For every exporter there are three indispensable elements for success: a marketable product, an efficient sales and distribution organization, and a marketing plan.
Marketing success can sometimes be obtained when one or other of these basic ingredients is missing but such cases are merely exceptions and do not prove anything. The essence of successful marketing is to work out a sound and reasoned strategic plan to obtain the agreement of all concerned and then to stick to the plan with only tactical diversions as changing circumstances may demand.
Anyone involved in export marketing at some point will have to develop a marketing plan or to pass judgment on a plan submitted to him. He will therefore, have to know what a marketing plan is, what it should contain and what criteria and principles are useful for its formulation and assessment.
In principle, it is of secondary importance who draws up the plan. For export marketing this task will normally fall on the local advertising agency working with the exporter or a marketing consultant employed by the exporter. Both however should be able to bring their general knowledge of marketing techniques to bear, as well as their specialized experience in a given market. While the responsibility for preparing a marketing plan can and should be assigned the man or organization best suited to the job, the final authority for approving the plan and authorizing its execution must remain with the exporter; it is his money that will be spent in its implementation.
Information and Guidance: There are several good reasons for sometimes going to the considerable effort and expenses involved in preparing a written marketing plan; the first is the need for complete and comprehensive information. Many people are involved in executing the plan. Some are responsible for producing the product in the required quantity and quality. Others must take charge of its distribution to the trade, which involves problems of transport, customs, sales management etc. The advertising agency must go to work and produce advertisements and media plans. Accountants and financial controllers must know where the money comes from and where it goes. To all of these the marketing plan, properly written will show what needs to be done, when and by whom.
The second reason for having a written marketing plan is guidance. It serves to unify the different departments and people in pursuit of a common goal and prevents production, selling and advertising from losing contact and serving different aims to the detriment of final success. The third reason is to maintain control. A written statement of the specific objectives enables the organization take corrective measures if the results fall short of objectives or if they run ahead of the plan in one sector or another.
Perhaps an even stronger reason for having a written marketing plan is the simple fact writing something down tends to clarify the thinking behind it. The existence of a definite structure which has to be filed in with data, with assessment, objectives and details, will compel the authors of the plan to express themselves more clearly and specially than they might do in a mere discussion.
Basically a marketing plan comprises the following elements set out in this order:
1. Market facts: All relevant facts and factors should be known, evaluated and included
2. Problems and Opportunities: Difficulties to be overcome and opportunities that can be exploited will be revealed by the marketing facts.
3. Specific Objectives: On the basis of marketing facts and the problems and opportunities they reveal, asset of specific objectives should be defined and quantified.
4. Plan of Action: This should indicate how to achieve the stated objective.
5. Budget: A Budget must be drawn up to cover all expenditures necessary to carry out the plan of action.
6. Control: An organization and tools are needed to measure the progress of the plan against its objectives, and to compare the realities of the situation with the plan.