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E-marketing plan?

Figure 4.2 Hierarchy of organisation plans including e-marketing plans

Our rationale is that online channels are still in their infancy, yet they have had and will have dramatic effects on how customers select and use products. We sometimes hear that the Internet is 'just another channel to market'. However, the potential significance of the Internet as an influencer and direct contributor to sales is such that often it does warrant separate attention. Strategies to increase the contribution of digital channels to a business are required and the e-marketing plan can help define these strategies.

In the longer term, once an organisation has successfully defined its approaches to Internet marketing, it is likely that a separate Internet marketing strategy or e-marketing plan will not need to be developed each year since the Internet can be considered as any other communications medium.

These problems are typical and commonplace when there is no clear planning or control for e-marketing:

1 Customer demand for online services will be underestimated if this has not been researched and it is under-resourced and no or unrealistic objectives are set to achieve online marketing share.

2 Existing and start-up competitors will gain market share if insufficient resources are devoted to e-marketing and no clear strategies are defined.

3 Duplication of resources will occur, for example different parts of the marketing organisation purchasing different tools or different agencies for performing similar online marketing tasks.

4 Insufficient resource will be devoted to planning and executing e-marketing and there is likely to be a lack of specific specialist e-marketing skills, making it difficult to respond to competitive threats effectively.

5 Insufficient customer data are collected online as part of relationship building and these data are not integrated well with existing systems.

6 Efficiencies available through online marketing will be missed, for example lower communications costs and enhanced conversion rates in customer acquisition and retention campaigns.

7 Opportunities for applying online marketing tools such as search marketing or e-mail marketing will be missed or the execution may be inefficient if the wrong resources are used or marketers don't have the right tools.

8 Changes required to internal IT systems by different groups will not be prioritised accordingly.

9 The results of online marketing are not tracked adequately on a detailed or high-level basis.

10 Senior management support of e-marketing is inadequate to drive what often needs to be a major strategic initiative.

Furthermore, we can suggest that benefits of an e-marketing plan are in common with those of any marketing plan. McDonald (2003) describes the following reasons why a marketing plan is useful:

• For the marketer

• For superiors

• For non-marketing functions

• For subordinates

• To help identify sources of competitive advantage

• To force an organised approach

• To develop specificity

• To ensure consistent relationships

• To get resources

• To gain commitment

• To set objectives and strategies.

Managers responsible for a substantial investment in an Internet web site and associated e-marketing communications will naturally want to ensure that the correct amount of money is invested and that it is used effectively. For these reasons and others given in this section, many leading adopters of e-commerce do have a distinct e-marketing plan, as the E-consultancy survey of UK e-commerce managers shows (Figure 4.3).

For smaller organisations, the digital plan need not be exhaustive - a two-page summary defining objectives and outlining strategies may be sufficient. The important thing

Figure 4.3 Usage of detailed e-marketing plans in UK e-commerce organisations

Source: E-consultancy (2005)

Figure 4.3 Usage of detailed e-marketing plans in UK e-commerce organisations

Source: E-consultancy (2005)

is to set clear objectives and strategies showing how the digital presence should contribute to the sales and marketing process. Specific initiatives that are required such as search marketing, e-mail marketing or features of web site redesign can be specified.

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