Nature and Content of a Marketing Plan- Bikram Adhikari

Working within the plans set by the levels above them, product managers develop a marketing plan  for  individual  products,  lines,  brands,  channels  or  customer  groups.  Each  product  level,  whether  product  line  or  brand,  must  develop  a  marketing  plan  for  achieving  its  goals.  A  marketing plan is a written document that summarizes what the marketer has learned about the market  place  and  indicates  how  the  firm  plans  to  reach  its  marketing  objectives.  It  contains  tactical  guidelines  for  the  marketing  programmes  and  financial  allocations  over  the  planning  period. It is one of the most important outputs of the marketing process. 

A  marketing  plan  is  one  of  the  most  important  outputs  of  the  marketing  process.  It  provides  direction and focus for a brand, product or company. It informs and motivates key constituents inside  and  outside  an  organization  about  its  marketing  goals  and  how  these  can  be  achieved.  Government  agencies  use  marketing  plan  to  create  public  awareness  about  health,  education,  environment protection, human right etc. Similarly non-profit organization also use marketing plan to guide their fund-raising and outreach efforts.

More   limited   in   scope   than   a   business   plan,   the   marketing   plan   documents   how   the   organizations  will  achieve  its  strategic  objectives  through  specific  marketing  strategies  and  tactics,  with  the  customer  as  the  starting  point.  It  is  also  linked  to  the  plans  of  other  departments.  For  example,  if  any  company  wants  to  sell  200,000  LED  television  during    FIFA  World  Cup  2022,  the  production  department  must  be  ready  to  achieve  that  production  level.  Finance department must arrange expenses and human resource department must have proper human  resource  management  for  successful  implementation  of  that  marketing  plan.  Without  the  support  of  top  level  management,  other  functional  management  and  resource  availability,  no marketing plan can succeed.  Marketing  plans  are  becoming  more  customer  and  competitor-oriented,  and  better  reasoned  and more realistic than in the past. They draw more inputs from all the functions and are team developed. Planning is becoming a continuous process in order to respond to rapidly changing market conditions. 

Philip  Kotler  has  argued  that  most  marketing  plans  cover  one  year  in  anywhere  from  5–50  pages. Similar businesses may create shorter or less formal marketing plan. The most frequently cited  shortcomings  of  current  marketing  plans,  according  to  marketing  executives,  are  lack  of  realism, insufficient competitive analysis, and a short-run focus.

What, then, does a marketing plan look like? What does it contain? 

A marketing plan normally contains  the following sections.

Contents of the Marketing Plan 

1.   Executive  summary  and  table  of  contents:  

The  marketing  plan  should  open  with  a  brief  summary  for  senior  management  of  the  main  goals  and  recommendations.  A  table  of  contents outlines the rest of the plan and all the supporting rationale and operational detail. 

2.   Situation   analysis: 

This section presents relevant background data on sales, costs, the market,  competitors,  and  the  various  forces  in  the  macro  environment.  How  do  we  define  the market, how big is it, and how fast is it growing? What are the relevant trends? What is the product offering and what critical issues do we face? Firms will use all this information to carry out a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis. 

3.   Marketing   strategy: 

Here the product manager defines the mission, marketing and financial objectives,  and  groups  and  needs  that  the  market  offerings  are  intended  to  satisfy.  The  manager  then  establishes  the  product  line’s  competitive  positioning,  which  will  inform  the  "game  plan"  to  accomplish  the  plan’s  objectives.  All  this  requires  inputs  from  other  areas,  such as purchasing, manufacturing, sales, finance and human resources. 

4.   Marketing   tactics: 

Here the marketing manager outlines the marketing activities that will be undertaken to execute the marketing strategies. 

The product or service offering section describes the key attributes and benefits that  will appeal to target customers. 

The  pricing  section  specifies  the  general  price  range  and  how  it  might  vary  across  different types of customers or channels, including any incentive or discount plans. 

The channel section outlines the different forms of distribution, such as direct or indirect. 

The communication section usually offers high-level guidance about the general message and  media  strategies.  

Company  will  often  develop  a  separate  communication  plan  to  provide  the  detail  necessary  for  agencies  and  other  media  partners  to  effectively  design  the communication program.  

 5.   Financial   projections: 

Financial projections include a sales forecast, an expense forecast and a  break-even  analysis.  On  the  revenue  side,  the  projections  show  the  forecast  sales  volume  by  month  and  product  category.  On  the  expense  side,  they  show  the  expected  costs  of  marketing,  broken  down  into  finer  categories.  The  break-even  analysis  shows  how  many  units  the  firm  must  sell  monthly  to  offset  its  monthly  fixed  costs  and  average  per-unit  variable costs. A more complex method of estimating profit is risk analysis. Here we obtain three estimates i.e. optimistic, pessimistic, and most likely for each uncertain variable affecting profitability under an assumed marketing environment and marketing strategies for the planning period.  

6.   Implementation   controls:  

The  last  section  of  the  marketing  plan  outlines  the  controls  for  monitoring  and  adjusting  implementation  of  the  plan.  Typically,  it  spells  out  the  goals  and  budget for each month or quarter, so management can review each period’s results and take corrective action as needed. Firms must also take a number of different internal and external measures to assess progress and suggest possible modifications. Some organizations include contingency  plans  outlining  the  steps  management  would  take  in  response  to  specific  environmental developments, such as price wars or strikes.

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