The marketing plan captures the outputs from the marketing planning process in one cohesive document. If the plan is done well, it puts a plan in place that aligns the marketing strategy, objectives, and tactics with the corporate mission. It also supports the corporate objectives and strategy, which creates alignment with other functions across the company.
While this alignment is assumed, the presentation and formalization of the marketing plan often surfaces misalignment. Perhaps the finance team had assumed that the promotion strategy was not central to the plan and had reduced the budget. Perhaps the supply chain team had not recognized how aggressive the new product plans were and is not staffed to support them. While it is frustrating to identify points of confusion and misalignment, it is always best to do that in the planning process before it has impact on customers and on the market.
The marketing plan acts as a mechanism to communicate with other functions and to check for alignment.
Clarifying the Action Plan
There are many reasons why organizations fail to execute effectively, but many can be traced back to communication. When a large marketing organization begins to execute a plan, it’s important that everyone understands what the goals are, but it’s equally important to know which analysis supports (or possibly undermines) the plan. If a marketer is not fully aware of competitive threats that have been identified, then he may unknowingly make trade-offs that fail to address the competitive risk. If a product marketer is deeply focused on defining a new product and bringing it to market, she might not be aware of significant dependencies on the supply chain and distribution channels.
Similarly, in small organizations, there is a tendency to jump over the analysis and simply do what needs to be done. The marketing plan requires a greater level of rigour and serves to communicate that rigour to the rest of the team. The marketing plan is also a requirement of most funders (banks and investors alike), because it forces a degree of discipline on small businesses, which they may not already have.
The marketing plan is an important tool to communicate detailed plans within the marketing function.
Informing Adjustments and New Strategies
As soon as the first activity identified in the plan is executed, the marketing plan begins to be outdated. The more successful the plan is, the more quickly it will require a significant revision. If you are able to identify and implement a strategy that results in tremendous success, that will change the competitive dynamics and cause other companies to adjust their strategy and tactics.
Moreover, each action will generate new market data about what works and what doesn’t work. This creates opportunities for new analysis and better strategies.
Sometimes an organization can get away with small quarterly updates to the marketing plan and major annual revisions. Other times, the market has shifted enough by the end of one quarter that a completely new approach is warranted—or a more aggressive implementation of the current approach. Either way, a regular update to the marketing plan allows for new analysis informed by new market experience, opportunities to realign plans with other functions, and the chance to inform others within the marketing function so that the team can learn and evolve together.