The Marketing Planning Process: How to plan your marketing strategy

The marketing planning process is a systematic and methodological approach for planning, forecasting and coordinating all marketing needs and objectives. It is a structured and systematic approach for developing, implementing, executing and evaluating marketing strategies.

The marketing planning process

The marketing planning process starts by defining the company’s business environment and competitive positioning. From there, it moves on to identifying what is needed in terms of market research, target markets, and marketing objectives. This is followed by a SWOT analysis to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Finally, a strategy is developed based on the findings from the SWOT analysis with a plan for implementation.

A marketing plan is a systematic process that includes an assessment of marketing opportunities and resources, the determination of marketing objectives, and the development of a plan for implementation and control.

Thus, the objective of the marketing plan is to provide detailed information about the company’s marketing activities for the future. This may include:

♦ An organization can follow this pathway to reach its ultimate destination.

♦ Within the plan are a number of deadlines for marketing activities, such as 6 months, 12 months, etc.

♦ High levels of performance can be achieved by allocating resources efficiently and effectively.

♦ Besides identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, it also suggests ways to address, exploit and improve these factors.

♦ Ideally, it ensures that the business is marketing-driven and customer-focused, striving to meet customer needs, wants, and expectations.

♦ To achieve corporate objectives and marketing objectives, the organization structure may be shaped.

The marketing strategy is implemented and controlled by it.

Planning is crucial to the successful implementation of strategy and achievement of objectives.

Performing a marketing audit

The marketing audit is of pivotal importance to the planning process, as it provides the backbone analysis that supports both the corporate and marketing decision-making processes.

Its primary objective is to ensure that the decision-making process is an informed one and that the organization is coming from a position of strength in respect of its knowledge of the marketplace, as opposed to ‘planning in a vacuum’.

In this audit, two key aspects of the marketing environment will be examined, the external environment and the internal environment, otherwise known as the ‘macro’ and ‘micro’ environments.

An analysis of the macro environment focuses primarily on the external conditions in which the company operates, taking into account the following:

♦ Global political and legal environment, not just on a local basis.

♦ Key economic factors – understanding key economic drivers that influence organizations’ ability to deliver high performance.

♦ Social/cultural issues – this element includes demographics, population trends, birth rates and life expectancy, changes in family life cycles and the changing role of women.

4 Ps of Marketing

Marketing is a tricky task, one that requires a great deal of time and effort to do well. It comes as no surprise to marketers that their marketing plan is often considered the backbone of the business.

A marketing plan needs to be clear and concise, outlining who your target audience is and what you want them to think about you.

These 4 Ps are an excellent starting point for anyone looking to create their own marketing strategy: Product, Place, Price and Promotion. Product: What is your product? What is it about and how does it appeal to your target audience? Is the product unique and if so , how can you go about showing this? So many products fail because the makers don’t take the time to ask themselves these questions.

A well-thought-out and unique product has many advantages: Your target audience will like you and recognise your brand.

They will be interested in what you have to offer. Your product will stand out from the crowd, meaning it has a better chance of selling. Place: Where are you selling your product ? Is it a physical location or a virtual one? If a physical location, where is it and what is the overall look and feel of the place

Creating a Marketing Strategy

The most common marketing strategy is to try to appeal to the widest possible market, but this strategy will cause your product to lose its uniqueness. A better strategy is to determine your target audience and then develop a niche marketing plan that is geared towards getting the interest of just the perfect type of customer.

Common Mistakes in Marketing Planning

One such mistake is not identifying the business goals. The goal of marketing planning is to align your marketing activities with your business goals and to create a roadmap that helps you achieve those goals.

1. Establish strategic goals

Although traditionally strategic objectives are set by top management, more democratic processes involving key stakeholders, if not all employees, are becoming more common. 

While formulating the organization’s purpose, mission, and objectives, they should be kept in mind and reflected in the final plan throughout the writing process. In order to make it clear how the plan contributes to achieving these objectives, they should be included in the written plan as well.

2. Perform a marketing audit

By using this process, a company can analyze and understand the environment in which it operates. The next step in planning is the SWOT analysis. Both internal and external audits are conducted.

In addition to evaluating the business and economic environment, the market, and the competition, external audits should also look for important trends that will affect the market and industry in the future. As well as asking about competitors and customers now and in the future, it should ask about market trends.

As part of an internal audit, organizations should look at the operational efficiency, service effectiveness, key skills and competencies of their employees, the resources they access, their products and services, and their ‘core business.

3. Prepare a SWOT analysis

The Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats section summarizes the audit and should be included in the final written plan. Strengths and weaknesses relate to the company and its internal environment, while opportunities and threats are external factors that are beyond a company’s control, but which it must anticipate, evaluate, and take advantage of. Include only the most pertinent information. 

4. Define marketing objectives

In order to set realistic and achievable objectives, a marketing audit is essential, and determining how to reach these objectives must be based on the objectives themselves. 

Which products should be sold in which markets depends on market objectives. Marketing objectives (what you want to accomplish) must not be confused with strategy (how you will accomplish it). Your written plan should outline your marketing objectives.

5. Formulate marketing strategies

In this section, they describe how the marketing objectives will be met within the time frame required. Marketing is comprised of four Ps: Product – the customer’s benefit, Price – the price at which the product is sold, Place – who the customers are and where they are located, and Promotion – how the customer is reached.

In addition to the 4 Ps of the marketing mix, Booms and Bitner identified three additional components: People, Process, and Physical Evidence, which describes the environment in which the product is delivered. Crittenden has also proposed the 4 Cs:

Customer centricity – who are the company’s customers? What do they want?

Competitive capability – how fast and efficiently can the company bring products to market?

Collaboration within a company – how effective and productive is it? How does the company identify and relate to external companies that can contribute to its success?

A cyclical connection – how does the success or failure of strategic programme implementation affect ongoing strategy formulation practices?

6. Determine the resources required

The plan must specify the resources that will be required for the proposed activities, emphasizing the ones that are not currently available but will be needed to achieve market penetration objectives. Take into account technology, systems, human expertise, procedures, training needs, and distribution channels. 

Every function or department (e.g. marketing, R&D, finance, IT, sales, customer service) must be clearly understood, as well as the needs of external stakeholders (e.g. suppliers, distributors, consultants, regulators, advertising and PR agencies).

7. Monitor and evaluate progress 

Metrics and milestones should be used to track the progress of the plan. The measures you use should be clearly related to the success of the planned activities. 

When circumstances change, plans should be revised to take advantage of opportunities or to counter threats. 

Conclusion

The marketing planning process is an effective way to plan your marketing strategy. Without an established goal, there is no way to measure the success of your marketing efforts. By following this process, you will be able to create a marketing plan that has a goal with desired outcomes, measurable milestones, and defined strategies.

ANALYSIS OF COMPETITORS

In order to be successful in any market, you need to understand the competitors. The competition uses a variety of tactics and by understanding them, a proper response can be developed.

The analysis of competitors is critical to any marketing strategy, and to ignore the competition would be to assume the organization operates in a vacuum, which is evidently not the case.

The following key factors will be considered when analyzing the competition:

  • Can they market effectively? How much money are they prepared to spend on advertising?
  • Innovating at a high level: what do competitors do and how are innovations delivered?
  • How skilled is the management team?

In a more strategic review, the following would be considered:

  • Who are the competitors?
  • What are the goals?
  • What strategies are being pursued and what successes are being achieved?
  • Strengths and weaknesses that have been identified?
  • How will the competition behave and how will they react to offensive moves?

DATA FOR STRATEGIC DECISION MAKING

Auditing marketing environments requires a wide range of tools to gather information about an organization’s internal and external environments. The method you choose depends on what you want to accomplish, so each has its advantages and disadvantages. Some methods include:

  • The internal records of many companies have evolved beyond traditional sales and account records to include customer relationship management (CRM) systems and data from websites.
  • Profiling customers can be done using this information. Furthermore, other internal records can be utilized to identify the organisation’s key resources and capabilities.
  • Secondary data (already published) is a good source of information for understanding aspects of the external environment. These sources include government statistics on the population, information from rival websites, or data from trade associations regarding the markets and competitors. However, quality can be an issue, so marketers should carefully evaluate their sources. Secondary sources are useful for gathering data on macroenvironmental factors, but are less useful for gathering data on the microenvironment.
  • Syndicated and shared research – By sharing the data-collection process, this can provide information cost-effectively. In general, the information gathered creates more useful insights into customers and markets than secondary sources, over which the organization has no control, but these insights aren’t as extensive as commissioned bespoke primary research. For benchmarking exercises, which are commonly facilitated by a trade association or similar industry body, shared research can be useful.
  • Organisations typically conduct bespoke primary research to better understand buyers, end users, and competitors, and the research is usually quantitative – such as surveys, experiments, and observation – or qualitative – such as focus groups and in-depth interviews. Even though it is much more expensive than other forms of research, it can give the organization unique knowledge that, if used effectively, can give it a competitive advantage.

In deciding which methods to use and what data to collect and analyze, marketers should keep the purpose of the exercise at heart – that is, to support the creation of an organization’s strategic marketing plan in mind.

In addition to helping marketers make important decisions about marketing and corporate strategy, the research should also illustrate forecasts and objectives within the marketing plan and serve as a benchmark or baseline against which to measure progress.

Monitoring and analysis of changing market conditions

  • Competitive intelligence – Most companies and their products and services can be found on their websites and public relations and promotional materials. Recruitment advertisements can also provide insight into a competitor’s plans. Furthermore, you can gather competitor intelligence from the media (including online) and by talking to customers and attending trade shows and other industry events. Some organizations go so far as to headhunt senior managers or key technical staff and conduct mystery shopping on them. In such cases, however, there is a fine line between acceptable and unethical behavior.

Establish a list of acceptable and unacceptable intelligence gathering activities for your organization. What if you worked for another type of organization (not-for-profit, government, commercial, etc)?

  • Customer intelligence – Many sources of competitor intelligence also provide valuable information about customers. Trade events, for example, bring buyers and sellers together and provide a rich source of data. The Real-Life example above illustrates how they can also generate ideas for innovation.
  • A changing external environment – Focusing on customers and competitors can provide information and knowledge that could give an organization an advantage over less well-informed competitors.

You also need to consider the wider environment. Intelligence gathering is essential for detecting new or potential entrants to the market or the emergence of viable substitute products. 

To anticipate major changes in the macro environment, regular scanning is also essential. A range of people and organizations outside of the marketing department are required to support this process. Employees who handle key accounts, sales staff, agents and distributors, and others who may have access to valuable information need to know what to look for and what kind of information they need.