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Marketing Plan · 22 November 2005, 06:11 by Admin

Planning your company’s marketing program is a process much like the one you go through as a young person deciding what you want to do with your life. You go through phases of:

• Learning and discovery of the world around you
• Development and self-realization of skills, strengths and weaknesses
• Goal setting based on those strengths and weaknesses
• Setting strategies for achieving your goals
• Planning your attack
• Working through that plan to make it happen

This mirrors the process your business must go through in planning your marketing. In this article, we’ll talk about how to know your business, know your market, understand your strengths and weaknesses, and find the opportunities within those strengths and weaknesses in order to plan your marketing and make it happen. We’ll also give you some tips and rules from which all marketers can benefit.

What is marketing?

According to the Dictionary of Marketing Terms, marketing is “the process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion, and distribution of ideas, goods, and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organizational goals.”

What does that mean to you? It means marketing encompasses everything you have to do in coming up with a needed product or service, making potential customers aware of it, making them want it, and then selling it to them.

So then, is sales considered “marketing”? Is advertising “marketing”? Often, you’ll hear sales functions referred to as “marketing,” but really sales is just a part of the larger marketing process, as is advertising. In the olden days (back 30 or 40 years), marketing did consist primarily of sales. Rather than having marketing departments, companies had sales departments with an advertising manager and someone who did market research. Sometimes they added a promotions manager or hired an agency to handle advertising and promotions.

Things began changing as some companies grew larger and larger and began offering many product lines that warranted having their own brand managers, market segment managers and many more specialized positions that addressed and mulled over the needs of their particular markets. The need for a marketing department began to be seen as a vital part of business. The marketing department also takes most of the blame if a product (or company) isn’t successful, regardless of whether or not the fault actually lies there.

Entire Team is Responsible for Marketing

The thing to remember is that, in reality, the marketing department crosses over into the entire company. Everyone in your company should be aware of the marketing message, visions, and goals of the company, and should reflect that message in everything they do that is related to the product and your customers. This is referred to as Integrated Marketing Communications, and means that every contact with customers and potential customers, whether it’s through advertising, personal contact, or other means, should carry a consistent message about the company and product. In effect, every employee is a sales person, and every employee is a customer service representative. If they give mixed messages about what your business is, then your customers and potential customers will have a distorted picture.

Any bad experience a customer has with your company can affect future sales from that customer, as well as the people they tell about the experience. This bad experience can be anything from a rude receptionist, to poor packaging of a product.

There are so many variables that effect whether a potential customer becomes a customer, or a current customer remains a customer, that the marketing department shouldn’t always be held accountable for the total success of a product. But in many companies, that is the case.

What is the Marketing Department’s Role?

The marketing department must act as a guide and lead the company’s other departments in developing, producing, fulfilling, and servicing products or services for their customers. Communication is vital. The marketing department typically has a better understanding of the market and customer needs, but should not act independently of product development or customer service. Marketing should be involved, and there should be a meeting of the minds, whenever discussions are held regarding new product development or any customer-related function of the company.

Don’t get the idea that marketing should make these plans and recommendations alone. It is very important that the marketing department get input from many people within the company. Not only does providing input help the rest of the company understand and support the marketing efforts, it also provides some invaluable insights into what customers want and new ideas that may have slipped past the rest of the company. For example, your service technicians and your customer service reps will have great insights into customer opinions and needs. Get everyone involved and you’ll have a more cohesive effort.

Because the goals and guidelines set by the marketing department should, by design, be in line with the vision and mission of the company, upper management should be involved in and endorse cooperation by all departments in following and implementing the plan and integrating a consistent message into all communication channels. If this isn’t the case, the efforts to market the company’s products will fail. It’s that simple.

Reinforce the idea among your employees that marketing is a team effort. Individuals may have their own goals and priorities, but if they don’t also consider the goals and greater need of the company, they may hinder efforts and make you’re carefully planned marketing efforts fail.

To illustrate this, assume a company has implemented a direct mail program and has placed key codes on the mailing labels to track the source of the mailing lists from which customers that place orders are coming. If the employees who take the orders don’t ask for and record those codes, then the marketing department has no way of knowing which lists are working and which lists are bombing. Cooperation among departments and support of upper management to enforce necessary procedures is often critical.

So, the marketing department studies the market and the customers, determines the best way to reach those customers, and works with the rest of the company to help determine the new product needs of the market and represent the company in a consistent voice.

Next, the steps for putting together your marketing plan. This process involves four stages of action:

• Researching and analyzing your business and the market
• Planning and writing the plan
• Implementing the plan
• Evaluating the results

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