The Marketing Plan

Working within the strategies and plans set by the levels above them, marketing managers come up with a marketing plan for individual products, lines, brands, channels, or customer groups. A marketing plan is a written document that summarizes what the marketer has learned about the marketplace and indicates how the firm plans to reach its marketing objectives.20 It contains tactical guidelines for the marketing programs and financial allocations over the planning period.21 The most frequently cited shortcomings of current marketing plans, according to marketing executives, are lack of realism, insufficient competitive analysis, and a short-run focus.

Contents of a Marketing Plan

A marketing plan usually contains the following sections.

  • • Executive summary and table of contents.
  • • Situation analysis. This section presents relevant background data on sales, costs, the market, competitors, and the macroenvironment. How do we define the market, how big

Businesses Charting a New Direction



Continued prosperity or even survival may depend on how quickly and effectively a firm is able to chart a strategy for a new direction. Consider these examples.

  • • With consumers increasingly using smart phones for directions and maps, Garmin, the biggest maker of GPS devices, found sales declining rapidly. Its solution was to partner with automakers and embed GPS systems in dashboard “command centers" Hedging its bets, Garmin also developed its own smartphone app.
  • • When Dow Chemical found its commodity chemical strategy was no longer profitable, it shifted focus to unique, innovative high-margin products like solar shingles to capitalize on four main trends: clean energy,

health and nutrition, consumerism in the emerging world, and infrastructure.

• The runaway success of Amazon’s Kindle, Apple’s iPad, and other tablet products has turned the book industry upside down. Bookstores, libraries, and publishers are all recognizing that the sale and delivery of a book are now just a download away. Libraries can lend e-readers and e-books, and when the due date arrives, the book just disappears!

Sources: Erik Rhey, “A GPS Maker Shifts Gears,” Fortune, March 19, 2012; Geoff Colvin, “Dow’s New Direction,” Fortune, March 19, 2012; Ben Bradford, “Libraries Grapple with the Downside of E-books,”, May 29, 2012; Sharon Tregaskis, “Buy the Book,”

Cornell Alumni Magazine, November-December 2012; “Great Digital Expectations,” The Economist, September 10, 2011.

is it, how fast is it growing, and what are the relevant trends and critical issues? Firms use all this information to carry out a SWOT analysis.

  • • Marketing strategy. The marketing manager defines the mission, marketing and financial objectives, and needs the market offering is intended to satisfy as well as its competitive positioning. This requires inputs from areas such as purchasing, manufacturing, sales, finance, and human resources.
  • • Marketing tactics. Here the marketing manager outlines the marketing activities that will be undertaken to execute the marketing strategy, including decisions about the product or service offering, pricing, channels, and communications.
  • • Financial projections. Financial projections include a sales forecast (by month and product category), an expense forecast (broken down into finer categories), and a break-even analysis (how many units the firm must sell to offset its fixed costs and average per-unit variable costs).
  • • Implementation controls. Management outlines the controls for monitoring activities and adjusting implementation. Typically, this section spells out the goals and budget for each month or quarter so management can review results and take corrective action as needed.

From Marketing Plan to Marketing Action

Most companies create yearly marketing plans. They start planning well in advance of the implementation date to allow time for marketing research, analysis, management review, and coordination between departments. As each action program begins, they monitor ongoing results, investigate any deviation from plans, and take corrective steps as needed to keep marketing performance on track. Some firms prepare contingency plans so they can update and adapt the marketing plan at any time.

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