When did you last see your marketing plan

For many businesses both large and small, the marketing plan is just one element of the annual round of the planning process. Depending on the culture of the business, that planning process precedes or follows the annual budget.

In some organizations, it is not unusual for the budget to be set first, followed by the planning process. When this happens, the budget may be set by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) in an apparently arbitrary way, which is often based on an extrapolated increase or decrease in income, costs and investment. The new budget is then announced and managers are expected to plan accordingly. Surprisingly, there are a number of successful companies that perform in this way. However, making a budget without a proper appreciation of the current and prevailing marketing situation, means that at best, the budget will probably be set too low. This could mean that while the business achieves its targets, it may well be performing at less than capacity. At worst, when set in this way without relation to the marketing resources or prevailing market conditions, the financial objectives may be beyond the capability of the business to achieve them.

The Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is responsible for producing the income of the business through the anticipation and satisfaction of customers’ demand for its products or services. How much income the marketing function produces, depends in part on the state of the market, in terms of the level of demand, as well as the customers’ ability and desire to purchase. In addition, the suitability of the product or service to meet the requirements of customers, the strength and activity of competitors, as well as the ability of the marketing organization to find potential customers, and complete profitable sales, are all fundamental in achieving the financial and marketing objectives.

It is unfortunate that for many executives, business and marketing plans tend to be seen as annual rituals, rather than working documents. For the marketer, the marketing plan sets out the financial objectives in terms of the expected level of revenue, and the return on investment. The plan should also outline the marketing strategy to be employed, the sales actions and sales support that are required, and the financial resources available for costs and investment. If marketing plans are set out properly, they will have clear achievement requirements at regular points throughout the year, so that progress may be assessed and verified. However, the current state of world markets may be described as volatile, so that as the Chinese say, we live in “interesting times”. While the marketer must continually measure performance against the marketing plan, it is also important to consider the plan in relation to developments in the market. It is especially important to understand how market conditions and financial constraint affect customers and their ability and willingness to continue to buy. In these circumstances, what should the marketer do?

The first thing that the marketer should do is to look at the planned marketing objectives and assess whether they are still valid in the present situation, and if not, how they may have changed. The business is dependent on marketing achieving the desired level of profitable income, but with changed market and economic circumstances is this still possible with the existing plan? Are sales targets likely to be achieved from the principle customers, or have their requirements been deferred or no longer needed?

“No battle plan survives contact with the enemy” and the same may be said for business and marketing plans. As soon as marketing plan is put into action, it requires change and development to meet changing market conditions. In the current business climate, marketers must expect business conditions to be changing, perhaps quite rapidly, and therefore they need to be continually revising their action plans or if necessary enacting pre prepared contingency actions. While constantly re-appraising the marketing plan, marketers need to be able to answer the following questions:

* Is the money coming in as planned? If not, – why?
* Are the principle orders likely to be confirmed as planned?
* Are customers intentions still valid, – how do we know?
* Will the contingency plan need to be enacted or is it already in operation?

Both the business and marketing plans should not be just annual rituals, but working documents in constant use, defining the route to take a business from where it is to where it has to be. For the marketing plan, the only elements that should be fixed are those of the marketer’s financial objectives, and possibly the business and marketing strategies to be employed it their achievement. But to be useful, the plan must be constantly updated, in the light of market conditions and business success. The actions, by which the marketer produces sustainable business income, may be subject to frequent change. Ignoring the marketing plan, especially in times of market volatility, means that resources are unlikely to be used efficiently, and objectives, especially in terms of financial revenue are less likely to be achieved.

© N.C.Watkis, Contract Marketing Service 14 Jul 09
Contract Marketing Service, (Marketing Performance Consultants)

August 25, 2009   Posted in: marketing management

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