Term Paper: Developing Marketing Strategy and Plans

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¶ … Marketing Strategies and Plans

Understanding the role of marketing planning assumes taking into consideration the strategic planning global process. Developing a marketing strategy requires certain key aspects to be established from the beginning, like the levels of strategic planning that exist in most companies, the relationship between the planning process and the company's mission, and also specific objectives for each strategic planning level.

Any marketing strategy must be integrated in the corporate strategy, as marketing objectives must be in full accordance with the company's general objectives (Wikipedia, 2008). In the case of any company, the strategic planning process takes place on several interdependent organizational and decisional levels. International experience in the field reflects the existence of the following levels:

The superior organizational level - this is the highest level in strategic planning. The most important strategic aspects approached at this level refer to establishing the company's mission statement and vision, formulating general objectives, establishing the structure of the activity portfolio, determining development directions, and also the volume of financial resources. This superior strategic planning approaches financial objectives mostly, as well as other types of objectives, like company image or social responsibility.

The strategic unit level - in order to attain its general objectives, the company is usually involved in producing or commercialized several products on different markets. As a consequence, the company becomes a system comprised of several strategic units. Basically, a strategic unit is characterized by separate planning, separate management, and it confronts with its own competitors. Strategic unit planning involves establishing products and services to be developed, target markets and target segments, and customer satisfaction. Compared to the superior level planning, strategic unit planning does not take into consideration the entire company, but only part of it. At this level, marketing strategy is oriented towards identifying and exploiting competitive advantage.

The functional level - the third strategic planning refers to the company's functions, since the company's competitiveness on the market is influenced by how these functions are performed. At this level, the company's marketing department elaborates marketing plans for each product. Each product's marketing plan must include both strategic and tactic decisions.

The marketing strategy and the mission statement

The marketing strategy must be established in full accordance with the company's vision. This vision must not be simply limited to maximizing the company's profits, as it must reflect the company's values. Most companies establish an official mission statement in order to communicate their vision to all the interested parties. The mission must not be mistaken for the company's objectives, as it must be an expression of the company's scope.

Defining the company's mission statement is a time consuming activity and is characterized by specificity. In order to be useful for the company, the mission statement must specify the company's scope, the position that the company wishes to attain, the company's values, especially the attitude towards internal and external groups, like employees, shareholders, clients, suppliers, and other directly interested parties.

Generally, the company's mission statement refers to the following components: target markets or target segments (specifying the types of prospective customers that the company aims at serving), the company's main products and services (mentioning their specific advantages), geographical activity area (local, national, regional, or global), basic technologies used by the company for satisfying the needs of the targeted market, the company's philosophy (or credo, reflecting the company's philosophical beliefs, values, aspirations, and priorities), the desired public image, the company's distinctive advantage (the abilities that differentiate the company from its competitors).

The company's mission statement is a key factor involved in the strategic planning, due to the fact that the mission statement establishes the boundaries in which strategic units operate. The mission statement defines the main directions in order to further guide the company in selecting the most favorable opportunities, starting with prospective customers' needs, competitors' actions, the company's resources, and external environment changes. Research in the field has demonstrated that companies that formulate their own mission statement that guides their entire activity have obtained superior performances to those who do not have a clear vision on their activity (Fuchsberg, 1994).

Strategic marketing planning objectives

The mission statement only establishes the general orientation of the company. Therefore, this is not sufficient for determining specific objectives for each organizational level. As a consequence, a very important step of the marketing planning process is represented by establishing the objectives.

In order to facilitate the fulfillment of the company's mission statement, the objectives must meet certain requirements, like: acceptability (objectives must respond to all requirements made by the main stakeholders, internal or external to the company), flexibility (the sudden emergence of certain changes in the external or internal environment will make it difficult for the company to attain its objectives), measurability (it would be useful for each objective to clearly state what measures will be taken during a certain period of time; the numerical expression of an objective increases the chances for its attainment and limits the appearance of certain misunderstandings), motivational character (the success in attaining the objectives depends on the implication of the company's personnel; therefore, any objective should be high enough to stimulate the participation of all organizational levels, but not too high, in order to avoid certain frustrations in case the objective will not be attained), clarity (objectives must be well understood by all managers and their subordinates), compatibility (each objective must be formulated in complete accordance with the rest of the company's objectives; it is necessary to avoid any contradictions that might emerge between different objectives).

The marketing plan

The planning process is materialized in a marketing plan that will direct the marketing activity and the company's resources so that marketing objectives are attained. As a result of the contribution belonging to different organizational levels, the marketing plan has certain functions, like: identifying the competitive advantage sources on the markets that the company operates on; orienting the company's activity in accordance with internal and external environmental changes; diminishing or avoiding the negative impact of an unstable or turbulent environment; clearly establishing future objectives, in financial, non-financial, quantitative, and qualitative terms; coordinating the efforts of the company's departments in order to attain marketing objectives; increasing personnel's implication, by specifying the tasks and their duration; allocating resources for different marketing activities, in accordance with their contribution to attaining the established objectives; providing reference points for results evaluation, in order to take the necessary measures for amplifying positive results, and for correcting negative aspects.

Regarding the time horizon, the marketing plan can be elaborated for different time intervals. Frequently, companies elaborated their plans for short periods of time, usually for one year. In other cases, the time horizon can be expanded to a medium period of time, like 2-3 years, or even more, 4-5 years. In the case of companies that follow long-term plans, annual plans will be elaborated by detailing and revising them. Therefore, the correspondence established between the two types of plans will facilitate the monitoring of their evolution. Given its operational value, the annual marketing plan is sometimes referred to as a tactical plan, while long-term plans are also called strategic plans, given their contribution to directing the marketing activity.

The long-term plan will be elaborated in accordance with the company's mission, the necessary resources, and the estimated evolution of external environment key factors. Companies that prioritize the annual marketing plan manifest a reactive attitude towards to external environment. Therefore, objectives, strategies, and action programs are elaborated as an effect of changes that occur in the microenvironment and the macro-environment. However, it is recommended to display an active attitude that allows for marketing activities to be planned in accordance with the company's mission and general objectives, its resources and potential, and the market situation.

The structure of the marketing plan

Marketing practice shows that the detailed structure of the marketing plan registers a series of differences from one company to another, depending on the particularities of their activity. Generally, the structure of any marketing plan must incorporate the following components: the summary and the introduction, external and internal environment analysis, SWOT analysis, hypotheses, objectives, marketing strategies, marketing program, budget, and the control system (TCIOM, 2008).

The summary is the first component of the marketing plan. It consists in briefly presenting the contents of the plan. Its role is to facilitate the rapid understanding marketing objectives, strategies, and tactics developed in the plan. It is recommended that the summary is no longer than 2-3 pages.

The internal and external environment analysis is performed through a marketing audit. The purpose of this analysis is to identify the most significant exogenous and endogenous factors that influence the company's marketing activity and their positive or negative impact.

The SWOT analysis is the synthesis of the audit program. It presents and evaluates the company's strengths and weaknesses, and the external environment's opportunities and threats. The aspects revealed by SWOT analysis are characterized by specificity, indicating the company's situation and its relationship with the external micro and macro-environment.

The marketing plan's hypotheses… [END OF PREVIEW]

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