Marketing Plan Guidelines. Marketing Plans are the chief way firms ensure they have sound analysis of their marketing environment, good strategies to respond to that environment, and a means of ensuring the plans are executed. A Marketing Plan is the major element of the Business Plan, since it details key issues and specific plans for implementation and control. It is helpful to follow a standard format: Executive Summary This should capture the key points of your report, with a stress on recommendations. Think of it as a way to set up the readers and get them interested. Avoid rehashes. Although it appears first, it is written last. Current Marketing Situation This is a highly descriptive phase which should help us understand the environment for the business. Key players, major market characteristics and the current marketing strategy for the firm should all be here. Examine the broad environment. Describe market trends and discuss consumer behavior, particularly segments. SWOT Analysis Strengths and weaknesses (internal issues) reflect issues unique to your firm; strengths are areas you can build on while weaknesses should be avoided or overcome. Opportunities and threats describe external issues which affect the industry as a whole. Opportunities are typically emerging or robust segments. They exist whether your firm is there or not. Avoid strategy recommendations at this stage. Do not confuse opportunities for the industry with possible strategies or tactics for your firm. Issue Analysis This section sets the stage for the rest of the report. It shows which segments you believe most closely match your firm’s strengths and weaknesses. You prioritize the most important opportunities and threats. Briefly state which opportunities/segments you did not pursue and why. Keep this short and focused. Objectives These should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based. They should relate to marketing issues, unless financial ones are clearly required. They should be clearly linked to your issue analysis; indeed, they may even fall out from it! An example might be “Achieve sales of $580,000 by the end of the year.” Marketing Strategy Your broad plan to achieve your objectives is detailed here. You should identify which segment(s) are your target market(s) and why. State your positioning strategy and very briefly sketch out the 4Ps. Briefly link this back to your analysis. “We are targeting Baby Boomers because they are entering the prime age group for this product.” Suggest alternative strategies and explain why you rejected them. This is not a long section, but it flows clearly from your analysis and objectives. Action Plans (Tactics) These deal with the very practical issues of implementing your strategies. “We will add three new outlets each month.” or “New product launches will occur in June and November.” Keep this section organized around your strategies; if you chose three key segments, your plans should show how each of those three will be handled. These are your most practical recommendations and it is to this section that your client should look to determine “what do I do now?” Include costs and responsibilities, if applicable. This is where you show the plans are achievable. Pro Formas (Projected Profit-and-Loss Statements) These prove your strategy is sound. In most cases, you will have forecasted a certain level of sales. Using information from the case or reasonable assumptions, plug in Cost of Goods Sold and the costs of the things you are recommending– if you call for extensive advertising, cost it out here. If little data is available, keep it simple. Evaluation Procedures (Controls) This section should close the loop with your objectives and strategy, since it looks at how you are doing in terms of achieving those objectives. If you strove to sell $580,000 by the end of the year, you should have targets for each month, quarter or week. Year- to-year comparisons of sales or research on market share, if feasible, would be other measures. Your objectives were sound and measurable, so the controls are the way they are measured. Preparation Tips Focus It is usually better to deal with one or a few strategies in more depth, rather than dabble in several at a general level. You may well come across many issues when you analyze the current situation and do opportunity and issue analysis. However, the issues section should conclude with some comment on the key issues, the ones that will be the thread that is woven throughout your report. Realistically, a company can only do so much, so it makes sense to target as sharply as possible. By establishing a clear focus, it becomes easier to keep the report to a reasonable length. External vs. Internal One of the biggest problems people have is distinguishing these two. Marketing is about finding out what consumers want and responding to that with appropriate products and services. To understand what consumers want, we examine the external environment and see what trends are creating new segments, which things are favorable for existing segments and other factors that are significant to the industry, such as historic growth rates, technological changes and so forth. Remember, all of this information is the same for your competitors and for firms thinking of entering the field. It exists even if your firm does not. It is external to your firm, beyond its control. But it is telling you what consumers want. Internal issues are the strengths and weaknesses your firm brings to the situation. These are things that are within your control. For example, you can overcome a weakness in distribution by getting a business partner with strong channels. It is the skillful matching of your resources with the external environment that makes you a good marketer! That is the basic process behind the marketing plan.