In this section, briefly describe your marketing objectives. Ask yourself why is it important to market your goods or services? What do you hope to accomplish? What image does your good or service have in the eyes of the consumer? What marketing channels will you use to offer your product? How will your current customers react to a new product offering? State your marketing objectives in a format that is measurable. Are you seeking to increase gross sales? What are your market share objectives?
Goods or Services
In this section, briefly describe your products, product lines, and services. What are you selling? Is it a good, a service, or more commonly, a combination of the two? What are the product’s benefits? What makes you think that this good or service is in needed in the marketplace?
In this section, briefly describe the technological, financial and human resources needed to execute your plan. What are the costs associated with these resources? Who is responsible for covering these costs? Do you have the resources in place or will you have to obtain them? When considering human resources, can you out-source by hiring consultants, are you re-assigning current employees, or will you need to hire new employees?
In this section, briefly describe what the projected outcomes of your marketing efforts will be. Is there a payback period? When will your proposed marketing plan produce a profit? Describe the type of outcomes you expect to achieve in both the short term and the long term? Essentially, you are presenting compelling evidence that your plan will work.
In this section of the marketing plan, provide a brief overview of the company, its product lines and its overall marketing strategy. Remember that many readers of the marketing plan will be company employees as well, so keep your descriptions brief and concise. In addition, highlight the company’s recent history and successes –use these to build the reader’s confidence that your company and its current marketing plans are on the right course.
Strategic Focus and Plan
The Strategic Focus and Plan sets the strategic direction for the entire organization, a direction with which proposed actions of the marketing plan must be consistent. This section may or may not be included in the marketing plan, depending on the plan’s intended audience. The components of this section of the marketing plan consist of the mission/vision, goals, and core competency/sustainable competitive advantage.
Concisely define the mission/vision of the company. This qualitative description focuses on the fundamental activities the company will undertake in order to best serve its stakeholder groups. Describe in general terms product, price and place strategies and how these will maximize shareholder value and build relationships with stakeholder groups.
The Goals section sets both the financial and non-financial targets – where possible in quantitative terms – against which the company’s performance will be measures. It is acceptable to use lists or other information presentation techniques to improve the readability of this section of the marketing plan.
Discuss the company’s core competency and any sustainable competitive advantages accrued. Your core competency is your unique ability to do something that your competition cannot or does not do to meet consumer needs. Core competencies yield competitive advantages. These competitive advantages allow you to more effectively and efficiently compete in the marketplace. Competitive advantages include items such as lower cost factors of production, unique products, unique technologies, unique marketing expertise, protected access to markets, etc. Ultimately you should envision competitive advantage as layers of an onion: you need multiple and fluid layers of competitive advantage to sustain long-term economic health. A single competitive advantage is not defendable in the long-term unless it provides you with a monopoly on one of the factors of production.
Most marketers use a form of situation analysis called a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) to assist them in conducting a company analysis. The Strengths and Weaknesses usually have an internal focus (within the company) and Opportunities and Threats have an external focus (outside of the company). Many companies seek to match strengths with opportunities while managing weaknesses and containing threats. A balancing act to be certain and one that requires brutal honesty in order to be effective. The Situation analysis is a snapshot to answer the question “Where are we now?”
In this section of the SWOT analysis, describe the current state of the Strengths and Weaknesses of the company. Internal factors to consider when developing a SWOT analysis include items such as Management, Offerings, Marketing, Personnel, Finance, Manufacturing, Research & Development, Information Systems, etc. The goal is to provide an overview of the management team, the product offerings, and the functional areas of the organization and their ability to react to opportunities in the external environment.
In this section of the SWOT analysis, describe the current and/or anticipated state of Opportunities and Threats outside the control of the organization. External factors to consider include the Consumer/Social environment, the Competitive environment, the Technological environment, the Economic environment and the Legal/Regulatory environment.
Describe and opportunities and threats perceived in the consumer and/or social environment such as changing consumer tastes, changing social perceptions of the product class or product, etc. Illustrate that you understand the fluidity in the consumer and social environments and that you’ve determined the direction of future changes in preference. Think about who your current customers are and what your current product offerings are and how these present both opportunities and threats. Provide an analysis of the cultural and social environments in which you’ll be operating and discuss the potential impact that these environments may have on the success of your marketing plan. How culturally or socially sensitive is your product? Discuss cultural or social constraints placed on marketers in this product category. What are cultural or social trends in this market and how will this impact your marketing plan?
In this section, describe any competitive opportunities and threats that you foresee in the future. Is your product or process patentable? Do you have a strong brand name, brand equity or other unique competitive advantage that will be hard for competitors to negate?
In this section of the marketing plan, discuss the technological environment as it concerns the product or products contained within the scope of this marketing plan. How critical of a role does technology play in the successful marketing of your product? Are any of your core competencies technologically dependent? What technological developments do you foresee on the horizon and how might they impact your marketing plan? Likewise, describe any technological threats looming on the horizon and how they may impact your company’s situation.
Describe the current economic environment in which you’ll be competing. What is its scope (local, regional, national or international)? What trends are observable (economic contraction, expansion, etc.)? What are the economic projections for the near future and the long-term? Do current or future economic conditions present opportunities and threats? For instance, is there seasonality in your industry? Is there a predictable business cycle? Describe the current state of the economy in which you’ll operate and your expectations for the future.
Describe any legal or regulatory factors that present opportunities or threats for your company. Is there a changing legal or regulatory statute that presents new opportunities for how you conduct business or what products you sell? Is there increasing regulation in your industry? Provide an overview of the political and legal environments in which you’ll be operating. Discuss any regulatory issues that impact how and where you will market your product. Are there regulations regarding product, price, place or promotion that impact how you intend to market your product? Analyze the stability of the political and legal environments in which you plan to operate.
The Industry Analysis section provides the backdrop for the subsequent, more detailed analysis of competition, the company, and the company’s consumers. Without an in-depth understanding of the industry, the remaining analyses may be misdirected. Use this section to demonstrate to the plan’s readers that you understand the industry in which you compete and that you are cognizant of trends impacting the industry.
As with the Industry Analysis, the Competitors Analysis demonstrates that the company has a realistic understanding of who it’s major competitors are and what their marketing strategies are. The beauty of our free market system is that consumers have choice. And that open competition ultimately leads to higher quality, lower cost goods for the market. In this section of the marketing plan, describe who your current competitors are, predict who any likely future competitors will be, and discuss the differences in competitive advantages or core competencies that exist among the competitors in the marketplace.
Nature of Current/Likely Competitors
Knowing as much as you can about your competition allows you to make informed decisions when it comes to implementing your marketing plan. Define who your current competitors are, what their position is in the market, and how much of a threat they are to your success. Again, this section of the marketing plan is highly dependent on the current stage of the product life cycle. If your product is in the introduction or growth phase, there are probably fewer current competitors and many likely competitors. If you are in the maturity phase of the PLC, the competition is fairly well defined. Gather as much information about the competition as possible. Much of it can be used in the following two sub-sections.
Current Status of Prospective Competitors
Are you competing with companies comparable in size? Or are they much larger? Are you competing against much smaller companies or boutiques? Are your competitors profitable? What do you do better than your competitors can do? What do your competitors do better than you can do? Can you anticipate the emergence of new competitors? Use the table below or one that you modify to summarize these core competencies.
Core Competency Comparison
Discuss any competitive barriers that you need to overcome, any barriers to entry that exist in the market and any sources of competitive advantage that you enjoy. Competitive barriers include items such as economies of scale and scope that must be reached in order to be profitable in the market, access to distribution channels, access to customers, etc. Barriers to entry may include items such as high levels of capital investment, long payback periods, proprietary technology, legal or regulatory restrictions, etc.
The Company Analysis provides details of the company’s strengths and marketing strategies that will enable it achieve the mission, vision and goals identified earlier.
Company Strengths and Overall Marketing Strategies
Define the overall company objectives in terms of return on investment, long-term financial health, growth expectations, and the focus on building shareholder equity. Historically, how well has the company met its objectives? Are there noticeable trends? What is the current economic status of the company and what is the target economic status?
Discuss the company’s overall marketing objectives for the products it sells. Potential objectives include, but are not limited to, capturing and defending market share, reaching target levels of gross sales, reaching target levels of net sales, building brand name recognition and/or brand equity, inventory turnover targets, etc.
All marketing decisions are constrained by resource availability. In this section of the marketing plan, discuss company financial, technological and human resources that impact your marketing plan. Creatively determine how you can overcome resource limitations to leverage the best possible performance given these limitations.
Marketing decisions should always be made with the consumer in mind. The marketing concept dictates that marketers focus on meeting consumer needs in order to build successful long-term exchange relationships. Satisfying customers and providing genuine value to them is why organizations exist in a market economy. In this section of the marketing plan, demonstrate that you’ve performed a detailed analysis of your potential market for the products included in the marketing plan, how the consumers in the defined markets typically purchase your product and for what reason, and what type of relationship you plan to establish with these consumers. Whereas the previous sections provide the foundation on which to build a marketing plan, this section provides you with an opportunity to demonstrate the reason why the plan exists: to serve the needs of potential customers.
In this section of the marketing plan, discuss who makes up the market for your product. Remember that there are three conditions for being considered as a viable market: consumers must have the ability, willingness and authority to purchase what you are selling to be considered a market for your product. Provide evidence that you’ve sufficiently researched who meets the three criteria to be considered a market for your product, how you’ve determined this, and describe the demographic and/or psychographic characteristics of a “typical” consumer. Keep in mind that while there is typically overall or general market for your product (the three criteria from above), there may be multiple customer profiles that can be generated from this market based upon demographic and psychographic reasons for purchase.
Furthermore, knowing that there are three general strategies for applying the marketing mix to defined markets (undifferentiated, concentrated and differentiated), discuss which of the three general strategies that you intend to utilize and justify your decision. This general strategy decision will strongly influence the following two sub-segments of the marketing plan.
Possible Segmenting Dimensions
Based upon your selection of a general marketing strategy in the section above, and on the premise that you can’t be everything to everyone, describe possible market segmentation variables that you plan to use individually or in combination to break down the overall market into potential segments. Typical segmentation dimensions include items such as demographics, psychographics, geo-demographics, and behavioral factors. However, the beauty of segmentation is that you as the marketer have the opportunity to define segments as you see fit. Not all competitors in your product category or class will have defined identical market segments. Marketing in general, and segmenting specifically, is an art. The only guidelines for selecting segmentation dimensions are that the dimensions are observable, consistent and logical. Ideally market segments meet the following four criteria: they are homogeneous within, heterogeneous between, substantial and operational.
Key Influences on the Buying Process
In this section of the marketing plan, discuss the key influences on the buying process. Why do the consumers in your target market(s) purchase the product? How does the level of involvement associated with the product (high involvement versus low involvement) impact the information search and buying process? Are there elements of the marketing mix that influence how or where the product is purchased? Knowing the key influences on the buying process allows marketers to develop a marketing mix that is better able to satisfy consumer needs.
Type of Buying Situation
What is the typical buying situation for your product? What needs must the customer have identified to begin the purchase process? Describe the typical buying situation or situations that consumers can expect to experience when they purchase your product. Who, what, where, when and why, the five W’s of journalism, may provide you with a basic framework with which to describe the types of buying situations that you foresee.
Nature of Relationship with Customers
Discuss the nature of the relationship with your customers that you wish to establish. Remember that customers and their needs drive our business. And that it is easier to sell more to existing customers than it is to acquire new customers. What type of customer loyalty programs do you envision establishing for the product(s) being marketed? Do loyalty programs make sense for your product? Are there peripheral ways of generating customer loyalty such as building a strong brand identity that meets the needs of the customers? Take the time to demonstrate that you’ve considered how the nature of your product dictates the nature of your potential relationships with your customers.
SWOT Analysis Summary
A SWOT Analysis is a specific type of situation analysis designed to gauge the competitiveness of a company given its limitations. The strengths and weaknesses are usually thought of as internal to the company and the opportunities and threats are usually thought of as external to the company. In order for a SWOT analysis to be useful, the information it contains must be brutally honest. This is not the time to gloss over weaknesses or to minimized threats. Complete each section separately (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) and to summarize your findings in the table provided below.
− Strength 1
− Strength 2
− Strength 3
− Strength 4
− Strength n
− Weakness 1
− Weakness 2
− Weakness 3
− Weakness 4
− Weakness n
– Opportunity 1
– Opportunity 2
– Opportunity 3
– Opportunity 4
– Opportunity n
− Threat 1
− Threat 2
− Threat 3
− Threat 4
− Threat n
SWOT Analysis Matrix
Market – Product Focus
This section of the marketing plan highlights your understanding of the market in which you compete, its possible segments and/or sub-segments and how your product serves unmet consumer needs in the market. This is the “meat and potatoes” of the marketing plan
Marketing and Product Objectives
Concisely define the market in which you will be competing. Remember that to be considered a market for your product(s), potential customers must have the ability, willingness and authority to purchase your product(s). Concisely define the product offering. Determine which stage of the product life cycle the market is in and discuss how this impacts your marketing strategy. For instance, if you are introducing a new product class to consumers your initial task will be to build primary demand for the product class. If you are introducing a new product into an existing, mature, market your goal may be to acquire market share at the expense of your competition. Properly defining the market in which you’ll compete is the foundation of the marketing plan.
After regrouping the heterogeneous overall market into smaller homogeneous market segments, and depending on the general strategy for applying the marketing mix that you’ve selected, discuss which segments that you’ll pursue with your marketing efforts and why. Typically the target markets selected have the following characteristics: they are large enough economically to warrant attention and they are stable. If you focus all of your marketing efforts on one market target market, you are using a concentrated strategy or a single target market approach. If you select multiple segments and develop different marketing mixes for each segment, you are using a differentiated or multiple target market approach. If you treat the entire market as your target market, you are using an undifferentiated strategy. A compromise to the former may be to combine two or more segments and to target the combined segments with one marketing mix. Each strategy has its associated plusses and minuses. It is up to you to justify which approach that you intend to use and why.
Points of Difference
An organization cannot grow by offering only “me-too” products. The greatest single factor in a new product’s failure is the lack of significant Points of Difference that set it apart from competitors’ substitutes. How does your product compare to competitive offerings vis-à-vis features and benefits? Use the table below or one that you modify to show this competitive comparison.
Competitive Comparison Matrix
A positioning strategy helps communicate the company’s unique points of difference of its products to prospective customers in a simple, clear way. Describe how you currently or propose to position your product(s) vis-à-vis the competition in the minds of consumers. Proper positioning leads to competitive advantages and the development of brand equity.
Everything contained in the previous sections of the marketing plan serve to set the stage for this section in which you present the marketing mix actions – the 4 Ps – covered in the marketing program. Describe in detail how your manipulation of the marketing mix variables will serve consumer needs while simultaneously maximizing shareholder equity.
Product and Product Strategy
Use this section to describe in detail the key elements of the company’s product strategy. Provide an overview of the product class, the product’s stage in the Product Life Cycle, any warranties or guaranties associated with the product, etc.
Describe the general product class in which you will be competing. What type of consumer or business product are you proposing? What, if any, consumer preferences must be addressed in order to succeed in this product class?
Current Product Life Cycle Stage
In what stage of the product life cycle is the overall product class: Introduction, Growth, Maturity or Decline? Has the industry gone through turbulence (a hypothetical stage of the product life cycle just after growth and before maturity during which there is an industry shake-up and non-profitable competitors drop out)? Is there an opportunity for arbitrage (introducing the product into a new market in a different stage of the product life cycle)?
Specification of Core and Augmented Product
In this section, describe the product(s) that you will be marketing. The core product is the basic physical good or service being marketed. The augmented product is the combination of goods and related services combined to provide a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Very few items are “pure goods” or “pure services.” Discuss the combination of goods and services you are offering. Most offerings are a combination of the two: some mix of good and service. Bundling goods with service can be a source of competitive advantage. Sears’ appliances are a good example: there are better appliances on the market, but few can match Sears’ level of after-sale service.
Supporting Customer Services Needed
Whether you use the concept of an augmented product or not, all products need a certain level of service support. In this section of the marketing plan, describe all levels of customer service needed to launch and support your product. Where will you locate customer service centers? How many do you need? What services will they provide and who will pay for them?
Describe the warranty, if any, provided with this product. What is covered under the warranty? How long will the warranty last? Is it renewable or are service contracts offered? Who will support the warranty (will it be handled internally or contracted out)?
Brand image is something that is built over time. Today’s communications-oriented society, however, doesn’t provide marketers with the luxury of time. In this section, you want to answer the following questions:
• What type of branding will you use? (Manufacturer versus dealer, family brand versus individual brand, etc.)
• How do you plan to create a brand image?
• How will you make yourself distinct from the other businesses/products?
These questions take on more importance in an environment where time is a luxury.
In this section, give some thought to how you will build your image in the mind of the customer. The goal is to develop a product/service that delivers what it promises consistently over time. By doing so, you hope to build brand equity, or a value above and beyond the economic value of the brand. Traditionally, brand equity is built incrementally over time. Building brand image and equity is analogous to filling an in-ground swimming pool with a shot glass. Only through a consistent effort over time can one hope to accomplish this task. And once completed, it is easier to maintain than it is to start over again.
Describe how you will build brand image. How do you plan to create a brand image that is consistent with what you are delivering? Is there something unique about your product offering that you can use to your advantage in terms of branding? If you are offering something that is not unique, how do you differentiate your product or service from your competitors in the eyes of the consumer?
Discuss how you will maintain your brand. Are you delivering what the customer expects or are you making promises that you can’t keep? For example, if you are offering fast delivery, are you keeping your promise? How do you plan to keep your brand “fresh” in the eyes of the consumer? How do you propose to consistently maintain your brand image?
Describe the general packaging format of the overall product class. Are there customer expectations with regard to packaging that must be met? Are there promotional and/or labeling needs that are a result of consumer preference or government regulation? What are the protection needs/concerns associated with this product class and your product in particular? Can you use packaging as a source of competitive advantage?
Cultural Sensitivity of Product
What, if any, issues of cultural sensitivity must you be aware of when marketing this product? If launching globally, are there differences in the core or augmented product and/or packaging necessary because of cultural sensitivity?
Fit with Product Line
How does the proposed product fit within your existing product line? Is it a complementary or supplementary product? Is this a new product line? Illustrate that you’ve thought about how this product fits with your current business, or if it is for a new product and a new business, how you can build your future business around this product.
Price is the element of the marketing mix that generates funds for the company. Price also influences how the brand is perceived. Typically, a high price connotes high quality. Consumers search for some combination of price and quality that allows them to maximize their utility. Pricing strategies can be static or dynamic. Static pricing strategies include Cost Plus Pricing (cost of production per unit plus a profit margin), Return on Investment Pricing, Price Skimming (charging what the market will bear), Price Penetration (using a low price to penetrate the market), and Break-Even Pricing (price to just break even with regards to fixed costs and variable costs). Dynamic pricing strategies are non-traditional or innovative ways to generate sales. With a dynamic pricing strategy, the only criteria is that you exceed your break-even point per unit in either sales or based upon the net present value of a revenue stream generated by the product’s use. Dynamic pricing strategies include auctions, reverse auctions, ”free” products that help build market share and/or generate targeted e-mail lists.
This section should focus on what type of pricing strategies you will use based upon the demand for your product(s), the available supply and the typical markup chain in your industry.
Nature of Demand
What is the nature of the demand for your product(s)? Is the demand cyclical or seasonal? Or is it constant? What is the level of demand versus the supply – that is, is there enough supply to satisfy demand? Describe how demand impacts price and quality in your market. Is demand for your product elastic or inelastic? Is demand for your product dependent upon or tied to the demand for another product?
Demand and Cost Analysis
What is the break-even point in units? Is there sufficient demand to allow you to reach your break-even point? How do economies of scale and scope impact your break-even point? What is your fixed cost per unit, your variable cost per unit and your total cost per unit for different levels of projected demand (conservative, average, optimistic)? Discuss the relationship between demand and cost and how you will manage this relationship.
Markup Chain in Channel
Given your desired return on investment, channel type, customer demand and manufacturers suggested retail price, what are the markup percentages and margins that each member of the marketing channel can expect to make? Is the markup chain reflective of the risks assumed by each channel member (i.e., the channel member who assumes the most risk receives the highest margin)? The perception of an inequitable distribution of channel profits creates channel conflict. Describe who can expect to make what.
In this section, describe whether you are using static pricing, dynamic pricing or a combination pricing strategy. How structured are your prices? How much latitude do you have in setting price?
Are you planning to use a price lining strategy where you have a range of prices for varying degrees of product quality (low, medium and high price points)? Will you be using a skimming strategy or a penetration pricing strategy? Is it possible to use a market basket pricing approach, where you take a loss for one or a few products in order to make a profit for the entire basket of profits offered?
Adjustments to List Price
Under what instances will you offer adjustments to the list price? Will you have trade discounts, quantity discounts, seasonal discounts or any price reduction promotions? Many of these adjustments may have been covered in the sales promotion and/or push and pull marketing sections of the marketing plan.
To be successful you must have a focused and coordinated promotion and advertising plan. Without focus or goals, promotion and advertising useless. In addition, how will you reach potential customers?
Rather than aiming for “pie-in-the-sky” projections, try to remain reality based. Success won’t happen overnight and it won’t happen with one advertising or promotion campaign. Advertising and promotion require a consistent effort over time in order to work effectively for you.
Use this section to define how you will promote your business. How will you promote your product or service? How will you induce trial? How will you convert trial users to customers? How will you keep your promotional message “fresh” and pertinent to your customers? How will you reach former customers or stay in contact with current customers? What are your promotional goals? Some potential goals are to stimulate sales, increase awareness, generate interest, remind consumers to purchase and/or to persuade consumers to purchase.
Major Messages/Themes for IMC
Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) is the intentional coordination and effective blending of all of the firm’s promotion efforts to convey a consistent and complete message to the company’s intended market. Possibly the most successful application of IMC in recent history has been Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign. All messages from Nike have used this central theme to promote the link between the company’s athletic footwear, clothing and accessories and good health through exercise. This three word play on words based on our propensity to put off exercise has been, and remains, highly successful. What type of theme or message makes sense for your product? To be effective, it has to communicate something about your product and how it fits the needs of the consumer.
Successful promotion requires a blend of the promotional mix (advertising, personal selling, sales promotion, publicity and interactive media). Your specific promotional blend is product and industry dependent. For instance, high involvement products require higher levels of personal selling than do low involvement products. And an increasing percentage of the promotional budget is being spent on sales promotion over advertising in consumer goods markets. As with most other marketing decisions, promotion and the allocation of resources across the promotional blend is constrained by the financial resources of the company.
In this section discuss the type, amount and cost of advertising that you need to accomplish your marketing objectives. How much money do you have to spend on advertising and how will it be used to maximize exposure given the budget constraint? How often will your advertisements run and where? What are your advertising goals? Remember that there is no linear relationship between advertising dollars spent and sales: therefore the best we can do is to use the objective-task budgeting method to determine how much it will cost to achieve a desired, measurable, objective.
What level of personal selling is needed to stimulate the sale of your product(s)? This is strongly correlated to the degree of involvement associated with the product: high involvement versus low involvement. Higher involvement products, those with higher risks associated with making a poor purchase decision, require higher levels of personal selling than do low involvement products. Technological complexity also influences the degree of personal selling needed for a product, with highly complex products requiring more personal selling. In this section of the marketing plan, define the desired level of personal selling needed to ensure the success of your marketing plan and determine the budget necessary to accomplish your objectives.
The goal of sales promotion is to increase sales in the short-term. Cooperative advertising, Point-of-Purchase displays, coupons, rebates, etc. are the means by which companies engage in two broad types of sales promotion: push and pull marketing. Push marketing consists of sales promotion activities designed to push the product through the marketing channels to the final consumer. Pull marketing consists of sales promotion activities designed to pull the product through the distribution channel from producer to consumer by stimulating consumer demand. Although sales promotion is currently the largest percentage of the consumer goods promotional budget, one must remember that the costs of sales promotion are bourn by the company. Consumer goods companies tend to prefer sales promotion to advertising for one reason: the link between sales promotion and sales is direct and measurable.
Publicity is any non-paid mass communication message initiated by the company. The goal of publicity is to attract the firm and its offerings without having to pay media costs. How does publicity fit into your marketing plan? How do you plan to manage publicity? Is there a publicity schedule that fits well with your promotion plan? What are the costs associated with publicity and what percentage of your overall promotion budget should be spent on publicity?
What level of interactive media, such as Internet marketing, instant couponing, interactive kiosks, CD-ROM promotional disks, do you plan to use to support your product(s)? Is it possible to use the Internet as a distribution tool? Is an Internet presence required for your product even if you don’t plan to sell direct to the customer via the Internet? How can you use interactive media to increase your level of perceived customer support? In this section, discuss the importance of interactive media in the success of the marketing plan. What are the costs associated with using interactive media as part of the promotional mix?
Mix of Push and Pull Required
Push and Pull marketing (sales promotion) are not mutually exclusive decisions. Most marketers use a mix of push and pull marketing to stimulate sales. What mixture of push and pull marketing do you plan to use to stimulate sales? Who will the target audiences be (consumers, wholesalers, channel members, sales people)? What is the cycle or schedule of push and pull marketing required to meet your marketing objectives?
Who Will Do the Work
In this section of the marketing plan, describe who will do the promotion work discussed above. Do you have in-house expertise or will you need to job-out elements of the promotion mix? What type of compensation do you envision paying your promotion partners? The most common elements of the promotion mix to job-out are advertising, sales promotion, publicity, and interactive media. How does the in-house versus job-out decision impact the promotion budget?
Place, or distribution, pertains to how and where the product is delivered to the consumer. In this section, discuss your distribution strategy. What intermediaries will be used? What method of delivery do you plan to use? Who will you partner with to facilitate the flow of goods? How will the flow of information and funds work? Identify the trade intermediaries that you’ll work with to facilitate the exchange. If you are selling a product, how will you ship the product to the customer, who may be the end-user or one of the trade intermediaries? Discuss your distribution objectives, types of distribution channels to be utilized, the degree of value chain coordination needed, transportation, product handling and storage facilities required as well as any reverse channels that are being proposed.
Objectives (degree of market exposure)
Define your distribution objectives in terms of the degree of market exposure desired: Intensive, selective, or exclusive. The goal of intensive distribution is to be in as many locations as possible to provide consumers with easy access to your product(s). Selective distribution limits the number of locations in which a consumer has access to your product to a defined number per geographic location. Whereas the focus of intensive distribution is to be everywhere, the goal of selective distribution is to be in locations that make sense for the product and its desired brand image. Exclusive distribution seeks to limit distribution to very few locations in a defined region and works best with prestige items. For instance, Rolls Royce has a formula for locating its dealership franchises based upon the population and other demographic factors in a given area.
Type of Channel(s)
What type of distribution channel(s) do you intend to use given the degree of market exposure desired? Direct distribution refers to products delivered to the end user directly from the manufacturer or service provider. Indirect distribution refers to products delivered to the end user through the use of trade intermediaries such as distributors, wholesalers, retailers, etc. Remember that this is not a mutually exclusive decision: one may use multiple types of distribution channels containing multiple levels depending on the product being offered and the location of the customers. If you plan to use multiple distribution channels, care must be taken to avoid direct competition between the channels.
Value Chain Coordination Needed
In this section of the marketing plan, describe the type of value chain coordination needed to transform raw materials into finished goods delivered to customers in an effective and efficient manner. Concepts such as just-in-time delivery, materials and process flow, inventory management, Economic Order Quantity (EOQ), Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and Efficient Consumer Response (ECR) all allude to the type of value chain activities that need to be coordinated. By managing these activities as a system, rather than as discrete occurrences, allows a company to remain price competitive and/or more profitable in the long-term.
Transportation and delivery requirements are highly correlated with the type of product being sold and the desired degree of market exposure. What combination of rail, truck, ship, airplane or pipeline is needed to deliver your finished products to the intended market? Some items, such as computer software, do not need transportation services to deliver them to the final consumer: they can be delivered directly to the consumer via the Internet. As with other elements of the marketing plan, the selection of the best transportation option is dependent on the budget constraints of the company.
Inventory/Product Handling Requirements
What are the inventory and/or product handling requirements that are unique to your product? Is it perishable? Does it require special licenses for handling? The level of inventory by any member of the distribution channel is related to the economic or opportunity costs associated with not having sufficient inventory on-hand to handle demand. Therefore, projecting inventory requirements requires one to have a good understanding of the nature of the product’s demand.
In this section, describe the types of facilities required to facilitate the distribution of your product to the consumer. For instance, combining this section with the above section, once can see that an ice cream manufacturer needs adequate freezer space to store its finished product on-site before shipping, refrigerated shipping (truck, rail, boat or airplane), distributors with refrigerated warehouses and retailers with refrigerated facilities in order to ensure that the product doesn’t melt before it reaches the hands of the final consumer.
Reverse Channels (Optional)
Reverse channels are channels used to retrieve products that consumers no longer want. Not all products require reverse channels and government regulation/legislation has a direct impact on the existence of reverse channels. For instance, if you live in a state that requires a deposit on soda bottles and cans, a channel for returning your bottles or cans must be developed. To ignore the requirements of a reverse channel is a certain way of alienating and losing customers. If this section is pertinent for your product, describe the reverse channel requirements necessary to facilitate the return of products from the consumer.
Data and Projections
This is the section of the marketing plan where you attempt to predict the sales that will be generated from your marketing efforts. Several approaches to forecasting exist. The key is to pick the one that makes the most sense for your product or industry.
Sales Forecasting Methods Used
How do you develop your sales forecast? If you have valid assumptions, and are conservative in projecting expected sales, you have a fair chance of developing a realistic sales forecast. This is much easier if you have historical data from earlier operations or from your competitors. In many cases, this information can be gleaned from secondary data sources. For many firms, industry sales averages exist in publications such as the Robert Morris data.
In this section discuss the sales forecasting method that you are using. Choose a forecasting method that makes sense for your business and include this sales forecast worksheet in the appendix of this plan. Think about if it makes sense to forecast your revenue streams by product (or product line or service description), by sales channels (direct marketing, distribution channels, channel partners, strategic alliances, etc.), or by both.
Think about what drives your revenues. Are you operating under a standard business model whereby you need to predict the number of units you will sell and at what price? Or are you operating under a different model where some other criteria or variables generate revenue? No matter what method or approaches you use to forecast you sales, consider this word of caution: be conservative in your estimates. Success is built slowly.
Estimate the level of sales expected as a result of this marketing plan. Having settled on a sales forecasting method as defined above, generate the same multiple scenarios as you did for cost: low sales, medium sales and high sales projections. The value of developing three sets of estimates is that you provide the reader of the marketing plan with a range of potential results. One key indicator of what future sales will be is to look at what past sales have been. Provide readers with a summary chart of the past few years sales results and projected future results.
Estimate to the best of your ability the costs associated with each of the activities proposed in the marketing plan. Each section of the plan has costs associated with the activities proposed. Develop a summary of costs and include a total estimated cost figure. You may want to develop multiple scenarios: low cost, medium cost and high cost estimates with the understanding that the costs will most likely be somewhere between the low and high estimates.
Using the information from the cost section and the sales section, develop a pro-forma operating statement (profit and loss statement). The operating statement allows for a manager to quickly judge the attractiveness of a marketing plan by showing the gap between expected sales and costs. Astute managers request a minimum of three pro-forma operating statements based upon the different levels of expected cost and sales defined above. Other pro-forma statements requested by marketing managers include an income statement and balance sheet. Again, common-sized industry sales averages exist in publications such as the Robert Morris data. You can use this information to judge the viability of your projections.
Financial Information Systems Needs
Discuss what type of financial information system that you currently use and what type of information system that you need in order to adequately process the data collected above. Do you have the systems in place or do they need to be developed? What are the hardware and software needs? Can you purchase “off-the-shelf” systems or do you need customized systems? As with the data collection phase, estimate the cost of the financial information systems needs. These costs, however, differ from the above costs in that they can be allocated over multiple projects – that is, they are infrastructure investments – rather than being project specific investments. The key is to illustrate that you have the capability to monitor sales projections and cost estimates provided above.
In this section of the marketing plan, discuss the way in which the company is currently organized and how the organizational structure allows it to respond to opportunities in an effective and efficient manner. Use or develop an organizational chart to illustrate the chain of command/control in the organization and how the different functional areas of the business are linked together in a cohesive environment. Often a more elaborate marketing plan will show the new positions expected to be added as the firm grows – or as defined as necessary for implementation as described in the next section of the marketing plan. Attach biographical sketches of key personnel in Appendix A if the marketing plan’s goal is to obtain external funding.
The Implementation Plan shows how the company will turn plans into results. Gantt charts are often used to set deadlines and assign responsibilities for the many tactical marketing decisions needed to enter a new market. Discuss any special implementation problems to be overcome in order for the marketing plan to be successful. Are there any human, manufacturing, financial or other resources that you need in order to succeed? Describe in detail your requirements in each of the sections below and estimate the costs associated with each activity.
In this section, describe the personnel required to successfully implement the marketing plan. Do these people already exist in the organization or do they need to be acquired. If the need to acquire extra personnel exists, do these people need to be full-time employees or are there consultants that can be hired for the short-term who have the expertise needed to carry out the plan. Estimate all costs associated with hiring or contracting additional personnel.
Manufacturing, Financial and Other Resources Needed
Describe any additional manufacturing, financial or other resources needed to make the marketing plan a success. If manufacturing or other resources are requested, the same guidelines as outlined above pertain: purchase or rent? Estimate all costs associated with additional manufacturing and other resources needed.
If additional financial resources are needed, define how much and in what form. If your goal is to raise capital, determine whether it is best to seek a loan, float a bond or release additional shares of stock for sale. What is the payback period? Is this reflected in the financial projections? What is the risk associated with each option for raising capital? What are the market conditions and rates? Leverage is a useful financial tool. Over indebtedness is not.
In this, the final section of the marketing plan, discuss the plan’s overall time frame and the timing of each of the activities that need to be performed in order to ensure the success of the plan. Define the sequence of the activities and events and any foreseeable changes in marketing activities as they relate to changes in the stages of the product life cycle encompassed in the plan.
Specific Sequence of Activities and Events
Provide a detailed list of the beginning and ending dates for each of the specific activities and events proposed in the marketing plan. This should be a linear presentation, progressing from the plan’s start date to finish date. A visual summary of the information provided in the form of a Gantt chart or some other similar presentation style may make monitoring the specific sequence of activities and events more manageable. Make certain to build in sufficient lead times for things such as advertising production and placement as well as for publicity or public relations efforts.
Evaluation and Control
There is a large difference between well-conceived plans and well-executed plans. In a perfect world, yours is both. In reality, the difference between success and failure lies in the execution of the plan. The key to successful implementation is to have a method of keeping your finger on the pulse of the project and the diagnostic tools that you need to accurately measure results. Once the plan is implemented and you start seeing the results of your initiatives, it is important to review what has been accomplished. It is best to think of marketing plans as living documents. They aren’t carved in stone: they can be adjusted, or tailored, after implementation. The essence of Evaluation and Control is comparing actual sales with the targeted values set in the plan and taking appropriate actions.
Finally, no plan is perfect. This is a direct result of developing the plan with less than perfect information. Even with the best research and the best projections, plans fail. However, on average it is better to operate with a well-conceived plan than it is to fly by the seat of your pants. Structured plans allow you to keep track of your decisions, monitor the results, and establish an institutional knowledge base of what works and what doesn’t. To embrace a philosophy of continuous improvement, you have to know what has happened in the past. In other words, you need to know where you’ve been in order to get to where you’re going.
Marketing Information Systems Needed
What additional marketing information systems needs do you have for controlling the marketing plan? How will data be collected and transformed into information? What types of databases do you need? This is in part determined by what type of business you are engaged in, what your transformation or value-added processes are and your plans for implementing relationship and/or database marketing efforts in the future. Any system that you develop or propose to develop should be expandable to accommodate future marketing information systems needs and business growth. Can these needs be incorporated with the financial information systems needs previously discussed?
Criterion Measures with Objectives
In this section of the marketing plan, revisit your corporate and marketing objectives associated with this plan and discuss the specific criterion measures to be used. How do the measures reflect the success or failure of meeting the objectives? How are the measures calculated? What are the baseline measures for success – the minimum level of acceptable performance for each criterion measure?
Appendix A: Biographical Sketches of Key Personnel
This section of the marketing plan is where you’ll attach all of the support material that you’ve referenced in the marketing plan such as your sales projections, etc. Use this page to separate the appendices from the text. Make certain that you update the table of contents to include the title of each exhibit in the appendix and its page number.
Appendix B: Support Material
This section of the marketing plan is where you’ll attach all of the support material that you’ve referenced in the marketing plan such as your sales projections, etc. Use this page to separate the appendices from the text. Make certain that you update the table of contents to include the title of each exhibit in the appendix and its page number.