The company's marketing plan - what should it look like? (part 2)

Service Business

The marketing plan describes the goals and provides specific action strategies to achieve them. But what if a company encounters an obstacle, e.g. loses a key customer, will have to face a strong brand that has started to expand in the same market segment, there will be a crisis, and the political situation will change drastically? The scenario method helps to answer such questions, which suggests various variants of events and ways of dealing with them.

Scenario method - what is it and how to use it when creating a marketing plan?

Initially, the scenario method was used to work out military and political aspects. In the early years. In the 1970s, it found its way into the business world. It is most often used by companies that decide on very large investments or long-term strategies (covering, for example, 20 years). Managers of smaller enterprises use it less often. The advantage of the scenario method is the possibility of a broader and more complete look at the marketing plan, noticing new opportunities and hidden threats. It also facilitates overcoming possible obstacles without unnecessary losses (e.g. financial). The scenario method focuses on presenting various simulations of the future, it takes into account many combinations of different elements.

Building scenarios includes the following steps:

  • selection of the key issue and the period of the scenario, e.g. 10 years,

  • a detailed description of external factors that may have an impact on the key issue, e.g. the activity of competitive companies,

  • detailed analysis of the situation inside the company, taking into account economic aspects, human resources, know-how, business partners,

  • identifying the most important trends that may affect a key issue - social, economic, technological or political,

  • determination of variables that may affect a key issue, e.g. an event related to legal regulations, such as changes in taxation, technological progress,

  • creating scenarios based on previously collected data and assigning specific stories to changes and trends.

There are two main types of scenarios:

  • exploratory - describing the sequence of events,

  • anticipatory - oriented towards imaging the future and the effects of changes.

In addition, scenario methods are divided into the following types:

  • scenarios of possible events, based mainly on the experience and intuition of experts,

  • simulation scenarios that use the simulation method to obtain the data needed to construct various variants of events,

  • scenarios of environmental states - optimistic, pessimistic and neutral.

When it comes to the marketing plan, the scenario method is useful in a situation where we do not have enough data to prepare reliable forecasts (e.g. in the case of the expansion of unexplored markets) and in industries where the risk of rapid returns and dynamic changes is particularly high (e.g. . in the technology industry or in enterprises developing in areas without a stable political situation).

Marketing plan and demand forecast

The marketing plan can be based not only on the scenario method. For most companies, demand forecasts based on specific data turn out to be sufficient. What are they and why use them? Usually, manufacturers have a ready-made assortment and thus do not produce to order. What does this mean exactly? Imagine a producer of photovoltaic panels. The season for such products begins in spring and blooms in summer, when producers receive the most orders for panels. However, they cannot wait with production for the first order, because then its implementation would take a long time and thus the manufacturer would cease to be competitive. For this reason, the producer must have a certain amount of already produced solar panels that are ready for sale and at the same time cannot afford to produce a random amount of goods and then wait for demand. Likewise, companies that focus on fast delivery need to stock some inventory of products ready for sale. To create an effective marketing plan (e.g. production, level of stocked products, etc.) it is necessary to create demand forecasts. They are crucial for the company because they affect such areas as: employment, production, finances, purchases and logistics.

 

On the market, we can distinguish the following demand forecasting methods:

  • time series analysis and forecasting - it is used in the case of complex phenomena. Time series analysis consists of a systematic part, including trends, seasonal fluctuations or constant components, and a random part. The condition for the development of probable time forecasting is a sufficient amount of archival data,

  • leading indicators method - based on the analysis of variables that affect changes in the forecasted phenomenon, e.g. launching a new product, e.g. a new phone, results in the purchase of complementary products in the future, e.g. housings or chargers,

  • econometric models - their purpose is to assess the impact of the studied variables on the forecasted variables. The condition for using the econometric method is to have correct estimates of the explanatory variables, as well as to assume that the relationships between the variables are constant over time. Variables for the model are selected according to various methods, and the Hellwig method is considered the most popular,

  • heuristic methods - based on intuition, experience, creative thinking and the ability to logically combine facts. They are useful in the absence of sufficient quantitative data,

  • the Delphi method - consists in questioning experts. The research is anonymous and multi-stage, and forecasts are built on the basis of the opinion of the majority,

  • analog forecasting - uses data on a different value to forecast the selected variable; if we want to estimate, for example, how many models of new shoes we will sell in the spring / summer season. For this purpose, we use the result of the model from the previous spring-summer season (from 2015) and we calculate the growth dynamics in 2015 compared to 2014,

  • inductive forecasting - based on data generalization and analyzing them in relation to the entire population, for example, if 1000 Y car models were sold in the 1st quarter of the year, 3000 more will be sold by the end of the year (i.e. within three quarters),

  • marketing research method - uses surveys. The results are prepared on the basis of the analysis of questionnaires completed by the respondents.

Important!

Inadequately worded questions can cause the results to be overestimated. In particular, one should be careful about questions that to some extent suggest the answers to the respondents. It is better to avoid questions that directly relate to purchasing plans (eg are you going to buy a new model of car Y in the third quarter of the year?). More reliable results are obtained by asking respondents about their needs and purchasing preferences. It is also good to compare the research from the respondents with the research of salespeople who, based on their own experience, assess purchasing opportunities and customer needs.

  • simulation - is based on experimental methods and examines real consumer decisions based on real situations. For the analysis of simulation data, the so-called the conjoint method. The method allows you to get to know the best configuration of the product features, which translates into increased sales. The analysis focuses on a specific combination of features, not a single product attribute. In the conjoint method, the answers (selected product features) are estimated using statistical methods, thus they are burdened with a lower risk of error than the simple analysis of the respondents' answers. When examining the interest in the tested product, e.g. a telephone, not individual features (e.g. type of camera or price) are taken into account, but the relationships of the features of interest to the customer (the customer wants to buy a touch phone with a price not exceeding PLN 1,000 and a minimum memory of 16GB). The key to the customer is the relationship of two features (price and memory), not a single feature (price only or memory capacity).

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What is the role of the budget in the implementation of the marketing plan?

Budgeting is an important element of management that influences the implementation of the strategy, which is the marketing plan. Budgeting consists of developing a financing plan, implementing it, controlling and explaining the causes of deviations. The budget includes estimated revenues and expenses and is divided into operating budgets (e.g. marketing, sales, production and salary budgets). It allows you to coordinate the company's departments, control them, and also directly affect the achievement of the goals set. There are three types of goals in budgeting - strategic, tactical and operational. Development of budgeting is a complex process that is usually based on one of the following methods:

  • Top-down budgeting - the person responsible for the company's financial department (e.g. chief accountant) is responsible for the development of the plan and it is created in consultation with the managers. After approval by the management board, it is handed over to those responsible for its implementation.

  • Bottom-up budgeting - lower-level employees have an impact on the budget. After collecting data from employees, the budget is submitted to their superiors for approval.

  • Incremental budgeting - based on the results from previous periods and takes into account the expected changes in the coming year, quarter or month.

  • Constant budgeting - assumes the implementation of the budget regardless of real results and current changes.

  • Flexible budgeting - it is the opposite of constant budgeting.

After the budget is developed and implemented, the key is to control it, which usually focuses on deviation analysis. An example of a deviation is the implementation of sales plans below the assumed minimum level (e.g. 70%), which results in a decrease in revenues. Below are the stages of budget control:

  • indication of deviations and their analysis (locations of deviations, determining their causes, determining whether they are significant or not deviations, controlled or not);

  • analysis of the effects of deviations (e.g. increase in company costs);

  • developing a plan to eliminate possible negative effects of deviations;

  • a proposal for changes to the budgeting plan in the future, which will make it possible to avoid similar deviations in the next period.

The marketing plan specifically focuses on your marketing budget. As with the budget of the entire company, there are several techniques for determining this type of budget:

  • residual technique - the budget plan is based on the financial capabilities of the company;

  • comparative technique - includes competitor's marketing expenses;

  • parametric technique - the marketing budget is calculated on the basis of a selected percentage of the company's turnover;

  • pragmatic technique - adjusts to the goals set by the marketing plan.

In the marketing budget, budget control is also extremely important, preceded by the definition of appropriate control standards and methods of its implementation. Examples of parameters that are used to measure the implementation of the marketing budget are sales control, market share, and the ratio of marketing expenses in relation to sales. The budget analysis should also take into account the control of the company's profitability and the effectiveness of marketing activities.

A marketing plan in which the company's goals are rationally set, developing demand forecasts and then including them in the budget allows you to effectively manage the company, especially its finances, and creates real opportunities for its development. For this reason, small companies should use this solution as eagerly as large enterprises.