Using and Updating the Marketing Plan

Learning Objectives

  • Discuss how the marketing plan is used to coordinate efforts between the marketing team and other parts of the organization
  • Explain how the marketing plan is used to track progress, evaluate impact, and adjust course where needed
  • Explain why and how to update the marketing plan

Creating Alignment

The Market Planning Process: vertical Flowchart with 7 layers. From top, Layer 1 “Corporate Mission” points to Layer 2 “Situational Analysis,” points Layer 3 “Internal Factors: Strengths & Weaknesses” and “External Factors: Opportunities & Threats,” points to Layer 4 “Corporate Strategy: Objectives & Tactics.” Layers 2-4 are connected with gray lines, as one sub-unit. This points to Layer 5 “Marketing Strategy: Objectives & Tactics,” to Layer 6, a graphic showing “Target Market” as the central piece of the 4 Ps surrounding it: Product, Price, Promotion, Place. The final layer is “Implementation & Evaluation.” Layers 5-7 are connected with gray lines, as a second sub-unit.

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 it 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 focus 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 rigor and serves to communicate that rigor 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.

Check Your Understanding

Answer the question(s) below to see how well you understand the topics covered in this outcome. This short quiz does not count toward your grade in the class, and you can retake it an unlimited number of times.

Use this quiz to check your understanding and decide whether to (1) study the previous section further or (2) move on to the next section.