Throughout this course you have explored all elements of a marketing plan. Now it is time to put your marketing plan together for the company you selected for your marketing manager internship.
Part A – General Information and Situational Analysis
Section 1 – Company Background
Section 2 – SWOT Analysis
Section 3 – Macro- and Microenvironment
Part B – The Marketing Plan
Section 1 – Segmentation, Targeting, and Positioning (STP)
Section 2 – The Marketing Mix
Section 3 – Global and Ethical Considerations, and Conclusion
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The Marketing Plan final project paper
8.1 In the Environment: Actors and Forces
All companies are surrounded by pressures deriving from people (actors) and the dynamics of the current situation (forces). These actors and forces exert pressures on both the micro environment (factors specifically affecting one company) and the macro environment (factors affecting many companies). These influences create both opportunities and threats for any company. Table 8.1 depicts the relationships between these factors in the marketing environment.
Table 8.1: Factors in the marketing environment
· Stakeholders (managers, employees, board members, stockholders, suppliers)
· The public
Strategic moves by . . .
· Channel partners
· Changes in consumer behavior
Leaders in . . .
· Technology development
Trends in . . .
Note. Marketers must anticipate and plan for the influence of actors and forces on a company’s micro and macro environment as they develop the marketing mix.
Actors in the micro environment include the individuals who affect the company’s ability to serve its customers. In this group are a company’s close allies—stakeholders such as management groups, employees, board members, stockholders, and suppliers—as well as competitors and various publics. Customers also play a role in the micro environment, through their consumer behavior and their participation in the public conversation about the company in social media and elsewhere. As part of the trend toward cocreation, customers are serving on advisory boards and being invited into innovation efforts, increasing their importance as actors in the micro environment.
Small changes in behavior can have far-ranging effects, as illustrated by the quinoa example in the text. Can you think of any other examples?
In the macro environment are larger societal forces and actors with widespread influence. Increasing globalization is bringing forces from around the world into play. While a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil is unlikely to affect markets in Burma or Boston, small changes in consumer, business, or governmental behavior can have far-ranging effects. For example, as described in Chapter 1, the increasing consumption of quinoa in the United States as a health food has led to negative health consequences in the South American countries where it is grown. Companies must consider not only the potential markets beyond national borders but also the interconnected effects of actors and forces in many countries.
Toward what end do marketers study actors and forces in the marketing environment? In a word, planning. In Chapter 2 you learned that research provides the essential inputs to strategic planning. Analysis of environmental actors and forces contributes to the first step in the marketing process. There can be no selection of a marketing strategy, development of a campaign, or execution and measurement without this crucial step.
Micro- and macro-environmental forces make up the focus of study in this chapter. We’ll begin with a look at the actors in the micro environment. Upcoming sections in this chapter address macro-environmental forces, including sociocultural factors, technological and ecological factors, and economic, political, and legal factors.
Actors in the Micro Environment
Let’s examine the actors in the micro environment:
Company groups: Employees form groups within a company, charged with carrying out its objectives and strategic plans. Important groups to consider include top management, finance, research and development (R&D), purchasing, operations, and accounting. Employees as individuals are also actors in their employer company’s micro environment. In a company with a marketing orientation, individuals in every functional role must work together to deliver value to customers.
Members of an incorporated firm’s board of directors set policy, oversee control procedures, and govern the firm while looking after its investors’ interests. Members of this company group may include both the firm’s top management and experts or respected persons drawn from the firm’s community.
Channel partners form another company group. Suppliers, distributors, and resellers are critical to a company’s overall ability to deliver customer value. When channel partners have problems, they can affect the other partners’ performance.
Since marketers strive to align company stakeholders with the goal of building long-term customer relationships, shifts in the makeup of the board, management, employee force, or channel partners can affect marketing strategy.
Competitors: Marketing-oriented companies are constantly engaged in monitoring competitors in their environment. Successful positioning would be impossible without knowledge of competitors’ strategies and trends.
Influencing the competitive environment are factors such as each firm’s position in the industry structure (leader, challenger, etc.), the size and number of competitors, and the degree to which competition focuses on price. Also influential is each competitor’s mission, strategic motivations, and attitude—leader? underdog?—factors that foretell likely responses to each other’s strategic moves.
Product issues also affect the competitive environment, including indirect competition from substitutes and direct competitors’ strategies regarding their offerings’ branding, quality, price, and degrees of service and support. In addition, the relation of supply to demand in the marketplace, and trends that might predict change in supply and demand, are part of the competitive landscape.
In addition to the threat of moves by existing competitors, marketers must monitor the entry of new competitors. Technological innovation by a competitor could change demand for a company’s products or services radically and quickly. For example, e-mail replaced much of the traffic in local delivery of documents; digital photography made film processing unnecessary.
Finally, few industries are safe from foreign competitors. Most businesses face some risk of losing their home market to a foreign company with aggressive plans for expansion.
Publics: In the micro environment are groups with an interest in or impact on an organization. Publics include financial communities, government and citizen-action groups, and the general population with an interest in the locale or industry of a company. Most important among the publics are those intent on spreading communications—the media, including news, features, and editorial opinion platforms, and the commentators who, through blogs and other channels, share their opinions widely. Any or all of these publics can create good or bad word of mouth and thus require monitoring and relationship management.
Customer markets: Customer markets can be consumer (buying goods and services for personal consumption), business (buying for use in production of other goods and services), resellers (retailers and others buying for resale at a profit), or government (buying to produce public services or provide goods or services to those in need of them). Customer markets influence companies through their structure, which determines the size of the customer base and the aggregate buying power available to a company. Each structure has distinct characteristics that will affect marketing strategy and thus needs close observation to detect trends that might call for shifts in strategic direction.
Knowledge of the micro and macro environment must come from somewhere. Marketers’ research designed to collect information about the external marketing environment in order to identify and interpret potential trends is known as environmental scanning. Conducting an environmental scan is part of the strategic analysis phase of the marketing process, as discussed in Chapter 2. Environmental scanning is typically conducted by the marketing department’s research team.
Environmental scanning is used to understand forces that may affect a company’s strategic plans, such as competitors’ moves. Environmental scanning brings to light trends a company’s marketers would otherwise be unable to sense.
The process of environmental scanning serves three goals:
· to provide an understanding of current and potential changes in the environment
· to provide important intelligence for strategic decision makers
· to facilitate strategic thinking at every level in the organization
Environmental scanning is a wide-ranging activity encompassing everything a company does to keep abreast of developments in the wider environment that may affect its future. Effective environmental scanning requires maximum exposure to the widest possible range of media, customer conversations, and thought leaders in the industry, region, and political/governmental sphere (Mercer, 1998).
One form environmental scanning takes is the pursuit of competitive intelligence. Researchers gather information about all aspects of competitors’ marketing and business activities. Another form is market sensing—the pursuit of information about customers’ behaviors, preferences, and motivations.
Every marketer hopes to predict trends ahead of competitors. The holy grail of environmental scanning is to detect weak signals—the first signs of an emerging development in any of the environmental forces. Paradoxically, weak signals have the most strategic value when they are weakest—like the first dark cloud that warns of an approaching thunderstorm. Furthermore, it can be hard to weed out irrelevant weak signals and to properly interpret the relevant ones. Even so, weak signals are such an important source of competitive advantage that wise marketers develop market sensing programs specifically designed to detect them.
The use of customer advisory panels is one example of marketers attempting to pick up weak signals about shifts in customer preferences or behavior. Another is careful “listening” to customers on social media platforms. When Nordstrom began noticing that its Pinterest followers were putting together virtual “wish lists,” the retailer began reflecting those choices in actual product groupings in its physical and online stores, using those weak signals from customers to increase product sales (Brown, 2013).
Perhaps the most dramatic trend an environmental scan would pick up today is the striking increase in customer-generated information available about competing options to fill specific needs or desires. Marketers must respond strategically to be sure the differentiating features and benefits of their offerings are part of the conversation or risk being forced to compete primarily on price.
Field Trip 8.1: Customer-Generated Product Information
How much customer-generated information is available about competing consumer product options? Consider rotisserie ovens as a product category. Visit Amazon.com, Walmart.com, or another major retailer’s website and enter “rotisserie oven” in the search field. Choose one of the top listings in your search results and look for customer reviews. How many do you find?
Have you ever posted or sought customer-generated information? Why?
If you were marketing rotisserie ovens, how might you use this information?
In summary, marketers must anticipate and plan for the influence of actors (people, either individually or in groups) and forces (situational factors) on a company’s micro and macro environment as they develop their marketing strategy. The primary tool by which they understand these influences is environmental scanning.
Questions to Consider
Consider a manufacturer of vinyl records today. What would an environmental scan pick up regarding future demand for the company’s products? How might environmental factors—such as the music industry’s search for a revenue source that doesn’t lend itself to illegal downloads, consumers’ dissatisfaction with the relatively poor sound fidelity of MP3 audio files, or indie retailers’ and musicians’ embrace of the vinyl format—affect demand for vinyl records? How would these trends be classified in our schema of micro-environmental actors and macro-environmental forces?
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