Can firms be successful without a marketing plan?
One of the questions often asked by marketing students is whether or not a company really needs a marketing plan.
Certainly by the way that marketing plans are taught at university, one would be forgiven thinking that every business had a documented marketing plan. But this is not always the case, with many small businesses in particular operating without a clear strategy or a detailed marketing action plan.
This article outlines the reasons why a firm or organization could exist quite successfully without a documented marketing plan. Probably the most common reasons for not having a documented marketing plan are the lack of time and lack of expertise. However, these are excuses, rather than logical reasons for not having a marketing plan. There are several business-related reasons for not having a marketing plan, as outlined in this section below.
Therefore, as you will see, the answer to the above question is clearly “no” – not all firms need to have a marketing plan.
Reasons why firms would not have a marketing plan
- they are a small business and lack the expertise to develop one
- they do not have a formal marketing department
- they have a top-level strategic plan which incorporates marketing activities anyway
- the owner/manager of business is quite entrepreneurial and has all the ideas in his/her head
- the business wants to be flexible and adaptive and does not want to be tied to set plans
- it is a fairly repetitious business – such as a car park facility – that has no intention of modifying their existing business operations, meaning that a marketing plan is not relevant or beneficial
Does the marketing plan need to be documented?
Not necessarily – smaller or more entrepreneurial type businesses may have a very clear strategy that is understood by the key people in the organization. They may have particular plans and projects in mind, but do not see the need to waste time and documenting these activities – as they are already well understood.
Likewise, a larger company with a detailed strategic plan may outline key marketing initiatives within that particular document, without the need to have a separate marketing plan prepared.
Quick note on my personal experience
During my corporate marketing career, I worked for several well-known companies in Australia and the majority of them did not have a documented marketing plan.
Although I would not recommend this, please see my article on the additional benefits of a marketing plan, it is merely to suggest that many successful firms do operate without a marketing plan.