Strategic marketing planning is a management tool used to help to determine where an organization is going and how it is going to get there. The strategic planning process attempts to address three core questions: 1) Where are we? 2) Where do we want to be? and 3) How are we going to get there? Typically, the process is organization wide or focused on a major function such as a division or a department. At the corporate level, managers use strategic planning to determine in what businesses the company should compete. At the Strategic Business Unit level, strategic planning is focused on how to compete within the industry.
The situational analysis
The first stage of strategy planning involves answering the question, ‘Where are we?’ This stage requires a company to identify the company’s strengths and weaknesses by looking internally at the organization and then to identify the current or potential opportunities and threats by scanning the external environment. This activity is referred to as a SWOT analysis or situational analysis. The strengths and weaknesses of a hospitality organization may be broken down into four categories: marketing, operations, finance, and human resources. Once the organization’s strengths and weaknesses are identified, some sort of scan, or review, should be conducted of the organization’s environment to include the political, social, economic, demographic, and technical environment. The external scan may be further broken down into a micro environ mental scan and a macro environmental scan. The microenvironment would include suppliers, intermediaries, stockholders, bankers and other financial institutions, media and ad agencies, customers, and competitors. These groups directly and indirectly affect organizational decisions. The macro environment includes various driving forces in the environment such as changing demographics, technological advancements, and economic conditions.
By matching the company’s strengths and weaknesses with the microenvironment and macro environment, the company should be able to identify the current and potential opportunities and threats.
Once the SWOT analysis is complete, broad market opportunities can be identified. There are four basic categories of market opportunities available to a firm: 1) market penetration, 2) market development, 3) product/service development, and 4) diversification.
Goals and objectives
The second stage of the strategic planning process is to decide where the organization wants to be and to establish the overall mission and objectives that will guide the strategy. Drawn from the SWOT analysis and market opportunities, the organization’s strategic goals and strategies to achieve the goals must be identified. This process involves identifying or updating the organization’s mission, vision, and/or values statements. Mission statements are brief written descriptions of the purpose of the organization. Mission statements vary in nature from very brief to quite comprehensive, but should state for whom the organization exists, what it is supposed to do for those groups, and how it plans to do it. Many people consider the values statement and vision statement to be part of the mission statement. Vision statements are usually a compelling description of how the organization will or should operate at some point in the future and of how customers or clients are benefiting from the organization’s products and services. Values statements list the overall priorities in how the organization will operate.
Once the mission, vision, and/or value statements are established, corporate and marketing objectives should be stated. At the corporate level, objectives should specify the desired target return on investment. The marketing objectives focus on market share or other measures of sales. Objectives should be designed and worded as much as possible to be specific, measurable, quantifiable, timely, and attainable.
The marketing plan
The third stage of the strategic planning process involves creating a marketing plan. The marketing plan, or ‘marketing strategy,’ consists of identifying the target market and developing the marketing mix. Three target markets should be identified. First, the internal market, or employees, should be defined. For the internal marketing mix, the employee is the ‘customer’ and the job is the ‘product.’ The marketing mix for the internal target market must distribute, promote, and price the ‘product’ to the ‘custom er’s’ satisfaction. The second target market is the external consumer market. This group includes the customers or guests who will directly benefit from the service or product being offered. The third target market is the intermediary market, which would include travel agents, meeting planners, and tour operators. Each market segment must be precisely identified using geographic, demographic, and psychographic variables.
Once the target markets have been identified, the organization must define its positioning statement. The positioning statement defines the customer’s perception of the total product in light of the other competitive product and service offerings. The positioning statement must be clear, distinctive, unambiguous, and understood by all employees of the organization.
The final step of the marketing plan is to develop the marketing mix. A separate marketing mix should be created for each identified target market. The marketing mix consists of the ‘4 Ps’ product, promotion, place, and price. Within the product considerations, a list of all product and service offerings should be compiled and the core benefits of each product/service should be listed. Next, the tangible and intangible aspects of the products and/or services should be named.
As part of the promotion mix, promotion objectives should be clearly defined and the mix of advertising, personal selling, publicity, and sales promotion should be stated. Types of media usage, such as broadcast, print, and direct mail, should be identified in addition to the specific outlets, such as radio stations and magazines. The promotion budget should be determined and promotion ideas and themes should be discussed.
Under the place mix, the distribution objectives (exclusive, selective, or intensive) must be identified. The use and selection of intermediaries should be discussed as well as strategies for increasing relationships with intermediaries.
Finally, as part of the marketing mix, pricing objectives should be established. These objectives should include list prices, rack rates, package prices, and menu prices. Pricing policies concerning discounting, quantity, seasonal fluctuations, and price discrimination practices should also be discussed.
The strategic marketing planning process involves conducting a situational analysis, establishing goals and objectives, and developing a strategic marketing plan. An effective marketing plan should enhance the hospitality organization’s strengths, help to overcome internal weaknesses, take advantage of the opportunities in consideration of the threats, and contribute to the organization’s goals.
Shea, L. J. (2004). Strategic Marketing Planning and the Strategic Marketing Plan, Unpublished working paper. Amherst, (MA): University of Massachusetts.