Week 2.3 Strategic Marketing Process: Planning Phase

Strategic Marketing Process 

You have seen how an organization assesses where it is and identifies where it wants to go. Strategic direction involves the plan for future growth, but how do we convert the plan to actions? The strategic marketing process defines how the organization acts to achieve the strategic direction that it has set. It involves carefully creating the marketing mix elements to reach its target markets. 

The strategic marketing process is completed in three phases. 

3 phases, as explained by caption.
Three Phases of the Strategic Marketing Process. Phases of the strategic marketing process include planning, implementation, and evaluation.

The Planning Phase

This is the phase in which the goals are set and actions defined for achieving the goals. 

It consists of three steps.

Planning phase with 3 steps as explained by caption.
Three Steps of the Planning Phase.  The three steps of the planning phase include situation (SWOT) analysis, market-product focus and goal setting, and marketing program.

Step 1: Situation Analysis 

Situation analysis looks at where the firm or product has been recently, where it is now, and where it is headed in terms of the organization's plans and the external factors and trends affecting it. 

An important component of situation analysis is SWOT analysis. It stands for internal Strengths and Weaknesses and external Opportunities and Threats. SWOT uses knowledge from many areas including:

  • identifying trends in the firm's industry,
  • analyzing the firm's competitors,
  • assessing the firm itself, and
  • researching the firm's present and prospective customers.

SWOT analysis is helpful in identifying the critical factors affecting the firm. A successful SWOT analysis enables us to respond to these critical factors. We are able to:

  • build on vital strengths, 
  • correct weaknesses, 
  • exploit opportunities, and
  • avoid threats.

Example: SWOT analysis for Ben & Jerry's. 

  Type of Factor
Location of FactorInternal Strengths
  • Prestigious brand name
  • Major share of the superpremium ice cream market
  • Can complement Unilever's existing ice cream brands


  • Danger that Ben & Jerry's social responsibility actions may add costs, reduce focus on core business
  • Need for experienced managers to help growth
  • Flat sales and profits in recent years


  • Growing demand for quality ice cream
  • Increasing demand for frozen yogourt and other low-fat desserts
  • Success of many firms in extending successful brand in one product category to others


  • Consumer concern about fatty desserts; Ben & Jerry's customers are the type who read new nutritional labels
  • Competes with Haagen-Dazs brand
  • Downturn in Canadian economy

Stop and Think Question: What would be the actions to take in response to the statements in each of the four cells in the table above? Remember that we want to build on vital strengths, correct weaknesses, exploit opportunities, and avoid threats.

Carton of Ben and Jerry's Non-Dairy frozen dessert.

Some examples of actions would be as follows.

  • Build on a strength. Ben & Jerry’s parent company is one of the strengths that the company has. Ben & Jerry's can use efficient distribution channels of its parent company to achieve cost effective ways of supply chain management. 
  • Correct a weakness. One of the weaknesses is the lack of experienced managers. The company should focus on recruiting experienced managers to help stimulate growth in the supermarket segment. A bright entrepreneur who wishes to own his/her own business is going to make a great franchisee. Ben & Jerry's should seek such talent to operate Ben & Jerry's Scoop Shops.
  • Exploit an opportunity. There is high demand for low-fat desserts. To exploit such an opportunity, the company can develop a new line of low-fat frozen yogourts, which will allow them to respond to consumers’ health concerns.
  • Avoid a threat. A downturn in the economy is a threat for any business. There is nothing much to do to avoid such a threat. Ben & Jerry's can try to focus on physical markets only where there is high consumer discretionary income and desire for a premium ice cream product.

Step 2:  Market-Product Focus and Goal Setting

In this step, we determine which products will be directed toward which customers and the goals. The products are aligned with the customer segments in a process of target market selection. We will cover this process in detail in the coming weeks by introducing the concept of market segmentation using a market-product grid. Market segmentation involves dividing buyers into groups who have common needs. We expect potential buyers in the same group to respond similarly to a marketing action. Firms use market segmentation to identify the segments they will be targeting and develop marketing programs to reach them. 

Goal setting involves setting measurable marketing objectives to be achieved. For example, if we are setting a goal for a specific market, we might consider introducing a new product. If we are setting a goal for a specific product, we might consider creating a promotional campaign or a new pricing strategy. We will cover promotional strategies and pricing strategies in the coming chapters. Remember how the goals should satisfy the SMART criteria as we covered earlier.

Example: applying market-product focus and goal setting to the case of Medtronic.

Medtronic is one of the world's largest medical equipment development companies. In this example, we are considering developing and marketing a new product, the Champion heart pacemaker. This is a product that is easy to install and has a long battery life. It is directed at the needs of the Asian market segment.  

  • Set marketing and product goals: The goal is to design and market the pacemaker in the next three years, and to manufacture the pacemaker in China for the Asian market.
  • Select target markets: The target market is going to be the cardiologists and medical clinics performing heart surgery in India, China, and other Asian countries. Notice that we are not targeting the patients as most of them are not medically trained to assess such a device. 
  • Find points of difference: The product’s points of difference are high quality, long life, reliability, ease of use, and low cost. Points of difference refers to unique characteristics of a product that make it superior to competitive substitutes.
  • Position the product: The pacemaker will be “positioned” in cardiologists' and patients' minds as a medical device that is high quality and reliable with a long, nine-year life.

Step 3: Marketing Program

The third step in the planning phase is the marketing program.

You have seen in Step 2 that the organization identified which customers to target and the customer need to satisfy. This refers to the who and what aspects of the strategic marketing process. Now in Step 3 we are looking into the how aspect. We will develop the program's marketing mix and its budget. As previously shown, there are 4Ps of marketing, also known as marketing mix elements. These elements are under the control of the organization and our goal in this step is to mix them in a clever way that will allow us to satisfy the needs of the consumers. 

The following figure shows the contributions from the 4Ps (marketing mix elements) into the cohesive marketing program. 

The Four Ps. The contributions of product, price, promotion, and place into the marketing program. 

Concept Check Questions:

1. The three phases of the strategic marketing process are


2.Which of the following is considered as a task of SWOT analysis in the planning phase of the strategic marketing process?