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In the fast-changing and increasingly competitive business environment of the late 1990s, the right marketing approach for today's conditions will almost certainly not be right for those of tomorrow. No company's strategy or operations can afford to be frozen in time and, as the new millennium draws near, the ability to develop effective marketing plans which enable the firm to become more responsive and adaptable to the marketplace will, perhaps more than ever before, differentiate the winners from the losers. The vast majority of books and articles on the subject, however, deal with marketing planning as it relates to big business, citing big business cases and examples. By contrast, this article focuses on marketing planning as it relates to small businesses. Specifically, it aims to provide an understanding of how all the key concepts, tools and techniques of textbook marketing can be applied in the form of a simplified and practical framework for marketing plan development in the smaller business. The article begins by providing the rationale for the proposed framework, followed by a detailed description of each of the five planning phases it incorporates.
A rationale for the proposed framework
There are three fundamental principles which underpin the proposed planning framework. The first principle is to adopt a marketing orientation, or philosophy, of business. In contrast to a production-oriented company which focuses on producing technically excellent products at the lowest possible cost, or a sales-oriented company which focuses on persuasion techniques, the marketing-oriented company, above all else, focuses on satisfying its customers (Keegan et al., 1992). The second principle is to employ a comprehensive planning approach. The five "classic" functions of management are: leading, analysing, planning, organizing and controlling and, to be effective, marketing planning must be comprehensive with respect to all five. Any approach which does not involve them all will almost certainly be suboptimal because they are mutually supportive of one another in enabling a company to create and keep satisfied customers successfully over the long term. The third principle is to "keep on" marketing planning. The fast-changing nature of the modern business environment means that marketing planning should be a continuous, ever-evolving process, which seeks to exploit these changes to the company's best advantage (Brooks-bank, 1991).
Putting it all together
The BASIC marketing planning process combines the three fundamental principles and goes through five main phases: business-customerizing, analysing; strategizing; implementing and controlling, as shown in Figure 1. Figure 1 also serves to highlight the key aims at each phase of the process (in the left-hand column) and the key tasks involved (in the right-hand column). Note how the three building blocks underpin the process. First, a marketing-oriented business philosophy is a prerequisite. Second, the process is comprehensive with respect to the five key management functions. Third, there are feedback arrows throughout, in order to project its dynamic, evolutionary nature. Figure 1 translates into the following definition: marketing planning involves the regular analysis of a company's competitive situation leading to the setting of marketing objectives, and the formulation and implementation of strategies, tactics, organizations and controls, all for the purpose of satisfying customers more profitably.
The phases in more detail
Business-customerizing phase plan development
The term "customerizing" refers to the process of growing a company-wide commitment to satisfying customers and, in this first stage of the planning process, the central aim is for senior management to provide the necessary leadership in facilitating this process. The challenge is to motivate, inspire and encourage all staff to appreciate that, ultimately, they work for customers.
Task 1: build a marketing-led company culture
Management will be successful in building a marketing-led or "customer-driven" company culture only if everyone in the business believes in it and wants it to happen. That is why it is important to make everyone aware of the potential benefits, such as additional repeat business, fewer complaints (less "fire-fighting"), more new customers by …