What are the components that are most essential for a marketing plan? Nicholas Watkis explores.
Most marketers would consider their role in a business to be one of creativity, especially regarding advertising, promotion, customer relationship management and networking.
But the marketer with the mandate to get and retain business also has the responsibility for managing resources to achieve the objectives of the corporate plan. Business exists in the dynamic of the market, so a marketer needs to be able to constantly adapt resources and actions to meet changing market conditions.
The marketer tasked with getting and retaining business must be able to show how they are using assets and resources efficiently and effectively to achieve this. Thus the most important activities for the marketer are the establishment of marketing objectives, a plan for their achievement, a budget to support the plan, and the management of assets and resources to achieve the objectives. Why is this? It is because it is in these areas, that many marketers will be assessed and may be found wanting.
Preparing a marketing plan to achieve the marketing objectives is a complex process, and should not be confused with producing a marketing budget. However, it is not unknown for even large companies to confuse the production of a marketing plan with that of producing a budget. There is an erroneous assumption, that a spread sheet of numbers relating to allocated spending on the various activities of the marketing function is sufficient to be called a marketing plan; - it isn’t! Such a spread sheet may illustrate how money is to be spent, but does not include the actions required to produce income. What then should a marketing plan include?
A number of components
Setting objectives is the first priority, because it defines what is to be achieved to support the requirements of a firm’s corporate plan. Peter Drucker is quoted as saying that "if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it". So the setting of marketing objectives should be largely quantifiable and thus measureable. Unfortunately, many marketing objectives are subjective statements and therefore not measurable. Alternatively, objectives may be quantifiable, but may not be usefully comparable to other measurements, which may ultimately prove difficult for the marketer, especially when asked to give proof of their contribution to the business.
There are a number of components that are essential for a marketing plan. First the objectives of the marketing plan both financial and marketing must be clearly stated. Financial objectives should state the monetary objectives of the plan in terms of the target revenue, the net profit and the required return on assets. These are all terms that will be understood by both the CEO and the CFO, and are therefore particularly important. Marketing objectives will relate to the '4 Ps' of the marketing mix, namely product, price, promotion and place or market, but should also include quantifiable objectives such as marketing contribution and optimum performance.
Marketing planning should not be done in a vacuum, yet how many plans are written without any description of the market and economic situation in which the plan is supposed to operate? Marketers need to ensure that the assumptions made about the prevailing economic and market environment are clearly stated, and the potential risks highlighted. As both the market and economic situations are dynamic and evolving, so it must be expected that plans, especially those for the longer term will need to be adapted to meet those changes.
Having set out the objectives, the most important part of the planning process is the listing of the actions necessary for their achievement. To be effective, each action needs to have a completion date, together with the identity of those delegated with the responsibility for the action. Setting completion dates for actions helps to concentrate the mind, because their successful competition may have a profound effect on other important actions and the achievement of objectives. For instance, achieving a major contract may be a major part of the revenue objective. Thus knowing when that contract needs to be confirmed is of major significance, especially if things go wrong and the expected income has to be found from elsewhere.
Preparing alternative actions to be used when the unexpected happens or the contracts fail to materialise, is an important planning process that is frequently forgotten. Marketers must be able to change tack or divert resources into other alternative actions, and to do it quickly, if the primary actions fail to produce the results; being able to do this effectively is the art of good planning and successful management.
Finally, to illustrate how assets and investment are to be used to achieve the objectives of the marketing plan, a profit and loss projection is required together with a detailed marketing budget showing the allocation of resources.
Chief marketing officers and marketers will be increasingly be measured by their results, so it is essential that they set quantifiable objectives and detailed plans for their achievement. If marketers don’t do this, they will have failed in their responsibility and they won’t succeed in their task.
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