Imagine having to make a long journey, but having to do it without knowing the roads to be traveled and those to be avoided, their conditions, the direction to follow, the best time to leave, the presence of fuel distributors, the capacity of the tank of your car and so on. What is waiting for you? A disaster, that is certain.
Let me pass the metaphor of the journey to talk in this article about the planning that takes place in Marketing through a very important tool like the Marketing Plan .
However, before starting and given the centrality of the topic, I want it to be clear the importance of a planning activity at the beginning of any strategic process that points to a result, to highlight times, methods of execution, roles, responsibilities, tools and so on and so forth.
An obligatory planning for every activity of this type:
- when you want to improve your shape the doctor can plan a food plan and on the other hand a training will include a specific program;
- in the case of a long journey it will be very useful to decide in advance whether to use the motorway or secondary roads;
- if you want to create a product, the production plan is essential.
In an absolutely identical way, when a company wants to implement a marketing strategy, there is the support of the Marketing Plan .
Planning is fundamental for several reasons, which are summarized perfectly in a ratio: 10: 100 . What does it mean? It means that the greater initial effort that you sustain to plan on paper (10) avoids the certainly greater effort (100) to solve all those problems that inevitably would be created without planning when you start working on your project .
Good planning helps you:
- 1Raise your head and look forward: what’s waiting for you?
- 2Predicting obstacles so as not to get you into trouble;
- 3Check the progress: how much did you expect is the same as what is happening? How can you correct the shot?
- 4Have a solid reference guide.
That said, let’s get started!
Here are the questions we will answer in this article (even now I’m planning):
- 1What is a Marketing Plan and what is it for?
- 2Who implements the marketing plan?
- 3What is the structure of a Marketing Plan?
- 4Is it up to all companies to implement a Marketing Plan?
What is a Marketing Plan and what is it for?
By Marketing Plan we mean a detailed program of activities to be carried out to achieve one or more specific objectives in a given period of time . It is the action plan necessary to realize the objectives decided in the broader definition of the strategy.
In essence, the Marketing Plan serves to identify all the key variables of a self-respecting marketing action , such as the relevant public with the related needs to be met, the product or service, the distribution and communication channels more suitable; everything, in order to generate a satisfactory economic return .
The competitive advantage of the product must also be highlighted in a perfectly drafted Marketing Plancompared to products / services of the same category and the shortest way to reach potential customers and communicate them in such a way as to motivate them to choose our product rather than all others must also be established. For this last point the infamous UVP and USP , the Unique Value Proposal and the Single Sale Proposal come to our rescue .
Again, in order for all these activities to be carried out with a certain criterion, you will have to proceed, again within the Plan, to a detailed analysis of the competitors and ways to move away from them, to neutralize them, make them irrelevant with respect to the activity, the product or at the service.
At this point, it will undoubtedly be clearer how with a good Marketing Plan it is possible to organize all the activities meticulously in order to obtain the best possible result with the minimum use of resources and time , avoiding waste.
As a respectable marketer, in fact, you will also and above all have the task of minimizing the investment required by the customer , who will surely be happier with your work if he proves that you also care about not completely emptying his wallet.
Who implements a marketing plan?
It is up to the Marketing Manager realize the marketing plan, with the support of the whole team, made up of experts from S EO, SEM, Social Media, Brand and Product Manager .
The team has the task of proposing step by step adjustments and optimizations , highlighting for example the non-feasibility of certain operations at strategic or operational level and proposing improvements.
However, there is one person who is most often forgotten and excluded from this group: he is the customer! The manager of the company ! Who better than he can explain the mission and vision of the company? Who better than he knows the essence of what he does and would like to sell? Who better than he could approve the goodness of a marketing plan, not so much in the technicalities, but rather in the coherence between what the company is and what the Marketing would like to achieve ?
All the information that will emerge from a long and detailed chat with this figure, translated into objectives, and the objectives in KPI (the key performance indicators), will give an excellent push and a better approach to the plan and the actions to be implemented.
From the moment it is approved, the Marketing Plan will become the Bible to be consulted and followed to carry out all the activities with criteria.
What is the structure of a Marketing Plan?
The Marketing Plan is a structured document , divided into sections. Each section, to be drafted, includes one or more analyzes to be performed. Let’s see them together:
- 1Executive Summary
The introductory part includes a brief summary (usually about a page) of the current situation of the company but not only: it must also summarize all the salient parts of the marketing plan that you are about to browse, even trying to entice those who read it to deepen the rest of the document.
The executive summary is a simple but scientific introduction of the whole strategic-operational path that the company will have to face from that moment on. Being the summary part, the advice is to write this section at the end , when the rest of the Marketing Plan is now complete. It will include ideas regarding the functional areas involved in the Plan, such as that of the product and its competitive advantage, of finance, of the R&D area.
We will also include information on the target audience of our marketing actions (the target) and finally the milestones, which will indicate the progress of the work and give us precise feedback on the timing of the entire Plan.
- 2Mission and business objectives
Everything, actually, starts from here. This is the heart of the matter, it is the heart of the strategy. The mission is what gave life to the company and why it exists and remains on the market. It derives from the Vision and gives life to the objectives to be achieved that will be highlighted in this section.
- 3Environment analysis – External audit and internal audit
By environmental analysis we mean the photograph of the current situation that the company lives , which often takes the two forms of External Audit and Internal Audit. For Audit, we really mean a “listening” to the environment inside and outside the company, to capture all the stimuli and elements that can affect the project.
Some questions that are useful to write this section are:
- Does politics have something to do with it? Is it appropriate to keep in mind its developments in the document?
- What does the legislation say about the goals we set ourselves?
- What are the interest rates? Interested in our project?
- At what level did the technology come? Can it influence what the company wants to create?
- How do competitors behave? What are their strengths and which are the weak points that we can exploit to our advantage? What production capacity do they have? What sales channels do they occupy?
- How does the market behave? What are the trends, the products, the price level that can somehow affect or simply affect our action plan?
What you have just read are the useful questions to deal with an external audit .
Moving on to Internal Audit , it is first necessary to frame the situation and insert it in the context of “Existing product / service” or “Launch of a new product / service” .
In the first case, you will have to ask yourself:
- How much are sales currently?
- What is the market share, profit margins, production capacity?
- Does the product have its seasonality?
- Where did any past marketing actions lead? What sequel did they have? How did they affect KPIs? Which of these actions can be repeated and which ones should be banned?
If, on the other hand, you tackle the launch of a new product or service , the assessments will derive from in-depth market research and analysis of current resources that could be used in the launch phase and subsequent development.
- 4SWOT analysis
You can take advantage of most of the information that emerges in the analysis phase of the internal and external environment to realize also the Strenghts-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats analysis.
What SWOT does is a systematization of information to make it clearer with a single glance which are the opportunities and threats of the environment, and how these can relate to the strengths and weaknesses of the environment. ‘company.
This is where we go to act in practice: in this section we will define the reference public (or audience) (the target, so to speak) and how to reach it, the product and the type of positioning we want to assign to it, the channels on which we want to distribute it in depending on its positioning, the price lines, the channels to promote and publicize it and above all how to communicate it.
The whole planning activity will take place and the target audience will have as its fulcrum because it is based on a correct approach that the success of our marketing plan is based: at the end of it all, it will be up to him to decide whether to buy what the company wants sell or not .
Consequently, we should review the purchasing behavior of our potential buyers in relation to the specific category or sub-category of products in which our product is included and ask:
- Which are the subjects involved in the purchase decision? Who are we communicating to? The ideal is to proceed to a segmentation that takes into account not only the classic socio-demographic variables, but also the so-called Psychographic ones: you will have to start a real psychological scan of the target audience and understand what it thinks, what concept it has of itself, who they are his reference groups, what he does in his spare time, how he lives, what his fears are, his deepest desires and so on. A useful model used for this analysis is the AIO, an acronym for Activity-Interests-Opinions. At the end of everything, you will no longer get a cold and sterile target, but live figures, with a soul and a way of thinking and living: the personas.
- What is their degree of involvement? What is good to communicate and what is better to highlight?
- Is it possible to anticipate changes in the market and enrich product communication?
- How long is the consumer journey? (That is: for this category of product, how much time passes from the moment the consumer realizes he has a lack to the moment he buys?)
From the answers we will give to these questions will emerge the information necessary to draw up the real strategic part.
To best produce this section you will be helped by the variables of the Marketing Mix which, as you well know, have surpassed the typical 4 classification and have become 7. It is always true what you read in the first part of this section and never forget it: the point of departure is always your potential customer and each variable must be related to him:
How will it be used by the customer? How to make its characteristics perfectly adherent to your needs? Are there any superfluous? How can you position it to become the top of mind product in your mind? In this regard, how can one differentiate from that of competitors?
What is the production cost? What value does the customer attribute to him? For this type of products, how flexible is the demand compared to the price? What pricing policies do competitors apply?
Place and Promotion
Where and how is it best to distribute the product? Let’s go back to our typical customer: which shops do you visit? How do you search? Is it the case to preside over online, offline or both channels?
Basically, you have to be present with the product, with its promotion and with the right message in all the online / offline places that the consumer goes through during his consumer journey, obviously adapting the message to the point of the buying process in which he takes find.
At this point in the speech you should already know the target audience. What you need to know at this stage is whether this audience is populous enough for a market demand for the product that is enough to guarantee a profit.
Are processes at all levels optimized? Can quality still be improved? Is it still possible to cut costs? Fundamental variable, given that the constant improvement of processes leads to increased profits as each process is better organized.
How is the service provided perceived by the customer? What the customer thinks is essential for a winning position in his mind. Can you provide tangible evidence that can testify and confirm the value of the product? Collect testimonials from satisfied customers and spread them online and offline. Whoever is going to buy it will take it into account and will get a proof that it will increase the probability of purchase.
Now, beyond all the theoretical classifications from which you can take inspiration to obtain the variables of the marketing mix, know that they are and remain theoretical. Each product, each service has a story of its own and these variables can potentially add others, specific to the product or service for which you are writing the entire marketing plan. For example, Seth Godin has even introduced the variable “Purple Cow”, or Purple Cow: your product or service is extraordinary, would it attract attention like a purple cow would do in the middle of a herd of black and brown cows?
- 6Monitoring and evaluation of results
We are in the field, it is at this stage that we can determine whether the plan has its effects and brings the estimated results in terms of turnover, market share, costs and profits.
Clearly, in addition to these variables, we will evaluate all those factors that we have decided to be the KPIs for this plan.
In this regard it is also appropriate that an alternative action plan has been provided, because although the failure of the plan is unlikely if we have carried out all the previous phases to perfection, it is true that the markets are variable, sometimes unpredictable and could reserve us surprises.
Therefore, the review and correction of the action plan is an activity that we must always provide for our Marketing Plan.
Is it up to all companies to implement a Marketing Plan?
If you have come this far with reading, it is clear that the answer is as important as expected. Sure!
Given the prerequisites, the advantages, the facilities, it is good that any company produces its own very personal marketing plan, if only to enjoy all the advantages that this activity brings with it that we have seen in the introduction to the article.
Obviously, companies of limited size will not be burdened with the obligations of structuring, language and detail that instead need to be found in the Marketing Plan of a medium-large company. In these latter realities, the document must be legible to the interested company areas and have a certain level of detail to be understandable even to those who did not participate in its definition.