The Nature and Contents of a Marketing Plan

The marketing plan created for each product line or brand is one of the most important outputs of planning for the marketing process. A typical marketing plan has eight sections:

^ Executive summary and table ofcontents: This brief summary outlines the plan's main goals and recommendations; it is followed by a table of contents.

^ Current marketing situation: This section presents relevant background data on sales, costs, profits, the market, competitors, distribution, and the macroenvironment, drawn from a fact book maintained by the product manager.

^ Opportunity and issue analysis: This section identifies the major opportunities and threats, strengths and weaknesses, and issues facing the product line or brand.

^ Objectives: This section spells out the financial and marketing objectives to be achieved.

^ Marketing strategy: This section explains the broad marketing strategy that will be implemented to accomplish the plan's objectives.

^ Action programs: This section outlines the broad marketing programs for achieving the business objectives. Each marketing strategy element must be elaborated to answer these questions: What will be done? When will it be done? Who will do it? How much will it cost?

^ Projected profit-and-loss statement: Action plans allow the product manager to build a supporting budget with forecasted sales volume (units and average price), costs (production, physical distribution, and marketing), and projected profit. Once approved, the budget is the basis for developing plans and schedules for material procurement, production scheduling, employee recruitment, and marketing operations.

^ Controls: This last section outlines the controls for monitoring the plan. Typically, the goals and budget are spelled out for each month or quarter so senior management can review the results each period. Sometimes contingency plans for handling specific adverse developments are included.

No two companies handle marketing planning and marketing plan content exactly the same way. Most marketing plans cover one year and vary in length; some firms take their plans very seriously, while others use them as only a rough guide to action. The most frequently cited shortcomings of marketing plans, according to marketing executives, are lack of realism, insufficient competitive analysis, and a short-run focus.

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