A marketing plan is a written document that details actions necessary to achieve one or more specified objectives in order to sell a product or service, a brand, a product line, or a corporation as a whole. Marketing plans can range from one to five years in length.
Marketing Plans, Strategic Planning, and Business Plans
People sometimes confuse marketing plans with strategic planning because the two are so tightly intertwined.
There are instances when an organization's marketing planning process is derived from its overall business strategy. Thus, when top management is devising the firm's strategic direction or mission, proposed marketing activities are incorporated into the strategy. At other times, a marketing plan is created that drives the company's strategic planning.
It is important to realize, though, that strategic planning and a marketing plan are two different things.
Probably the easiest way to remember the difference between strategic planning and a marketing plan is to consider their starting points. Strategic planning defines a company's strategy or direction, and the decision of how to allocate the resources essential to pursuing the strategy. Note that the strategy has not already been determined.
Explaining the key leadership attributes for strategic thinking.
A marketing plan implements a goal and plan of action that has been identified and put into writing.
What about the marketing and business plans?
A marketing plan can be part of an overall business plan. A business plan is broad based and incorporates the functions of various departments within an organization, including IT, finance, operations, human resources and marketing. Though outlined in a marketing plan, these departments are not the focus and are mentioned only in terms of how they will help achieve stated marketing goals.
What Makes a Marketing Plan Effective
An effective marketing plan conveys a sound business strategy that is aimed at a large and varied audience. The plan must be:
- Clear - stating exactly what is to be done in unambiguous terms.
- Quantified - predicting the outcome of each activity so that it is as quantified as possible and its performance can be monitored.
- Focused - avoiding and realistically controlling the proliferation of activities, beyond the numbers.
- Realistic - offering achievable goals and objectives.
- Agreed - having the consensus and commitment of the people who are tasked with implementation and their agreement that the plan's goals are achievable. The plan is a working document that guides the marketing campaign for a designated length of time and throughout the entire organization. By questioning and monitoring all the plan's exceptions, the organization captures valuable information that can be incorporated into future marketing plans.
- Actionable - clearly defined objectives and an outlined course of action.
- Succinct -clearly expresses goals and the plans needed to achieve them, cutting down on information clutter the readers may already face.
The Key is a Good Plan
The Marketing Team
A marketing plan is created through the collaboration of a diverse group of people.
Many different individuals from different business disciplines contribute to the writing of a marketing plan to insure a consistent style and voice the final version is usually written by only one person. This function can be outsourced or executed by an employee of the business. The team consists of the following:
- A person in charge of the marketing effort - a product manager, brand manager, or a product-line manager.
- Members of the management - from various departments within the organization such as IT, marketing, purchasing, the sales force, or operations.
- "Influencers" - taste makers not employed by the organization, who, through their preferences and recommendations, influence the marketing of products or services.
- Gatekeepers - those who review the plan for compliance to industry rules and regulations such as in-house legal departments, corporate counsels, regulatory or licensing specialists.
- Upper Management - those with the final say who have to sign off on the plan and "green light" its implementation. They must endorse the plan.
The Marketing Plan's Target Audience
Every marketing plan is written and devised with a specific, well defined target audience in mind. Plans usually target:
- Collaborators (external entities); and