Strategic marketing planning - Marketing Management

When it comes to defining strategic management, we encounter a plethora of different definitions. Below are three definitions which move us from the concept of strategic planning and to the focus of this text, i.e. strategic marketing. Baker15 proposes this definition of strategy, illustrating both its directional nature and its military antecedents: ‘A strategy is the achievement of a stated purpose through the utilization of available resources.’ Strategies, then, are the outcome of the strategic planning process that Kotler and Keller16 define thus:

Market-oriented strategic planning is the managerial process of developing and maintaining a viable fit between the organization’s objectives, skills and resources and its changing market opportunities. The aim of strategic planning is to shape and re-shape the company’s businesses and products so that they yield target profits and growth.

Strategic marketing is defined by Cravens as:

A process of strategically analyzing environmental, competitive and business factors affecting business units and forecasting future trends in business areas of interest to the enterprise; participating in setting objectives and formulating corporate and business unit strategy; selecting target market strategies for product markets in each business unit; establishing marketing objectives and developing, implementing and managing program positioning strategies for meeting target market needs.

Craven’s definition encapsulates the key elements in strategic marketing. We now expand key steps as a prelude to examining these in more detail.

The setting for marketing plans: key considerations

Marketing plans take a variety of forms, ranging from verbal intentions or a set of budgets for achievement, to formalized structures and procedures used as part of the corporate planning process. We now provide a framework through which we can structure the key steps and inputs to a strategic marketing plan. In this way marketing becomes a better organized function and makes a substantial contribution to organizational performance in areas in which marketing orientation is needed. As in any planning system, the providers must be clear on the intended use and the contribution desired from them. Therefore, certain key questions must be asked:

  1. Do we have the ability to match our ambitions? Often the ambition to achieve a marketing planning system reaches beyond the realities of ability.
  2. Have we considered the planning horizons in terms of time?
  3. Have we defined the boundaries of the system clearly?
  4. What purposes are to be served by the marketing planning system? (This will help later to determine objectives.)
  5. What structure should exist to enable the plan to be implemented, planned and achieved?
  6. What do we require to achieve the purpose we have now identified?
  7. What constraints currently limit our ability, and can these be overcome?
  8. What contributions are we seeking to organizational and financial performance from the plan?

Like all planning, marketing planning concerns the future, which depends on a clear understanding of organizational and market needs. This approach is important as it involves a time dimension which needs to be clearly specified.

A planned approach depends on an ability to predict, anticipate and adapt. Marketing planning means change. It is a process that involves deciding currently what to do in the future with a full appreciation of the resource position; the need to set clear, communicable, measurable objectives; the development of alternative courses of action and a means of assessing the best route towards achievement of specified objectives. Marketing planning is designed to assist the marketing decision making process under conditions of uncertainty.

  • Above all, the process of marketing planning has a number of benefits:
  • motivates staff;
  • secures participation and involvement;
  • achieves commitment;
  • leads ultimately to better decision making;
  • requires management staff collectively to make clear judgemental statements about assumptions – the very basis upon which the future depends;
  • ensures a systematic approach to the future has been taken;
  • prevents ‘short-termism’ i.e. the tendency to place all effort on the ‘here and now’;
  • creates a climate in which change can be made, and in which standards for performance can be established;
  • enables a control system to be designed and established whereby performance can be assessed against predetermined criteria.

Marketing plans can be both strategic and tactical, the latter operating within the framework imposed by the former. It is this strategic framework that now concerns us. Whether they are tactical or strategic, marketing planning requires the laying down of policies for the acquisition, use and disposal of resources.

Marketing planning as a functional activity can only work within a corporate planning framework. The marketing planner must consider the need to achieve corporate level objectives by means of exploiting product and market combinations. There is an underlying requirement for any organization to set a clearly defined business mission as the basis from which the organizational direction can develop.

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