The importance of preparing an international marketing plan for the purpose of planning and implementing marketing and sales operations abroad has already been discussed at length elsewhere. We will not delve into all of the advantages of preparing a marketing plan, but they include:
- Defining target clients on whom we wish to focus
- Establishing brand positioning and a unique selling proposition
- Setting marketing and sales targets
- Defining your product scope
- Determining pricing models
- Establishing sales channels and distributors
- Planning on which territories to focus
- Defining the marketing channels
- Building a budget that would meet the company’s goals
Most founders and executives of startup and B2B software companies are already aware of these advantages, however some of them are reluctant to put their plan in writing. Everything is so obvious to them, as some aspects of the plan, such as the pricing model and the target customers, have already been discussed separately on numerous occasions, making them believe that there is no reason to put in the time and resources required for an academic writing of the plan. Action is all that is needed – more walk, less talk.
Why, then, is it important to put the marketing plan in writing?
- Marketing planning in general, and international marketing specifically, is a very complicated journey that depends on many parameters (the market, the competitors, the company, the product and the technology) as well as the involvement of most of the organization in order to see it through. Putting the plan in writing prevents misunderstandings and makes it easier to share with all relevant entities within the organization in order to have everyone fully committed and to synchronize tasks until clearly set and common goals are achieved.
- The marketing plan includes an entire chapter that constructs the marketing strategy. This is a critical step in the plan and must be based on facts, previous experience and realistic analysis. When strategy is based on written information there is a natural inclination to then rely on facts and data rather than guesswork and intuition. The writing process itself also forces the company to complete critical missing information for a more professional plan. This results in a marketing plan that is tailored to the company and market conditions, and one which can actually be implemented.
- Building the marketing strategy is a complicated task that requires that all components be in sync. Changes made to any parameter in the strategy can result in other parameters being modified, and these in turn affect the marketing steps actually taken. This is a very fragile system in which all parts must be synchronized with one another. A written marketing plan prevents instances where a decision is made in one area without taking into account the consequences doing so may have in another area. For example: if a B2B software product and offering is should include implementation by a local entity, this directly affects distribution channels and requires a local entity with technical skills. Another example: if a certain type of target client is defined in the plan, such as hotels, then the pricing methodology must be tailored to take into account the number of rooms – the pricing model hotels understand when purchasing products. When the plan and strategy is available in writing, all discrepancies and non-conformances soon surface and are easily identified and corrected to avoid making costly mistakes.
- Marketing planning will save you a lot of money – You would do well to pay attention to it and the way to do that is by putting it in writing.
- Your international competitors most probably put their marketing plan in writing. If you want to be a global player, act accordingly, and strive for excellence in management and marketing.
- Part of the process of breaking into foreign markets is through distributors. There is a methodology of distributor management that includes, among other things, a request for them to prepare a brief marketing plan for their territory. If you do not make a written marketing plan for your company, why do you expect your distributor to put in any effort and make a plan for you?
- The marketing plan includes a chapter on budget. It is clear as day that budgets must be put in writing. Numbers are not to be messed with. Putting the marketing plan in writing ensures that the budget is strongly correlated with targets and the actions that must be taken to realize these targets, thus resulting in a budget that is properly channeled.
- If you cannot divert resources to prepare the plan, why are you so confident that you will be able to divert resources to the actual actions required to implement it, which are far more complicated and challenging and take much longer to execute? These all beg the question, is your company ready for international marketing?
- The investors you are looking for all check, among other things, how the company plans to market its products, as well as its experience in the international market. A professional and operative international marketing plan (as opposed to a business plan, where marketing is handled in a more general sense) will let your investors know that the company and its founders mean business, and it will beam a positive light on company value while also providing them with the confidence that, at least in terms of marketing, they are dealing with professionals who can be trusted.