The Marketing Plan

Chapter Summary

Welcome to the next lesson of this module where we will cover the topic of the marketing plan.

The chapter shows the student how to present and carry out a comprehensive marketing plan, stage by stage, using the SOSTAC framework to base analysis and findings around. A fictional case business example (The Candy Store) has been adopted to form the foundations of an example marketing plan.

The chapter firstly presents how to create a marketing plan, along with conducting and presenting elements such as a situational analysis, the strategy expected to be employed, the tactics used and the benefits that budgeting can give to a business when running a marketing campaign.

Below are some goals and objectives for you to refer to after learning this section.

Goals for this section:

  • To understand and apply the contents of a marketing plan.
  • To conduct a proper detailed situational analysis of the marketplace.
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1.0 Introduction

This chapter concentrates on understanding the fundamental principles of an effective marketing plan.  Marketing is generally considered to be an essential component of successful businesses, as even if an organisation has the best product or service available, unless customers know about it through marketing, they are not going to purchase it.  Chaston (2014) comments that it is a problem many new business start-ups make, in that they identify a gap in the market place for a new product but fail to market it properly.  When we say ‘properly’ we mean there is a difference between a scattergun approach to sharing information about a product across social media, and preparing a fully researched, targeted, and focused marketing plan and strategy.  This takes time and effort and involves many different parts but is inevitably worth the effort in the long term.

The chapter uses the SOSTAC framework for developing a marketing plan, which is an acronym for:

  • Situational analysis
  • Objectives
  • Strategy
  • Tactics
  • Action
  • Control

Within each of these stages in the plan there are a number of tools and processes which can be applied and adapted to help produce a bespoke marketing plan which will present a product or service in the best possible light to the desired target market place.  Using the example of a fictional organisation to demonstrate the process, this chapter offers step-by-step guidance on the fundamentals of a successful marketing plan.  However, it is vitally important to remember that although the SOSTAC framework can be used as a template, each and every time it will be necessary to conduct an up-to-date analysis of the current marketplace and the tools and resources available for marketing.

2.0 Creating a Marketing Plan

In the opinion of Armstrong et al., (2014), a good marketing plan takes time and effort to produce.  Many people make the incorrect assumption that a marketing plan simply comprises the famous ‘4Ps’ marketing mix of Product, Price, Place and Promotion, and that it is a straightforward matter of using social media to connect with hundreds of potential customers who will rush to buy your product or service. Unfortunately, this is just not true, and good marketing plans involve a great deal of research to understand what is happening in the marketplace, how competitors are behaving, what it is that customers want and need.  And, most important of all, how to present a new product or service in a way which is different so that customers will want to buy it.  ABC Marketing (2017) produced a useful illustration of the difference between a proper detailed marketing plan and the assumption of many people about how easy and straightforward a marketing plan is.  This is shown in Figure 1 below.

Image result for Sostac Framework

Figure 1: What Marketing Is Not (ABC Marketing, 2017, p.1)

To help understand the difference between the two, this chapter uses the example of marketing a fictional sweet shop, The Candy Store, in a small UK town to illustrate the process and the level of detail required in order to generate a successful marketing plan.

3.0 SOSTAC

3.1 Situation Analysis

Having decided to generate a detailed marketing plan to increase trade at The Candy Store, the first step is to conduct a situational analysis.  This essentially involves ascertaining where the business is now relative to competitors and the wider (marketing) environment.  There are a number of tools which can be used to conduct this assessment and audit, beginning with a macro assessment of the wider marketplace, followed by a consideration of competitor activity and also customer needs.

3.1.1 Macro

A popular and useful macro analysis tools include a PEST or PESTLE analysis, also occasionally referred to as a STEEPLE analysis. These are all variations on the same principle of assessing the situation in which a business operates.  The full acronym refers to:

  • Political
  • Economic
  • Social
  • Technological
  • Legal
  • Environmental
  • (Ethical)

The first point to consider is that not all of these factors will necessarily be equally relevant to each and every organisation. Much will depend on the nature of the business, the size of the business, and trends in the marketplace.  Using ‘The Candy Store’ as an example, a full STEEPLE assessment will be conducted.

STEEPLE

EVIDENCE

Social

There remains popular demand for sweets amongst children and adults in the UK as evidenced by the size of the marketplace.  Sweets are regularly consumed all year round, and particularly over holiday periods such as Christmas and Easter which had become synonymous with the consumption of chocolate and other sweets.  Sweets are also regularly given as treats to children and are closely embedded UK culture.  Sweets are also often used as an affordable personal treat (see economic dimension), amongst adults.

Technological

The manufacture of sweets is well-established and not especially dependent upon sophisticated technology, although it is usually preferable that an organisation has a website presence and makes use of technology in order to monitor sales and stock levels.

Economic

Economically, whilst the UK is experiencing some turbulence as a result of wider political factors, sweets remain an affordable treat and the economic period of prolonged austerity and potential recession is unlikely to affect the consumption of sweets to any noticeable effect.

Environmental

The production and manufacture of sweets may involve either mass production in dedicated facilities or small batch craft production.  Environmental impact is likely to be minimal, particularly if consideration is given to packaging for sale.

Political

Political impact on sale of sweets within the UK is likely to be minimal and largely unaffected by any political changes.  The only possible consideration is the ongoing negotiation and sale and export of sugar, a staple ingredient in sweets, which may in fact reduced in price if different trade tariffs are agreed as part of ‘Brexit’.

Legal

Legally, provided that the sweets produced and sold are compliant with food safety regulations there should be no impediment to their manufacture and sale. Other considerations are likely to relate to the legal business constraints of running a trade premises and all appropriate legislation should be adhered to. This will include as a minimum, health and safety, employment legislation, and legislation relating to the preparation and presentation of financial accounts.  There is some discussion of forthcoming legislation to introduce a "sugar tax”, but at the moment this discussion is constrained to fizzy drinks as opposed to actual sweets.

Ethical

Social responsibility and ethical behaviour on the part of organisations is becoming increasingly important, and whilst a small retailer is unlikely to encounter any ethical difficulties, they may wish to consider a small-scale social responsibility initiative as some may criticise the sale of sweets given that excessive consumption leads to long-term health problems. This is, however, unlikely as the vast majority of people are capable of moderating their intake.

The overall assessment of the wider macro environment would suggest that there is likely to be demand for the products sold by The Candy Store, no obvious impediments to ongoing trade are apparent in the marketplace, and although there are changes in the wider economic and political environment which may impact The Candy Store in the future, there does not appear to be any immediate cause for concern.  Thus it can be concluded that, overall, it is likely to be a positive trading environment.

3.1.2 Competitors

The next step is to conduct a competitor analysis, because the presence of competitors relative to the business is likely to impact the way in which The Candy Store markets and positions itself.  There are a number of ways to analyse the activities of competitors, and the overall competitive environment. For small business, but one which trades nationally via its website, it is important to consider broader competitor activity.  Ideally this should be conducted in two stages, the first of which considers wider general market activity, and the second step considers immediate and direct competitors.  The following checklist provides helpful guidance of points to consider:

Stage one: The wider marketplace

  • What is the size of the market? Is it growing or shrinking? What new developments are on the horizon?
  • Who are the customers? What and when do they buy? Do they have particular habits and preferences? Are they influenced by wider trends, e.g. health scares?
  • Is the market segmented? Do certain types of customers prefer different products? Is it possible to categorise your market by segment? For example, adults prefer retro sweets and children prefer sweets linked to the latest film or cartoon?
  • How easy or difficult is it to distribute products? Are different channels more effective (e.g. supermarket point-of-sale, newsagents, petrol stations, direct purchase via the internet), what factors are likely to influence distribution?
  • Who are the suppliers? What are they good and bad at? What trends are affecting them and how is this likely to impact the market as a whole?
  • Are there any entry or exit barriers in the marketplace? For example unique knowledge or resources and equipment?

Stage two: Immediate competitors

  • Who are the immediate competitors, both direct and indirect (e.g., would people rather spend their money on other entirely unrelated products?). Who are the future potential competitors (e.g. is an indirect rival going to expand their range by selling similar products)?
  • What are the strategies and objectives of these competitors?
  • What strengths and weaknesses do these competitors have? How can they be mitigated or exploited?
  • How big are the competitors? Do they have a large market share and potential to grow?
  • How profitable/well run and managed are the competitors? Do they have the potential to invest in further growth and greater market share?
  • Are competitors engaged in negotiations with one another to create a larger firm or a unique product?

It is also important to remember that markets are dynamic.  This means that although a marketing audit will be relevant and accurate at the time it is undertaken, it is always important to regularly reassess the marketplace for any significant changes. Organisations which fail to consider the activities of their competitors and understand any changes in the marketplace are likely to find themselves in difficulties.  Even if a full marketing plan is not proposed, it is probably a sensible business strategy to at least monitor competitors’ marketing activity on an ongoing basis.

3.1.3 Internal Analysis

The final step in the process is to conduct an internal analysis, also named as a micro analysis, of the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) faced by The Candy Store.  Ideally, a SWOT analysis should be matched to the external assessment so that The Candy Store can see where their unique strengths can be used in the marketplace and where they may face threats or vulnerabilities. Understanding what these threats and weaknesses are means that they can take action to address these before they become problems.  Figure 2 shows a SWOT analysis for The Candy Store.

STRENGTHS

  • good range of products
  • popular and successful in the local area
  • online brand reputation with repeat business
  • profitable and well run

WEAKNESSES

  • small compared to large rival firms
  • not able to match the prices of large competitors (e.g. supermarkets)
  • limited capacity for expansion without significant financial investment

OPPORTUNITIES

  • sweets are an affordable treat which remain popular
  • there is a growing trend for ‘retro’ sweets amongst adults
  • opportunities for collaborating with other firms in different industries to expand market share (e.g. local high street shops wanting to sell local produce)

THREATS

  • difficult to protect market position online
  • suppliers determine product availability and are known to remove product lines with little or no warning
  • consumers may become more conscious about the consumption of sugar

Figure 2: SWOT Analysis

The SWOT analysis reveals that whilst The Candy Store is successful in their immediate environment, they must always be aware of competitor activity, and also the actions of suppliers and potentially customers.  Long-term there is the potential to exploit the ‘local’ aspect of their position, for example selling artisan sweets which are handmade by local producers or collaborating with other small firms.  This will involve using their existing brand and reputation in the local marketplace to think laterally about new marketing opportunities, mindful of the fact that larger competitors will always be able to offer products at a better price.  This means trying to directly compete on price is unlikely to be a sensible marketing (or business) strategy. Therefore, it is necessary to focus on an alternative aspect of differentiating the business which large firms cannot compete with.

An additional factor which is also important to consider, perhaps more so for large organisations, is that of brand reputation, and the way in which customers perceive an organisation from an external perspective.  Certain organisations benefit very considerably from their reputation, and branding is increasingly recognised as a critical component of organisational success. Branding is, however, a distinct area of research in its own right and whilst related to marketing is not one and the same.  This is another common misconception amongst those who do not know of the difference. This being said, the way in which customers and also to a certain extent, competitors perceive an organisation is an element which is likely to be influential in the way in which organisations respond. For example, if a business changed its marketing strategy so that its actions and its brand are no longer in synchronisation, then this is likely to cause damage to both the business and its brand and reputation. 

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In a social media driven world where it is possible for customers to provide instant feedback, both positive and negative, understanding how customers and competitors perceive an organisation is also an important consideration. Although not as relevant to The Candy Store, as it is a small local business, it is still important for The Candy Store to understand how its customers and competitors view it.  Therefore, a useful means of gathering this data would be to conduct a short customer feedback survey. In practice this may surprisingly challenging and resource intensive as is most likely to be effective if conducted on a face-to-face basis, however, if time and resources permit it may be a valuable and insightful exercise.

Bringing all of these situational factors together reveals that the first and perhaps most important stage in a successful marketing plan is to conduct a very detailed and comprehensive assessment of all possible aspects which might influence the market.  This helps The Candy Store understand their current market position as well as future potential opportunities relative to immediate and wider influences.  Some of which they may be able to control, but realistically the majority of which they may not.  Being responsive to and aware of market conditions, and always remembering that markets are dynamic is absolutely fundamental to appreciating where they are now and where they would wish to be.  It is always worth spending time and effort conducting a situational analysis and monitoring the wider marketplace to avoid unexpected risks and challenges which have been known to cause a business to fail. Irrespective of the size or industry sector in which a business operates, a thorough situational analysis is always firmly recommended.

3.2 Objectives (targets)

Having obtained a thorough and detailed understanding of the marketplace, thereby identifying the potential opportunities and also possible risks and threats, the next step is to consider where an organisation wants to be, and then use this process to conduct a gap analysis identifying where an organisation is already in line with its long-term objectives, and where there is the need to make changes.

The objectives of the organisation will largely depend entirely upon its size, resources, and the markets in which it functions. However, the fundamental principles of setting realistic and achievable objectives which are measured and monitored remains true irrespective of any of these factors.  There are two ways of setting objectives in a marketing plan.  The first of these is to use the well-established SMART principle of goals and objectives which are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time bound

The second and more marketing focused approach is to use a similar measure of the principal setting marketing metrics associated with distinct components of marketing activity.  The common principle between the two is setting out defined and specific objectives which it is possible to look back on and determine whether or not they have been achieved.  Possible marketing objectives for The Candy Store might be:

  • To increase turnover by 5% within the next financial year;
  • To increase traffic to the website by 10% within the next six months;
  • To increase the average spend per basket by customers by 15% within the next three months;
  • To convert an additional 20% of marketing spend into sales, online and in-store within the next nine months.
  • To increase local market share by 10% within the next six months

As can be seen, these objectives are specific, marketing based, measurable and also time-based.  They are realistic and achievable, but also, none of which could be identified without a situational analysis to understand where there is scope to invest resources in order to achieve demonstrable results.  For example, without understanding the size of the market and customer trends it would not be possible to ascertain whether market share could be increased and also whether it is possible to encourage customers to spend more each time they visit the store.  Furthermore, from a practical perspective it is sensible to place an achievable limit on the number of objectives as otherwise it will be impossible to achieve them to the required standard within the designated time frame, and also to monitor and review them regularly.  For example, check whether in the next three months spend per basket has indeed been increased and whether it is possible to set a more ambitious target for next time frame. 

There are differences of opinion as to whether marketing plans should be short-term (up to a year), medium-term (2 to 3 years), or long-term (3 to 5 years).  Generally speaking, given the dynamic nature of many marketplaces and the fact that it is important to keep marketing fresh and relevant, it is probably preferable to focus on relatively short to medium term marketing plans but always have a longer term strategy in mind.

3.3 Strategy

This element of the SOTAC framework refers to the longer term strategy matching the objectives of the marketing plan to long-term goals.  It draws upon the situational analysis and is likely to include techniques such as Segmentation, Targeting and Positioning (STP), creating a compelling Online Value Proposition (OVP), and making sure that The Candy Store has the necessary capability before engaging in high profile visibility exercise.  In short, The Candy Store is able to physically back up any claims it makes as part of its marketing plan, and also ensuring that they have the marketing tools necessary to achieve this long-term strategy are in place, such as an up-to-date customer database, the necessary resources to produce relevant and engaging marketing content, and also appropriate web functionality, for example making sure that their website which works equally well on desktop and various mobile devices and is capable of supporting online or e-commerce in a secure manner.

Remembering that The Candy Store is a small high-street retailer with an online presence, certain aspects of its strategy will be more important than others.  Also, from a pragmatic perspective, resources may well be a consideration as a multipage multifunctional website is expensive to have designed and also to support.  Therefore, it may be preferable to have a simple but effective website which is optimised to load quickly and allows the customer to search for available products.  This is also likely to involve linking product availability to inventory management software (which is utilised by The Candy Store) so that customers are not disappointed if they try and order something which is out of stock, a factor which is known in the wider marketplace to be the most likely reason to cause a customer to abandon a basket and never return to a retailer again. 

As we saw in the situational analysis under the STEEPLE element, and also the overall assessment of the marketplace, there is a resurgence in demand for retro sweets amongst certain segments of the marketplace. There is also demand for sweets which are linked to contemporary cartoon and film trends amongst the different segment of the marketplace.  Therefore, a decision needs to be made as to whether The Candy Store will attempt to market to both types of customer simultaneously with equal commitment, or whether it is more profitable or more appropriate to focus on one segment and minimise marketing activity in the other area.  Drawing on the situational analysis once more, it becomes clear that it is probably likely to be cost prohibitive to attempt to go ‘head-to-head’ with a large supermarket competitor, and therefore focusing on the retro sweets market amongst the adult population is probably likely to serve as a better means of differentiation. Particularly if drawing upon the SWOT analysis, it is possible to form relationships with local Artisan producers.

Having established that this is the preferred long-term strategy as it is likely to have the greatest sustainability and profitability, as well is being achievable within resource constraints, the next consideration is to set down the fine detail of how this strategy will actually be delivered.

3.4 Tactics

This stage of the framework refers to the ‘nitty-gritty’ of exactly how the strategy will be achieved.  It includes specifics of the content of any marketing material, such as web content, and identifying how the inventory management software will be linked to the website portal so that customers know that the stock information is accurate when they order.  Similarly, checking that the detail of an up-to-date mailing list is accurate and that all of those on the mailing list have consented to be contacted (remembering that there is quite strict legislation regarding spurious marketing activity and the protection of customer data).  If there is uncertainty about the scope of the target market, identifying exactly how the target market can be defined and contacted, and how it will be possible to attract greater customer numbers.  This might include referral using electronic word-of-mouth and specific advertising campaigns on social media channels.  Remembering that a target market has been identified as adults preferring retro or artisan sweets, a more ‘old-fashioned’ social media site such as Facebook may be a more appropriate channel than some more contemporary social media sites which have emerged. 

It may also be appropriate to adopt a complimentary physical marketing strategy for example becoming involved in local craft fairs or events such as artisan markets. Not only is this an opportunity to broaden the reputation of The Candy Store in the local marketplace, it may also be an opportunity to form relationships with artisan producers who are also likely to be at such markets.  The type of customer who would attend an Artisan food market is likely to have higher level of disposable income and recognise the value of handmade or batch made products and may therefore be less price sensitive.  However, it is important to take into account the costs of attending such marketplaces such as the hire of a stall, the time and resources spent travelling and setting up, and the opportunity cost of so doing in order to reach breakeven. 

Consideration of medium-term marketing activity is also important, such as establishing a newsletter or seasonal marketing communication, for example advertising handmade sweets in advance of Valentine's Day, also as possible Mother's Day presents and again at Easter. Christmas is another obvious example.  Establishing a routine or pattern for such marketing activity, potentially with inducements to purchase, such as discounts or offers may also be appropriate (although such costs must be assessed against additional benefits such as increased customer numbers).  Some consideration should also be given to monitoring any social media feedback or contact, as reciprocal communication is increasingly important as part of the marketing strategy so as to take on board feedback from consumers. Of particular concern may be any issues of negative feedback which must be responded to promptly.  Speed of response is recognised in an online environment as being especially important.  Other medium-term marketing considerations may include networking, such as becoming involved in local business groups and using this as a lateral way of establishing brand reputation and links with other local businesses.  Networking is seldom a direct contact approach, but it is usually helpful to maintain links with the local community as they can serve as customer ambassadors, providing word-of-mouth recommendations in face-to-face and electronic format.

3.5 Actions

This element refers to allocating specific responsibility for specific tasks to specific individuals.  This is important to ensure that the plan proposed in the tactics and strategy sections is actively achieved, and if not, someone will be in a position to explaining why.  Obviously this will depend very much upon the resources available to an organisation, and in a small firm such as The Candy Store it is quite likely that the owner of the business will become responsible for a significant amount of the marketing plan, potentially utilising external resources and expertise as necessary, either due to capacity constraints (in simple terms there is simply not enough time in the day), or because of a lack of experience or because an alternative perspective may be appropriate.  Particularly for small businesses where the owner is responsible for the vast majority of activities which must be undertaken, it can be difficult to find time to devote to a high-quality marketing strategy, particularly content and distribution, so outsourcing some elements may be appropriate. The risk, however, is that the quality or content might not be quite what the owner had in mind, and there is a tendency to check every aspect which is understandable.   Larger businesses with greater resources are likely to find this element much easier and will be able to allocate specific elements to appropriate individuals and departments in order to achieve the tactics described above.  It is always sensible to link these actions back to objectives to ensure that they are achieved within the timeframe and that individuals understand exactly what is expected of them.

3.6 Control

The final element, control, is concerned with monitoring activities and performance to ensure that those responsible for carrying out the specific actions are doing so and, to a lesser extent that the objectives are being achieved.  In more common terms, ‘checking that everything is on track’.  It is important that this is a proactive and positive exercise and used as an opportunity to identify any areas which may be falling behind and can be addressed quickly and effectively before they become problematic.  It is not an exercise in blaming individuals for failing to achieve their actions.  For example, it may become apparent that it is simply impossible to achieve one of the objectives, perhaps due to changes in external marketplace, such as the activities of a competitor, or perhaps a health scare regarding sugar consumption, or changes in legislation. Although this is not a reason to abandon an objective altogether, it may be a reason to reframe it, or focus on another area in which the marketing plan can be improved.  As mentioned previously, it is important to engage in an ongoing programme of monitoring and control, when necessary adapting and augmenting objectives to take advantage of new opportunities or to prepare against potential market threats.  It is also an opportunity to reflect and learn on what has been successful and what could be improved in future ongoing strategic assessments.

4.0 Budgeting

Budgeting is likely to be an important element of the overall process of developing and then implementing a marketing plan.  Few organisations have limitless resources, particularly financial ones, and therefore it is usually necessary to make decisions about budgetary availability and distribution. In short, which aspects of the plan are likely to be the most important or the most effective in achieving the objectives, and therefore require the greatest level of financial resource.  As alluded to during the marketing plan, certain activities are likely to be more expensive than others, and therefore it will be necessary to undertake a cost benefit analysis of how best to engage in marketing activity.  For example, although social media is nominally free or low-cost, it can become time intensive, requiring careful attention and monitoring.  Is it therefore preferable for the business owner to engage in this process themselves because they are central to the brand reputation of the organisation, or is this something which can be outsourced because the time of the business owner has a cost attached?

Conversely, activities such as designing and hosting a website can also be quite cost-effective, or exceptionally expensive depending upon the underlying development of the website, such as optimisation, SEO rankings, hosting and monitoring.  Likewise other physical aspects such as attending artisan markets is likely to be both directly cost intensive and also attract opportunity cost, as the business owner will be doing other things rather than actually selling in their store.  These aspects must therefore be budgeted and monitored accordingly to ascertain whether they are a good use of funds in terms of achieving long-term business and marketing objectives.  As described in the opening section of this chapter, a failure to market the business altogether is likely to be highly counter-productive, but equally, hard decisions may have to be made about how best to distribute the marketing budget in the first instance to ascertain which elements are likely to be the most effective. Therefore, it is important to set out a realistic budget, taking account of all of the factors which are likely to incur cost and monitoring these on an ongoing and also retrospective basis to determine their effectiveness.

5.0 International Marketing

One final consideration is the possibility of international marketing as a potential long-term means of expanding the marketing reach of the business.  In the current UK marketplace, mindful of political activity, UK businesses are being encouraged to engage in export activity in order to help forge international trading links.  Granted, as a small business, this is unlikely to be a significant proportion of trade for The Candy Store, but there is also a significant UK expat community around the world (data collected by the World Bank suggest some 5.5 million British-born people live abroad[1]), and as they may well fall into the target market, a small proportion of trade may indeed be conducted internationally.  There are likely to be marketing considerations involved in this if it is determined that this is an appropriate strategic route to pursue, such as considering how to ensure that The Candy Store is ranked on international search engines and to confirm that it is not in breach of any international legislation.  Also, this would be an opportunity to form links with other organisations which focus specifically on providing otherwise unobtainable products to expats and could potentially prove a long-term strategic solution.  In marketing terms, it is therefore important to consider how, if at all, to approach the international marketplace and whether there are any barriers or challenges which could be incorporated into the situational analysis and also marketing objectives.  As ever, it is important to remain flexible and adaptive and to identify what specific features and benefits of products The Candy Store offer which would be attractive to international customers. 

6.0 Summary

This chapter has provided a step-by-step guide to producing a marketing plan and strategy for a fictional UK retailer, The Candy Store.  The details of the plan demonstrates the vital importance of spending time and effort conducting a proper detailed situational analysis of the marketplace in the first instance, as without expending this time, effort, and resource it will almost certainly be the case that poor decisions are taken in regards to marketing objectives, tactics, and actions.  Without an understanding of the marketplace, there is also a risk that marketing communications will be inappropriate, or worse, fail to identify an appropriate market segment or niche which would be profitable for the business.  The tone of marketing messages delivered to a market niche may also completely alienate the market rather than appealing to it if a full analysis is not conducted.  Ultimately, a small business cannot and should not attempt a scattergun approach to marketing without considering the current and future potential shape and size of the marketplace and also the activities of competitors. The resources of a small business, particularly time and money, as well as skills are likely to be constrained, which is another reason to ensure that time and consideration is given to a marketing plan and that it is sensible, achievable, and, most important of all, actually executed.  A failure to actually implement a plan is often the downfall of many businesses, compounded by a failure to reflect on what has been successful and unsuccessful about a plan.  Other causes of a failed marketing plan are likely to include not monitoring ongoing market activity and activities of competitors or failing to listen to feedback from customers.  Ultimately, marketing is an integral and dynamic process which is essential to business success, which is why it is a worthwhile use of time and resources to undertake a detailed marketing plan and implement it.


7.0 References and Further Reading

7.1 References

ABC Marketing (2017) SOSTAC® Model [online] available at http://abcimagess.com/sostac+marketing+planning?image=716389724  retrieved 12th Jan 2017.

Armstrong, G., Adam, S., Denize, S., and Kotler, P., (2014) Principles of marketing. Australia: Pearson.

Chaston, I., (2014) Small business marketing. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

7.2 Further Reading

Brennan, R., (2014) Business-to-business marketing.  New York: Springer.

Kotler, P., Keller, K.L., Brady, M., Goodman, M., and Hansen, T., (2012) Marketing management. (2nd European edition), Harlow: Pearson Education.

Shen, G. C. C., Chiou, J. S., Hsiao, C. H., Wang, C. H., and Li, H. N., (2016) Effective marketing communication via social networking site: The moderating role of the social tie. Journal of Business Research, 69(6), 2265-2270.

Wilkinson, I. F., and Young, L. C., (2013) The past and the future of business marketing theory. Industrial Marketing Management, 42(3), 394-404.

Yang, Z., and Su, C., (2014) Institutional theory in business marketing: A conceptual framework and future directions. Industrial Marketing Management, 43(5), 721-725.

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8.0 Case Study

ABC Electronics is a well-established small retailer of household electronic items, ranging from white goods through to TVs, vacuum cleaners, and associated items such as kettles and toasters.  They are a family run firm and have six outlets across the Shropshire area and have a loyal customer base of older consumers who prefer to go to physical retail outlet and actually see the items on sale.  However, ABC Electronics recognise that their consumer market is under threat from a range of sources such as competitive firms who specialise in selling these items at low cost but only online, and also well-established household retailers and department stores. 

What currently differentiates ABC Electronics is that their particular target market prefers to have a hands-on approach to retailing, and customers value the personal touch of experienced sales people in a local community.  ABC Electronics also has an established relationship with the largest local building contractor who uses ABC Electronics for all new build contractual work such as social housing accommodation.  This represents a stable long-term stream of business, which looks set to continue.

ABC Electronics is also aware that their website is not as up-to-date as might be preferred, and is certainly not optimised for use on mobile devices. There are inaccuracies between stock availability, website and actual stock availability, and whilst the inventory system is considered to be accurate, online representation is not. Nor is there the opportunity to reserve items online or purchase them online.

The owner and founder of the business recognises that some degree of change is probably inevitable, but he is concerned about issues regarding online security and managing aspects such as social media profiles, as well as more traditional approaches to marketing in the local community.  Previous experience of running adverts in the local press have returned moderate success, and instead ABC Electronics largely relies on ongoing relationships with customers.  They are struggling to attract new business, and have had a number of complaints from new customers as regards quality of customer service and also the quality of products.  The owner is unsure about the best direction to take the business in light of these issues and is seeking advice from a marketing consultant to help design a new marketing plan to take the business forward.

Questions:

  1. In your capacity as a marketing consultant develop a skeleton marketing plan for ABC Electronics.
  2. What do you see as the most critical issues the organisation faces in the external environment?
  3. Are there any obvious strengths and weaknesses which the firm has internally?
  4. What would you recommend as the main objectives for the next year?
  5. How should ABC Electronics formulate an online marketing approach?
  6. Remembering that financial resources are not limitless, what strategic recommendations would you offer to the owner of ABC Electronics?

[1] World Bank Factbook (2011) Migration and Remittances [online] available at http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTLAC/Resources/Factbook2011-Ebook.pdf   retrieved 8th Jan 2017.


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