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How to Create an Effective Marketing Plan
Commercial business organizations are involved in the production of goods and services where they can either specialise in the production of either goods or services or produce a combination of both. Production of goods and services only ensures the availability of the products but they are still held within the organization. Business operations are undertaken as a process whereby raw materials are acquired, processed and transformed into finished products which are released into the market place. Therefore, production of goods and services is just one single step within the process and it is not sufficient all alone. Produced goods and services need to be released into the market place where the consumers can access them to satisfy their needs. At this juncture, marketing comes in to play the role of ensuring that the products are available and identifiable in the market as the products rival those of other competitors in the industry. In order to establish, promote and sustain the product's presence in the market, business organization are required to develop a marketing plan through which they will consider the market conditions, opportunities and threats as well as identify the best suited strategies that will ensure the achievement of the marketing objectives. A marketing plan can therefore be defined as a document containing information about a product's market condition, possible rival products, marketing strategies and objectives specific to a product (Bangs, 2002). These documents are very vital as they contain information on previous marketing strategies and their success while highlighting a product's history in order to determine its future. Marketing plans should conform to the overall business objectives to ensure unity of direction within the organization. This paper aims at making an inquiry on how to create successful marketing plans based on their content.
To create a successful marketing plan, individuals need to understand their importance and the vital role that they play. As earlier identified, marketing plans are product specific and aim at establishing a product in the market place as well as facilitating the development of the product to meet the current market needs. Marketing plans facilitate product development by showing the product's history, past strategies and the market response to these strategies. Using this information, business organizations are able to integrate the consumer's perceptions into the product thus improving on the product (Pinson, 2008). The importance of marketing plans includes their ability to spur product development thus increasing the organization's competitive edge. Secondly, these plans enable the management to analyse the market conditions and adjust their strategies to conform to the internal and external environment. Thirdly, the plans are required in the organization's budgetary allocation process as they highlight the amount of funds required by the marketing department. Lastly, marketing plans are developed to guide the operations of the marketing department in collaborating with those of the entire organization (knowthis.com, 2009). This is very necessary if the organization is to achieve its overall objectives.
In developing a marketing plan, it is very vital to identify and specify the nature of the product. The product can either be a goods or service which requires different marketing plans in order to guarantee their establishment and prosperity in the market. Also various goods will require different marketing strategies owing to the different degrees of product specialisation. By identifying the nature of the product, organizations will be able to describe their products in an easy and understandable way that is conveyable to their targeted consumers. It should be noted that in defining the product, it is necessary to highlight on the product's uniqueness and its intrinsic ability to satisfy the needs of their consumers (Engleman, 2001). This aims at informing the consumers that finally there is a product that satisfies their consumption needs. The description component of the marketing plan attracts the consumers to the product as the product establishes itself in the market place. As marketing plans are not reserved for start-ups only, established business organizations should also have marketing plans in the event that they are to re-introduce a product in the market. Product re-invention is a common practice undertaken by the modern organizations thus necessitating the need to have marketing plans.
Secondly, in creating a marketing plan, the organization should state its specific target audience. These are the end consumers targeted by the organization and who have initiated the product's production. Identifying the target market is a necessary step as it facilitates the formulation of specific objectives and strategies to pursue the target market (Engelman, 2001).
Bangs (2002) notes that in the modern market environment, it has been identified that no single product can satisfy the entire needs of the market. As a result, product specialisation has emerged where products are manufactured to satisfy the needs of a specific group that has common consumption characteristics. This group is known as the target market whose needs are analysed by the organization and integrated in the production and marketing of a product. The strategies employed are directed towards penetrating and exploiting this market while ensuring efficient utilisation of the resources with minimal wastage. By identifying the target market, only required resources are deployed towards pursuing the opportunities available within this market. It is also very necessary to describe the characteristics of the target market as this will assist in identifying the future of the product. Specifications in the demographics and psychographics of the target group should be analysed to enable the marketing department to graph the future of the product as well as its future requirements (Pinson, 2008).
The third component of the marketing plan involves the determination of relevant product goals and objectives. In the marketing plan, goals and objectives play a vital role as they channel the marketing department's energies towards common achievements (Kramer, 2006). Goals and objectives present themselves as a challenge to the marketing department which requires the department to unite and channel its resources to facilitate the achievement of the preset objectives. The ‘SMART' management principle should be employed in the setting of goals and objectives. According to this principle, goals and objectives should be linked to the acronym which refers to specific, measurable, achievable, and realistic and time bound. These five elements should be exhibited in the preset marketing goals and objectives. In formulating this goals and objectives, the marketing department should identify the complex long-term goals and later break them down into simplified short-term goals (Knowthis.com, 2009). These goals may include financial, market share, staffing and product development goals. Setting goals allows the management to adopt a forward trend as opposed to a backward trend. This will ensure that the organization and the product continue developing and growing resulting into a market force to reckon with. Goals and objectives should be derived from the organization's and department's mission statements which regulate their operations towards enhancing the achievement of the goals. The goals should not be formulated with over-confidence and the marketing should ensure the objectives set can be achieved within a short limit.
Fourthly, identifying the current market competition will contribute significantly in developing your marketing plan. An organization cannot be the only one operating within an industry and it should therefore consider the presence of other organizations in operation. In identifying the competition, organizations should characterise whether their competition emerges from small organizations operating within the industry or from already established organizations (Bangs, 2002). Noting this will be very vital since different strategies are required to effectively compete with these organizations depending on their market share. This might call for product specialisation and uniqueness which will create a niche for the organization within the market. Understanding the competitive environment will enable organizations to map out their growth and development strategies. The management will be able to know their position in the industry and market and choose the most appropriate strategy to pursue their market interests. By knowing the market's competitive condition, marketers will be able to find an opportunity in the market and capitalise on the opportunity to gain footing in the market place. The competitive landscape will give the organization a proper entry into the market that will guarantee productivity upon entrance. It will enable the organization position itself in the market and fully exploit the target market.
Product pricing is very crucial in the success of a marketing plan as it indicates the amount of funds the consumer will have to part with to access the product. Pricing forms a quarter on the marketing mix where it is combined with three other elements namely; product, place and promotion. Pricing is a very important aspect of marketing and it is considered in most cases as reflective of the value derived from the consumption of the product (Pinson, 2008). Pricing should be at par with the prices of similar products in the market. Significant price differences are acceptable if and only if the product's quality is more than that of other products. This factor is quite important especially in the introduction of a new product in the market where an unacceptable increase in price will derail the product's penetration in the market. Pricing should be attached to the financial objectives to ensure that the marketing plan is followed in its entirety. In arriving to a price value for the product, the organization should consider both the fixed and variable costs incurred in the production process plus a mark-up value. The product price should be compared with the market prices of other organizations. In the event that the prices are high, the organization should improve on its internal processes in order to reduce the operational costs.
A marketing budget should also be identified to ensure that the activities of the marketing department do not come to a halt (Hiebing & Cooper, 2004). Marketing activities may arise unexpectedly and this may negatively impact on the organization's financials. These activities may include additional staffing, increased promotional activities and additional stationery equipments among others. In making marketing decisions, organizations should weigh their options to ensure that they maximise on the marketing costs they incur. For example, when making promotion decisions, organizations should identify cheaper channels which will communicate to the target markets. Marketing expenses should be monitored to ensure that they do not exceed the set limits. Productive marketing ventures should be reinforced and reserved to enhance the organization's productivity. Marketing budgets ensure that expenses are limited and that the financial objectives of the overall organization are achieved. Organizations are established to run at a profit and therefore reduction of operating expenses should be prioritised. The marketing department mostly acts as a reactor to market sentiments on their products which emanate from competitors within the industry. To avoid being pushed out of the market, the marketing department should continuously monitor the operations of their competitors and make timely adjustments to their strategies. This may call for a re-deployment in the organization's resources within a short notice and this may require additional funds. Therefore, the marketing budget should be prepared in such a way that there is room to handle urgent market needs.
Distribution channels are used in the delivery of products into the market place from where the consumers can access them. There exist various channels of distribution which involve different entities in the delivery of products. The choice of distribution channel depends largely on the nature of the product and the cheapest method which will ensure that the product is finally delivered in the market (Pinson, 2008). Channels of distribution facilitate the place element of the marketing mix as it ensures that the organization's products are available in the shelves and are distributed widely within a region. Product reliability plays an important role in the establishment and sustainability of a product in the market. Consumers prefer reliable products which do not face shortages and are widely distributed across a region. Distribution channels have a huge impact on the product's prices where it is believed that long distribution channels result into higher product prices compared to short distribution channels (Hiebing & Cooper, 2004). However, this does not mean that long distribution channels are not viable but they should be matched to their effect on the product price. The distribution channel of marketing has been exploited by various organizations due to its potential impact on pricing. Creativity is called upon at this point where the organization is required to identify the most beneficial distribution channel with less negative impacts.
In creating a marketing plan, specific actions should be set which result from the identified marketing ideas (Tiscali, 2009). A marketing plan requires a set of tactics to be identified which the organization will employ in penetrating or sustaining its market operations. These tactics or strategies should be preset, implemented and reviewed to check for their efficiency and achievement of the organization's goals. The strategies should be associated to specified conditions that may present themselves in the market. This means that the organization should be fully prepared before venturing into a market and should consider the possible scenarios that can occur within the market. By subjecting the product to various market conditions, the organization is able to come up with an array of strategies that comprise of several actions which are directed to achieve the objectives of the strategy. Objectives, goals and tactics should be broken down into a set of specific actions which will be undertaken by the organization to ensure that the product is able to withstand both positive and negative market conditions (Kramer, 2006). These actions should conform to the organization's and department's mission and vision statements. The identification of these actions will allow for minimal deviations in the implementation of the strategies and the eventual achievement of the goals.
Bangs (2002) identifies time as one of the most important element of objectives. A time frame is allocated for the achievement of a specific objective and the relevant actions to be undertaken. This is especially valid when introducing a new product in the market. Time frames are allocated to the pursuance of market penetration, product growth, product development and the subsequent re-introduction of the product. It should be noted that products undergo a cycle which has five stages and it is known as product cycle. The cycle begins with preliminary stage were the organization identifies a target group that is in need of a particular product. After production, the product is introduced in the market and this stage is referred to as the introduction stage. The growth stage commences when the product begins to display an increase in its consumption in the market. Product demand increases resulting into an increase in its production. At the maturity stage, the product faces stagnant growth where the organization has fully exploited the market and significant changes do not necessarily result into significant increases in demand. Finally, the death stage is reached when the sales start dipping where this calls for a product re-introduction (Westwood, 2002). All this stages have time frames and the organization should formulate marketing strategies appropriate for these stages.
Finally, marketing plans are prepared to guide the management in undertaking the marketing department's operations. This will ensure accountability and the guarantee of the achievement of the set objectives. However, if the marketing plans are not adhered to, this may result into inefficiencies and a poorly run marketing department. Therefore, it is necessary to have some level of accountability where the management is held responsible for its actions (DeThomas et al, 2008). Accountability will ensure that actions are undertaken according to the marketing plan and the laid out procedures and actions are followed to the latter. As an entrepreneur, this might call for the hiring of a consultant who believes in your plan. The consultant will ensure that the entrepreneur adheres to the set procedures contained in the marketing plan. This will leave little or no room for deviations or the ignorance of some vital actions by the entrepreneur. The consultant can also assist in improving the marketing plan and may even be able to come up with more interesting ideas that were not originally contained in the plan. Accountability is therefore very important in ensuring that the marketing plans are followed and that information contained therein is improved as the organization rolls out its marketing plans (Hiebing & Cooper, 2004).
Marketing plans constitute a part of the business plan which is prepared by start-up business organizations or organizations that are considering revitalising their operations. These plans are very vital as they address issues concerned with the organization's backbone, the end consumer. Without a marketing plan, it would be very impossible for the organization to balance the four elements of the marketing mix resulting into a hitch in the operations of the organization. The organization will be overrun by the competitors eventually losing its market niche. Marketing plans stabilise the organization's financials as the organization is able to allocate adequate budgets for the marketing department. Therefore, marketing plans should not be ignored and should be safely stored for future reference.
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