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Too often, a marketing function is misunderstood, because many people do not understand what is meant by ‘Marketing’.
As shown in Figure 1 there are many different definitions for Marketing. The key is that they all share a common theme, marketing is: “Meeting the needs and wants and providing benefits for customers.”
But before being able to meet the needs and wants of customers as well as providing them with benefits. We need to work out:
• who our customers are
• which customer to target
• how to reach and win new customers
• how to keep existing customers happy.
Figure 1: Definitions of Marketing
And most importantly we need to keep reviewing and improving everything we do to stay ahead of the competition.
Marketing should be a long-term investment in your business, and not just something that is switched on and off as required.
WHAT IS MARKETING PLANNING?
Having an effective marketing plan is invaluable to all businesses. Even so it is amazing the number of companies that think they can operate and succeed without formal plans!
A marketing plan helps to focus your company on the vital activity of growing the business. It provides the framework on which to build new
“What is a marketing plan?
The written document that describes your advertising and marketing efforts for the coming year; it includes a statement of the marketing situation, a discussion of target markets and company positioning and a description of the marketing mix you intend to use to reach your marketing goals.” (Source: www.entreprenaur.com)
relationships and cement old ones. But the most important part of the marketing plan is not the document itself, but the process of putting it together. By taking the time to think deeply about your company's commitment to marketing, by the process of self-examination that is necessary, and by uncovering the true feelings of your customers, you will have a much clearer vision of the future.
Where do we start?
There are many different approaches to the marketing planning process. The one most widely recognised is the SOSTAC model developed in the 1990’s by PR Smith. The model is straightforward and goes through the process of building a marketing plan, ensuring that all relevant factors are considered, without excessive and expensive detail. Finally looking at the practical issues of putting the plan into practice.
STAGES OF THE MARKETING PLANNING PROCESS:
THE SOSTAC MODEL
S Situation Where are we now?
O Objectives Where do we want to go?
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S Strategy How do we get there?
T Tactics What tools do we use to implement the strategy?
A Action Detailed Action Plan for each tool/tactic?
C Control How do we track our progress and know when we have achieved our goals?
The SOSTAC Acronym helps to summarise the different stages of a strategic marketing process. It can also be viewed as an on-going cycle (Figure 2).
Figure 2: SOSTAC cycle:
S – Situation Analysis:
How we are performing, what are our distinct competitive advantages and how effective is our marketing mix.
The first stage is to accurately determine the market situation, a snapshot of where things stand. In this stage we use frameworks such as:
• PEST analysis - for macro-environmental political, economic, societal, and technological
• SWOT analysis - strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats - for the internal and external situation.
O – Objectives:
What’s the business mission and objectives?
The second stage, objectives, is all about asking ourselves the direction we want to go. Remember there is no point setting meaningless objectives they need to be SMART:
S – Strategy:
How are we going to get there?
The third stage is about setting the strategy, we know our market, and we have set our objectives, so how are we going to reach them? This involves determining the segmentation, targeting and positioning. It is only through an effective strategy will we achieve the competitive advantage identified in our situation analysis.
T – Tactics
This stage is the heart of market planning. It is about the tactics to be used to achieve the objectives set in stage 2. This section identifies the marketing mix, which communications tools will be used and how.
A – Actions:
Who, what, when?
The marketing plan must do more than just say what you want to do. It must include an action plan showing who is going to do what, when they are going to do it and the resources needed – especially financial!
It should also go onto say what KPI’s you will use to measure performance and how this will be recorded.
C – Control:
The final stage is all about measuring, monitoring, reviewing and modifying, and the stage which makes SOSTAC a complete cycle rather than just another framework. It is essentially assessing how effectively the strategy is working and making necessary modifications as required.
Having identified the stages of the marketing planning process it is easier to understand what should go into a market plan. Figure 3 shows contents of a typical marketing plan.
Figure 3 Contents of a typical marketing plan:
1. Executive summary
2. Current marketing situation
3. SWOT analysis
4. Objectives and issues
5. Target market
6. Marketing Strategy
7. Marketing programmes
8. Financial plans
9. Implementation controls
WHAT IS A MARKETING FUNCTION?
As stated by the leading business guru, Peter Drucker: “Business has only two basic functions – marketing and innovation”.
However, today the role and value of a marketing function is often undervalued in many companies. As Philip Kotler once remarked, ‘marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department’.
Marketing can be seen as a businesses lifeline – but it is also important to remember that a marketing department can not achieve results on its own. Some may disagree and say that marketing is not important, but ask yourself who in the business directs you to meet the needs and wants of your customers? Without these customers a business would fail to exist.
Marketing functions play an important role throughout the marketing process. In more and more businesses the marketing function now has a fundamental role in supporting the corporate planning process. It is the work carried out by the marketing function that helps top management establish a vision and mission for the organisation, and provide direction as to where it is heading both in the short term and long term.
Marketing functions play both a ‘bottom-up’ (providing input into the strategic decision-making process) and a ‘bottom-down’ (providing and implementing the marketing plan) role in the business.
In simple terms, as described by Philip Kotler “It is the role of the marketing function to define the company’s mission, products/services and markets, and to direct the other functions in the task of serving customers”.
It is important to remind yourself that it is all about the customer!
THE ROLE OF THE MARKETING FUNCTION AT IAL:
At Independent Audit we see marketing as an activity matching every part of our business with our customers so that:
• we meet their needs
• they are aware that we can meet their needs
• they are motivated to buy from us
• they are motivated to keep buying from us
As in other organisations our marketing function plays both a ‘bottom-up’ and ‘bottom-down’ role. The main role of the function could be seen as described earlier to carry out the SOSTAC framework.
But at IAL the key role of the marketing function is to support ‘Customer Relationship Management’ (CRM). Because in our business it is all about building relationships and gaining the trust of customers, without which we would not make any sales.
The marketing function really acts as a backbone for IAL, constantly measuring, monitoring, reviewing, and modifying our communications with customers so that they are in line with their needs and wants and just as importantly in line with the environment they operate in.
In fact most of our clients are clearly shocked when they learn how many people make up our marketing function – so we will continue to keep it a secret!
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MARKETING AND THE ORGANISATION:
You may ask how can the marketing function possibly cope with it all and still be successful. The answer is simple; it doesn’t do it alone it is all about teamwork!
Gone are the days where marketing could be carried out in isolation from the rest of the business, today the marketing department needs to work closely with the other functions to check that each department’s plans are achievable. After all even though as Marketing Manager I have my own department goals and objectives, our corporate goal is the same!
Teamwork and communication across our business is pivotal. Ask yourself, if three of our partners called you up in the course of a week trying to sell you exactly the same service, what would your impression of IAL be? I know if I was the customer I would definitely not buy from them.
The marketing function therefore works very closely with the sales department. But it’s not just a one way relationship. It is important to remember that some customer needs only become evident from a personal relationship, with sales. The sales function feeds this information back to marketing otherwise (as we have all experienced) customer may receive unnecessary or irrelevant communication. And vice versa, it is the marketing functions responsibility to keep sales informed of communications that have happened (so that they are not duplicated), or that need to be actioned by them.
Marketing also works closely with human resources, to ensure that the right level of resources are available to execute all plans in place. Whilst still allowing some flexibility to pursue new opportunities as they arise. This is not just a yearly meeting when the plans are derived, it is done regularly (monthly) just to monitor and review that there is no change.
Just as important is the relationship with Finance and Accounts. Again the most obvious reason is to ensure that the right level of funding is available to execute plans. But this is not the only reason, because accounts and finance need information about clients for billing purposes. In addition we like finance and accounts to feed back information to marketing for example client payment profiles.
You may ask what does this add? Well quite a lot because if a client is poor at paying then for any repeat business we would tailor the terms and conditions. And I am sure like any business we want to work for the clients who not only pay on time but pay the price rather then always expecting a discount. Hence marketing collect this information and feed it back into the CRM database.
Now be honest, do you have a relationship with your marketing function, in fact did you even know that a marketing function existed? If the answer is no, then just take 10 minutes out of your schedule and find out a little more about what they do.
And remember don’t be so quick to dismiss them as just another function, without them you would not know your customers!
Beamish, K. (2007) The Official CIM Course book Marketing Planning, First Edition, Oxford, Butterworth-Heinemann
Wood, M. (2007) Essential guide to Marketing Planning, Gosport, Prentice Hall
Kotler, P. et al.. (2002) Marketing Professional Services, Second Edition, Prentice Hall Press
Kotler, P. et al. (2005) Principles of Marketing, Fourth European Edition, Harlow, Pearson Education Limited.
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