The central point in planning for marketing decisions is the Marketing Plan. As we note in the highly detailed How to Write a Marketing Plan tutorial, the plan serves several functions including:
- Forcing marketing personnel to look internally in order to fully understand the results of past marketing decisions.
- Forcing marketing personnel to look externally in order to fully understand the market in which they operate.
- Setting future goals and providing direction for future marketing efforts that everyone within the organization should understand and support.
- Serving as a key component in obtaining funding to pursue new initiatives.
The scope of the Marketing Plan depends on the company and industry. A small technology startup company may, for instance, have a less elaborate plan that is highly flexible (e.g., does not identify exactly where advertising money is spent) to meet the needs of a rapidly changing market. A more established marketing organization, such a large consumer products firm, may create a very structured plan that clearly identifies all activities that take place over a 12-month period.
Whether the marketer is creating a short plan intended to cover a narrow timeframe or a full-blown document laying out plans for a year or more, any plan requires undertaking significant market research to better understand the market. With knowledge of the market, the marketer can then begin to build the plan which will include the key components discussed in the next section.