The term marketing has long been loosely associated with the principal activities of promoting and advertising, and has often been narrowly defined, even separated from the sales function. The contemporary business approach, however, embraces a broader definition: "The generation of a profit by managing the resources and activities which ascertain and fulfill the needs and desires of people who buy products and services."
      Obviously, this broad definition includes most functions and activities which take place in the business environment, and it is easy to see the theoretical value of marketing as an umbrella under which to integrate and manage all business activities. Specifically, marketing addresses four major aspects of taking a product to market:

1) The product: all its characteristics (size, color, quality, category, etc.) and how to modify it to better meet the needs and desires of the consumer
2) The price: where to set it and when in order to maximize sales and profits
3) Distribution: how to get the product most effectively into the hands of the consumer
4) Promotion: how to motivate the consumer to purchase the product

What Can Marketing Do for Your Business?
In the sophisticated marketplace of the twenty-first century, that question is so basic as to be irrelevant. Every business owner and manager knows that marketing drives business success, and every business practices marketing in some form. More significant questions might be: "Am I making use of marketing in the right way to get where I want to go?"or "How effectively and efficiently am I using my marketing dollars?" Unfortunately, for most businesses, the answers to these questions are "No," and "Not very." There are solutions, however, and they begin (as most solutions do) with good planning.
Common Sense and the Power of Planning
The process I use for developing marketing plans consists of 6 steps:
1) Situation Analysis
Before planning begins, a comprehensive picture of the marketing environment is needed: the product line, distribution system, market trends, competition, sales force, current communications activities, perceptions of the company by suppliers, customers, prospects and employees. This is accomplished primarily through informal interviews with company management, sales personnel, customers, prospects and other market influences. This is usually the most costly and time consuming phase of the project, but it is absolutely essential.
2) Objectives
When the whole marketing picture is well in hand, research findings are presented to the client, and together, based on these findings, we establish realistic, measurable objectives for the planning period.
3) Audience Analysis
Based on the research and the newly set objectives, we determine the demographics and psychographics of the target audience (often specifiers, purchasers and other influences on the buying decision).
4) Strategy Development
For each objective specific strategies are established which will lead to the achievement of those objectives.
5) Implementation
For each strategy, specific activities which will support the strategy are line itemized. This includes proposed budgets and time parameters.
6) Measurement
For each objective a measurement strategy or tool is proposed (this may be included in the implementation section).       The marketing plan, as the name suggests, is a comprehensive guide to implementing a marketing program. The benefits that accrue to management are, at minimum, the same that accrue for the planning of any activity - efficiency, effectiveness and cost savings. A well-conceived and executed marketing plan can hold many other benefits for the astute manager as well.