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Preparing a marketing plan.


A marketing plan provides a framework for you to develop your business. It tells you where you are going and how you will get there. Following a standard model of marketing planning containing formalised procedures helps to foster a rational approach to decision making and encourages everyone to follow the same strategy.

National Occupational Standards for Management and Leadership

This checklist has relevance for the following standards: B: Providing leadership, units 2, 3 F: Achieving results, units 3, 4, 9


A marketing plan summarises the overall marketing objectives, strategies and the programmes of action required to achieve those objectives. 'It spells out who will do what, when, where and how, to achieve its ends.' (Westwood).

Marketing planning requires a careful examination of all strategic issues, including the business environment, the markets themselves, competitors, the corporate mission statement, and organisational capabilities. The resulting marketing plan should be communicated to appropriate staff, preferably through an oral briefing with questions and answers, to ensure it is fully understood.

Action checklist

1. Set strategic objectives

These have been traditionally set by top management although current practice is to employ more democratic processes involving the key stakeholders if not all the staff. They are not usually within the brief of the market planner alone. They must be kept firmly in mind and the strategies and action plans drawn up must be broadly in line with them. The market planning process can't go forward without them.

The written plan should include a copy of the strategic objectives and the organisation's mission statement.

2. Carry out a marketing audit

This process enables a company to analyse and understand the environment in which it operates. It is the key to the SWOT analysis, the next stage in the marketing planning process. It is carried out in two parts: the external audit and the internal audit.

The external audit should cover the business and economic environment, the market and the competition; this should examine the important trends which have affected and which will be affecting the market and the industry. It also involves searching questions about competitors and customers, now and in the future.

The internal audit should concentrate on the planner's own company, its operational efficiency and service effectiveness, its key skills, competences and resources, its products / services and the 'core' business it is in.

3. Carry out a SWOT analysis

This is a summary of the audit under the headings Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats and should be included in the final written plan. Strengths and weaknesses refer to the company and its internal environment while opportunities and threats are external factors over which the company has no control but which it must anticipate, evaluate and try to exploit. Only key data should be included. (See also the Performing a SWOT analysis (Checklist 005)

4. Make assumptions

These assumptions are the strategic drivers of the marketing plan and they may relate to economic, technological or competitive factors. Assumptions should be based on accurate information and sensible estimates of what can be achieved in the light of past performance. Sound information is problematic because the pace of change is making the future discontinuous from the past. Coming up with viable and challenging assumptions involves creative, lateral thinking and breaking with the past. Only a few major assumptions should be included in the written plan.

5. Set marketing objectives

This is the central step in the marketing planning process because the setting of achievable and realistic objectives is based on the analysis of the marketing audit, while strategy decisions cannot be made without reference to objectives. Marketing objectives are concerned with which products are to be sold in which markets: it is important not to confuse objectives (what you want to do) with strategies (how you are going to do it). The objectives should be included in the written plan.

6. Estimate expected results

Marketing objectives should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-tabled. For example, "to gain a 6% share of the overall market" or "to achieve 600 customers by the end of the year". Terms such as "increase" or "maximise" should not be used unless they can be quantified.

7. Generate marketing strategies

These are the broad methods by which the marketing objectives will be achieved and they describe the means of doing so within the required time. They are generally referred to as the marketing mix or as the four Ps: Product--what are its benefits to the customer; Price--how it is priced to attract the right, or the appropriate customer base; Place--who are those customers; Promotion--how may they be reached. They should appear in the written plan.

The 4 Ps of the marketing mix have been accepted as conventional wisdom as market power has driven new product and service development since the 1970s. More recently, research has come up with an additional formula that should not replace the 4 Ps, but run in conjunction with them--the 4 Cs (Crittenden):

* Customer centrality--who are the company's customers and what do they want?

* Competitive capability--how quickly and efficiently can the company get its products to market?

* Company collaboration--how effectively and productively do we integrate internally? How do we identify and relate to external companies which can contribute to our success?

* Cyclical connection--how does the success or failure of implementing strategic programmes affect ongoing strategy formulation practice and decisions.

8. Define programmes

The general strategies must be developed so that they have their own programmes or action plans. The combination of these plans and their relative importance will depend on the company. A large company with several different functions or departments may have several plans covering advertising, sales promotion, pricing and so on. Other companies may have one plan, for example, a product plan embracing all four Ps with a new focus on questions arising from the 4Cs. Details of the programmes should be included in the written plan.

9. Communicate the plan

Everyone should understand the plan. It is advisable to make a presentation of it rather than to circulate written copies. If the plan is not effectively communicated, it will fail.

10. Measure and review progress

The plan should be monitored as it progresses. Make sure the measures you collect are meaningful to the success of the plan. If circumstances change, it should be revised to take advantage of unforeseen opportunities or to counter unforeseen threats. Details of how this should be done need to be included in the written plan and should relate directly to stages 4-9 above.

How not to prepare a marketing plan


* Get wrapped up in potentially rigid control mechanisms--the plan is to steer you, not constrict you

* Lose flexibility and creativity for strict adherence to process--processes should offer a framework that highlight things you might otherwise miss

* Lose sight of 'best fit'--the plan must adjust to suit the size, culture, pace and circumstances of the organisation

* Pretend that it is not time-consuming, it is and with its consequential cost implications

* Let the construction of the plan chip away at and alter the strategic objectives

* Confuse objectives (what you want to achieve) with strategies (how you are trying to achieve them)

* Neglect to analyse information carefully, nor spend too long on projecting future markets from historical data

* Forget to fully consult on and communicate the plan.

Additional resources


The marketing plan, 5th ed William A Cohen

Hoboken NJ: John Wiley, 2006

The marketing plan workbook John Westwood

London: Kogan Page, 2005

The highly effective marketing plan Peter Knight

London: Pearson Prentice Hall Business, 2004

The successful marketing plan: a disciplined and comprehensive approach, 3rd ed Roman G Hiebing and Scott W Cooper

New York NY: McGraw Hill, 2003

Marketing plans in a week, 2nd ed Ros Jay Chartered Management Institute

London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2003

Marketing plans, 5th ed Malcolm McDonald

Oxford: Butterworth Heinemann, 2002

This is a selection of books available for loan to members from the Management Information Centre. More information at:

Internet resources

Business and marketing Plans has templates, tools and plans. worksheets/bplans

How to Write a Marketing Plan and sample marketing plans is one of the sections of the Virtual Marketing Library is a resource and reference site for those involved in marketing, market research, advertising, selling, promotion, and other marketing-related areas

The Business link guide to writing a marketing plan outlines the key areas to look at and to include in an effective marketing plan


Chartered Institute of Marketing

Moor Hall, Cookham, Maidenhead, Berkshire SL6 9QH

Tel: 01628 427500

The Institute of Sales & Marketing Management

Harrier Court, Lower Woodside Bedfordshire LU1 4DQ

Tel: 01582 840001

Marketing Society

1 Park Road Teddington Middlesex TW11 0AR

Tel: 020 8973 1700
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Title Annotation:Checklist 020
Publication:Chartered Management Institute: Checklists: Marketing Strategy
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 1, 2006
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Next Article:Performing a SWOT analysis.

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