to take must be clearly formulated, measurable, and the results must be monitored and evaluated.
7. Implementation and control: consist in the series of activities that must be performed in order to run the marketing plan in accordance to the objectives set by the marketer. At this stage, it is critical to gain the support of all members if the organization, especially when the marketing plan is due to affect the organization from its grounds.
8. Performance measurement: constitutes the last but not the less important stage of the marketing plan, since we can achieve only what we can measure. In order to measure the performances achieved through the marketing plan, we need to constantly monitor each previous stage of the plan.
The marketing plan that has a feedback cycle, from 8th stage back to the 4th. That is because sometimes during the planning process, we might need to perform stages 4 to 8 several times before the final plan can be written.
III. The e-marketing plan
The e-marketing plan is built exactly on the same principles as the classical plan. There is no different approach, but there might be some formal differences given by the uniqueness of the internet environment. Many of these differences come from the necessity to ensure a high rate of responsiveness from the customers, since the e-world is moving faster and requires faster reaction from its companies, compared to the traditional offline marketplace.
Even though it is perfectly acceptable and is a common practice to use the 8-stage classic model for the e-marketing plan as well, you might want to consider the simplified version proposed by Chaffey, who identifies four major steps to build the e-marketing plan:
1. Strategic analysis: consists in continuous scanning of the macro- and micro-environment. The accent should fall on the consumers’ needs that change very rapidly in the online market, as well as on surveying the competitors’ actions and evaluating the opportunities offered by new technologies.
2. Defining strategic objectives: the organization must have a clear vision and establish if the media channels will complement the traditional ones, or will replace them. We must define specific objectives (don’t forget to check if they are SMART!) and we must also specify the contribution of the online activities to the organization’s turnover.
3. Formulating strategies – we do that by addressing the following essential issues:
- develop strategies towards the target markets;
- positioning and differentiating strategies;
- establish priorities of online activities;
- focus attention and efforts on CRM and financial control;
- formulate strategies for product development;
- develop business models with well-established strategies for new products or services, as well as pricing policies;
- necessity for some organizational restructuring;
- changes in the structure of communication channels.
4. Implementing strategies: includes careful execution of all necessary steps to achieve established objectives. It could refer re-launching of a website, promo campaigns for a new or rewritten site, monitoring website efficiency and many more.
Note: a common strategy to achieve e-marketing objectives is the communication strategy. The steps to built a coherent communication plan will be presented within a further article.
IV. The e-marketing plan (sample titles)
1. Executive Summary
a. overview upon present conjuncture;
b. key aspects of the strategic e-marketing plan.
2. Situational Analysis
a. characteristics of the e-market;
b. possible factors of success;
c. competitors’ analysis;
d. technological factors;
e. legal factors;
f. social factors;
g. possible problems and opportunities.
3. The e-Marketing Objectives
a. product profile;
b. target market;
c. sales objectives.
4. The e-Marketing Strategies
a. product strategies;
b. price strategies;
c. promotion strategies;
d. distribution strategies.
5. Technical Issues
a. website content;
b. website “searcheability”;
c. logging security (for customers and staff);
d. customer registration procedure;
g. order forms and feedback forms;
h. access levels to online resources;
i. credit card transactions;
j. website hosting;
k. website publishing;
l. technical staff (size, requirements)
About the author:
Otilia is a certified Marketing consultant with expertise in e-Marketing and e-Business. She developed and teach her own online course in Principles of Marketing (http://class.universalclass.com/emarketing). You can contact Otilia through her Marketing resources portal at http://www.teawithedge.com