When You Thought It Was Safe...
Over the past several decades, the orientation of business management has evolved
- from production to finance to marketing - to reflect the changes in the society
around us and the new ways in which business must be conducted to accommodate
them. Today, marketing has become a highly sophisticated and formalized discipline
which most managers find they cannot do without - yet many still fail to grasp
the basic concepts of this new science.
Bigger Than A Breadbasket
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
the broader definition previously mentioned. But where to begin?
Finding the Handle
Specifically, marketing addresses four major aspects of taking a product to
1) The Product
2) The Price
From these basic elements one can grasp that the essence of marketing is
to change the focus of management from the company and its products to the
consumer and his needs. Yet it is often not clear how to take maximum advantage
of the business benefits which this dynamic philosophy can provide. A comprehensive
tutorial is needed to guide the manager step by step through the process of
marketing his company and its products: the marketing
What's in it for Me?
The marketing plan, as the name suggests, is simply a comprehensive guide
to implementing the marketing program over the planning period (most often,
but not limited to, 12 months). The benefits that accrue to management are
the same that accrue for the planning of any activity - efficiency, effectiveness
and cost savings. A well-conceived and executed marketing plan can:
....give management the "big picture" of the company and its markets.
Perhaps for the first time, management can examine the interrelationships
among product lines, operating divisions, markets or programs, and compare
....provide the initial core intelligence for a comprehensive market data
base. Information on competitors, market conditions, customer needs, perceptions
of the company by customers or prospects, sales effectiveness, new technology
developments or other developing trends can be collected, organized, analyzed
and used to make informed business decisions.
....pinpoint company strengths and weaknesses. Management perceptions of
company strengths and weaknesses usually don't coincide with those of other employees,
customers or prospects. Clear definition of the situation can lead directly
to good strategic planning which capitalizes on strengths and repairs weaknesses.
....identify problems and obstacles. Unforeseen problems arising suddenly
can throw a wrench into management's sales and profit expectations. Once defined,
specific problems (which can seem to be a general roadblock when undefined)
can often be dealt with tactically, opening the door to continued growth.
....expose hidden market opportunities. Through the analysis of assembled
market data, previously unnoticed potential can be defined and realized. This
is perhaps the greatest potential direct benefit of the marketing plan.
....provide the basis for analysis of the competitive situation. Comparison
of the company with competition across the board can reveal potential threats
....identify segments within a market. Frequently, markets are composed of
several segments with different interests in the product or service. These
segments may be sold more effectively on an individual basis by appealing
directly to their narrow interests.
....help management to establish realistic objectives. Too often, arbitrary
or unachievable objectives are set due to misunderstanding of the opportunity
and lack of focus on selected efforts.
....provide measurement of performance against objectives. If performance
can't be measured, how can it be determined whether the goal has been reached?
And how can the decision be made to switch tactics or abandon the strategy
if the program founders?
....evaluate alternate and contingency strategies. This activity gives management
great flexibility in addressing business decisions, but is unlikely to occur
without a marketing plan.
....set priorities for marketing activities. No company ever has adequate
budget or manpower to attack all market segments simultaneously. The plan
allows management to focus on and support selected objectives, allocating
resources according to current opportunity and potential return.
....assure that communications are reaching the correct audience. Lack of
identification or targeting of the proper audience (demographics) can sink
an otherwise perfect communications program.
....assure that communications appeal to the correct audience. The wrong
message to the right audience won't motivate anyone - the appeal must be made
to appropriate interests and personality types of the target audience (psychographics).
....establish dates and deadlines. If it hasn't been planned, accurate deadlines
can't be assigned - activities may go unfinished long after the planning period
....place responsibility for results. Activities often go unimplemented when
there is a confusion over specific responsibility; a good plan always assigns
responsibility for each activity to a single person.
....allow efficient use of marketing dollars by coordinating all marketing
programs. Cost savings through economy of scale and avoidance of duplication
can be incorporated into any marketing program with advance planning.
....take the guesswork out of budgeting. A good plan provides line item projection
of all marketing activities and costs, facilitating the creation of a zero-based
A marketing plan can be a powerful tool, but it cannot be all things to all
people. It will not necessarily provide a client with a list of new prospects
to call on; the research phase may not uncover any strikingly new data (although
confirmation of what was only suspected is valuable in itself); it will not
guarantee the success of any aspect of a business - it will only maximize
the probability of success. In fact, it will accomplish very little if it
is ignored or left to gather dust in a drawer. The marketing plan, like all
other management tools, must be used to be effective.
The Dynamic Duo
The key is dynamic. The plan should be a living document, constantly scrutinized,
re-evaluated and revised to reflect changes in the company and in the marketplace.
The plan should be renewed, revised or totally replaced at the close of each
planning period, and management must be rededicated to the implementation
of each new plan every year. Yes, management and the marketing plan can be