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A marketing plan is generally developed over time, incorporating various departments, research results, and consumer inputs. As a result, it can contribute significantly to the broader strategy of the organization.
Successfully capturing these advantages requires, clarity, alignment, reliable data, realistic expectations, and focus.
Marketing plans help organizations identify key objectives, capture opportunities, avoid threats, and leverage core competencies. Marketing plans provide a basis to set tasks and organize work efforts towards the strategies that should have the greatest impact for the organization.
Marketing Plan Advantages
The biggest advantage of a marketing plan is building a bridge between the vision of the organization and the marketing and sales of products and services. At the strategic (upper management) level, organizations have a mission and vision. This mission and vision must translate from the executive team to all internal and external stakeholders. This is called alignment, or having all stakeholders (along with the organization) on the same page. Marketing plans are particularly useful in aligning the vision with the brand, and ensuring that what is communicated to potential customers is accurate and meaningful to the core target market.
Provides Market Data
Marketing plans are largely research based, at least in the earlier stages of development. In order to build a marketing plan that matches the needs of the market, the organization will invest in accumulating research and data on the behaviors, needs, opportunities, and threats of the external market environment. Useful frameworks to look into for this are the PESTEL framework, SWOT analysis, and Porter's Five Forces. It is also critical to conduct a competitive analysis in order to understand the organization's position relative to key competitors.
This requires investment in market research. Market research should be both quantitative and qualitative, matching the capabilities of the organization with the opportunities offered in the market. Building a 'fit' between the organization and the market requires understanding both through research.
Helps Brand Building
With a strong research-oriented understanding of the market, and alignment across the organization in terms of vision and mission, the organization can now build a brand that represents the vision while addressing core needs in the market. Through associating the organization's competitive advantages with a given need in the marketplace, the organization can begin building a brand within a target market(s).
In nearly all contexts, planning is a great tool for avoiding risks. The simplest way to avoid making a mistake is considering all potential options, weighing the opportunity costs, and selecting the option with the lowest risk and/or the highest return (the optimal risk/return ratio). Marketing plans enable the research required to consider the risks and returns of various segments, equipping the organization with the knowledge to mitigate risk and capture opportunities.
However, just making a marketing plan won't necessarily capture the above advantages. In order for the marketing plan to be effective, certain criteria must be met. Marketing plans are professional documents, usually drafted by mid-upper level marketers. Considering the wide variety of considerations, and the significant impact it will have on strategy, constructing a marketing plan carefully is critical to success. Marketers should focus on accomplishing the following five things when building a marketing plan:
Clarity - It should be simple, straight-forward and clear to everyone. Avoid unnecessary jargon, leave out details that aren't necessary, and focus entirely on a small number of high impact objectives.
Data-oriented - Everyone objective and process being suggested should be financially projected and carefully measured. Expected results should be financially-oriented, and everyone should be aware of these financial objectives.
Focus - A point in everyone direction is the same as no point at all. This is an important issue, as many organizations will eventually make the mistake of running too many directions at once. To avoid this, the marketing plan should be specific on what should be done, and what shouldn't.
Realistic - While it may sound obvious, a common mistake in marketing plan development is setting objectives which are out of reach. The logic for this is that it's always good to have something more to reach for. However, this creates two problems. The first problem is that individuals pursuing these goals will get demotivated, feeling like they are failing. The second problem is that it creates dissonance between the projected results and the real results.
Alignment - Alignment is more than a boss telling the employees what to do. Alignment requires agreement among all involved parties. All stakeholders should be on the same page, pursuing the same objectives for the same reasons. Management is about creating agreement, not delegating tasks. As a result, the marketing plan should be developed with input from everyone involved.