Get to know what a marketing plan is, why it is worth having it, and how it will help you to succeed in a competitive fight. The article discusses the process that leads to your own marketing plan.
How to write a marketing plan?
Definition and application
A marketing plan is a document that includes a plan for marketing products or services. It is usually prepared in writing by the company’s owner, manager or a team of specialists with participation of the enterprise’s management. Its receiver is most often the entrepreneur himself, but it should be also known by employees. It is also prepared in connection with the entities that finance the company.
It is one of a group of instruments used to manage a company efficiently. It may pose a tool controlling progress in achieving the set goals. Comparing achievements to specific control points allow to introduce corrections into a marketing plan.
A marketing plan has a formal structure, but it may be used as a formal or informal document of high flexibility. It may be used for: preparation of arguments for introduction of a new product, adjustment of the marketing approach to the existing products, development of a whole marketing plan, which will be used in a business plan. A marketing plan may refer to a local, national or international market, so it can be differentiated in accordance to the region, but also to the product, i.e. you prepare a general marketing plan and detailed plans for a market or a product (Westwood 2006: 20-21).
According to a definition presented by McDonald and Wilson (2012: 15), a “strategic marketing plan should be a clear and a simple list of main market trends, the major target market segments and their requirements in the scope of the provided value and the intended manners of providing the company’s offer with higher value than that offered by the competition. It needs to unambiguously point to priorities in the scope of marketing aims and strategies, and present financial consequences of actions”.
Apart from strategic marketing plans, encompassing all connections and market actions, there are also such medium periodic marketing (tactical) plans, which encompass a financial projection of expenses and effects, as well as marketing operation plans created for fragmentary actions, e.g. promotion, distribution (Olearnik 2003: 18-19).
- The process of marketing planning embraces (Westwood 2006: 19):
- performance of marketing actions inside and outside the company,
- looking and strong and weak sides of the company,
- setting marketing goals,
- creating marketing strategies,
- defining programs,
- determining budget,
- analyzing results of actions and verifications of aims, strategies and programs.
It is not easy to prepare a good marketing plan because there is a need to combine various data, both those coming from inside and outside of the company. Nevertheless it is worth to take this struggle, because marketing planning is a significant element that makes it possible to build a competitive advantage and achieve success by the company.
There is one of the possible outlines of the document, together with a short description regarding the content:
- Introduction – listing reasons of writing the marketing plan, determination of its application, provision of the major factors that influence the company;
- Summary – the most important information, which will allow to understand the essence of the presented marketing plan;
- Situation analysis (assumptions, sales, strategic markets, key products, key outlets) – it is a summary of results from research of internal and external situation of the company, results of the SWOT analysis, a review of key elements that form a company’s situation, such as e.g. production or sales data;
- Marketing targets – determination of what a company is willing to achieve when it comes to the number of orders, size of sales and market share;
- Marketing strategies – methods of realization of marketing targets, elements of mix marketing are applied here, i.e. product, price (discounts, payment conditions, procedures of determination of prices), promotion (methods of promotion, budget for advertising (distribution channels, members);
- Schedule of realization – determination of time of performing actions and the scope of responsibility of the selected departments/ employees;
- Budget – a cost of realizing a marketing plan;
- Profit and loss account;
- Control and update procedures – manners of monitoring, determination of time framework of the plan, procedures of implementing potential corrections;
Stages of preparation of a marketing plan:
1. Recognition of company’s strategic goals
Usually, a company, in its strategic assumptions, takes particular targets, e.g. obtaining a top position in the branch, an increase in the market share, etc. You need to know what your company’s strategic targets are so the prepared marketing plan goes along with them. You should not act the other way around.
2. Collection of data about the business environment
Companies operate in a particular environment. You need to collect information about this environment. A starting point is identification of entities that function inside it, as well as specification of relationships that your company establishes with it. There will be also a need to perform or commission marketing research, which will show phenomena and tendencies present on the market. Analysis of the environment of the company allows to identify opportunities and threats that appear inside it. An opportunity is an event in the environment, which may lead to significant positive changes in sales and in profits of an enterprise. Threat is a phenomena in the environment, which in the face of lack of a proper reaction causes negative changes in sales and profits of the company.
3. Collection of data about the company
It is worth to perform an analysis of the internal situation of the company. It may be done through historical data. It is about specifying what the company owns, how it operates, what effects it achieved, what are its intentions, etc. This analysis allows to evaluate the company’s ability to react on opportunities and threats that appear in the environment with use of the resources that the company owns. It allows to identify strong and weak sides of the company. Aim of this analysis is to identify those resources of the company, which will have crucial meaning for achieving permanent competitive advantage.
4. SWOT analysis and market segmentation
After performing the research mentioned in previous two points, you may list key information and present them in a form of the SWOT analysis. It means presentation of results of the performed external and internal diagnosis of the company, exposing; strong and weak sides, opportunities and threats. Proper conclusions can be drawn on its basis, regarding a plan of further actions.
There is no such thing as an “average consumer”. Therefore, we need to specify the differences between consumers, the manner, in which they may be grouped, so the message reaches them more effectively. In other words, you need to segment the market, i.e. divide it in accordance to criteria into homogeneous groups of consumers.
5. Determination of assumptions
A plan is based on assumptions that refer to market activity in the period embraced by planning. These are mostly internal factors towards the company, which do not depend on it. There is a need to consider conditions and situation on the market, technical factors, actions of the competition, legal circumstances, etc. If you are sure that you will implement the plan regardless the assumptions, you do not need to include them in the marketing plan.
6. Marketing targets and results
Determine marketing targets, i.e. specify what you want to achieve and try to estimate the results. Aim is an indispensable element of each planned action, it is a singpost and a basis of effectiveness control. Marketing aims are created on the basis of company’s targets and strategies. It is their certain version focusing on the market and on the customer.
Marketing purposes are of superordinate position towards the concept of actions, which means that at first they need to be determined, and then you need to specify the path you want to follow in order to achieve them. The targets should be outlined in a hierarchic order (from the most to the least important), presented in a measurable manner, realistic, they cannot be contrary.
Seldom does a company struggle to achieve only one aim. It is usually willing to realize a certain combination of aims. We may say about a basic combination of five targets (so called primary targets), composed from: profit, market share, size of sales, growth, creation of a product that is resistant towards actions taken by competition. Complementation of primary targets is posed by secondary targets, which may point to the manner of achieving a primary target (Olearnik 2003: 30).
There are exemplary categories of targets presented below. They may be found in marketing plans (ibid.):
- market targets: sales size, dynamic of sales, market shares, development of new markets, penetration of the existing markets;
- financial and economic targets: profit, profitability of turnover, rate of profit, structure of capital, creditworthiness, financial liquidity;
- social targets: social security and satisfaction of workers, integration of personal aims with targets of the company, development of employees;
- prestigious targets: independence, social mission, company’s image, social and political influence.
7. Marketing strategies and action plans
Prepare marketing strategies for your marketing targets, i.e. methods that will allow you to achieve them. They relate to elements of mix marketing, i.e. with a product, price, promotion and distribution. It is important to achieve a synergy effect, through competent application of the whole composition.
Afterwards, prepare plans of actions that need to be taken in order to realize each of the market aims. At first you form general actions to add detailed ones beforehand.
8. Realization programs
Determine what, who, when, where and in what way separate tasks will be realized. Specify a date, effect of the task, its character (repeatable of single time), budget and the manner of performance. While strategic plans describe targets and manners of their realization in a general way, the programs describe the actions taken in order to realize a strategy in a highly detailed way.
You always need to be aware that the methods that you accepted cost. They need to be beneficial for the company. A minimal scope of information provided in this point covers data about the total cost of realization of the plan. Height of the budget depends on two parameters: (1) Relation of the marketing budget to average income in a given branch, (2) height of costs that need to be born in order to meet the set targets.
The budget may be divided between products and separate kinds of marketing operations (marketing-mix). You will obtain a two-dimensional matrix in this way (see: Table 1).
Table 1. Arrays budget breakdown
|The life- cycle (introduction, development, maturity, decline)|
|Market position (achieved or planned, e.g. leader)|
Terms of payment
10. Write a plan
Having completed the previous steps, you may move to preparation of a plan in a written version. An exemplary structure (outline) of a marketing plan has been already provided earlier.
11. Control of plan and update procedures
Do not forget that conditions are constantly changing, this is why you need to prepare proper procedures that enable control of realization of the plan, and to introduce updates in it.
A system of control refers more to people responsible for realization of plan than to schedules and costs. The process of control encompasses:
- determination of standards – the agreed costs and sales costs, time arrangements of action plans,
- examination of realization and effectivenes – comparison of real realization of plan with standards,
- offering preventive steps in a situation of deviation from standards, through determination of corrective procedures.