The internet marketing plan is essential for most business. Brian Smith (2003) of Cranfield School of Management argues that ‘it doesn’t really matter what business you’re in, planners outperform non-planners.’
A marketing plan in any form provides a route map for an organisation’s activities. Incorporated within a document are elements that provide direction, coordination and control of the key mix elements. The plan is usually a fine balancing act between the organisation’s desired position in the marketplace and its skills, capabilities and resources. The nature, formality and detail of the marketing plan, be it short, medium or long-term, will naturally vary according to the size of the organisation. Large enterprises often indulge in highly complex strategic planning processes and scenarios stretching beyond the medium-term. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) tend to plan in a more informal, flexible and entrepreneurial way. All successful and innovative organisations have a vision for the development of their business. Those with a marketing orientation have the vision to fulfil a customer need, desire or aspiration and have utilised the internet as technology vehicle to achieve commercial success.
Online-marketing planning, in essence, will draw on everything we know about planning for conventional marketing disciplines and amalgamate the methods, benefits and expediency of IT and knowledge-network based solutions.
Online marketing is a function within the organisation’s overall e-business strategy, and because terms and phrases such as ‘World Wide Web’ and ‘Internet’ are frequently used interchangeably it can lead to confusion from the very beginning. The internet was around a long time before the World Wide Web, which is an application built on top of the internet, i.e. the internet is host to the World Wide Web. Put more simply: the internet can exist as a communications medium without the World Wide Web, but not the other way around.
The integration of e-business into the organisation helps to pave the way for linking e-business with e-marketing strategy and identify revenue streams suggested by e-business models. Strauss et al (2003) recommend a two-tier approach:
- Perform marketing opportunity analysis to identify target stakeholders. Specify brand differentiation variables. Select positioning strategy.
- Design the offer, value, distribution, communication and market/partner relationship management strategies.
Internet marketing plan
Many early Internet marketing plan suffered from a lack of realism and over-optimism regarding the proper opportunities offered online. For some, it was a journey into the unknown, on which they made various assumptions that were fundamentally flawed. These included over-estimating market size the cost of acquiring new customers and building online brands, and the speed at which different consumer groups would actually adopt the internet for buying goods and services. However, online trading experiences, coupled with available internal and external market information, now provide the basis for more accurate and relevant planning.
The nature of internet marketing plan is not significantly different to plans formulated for an offline business or product in that they are often based upon traditional marketing principles. Chaffy et al (2003) consider the merits of utilising so called strategic process models for online planning including the ten-step model developed by Professor Malcolm McDonald (1999) that many marketing students will already be familiar with.
Six key planning elements include a situation analysis, the link from e-business to e-marketing strategy, the plan objectives, an implementation plan the budget and a plan for evaluating success.
Situation analysis has been a primary function of marketing planning and applies to e-marketing in just the same way. It involves a review of the firm’s environmental and SWOT analyses as well as the existing marketing plan and any other information that can be gathered about the company and its brands. At a macro level, the organisation will consider supplier and distributor relationships as well as a thorough competitor analysis. A STEP analysis covering Societal, Technological, Economic and Political influences give planners a feel for factors outside of their control which nevertheless should shape their marketing outputs. A review of the company’s e-business objectives matched with strategies and performance metrics completes the analysis.
McDonald, M (1999) Marketing Plans: How to prepare them, 4th edn, Oxford, Butterworth Heinemann
Smith, B (2003) Marketing Business, June 2003, Chartered Institute of marketing, 33
Strauss J, El-Ansary, A & Frost, R (2003) E-Marketing, Pearson Education, Inc Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, US, pp 51-57