Commandments For Marketing Planning
published in the American Marketing Association's "Marketing
News", September 1994.
planning is a fundamental process which is at the core of
every business. This process defines the corporation's view
of the market, its current position in it, the objectives
it sets and the way it allocates resources. Its execution
has a direct bearing on the organization's financial well
being. Yet with all its importance, this process is often
inadequate or even undefined.
my experience as a recipient and developer of plans and as
consultant in marketing planning over the last decade, I
have found the following as the key levers that determine
success or failure of planning efforts. You may think of
them as the 10 Commandments of Marketing Planning.
Demonstrate executive leadership.
By far, the single most important
factor in the success or failure of marketing planning efforts
is the role played by the executive responsible for success in
the market. Ideally this executive should personally lead the
planning effort. If activities that chart the direction of his
or her part of the business are not the top of the priority list,
what is? And Why? In cases where the executive cannot personally
lead the planning effort, he or she needs to sponsor it both
strongly and visibly. They should designate a team leader who
is empowered to represent them, select the planning team, kick
off and set the tone for the planning effort, clearly state the
objectives, and be readily available for regular status reviews.
When the plan is completed, it should be their plan, and they
should lead the drive toward its implementation.
Drive for cross functional participation.
To ensure that the plan reflects
organizational realities and has buy-in from all functions responsible
for implementation, these functions should be included in the
process right from the beginning. Some functions may be represented
in the core team while others may be called on to participate
as needed. An awareness of the project from the start and being
kept informed of progress will contribute significantly to the
Utilize market intelligence.
Market intelligence is the foundation
of any marketing plan. In some environments it is abundant, and
in others scarce. Plans need to be built as much as possible
on facts, and as little as possible on opinions and assertions
which cannot be substantiated. Where these opinions and assertions
are made, they need to be noted as such, and if significant,
they need to be validated before committing resources. Before
you kickoff a planning effort, get all the intelligence you can
get your hands on relating to the market, the competitors and
the company's own capabilities.
Focus, focus, focus on the customer.
Marketing planning revolves around
the customer. It requires a thorough understanding of his wants
and needs. It results in the delivery of offerings to satisfy
the customers' wants and needs. The customer must be the target
around which the thinking is developed. When leading marketing
planning efforts, I at times reserve a seat for a representative
customer. When we are too internally focused or confronted with
a thorny issue, I challenge the group to think how this customer
would vote. That vote has to carry a lot of weight.
Plan by market segment.
In today's business environment,
where mass customization is becoming a norm, delivering an average
offering for an average market is a sure prescription for failure.
A vendor who satisfies most of the needs of a segment of the
market will win over a vendor who satisfies only some of the
needs of the whole market.
Set a hard target date for plan completion.
Some planning efforts develop a
momentum of their own and carry on with endless analysis. The
longer the planning project takes, the more likely one is to
encounter shifts in organizational focus, planning team turnover
and loss of momentum. To shorten the planning cycle time you
need executive focus, a schedule for the plan with progress milestones,
clear objectives, good market intelligence and people for whom
the planning project is a high priority.
Cultivate a bias for action.
All plans need to answer three
basic questions: a. ‘Where are we now?’--the market
analysis phase; b. ‘Where do we want to go?’--the objective
setting phase; and c.‘How will we get there?’--the
strategy and action programs phase. While the phases build on
each other, each successive phase provides more value for the
organization. You need to make sure you do not get stuck in analysis
paralysis. Market analysis is not an end in itself. It is simply
a foundation upon which to set objectives, build strategies and
formulate action programs.
Tie compensation to plan objectives.
Business people are driven by their
compensation plans. If executives' compensation is tied to objectives
which are different from those in your marketing plan, guess
which objectives they'll pay greater allegiance to. To ensure
compliance with the plan, you need to tie people's compensation
to performance against the plan's objectives.
I have seen cases where the process
emphasis has been poorly applied and has become an end in itself.
Yet stripped to its core purpose, process has a significant role
in marketing planning. The following questions can help you frame
your process thinking: How do you go about deciding what market
segments to focus on? How do you plan for them? Who is responsible
for allocating resources? How does that get done and when? What
measurements are in place, both for the plan and the planning
process? How do you strive for improvements year to year?
Remember that one size does not fit all.
We all have plans, whether they are deliberately developed or
defacto. Some may be formal, highly documented and with elaborate
segmentation schemes. Others exist in people's heads, or on a
yellow sheet of paper drawn on a kitchen table one Sunday morning
5 years ago (literally, for a $4 million software company I know).
What is important is not the form or volume, but the clarity
of thinking and the appropriateness of the plan for your organization.
If the plan spells out clearly your current position, where you
want to go, and how you are going to get there, and is understood
and supported by your organization, then you are well on your
Zuhair M. Suidan