The term "controls in a marketing plan" refers to the control phase of a marketing strategy. Each business needs to assert control over its marketing, ensuring that the sales of a product are meeting goals. Marketing plans are developed to help achieve those goals, but sometimes products underperform. When this occurs, a review of the plan needs to occur. This happens during the control phase.

Marketing Strategy at a Glance

There are three major phases to the marketing process. These include the planning phase, implementation phase and control phase.

The planning phase is important because it is the period during which a company performs a SWOT analysis, in which it assesses its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Based on this assessment, a marketing program is developed. This includes setting product goals and strategies for where the product will be sold, at what price and how it will be featured to customers.

The implementation phase of a marketing strategy is the period during which the marketing plan is actually put into action. During this phase, a company needs to divert the appropriate resources and time to support the new product, implementing a hierarchy through which the marketing program can be monitored, and assigning specific tasks to complete that help successfully support the marketing program.

The implementation phase is the period when everything that has been discussed is appropriately supported with actions and resources.

After the planning and implementation phase have been completed, it becomes time to start the control phase. This is the period during which the marketing plan is evaluated.

The control phase includes a review of all the actions that have taken place and whether the plan has been implemented correctly.

The Control Phase

The control phase of marketing is also known as the evaluation phase. During this period, the marketing team reviews whether all of the steps of the plan have been correctly followed. When the plan hasn’t been followed, it’s up to the team to find where things went wrong and get the plan back on track.

Typically, when a plan hasn’t been followed, it leads to dips in sales, which is why it’s helpful for businesses to stick to their marketing strategy.

Sometimes, however, a deviation in the marketing strategy actually leads to increased sales. This unforeseen improvement in performance is known as a positive divergence.

Marketers should observe these positive divergences and try to determine why the change in plans actually led to improvements in sales. There may be valuable lessons to be learned from assessing how these changes positively impacted performance.

The controls phase includes four common means of evaluating a marketing strategy’s outcomes. These include the following:

  •          Strategies and tactics.
  •          Goals not ideas.
  •          Actionable goals instead of contingent ones.
  •          Appropriately aligned business plans.

These forms of evaluation are discussed in more detail below.

Strategies and Tactics

Strategies and tactics are not the same. In evaluating a program, marketers look at both. The marketing strategy aspect of a marketing plan includes establishing goals that need to be achieved, while tactics are the actions that will be used to achieve those goals.

Marketers look at whether goals have been met.

If goals have not been met, then marketers need to look at the tactics that have been used to achieve those goals. When a plan goes off track, it often boils down to the fact that the right actions were not taken to help meet those goals.

Marketers often have to look at what actions caused the business to underperform and ensure that new actions are taken to get sales back on track.

Goals not Ideas

Many plans go wrong for lack of specific, concrete milestones that a company aims to achieve. Businesses need to set objective goals by which to gauge whether their marketing is successful rather than set vague ideas for what they believe success will be like.

Companies generate all sorts of data, such as sales data and market share, that can be used to determine whether their marketing efforts have been a success. This is where key performance indicators, or KPIs, can be helpful.

KPIs provide objective evidence about whether or not adequate progress is being made toward achieving a business’s goals. There are many different types of KPIs, but with regard to marketing efforts, the most important one is likely the outcomes that occur as a result of implementing a marketing strategy.

Some outcomes can be hard to measure, such as brand awareness, while others are easily tracked, such as sales. Part of a marketing strategy should be setting objective goals to be met in the form of KPIs, which can then be reviewed during the control phase of the marketing plan.

Actionable Goals Instead of Contingent Ones

Part of a marketing plan should be the development of actionable goals rather than contingent ones.

Actionable goals are goals that can be worked toward and aren’t subject to forces outside the control of the company. Goals that are dependent upon outside forces are goals that a company cannot proactively work toward.

When goals are actionable, a business can identify the actions they will take that will help achieve those goals.

In reviewing a marketing strategy during a control phase, marketers may find that one reason goals were not met was because they were too contingent on outside forces to succeed. Plans can be adapted and changed so that goals are more reliable on concrete actions that a company can take.

If goals are too reliant on outside forces to succeed, it indicates there was some significantly poor planning during that phase of developing the marketing strategy.

Appropriately Aligned Business Plans

Marketing strategies need to be aligned with a company’s business plan, which should be oriented toward supporting the success of those strategies. A business plan discusses many important issues pertinent to a business’ success.

The business concept discuses how a product will help drive the business’ success, the marketplace section describes the potential customers the product will appeal to and the financial section includes projected financials and how much revenue will be necessary for the company to break even.

Just at a glance, it should be clear that a company’s business plan has several overlapping sections within a marketing plan. A business plan goes into much greater depth about a wide range of factors, such as financial factors, while a marketing plan goes into greater depth about the goals of a marketing campaign and the tactics that will be used to achieve those.

However, both plans discuss who the audience for the business will be, how they can be reached and what can motivate them to buy from the business.

Aligning the two plans is critical if a business wants to succeed. Marketing plans reference business plans, drawing upon the already identified audience to inform the development of advertisements.

When these plans are not aligned, it can lead to the creation of a marketing plan that does not appeal to the business's target customer base. This can lead to marketing that conflicts with the company’s already established image and confuses consumers about whether or not the product is for them.

Returning to SWOT Analysis

As indicated above, the control phase of a marketing strategy is inherently a review of an existing plan’s performance, suggesting that things can go poorly from the planning phase. To ensure that a plan is well-developed, it’s important to perform an assessment of the company, typically through a SWOT analysis.

This analysis begins with an attempt to identify the company’s strengths, such as the uniqueness of the brand, the leadership behind the company and the position of the company’s stores in desirable locations.

Weaknesses of the company are then assessed; these can include things like a lack of necessary capital or limited brand recognition in certain markets. Threats to the company should also be listed, such as new laws that may impact production, the entrance of new competitors into the market or a poorly launched product that fails to capture an audience from the start. For marketers trying to increase sales of a product, however, it is the opportunities section of the analysis that may be the most attractive. The opportunities section includes various ways in which a company is primed for growth, such as a growing target audience that can be marketed to.

During a control phase, if a product is underperforming, the SWOT analysis may need to be revisited to ensure that the audience targeted in the opportunities section is appropriate for the product.

Marketing Plan Samples

A marketing plan example can help to better understand how they work and the ways they help a company succeed. The plan should begin with an executive summary that states what the business is, its vision, the products and services that are offered and how the business stands out from its competition. Marketers can draw upon the business’s SWOT analysis to help identify ways to position the product uniquely among its competition.

The marketing plan should include both the executive summary to lead off followed by a presentation of the SWOT analysis, which can be followed by a presentation of the ideal target customer. Within this section, the marketing plan can go in-depth about potential customer breakdown, including gender, socioeconomic background, and other demographic factors.

It’s important to go beyond demographic factors when listing the ideal customer, however. Values, problems and interests of a consumer all inform the marketing strategy.

After specifying the ideal customer, the marketing strategy should describe objectives such as increased market share, brand loyalty and sales numbers, all of which can be tracked using KPIs. This should be followed with a breakdown of how budgeting will be allocated to the campaign and who will be responsible for the development of each part of that campaign. There may be a head individual charged with the overall project, but others will need to head up certain sections of the plan like social media campaign development and market research. The budgets for each section should be listed.

Marketing Strategy Summary

The control phase of marketing is an oversight phase that ensures marketing efforts are meeting target goals. By properly identifying a target audience, setting specific goals and using key performance indicators, a business can create a solid marketing plan to launch with. The control phase can then be used to review the plan and ensure that it is performing up to expectations.

To ensure that a marketing plan is on target, it is wise to make control phase checks on a periodic basis. This way, if something is not going to plan, the company will recognize this in time to react and put things back on track.