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Strategic planning

Businesses that succeed do so by creating and keeping customers. They do this by providing better value for the customer than the competition.Marketing management constantly have to assess which customers they are trying to reach and how they can design products and services that provide better value (“competitive advantage”).The main problem with this process is that the “environment” in which businesses operate is constantly changing. So a business must adapt to reflect changes in the environment and make decisions about how to change the marketing mix in order to succeed. This process of adapting and decision-making is known as marketing planning.Where does marketing planning fit in with the overall strategic planning of a business?Strategic planning (which you will cover in your studies of “strategy” is concerned about the overall direction of the business. It is concerned with marketing, of course. But it also involves decision-making about production and operations, finance, human resource management and other business issues.The objective of a strategic plan is to set the direction of a business and create its shape so that the products and services it provides meet the overall business objectives.Marketing has a key role to play in strategic planning, because it is the job of marketing management to understand and manage the links between the business and the “environment”.Sometimes this is quite a straightforward task. For example, in many small businesses there is only one geographical market and a limited number of products (perhaps only one product!).However, consider the challenge faced by marketing management in a multinational business, with hundreds of business units located around the globe, producing a wide range of products. How can such management keep control of marketing decision-making in such a complex situation? This calls for well-organised marketing planning.What are the key issues that should be addressed in marketing planning?The following questions lie at the heart of any marketing (or indeed strategic) planning process:• Where are we now?• How did we get there?• Where are we heading?• Where would we like to be?• How do we get there?• Are we on course?Why is marketing planning essential?Businesses operate in hostile and increasingly complex environment. The ability of a business to achieve profitable sales is impacted by dozens of environmental factors, many of which are inter-connected. It makes sense to try to bring some order to this chaos by understanding the commercial environment and bringing some strategic sense to the process of marketing products and services.A marketing plan is useful to many people in a business. It can help to:• Identify sources of competitive advantage• Gain commitment to a strategy• Get resources needed to invest in and build the business• Inform stakeholders in the business• Set objectives and strategies• Measure performance

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