Last week in this blog I complained that too many small and medium-sized enterprises see marketing solely as a tactical exercise. I regularly see small businesses advertising for marketing staff and predominantly the job description focuses on day to day activities such as writing social media content, designing print adverts or entering product content onto websites. These activities are no doubt related to marketing; BUT THEY ARE NOT MARKETING.
That last statement may seem counter-intuitive but bear with me.
Advertising is an activity closely linked to marketing. It is the process which will likely follow the determination of a marketing mix. You can also say the same of sales force management, copywriting and web design. Those are all activities which derive from the creation of a marketing mix. Marketing isn’t the derivative activities needed after the creation of a marketing mix; it is the analysis of the market, and of an organisation within that market, and the development of a plan which allows that organisation to make best use of profitable gaps in that market.
Marketing is the process of taking the aims, goals and mission of an organisation and putting a consumer focus upon them. Marketing is the process of giving an organisation a clear and differentiated identity in the minds of consumers.
Business Planning should be structured and systematic process. It has three main components:
- Objectives: which have to be achieved,
- Actions: which define how objectives are to be achieved
- Resources: what is required to implement those actions
Corporate planning involves creating objectives for all parts of a business. It is the overall coordination of an organisation’s functionality. Different functions contribute to common organisation wide goals e.g. turnover, profit generation and dividend value. A corporate plan will integrate functional objectives e.g. productivity levels, creation of market share, sales volumes, cash flow, efficiency, quality assurance.
So a corporate plan which aims to improve customer retention will likely lead to a marketing plan focused on key account management and customer service; a human resources plan aimed at attracting high quality staff and an operations plan focused on quality control and assurance.
A strategic corporate plan will be integrative; coordinating functional activity towards common goals. It will take a whole organisation view and provide collective targets for functional groups. It’s aim should be to provide focus by defining the overall scope of a business e.g. the markets served, the nature of its activities, so appropriate functional strategies and tactics can be developed.
Corporate plans should be concerned with making major business decisions over the long-term and set required resource profiles. A corporate plan should match the organisation to the current and future business environment.
I suspect the senior management of many small businesses get the fact that corporate plans are long-term strategy documents. What they then do is assume that anything below the corporate plan level is a short-term tactical planning process. So marketing is a campaign to campaign process where ad hoc activities are collated in the short-term. So a corporate plan is for five years, but a marketing plan is annual, or seasonal.
Many businesses will also see a marketing plan as being at the same level as other functional plans. I do not see marketing planning in this way.
Marketing is about having a consumer focus to your business. That focus should be represented in your marketing mix. We know the seven Ps of that mix; Product, Price, Promotion, Place, People, Physical Evidence, Process.
So a marketing plan will directly influence other ‘functional’ plans. So the process element of the mix will directly affect your operations planning; the price element of the mix will affect your financial planning; the place element of the mix affects your distribution and logistical plans; the people element will affect your human resources planning; The physical evidence element will affect your location and facilities planning; and so on.
So marketing planning is not a traditional functional plan. It sits between your corporate plan and your functional planning because your marketing plan reflects your corporate plan and influences your functional plans.
In truth marketing is both a long-term strategic process and a short-term tactical process. Your marketing plans should have both long-term goals and targets and short-term activities which deliver those long-term goals.
A marketing plan should have a broad focus that defines the market and your organisation’s place in that market. Bear in mind that the information and problem-solving at this level may appear unstructured, external to the organisation and speculative.
So marketing can impinge on long-term strategic processes such as new product development. This is strategic marketing planning.
Marketing planning can also be short-term. These are the day to day activities involved in keeping your organisation on track with its strategic goals.
For example, your strategic plan may require your business to be the market leader (in terms of market share) within five years. However, the market is not static. it changes constantly. New competitors enter the market; others leave; consumers are fickle and change their preferences. So to achieve your long-term strategy, you need to constantly tweak the tactics used to achieve your goal of gaining market share.
So tactical marketing is the process of adapting your plan to the changing market. This often involves addressing structural processes which are internal to your organisation and which may be repetitive.
Too many SMEs view marketing as only a short-term, tactical, exercise. They ignore its strategic intent. Marketing is both a long-term corporate process AND a short-term functional process.
Marketing planning is key to adapting to environmental change, allocating resources, consistency in business practice, integration of activities via the marketing mix, motivating and communication with stakeholders and developing control over your organisation. Marketing is not simply the process of producing some adverts or putting up social media content.