Formal Marketing Plans

Formal Marketing Plans

What are formal marketing plans?

Formal marketing planning is what is commonly thought of as marketing planning. It tends to be a systematic process that includes a series of stages. Few authors agree on the specifics of the process but it is common to see the marketing plan beginning with analysis, the development of strategy and the implementation of the marketing mix (Hooley et al 1996, Simkin 2000, Kotler 2001, Baker 2000, Dibb 2002).

Hence there is the use of a mission statement and corporate objectives. Such a strategic view is not common to all approaches. Commonly the organization’s size is ignored completely (Dibb 2002). Others place marketing planning after strategic planning (Kotler 2001, Wensley (in Baker 2003). There are many applications of marketing planning that create their own contradictions and confusions that simply underpin the fact that there is no straightforward, commonly accepted approach. There is often some overlap between the strategic and operational aspects of marketing planning (Varadarajan and Clark 1994)

Marketing planning is widespread (Dibb 2002) and has been adopted by a wide variety of organizations in almost every market and sector, such as the service sector (Greenley 1983), the manufacturing sector (Greenley 1982), cause relate marketing (Adkins 1999), arts marketing (Kerrigan et al 2004), as well as many others. The subject of marketing planning has generated a large number of papers, books and studies that have approached the subject in a number of ways. The earliest references to marketing planning were made in the 1960’s. Marketing planning for industrial products has been investigated (Ames 1960). Consumer manufacturing companies were scrutinized by Stasch and Lanktree in the 1980’s. Hopkins (1981) looked into 265 US companies of varying sizes. US grocery manufacturers from the top one-hundred spenders on advertising were examined in 1982 by Cosse and Swan. From a geographical point of view, the early research was done in the United States of America followed by research from British academics.

McDonald’s 1982 PhD thesis looked at the views of mainly directors and chief executives from UK companies, whilst Greenley (1982, 1983) investigated both manufacturing companies and service companies, all with varying turnovers and with differences in size. Therefore strategic versus tactical marketing planning may be an oversimplification. As can be seen from the short series of selected examples above, companies that adopt marketing planning come from a variety of market sectors, different countries and cultures, from companies with a range of turnovers.

Marketing plans, according to McDonald (2003), contain a series of steps that make up the marketing planning process. The steps are mission, corporate objectives, marketing audit, SWOT analysis, assumptions, marketing objectives and strategies, estimate expected results, identify alternative plans and mixes, budgets, and first year implementation programme. This is a typical formal marketing planning process. However McDonald tends to take a strategic perspective on marketing planning as opposed to a tactical/operational perspective, and this difference of perspective is one for which there are varying opinions in the marketing planning literature.

Strategic and Tactical – Marketing Planning Perspectives

The much emulated and generally highly regarded ‘McDonald’ approach to marketing planning contains a series of provisos or assumptions. It is strategic rather than tactical i.e. it is a corporate marketing plan. Definitions of strategic as opposed to tactical are cited below.

A strategic plan is a plan which covers a period beyond the next fiscal year. Usually this is for between three and five years.

(McDonald 2003 p31)

A tactical plan covers in quite a lot of detail about actions to be taken, by whom, during a short-term planning period. This is usually for one year or less.

(McDonald 2003 p31)