Marketing Planning. It’s a pain in the neck! It takes too much time and time is what I don’t have. I need to be out there with my customers. Or so some managers say. Good marketers stick close to their customers – they don’t hide behind desks in ivory towered offices planning!

But wait a minute, how much money is needed for advertising and promotions? How much stock is required? Is there money available for a new brochure? Will it be ready for the exhibition? Without a plan there is no control, just different people pushing in different directions.

Without a Marketing plan, you lose control, and in some cases, you lose your business. For example, some organisations have big increases in sales and profits but still go out of business. Why? Because of the cash flow problems caused by unplanned growth or ‘overtrading’.

Sales and marketing must integrate with other functions like finance. Excellent marketing managers always write carefully researched marketing plans. But this does take time.

Marketing Planning also helps the marketing mix to integrate and work together instead of pulling in different directions. For example each element of the mix should reinforce the planned positioning’

However, marketing planning also saves the time wasted by the confusion and chaos generated when there is no planned approach. Decisions made under chaotic conditions are rarely clearly thought out and are therefore more prone to error. Foreword marketing planning reduces the stress and panic that thrive when rushed decisions have to be made without reference to any overall marketing plan. By thinking ahead and planning ahead many problems are solved long before they ever occur. Marketing planning reduces mistakes which inevitably cost time and money. Marketing planning stops the fire fighting and spots what starts the fire before it ignites.

Looking into the future can help managers to recognise the hidden opportunities and threats that lie on the horizon. The marketing planning process also identifies the winning strengths which can be built upon and weaknesses which need to be minimised.

Marketing planning forces the manager to consider the future – even create the future! This is vital. Managers need to move away occasionally from the day-to-day operations and reflect on the bigger picture – How it all fits together.

This, in turn, helps to improve communications and share responsibilities since it identifies who needs to do what, when.

Marketing plans offer a mechanism for integrating activities at different levels. For example plans help to ensure that marketing integrates with other business functions such as production and finance. Marketing planning also helps the marketing mix to integrate and work together instead of pulling in different directions. For example each element of the mix should reinforce the planned ‘positioning’.

Forward marketing planning encourages integrated communications. This further strengthens the image and simultaneously saves money. Communications tools such as advertising, direct mail and promotions can, if carefully planned, convey a consistent message by using some common images across advertising, direct mail, promotions, packaging, point -of-sale, exhibitions,sales conferences. Costs are cut since some creative work on photographs and illustrations can be reduced. The savings are even greater for pan-European and for global marketers.

Marketing planning saves money. A planned approach avoids paying ‘rush rates’: higher prices to photographers, designers, printers, media and so on. The more notice or time they are given the less money they charge. Some printers, for example, give extra discounts on jobs that are booked months in advance. It’s the same with anything. If you are desperate and a job is urgent, you will pay more money. Think of your own local plumber – emergencies cost more than a scheduled or planned service. Time is money – the shorter it is, the more you pay.

Marketing planning, along with Leading, Organising and Controlling, is one of the key skills that a manager must have. In fact, they are linked: unless you have a plan it is difficult to lead, to organise or to control.

To summarise, marketing planning saves time and money, reduces stress, panic and heart attacks, paints a bigger picture, looks to the future, stops constant fire fighting, integrates activities, and helps a manager to lead, organise and control effectively.

An Outline Marketing Plan

There are many different approaches to building a marketing plan. We have collected some for you to look at in the hypermedia. When you examine them you will see that there is no single common approach. But there are essential elements which every marketing plan must have.

I am going to give you an approach to building a marketing plan. Use it and you are well on your way to building a well-structured and comprehensive plan. You can also use this approach to check other plans to see if they are comprehensive and cover the key items which every plan needs.

SOSTAC + 3Ms

  • S stands for Situation Analysis, which means where are we now?
  • O stands for Objectives, which means where do we want to go?
  • S stands for Strategy, which summarises how we are going to get there.
  • T stands for Tactics, which are the details of strategy.
  • A is for Action or implementation – putting the plan to work.
  • C is for Control which means measurement, monitoring, reviewing, updating and modifying.

3 ‘M’s are the three key resources, Men, Money and Minutes. Men meaning men and women, expertise and abilities to do different jobs. Money means budgets – have we the money? Minutes mean time – what are the time scales, schedules or deadlines? Is there enough time. The Resources section goes into each of the 3 ‘M’s in more detail.

Each of the 6 elements of SOSTAC are considered in much greater detail elsewhere in this title. If you can remember SOSTAC 3 ‘M’s and build them into your marketing plan, you have the platform for writing a good marketing plan. In fact, you have an outline marketing plan.

One final question where would you put target markets, marketing mix and positioning in SOSTAC?

Target markets pop up almost everywhere! Target markets are so important that once you have identified them in the objectives, they pop up all over a marketing plan – in the situation analysis, objectives, strategy, tactics and so on. A summary of the current marketing mix and positioning will appear in the Situation Analysis under a ‘review’ section. The future mix and positioning and target markets are often summarised under Strategy and explained in detail under Tactics.