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15.4: The Marketing Plan in Action

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    Explain how the marketing plan is used by marketing and the overall organization

    In the first few modules of the course we discussed the importance of the marketing planning process to create alignment between marketing activities, company objectives, and the corporate mission. At that point we hadn’t discussed the elements of the marketing plan in any detail, so we focused on the general outline of the planning process. But now you’re miles down the road, having learned about the marketing mix and many other elements of the marketing plan. It’s the perfect time to circle back and revisit the planning process and see the marketing plan in action.

    The specific things you’ll learn in this section include:

    • Discuss how the marketing plan is used to coordinate efforts between the marketing team and other parts of the organization
    • Explain how the marketing plan is used to track progress, evaluate impact, and adjust course where needed
    • Explain why and how to update the marketing plan
    The Market Planning Process: a vertical Flowchart with 7 layers. The chart is organized into three subunits: the first subunit includes Layer 1 only, the second subunit includes Layer 2, Layer 3, and Layer 4, and the third subunit includes Layer 5, Layer 6, and Layer 7. From top of flow chart: Layer 1 “Corporate Mission” points to Layer 2 “Situational Analysis”. Layer 2 points to Layer 3 “Internal Factors: Strengths & Weaknesses” and “External Factors: Opportunities & Threats”. Layer 3 points to Layer 4 “Corporate Strategy: Objectives & Tactics”. Layer 4 concludes the second subunit of the flowchart and points to Layer 5, which begins the third subunit of the flowchart. Layer 5 is “Marketing Strategy: Objectives & Tactics”. Layer 5 points to Layer 6, a graphic made of five items: “Target Market” is the central item and the 4 Ps (Product, Price, Promotion, and Place) are attached to the four corners of “Target Market”. Layer 6 points to the seventh and final layer “Implementation & Evaluation”.

    Creating Alignment

    The marketing plan captures the outputs from the marketing planning process in one cohesive document. If the plan is done well, it puts a plan in place that aligns the marketing strategy, objectives, and tactics with the corporate mission. It also supports the corporate objectives and strategy, which creates alignment with other functions across the company.

    While this alignment is assumed, the presentation and formalization of the marketing plan often surfaces misalignment. Perhaps the finance team had assumed that the promotion strategy was not central to the plan and had reduced the budget. Perhaps the supply chain team had not recognized how aggressive the new product plans were and is not staffed to support them. While it it frustrating to identify points of confusion and misalignment, it is always best to do that in the planning process before it has impact on customers and on the market.

    The marketing plan acts as a mechanism to communicate with other functions and to check for alignment.

    Clarifying the Action Plan

    There are many reasons why organizations fail to execute effectively, but many can be traced back to communication. When a large marketing organization begins to execute a plan, it’s important that everyone understands what the goals are, but it’s equally important to know which analysis supports (or possibly undermines) the plan. If a marketer is not fully aware of competitive threats that have been identified, then he may unknowingly make trade-offs that fail to address the competitive risk. If a product marketer is deeply focus on defining a new product and bringing it to market, she might not be aware of significant dependencies on the supply chain and distribution channels.

    Similarly, in small organizations, there is a tendency to jump over the analysis and simply do what needs to be done. The marketing plan requires a greater level of rigor and serves to communicate that rigor to the rest of the team. The marketing plan is also a requirement of most funders (banks and investors alike), because it forces a degree of discipline on small businesses, which they may not already have.

    The marketing plan is an important tool to communicate detailed plans within the marketing function.

    Informing Adjustments and New Strategies

    As soon as the first activity identified in the plan is executed, the marketing plan begins to be outdated. The more successful the plan is, the more quickly it will require a significant revision. If you are able to identify and implement a strategy that results in tremendous success, that will change the competitive dynamics and cause other companies to adjust their strategy and tactics.

    Moreover, each action will generate new market data about what works and what doesn’t work. This creates opportunities for new analysis and better strategies.

    Sometimes an organization can get away with small quarterly updates to the marketing plan and major annual revisions. Other times, the market has shifted enough by the end of one quarter that a completely new approach is warranted—or a more aggressive implementation of the current approach. Either way, a regular update to the marketing plan allows for new analysis informed by new market experience, opportunities to realign plans with other functions, and the chance to inform others within the marketing function so that the team can learn and evolve together.

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