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Preparing a Marketing Plan

by Dr Cedric Nazareth

The marketing plan constitutes the marketing department's agenda, forming the basis for all their activities. Therefore, a good marketing plan will define the goals and clearly indicate the direction that the organisation will take. Individual product plans are governed by the company's overall strategy, and conversely, the overall strategy will depend upon product mix and potential of individual products.

The actual process of preparing the marketing plan as a document can proceed only after obtaining and analysing relevant data, and perhaps after brainstorming sessions to arrive at the most appropriate strategy. Key elements contained in a pharmaceutical marketing plan include :

1. Executive Summary

This may be the last to be prepared, but it appears at the beginning. The executive summary contains the salient features of the plan, for the busy boss who must have it all at a glance. Get it all into not more than one page.

2. The Product

At the outset, let's have key information about the product - its formulations, composition, price and a brief clinical profile.

3. SWOT Analysis

Evaluate for the product and its market the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunites and Threats. Make a list of points for each. Such a study will help to better understand the product and its market.

4. The Market

Your marketing plan must contain relevant market data. An analysis of the market will involve evaluating sales volumes and trends, doctors' prescribing patterns, trade-related activities, competition and future prospects. Market research can provide much of the necessary information. Essentially, market research involves :

(a) Sales audit :
Usually involves data related to all-India and regional sales / market share and growth of the categories and of individual products. In India, market research data is regularly generated by
(i) ORG - MARG : retail store audit
(ii) IMS : audit of wholesalers invoices

(b) Prescription Audit :
Analysis of doctors' prescribing patterns, in terms of products prescribed and indications for which they are prescribed. Regular prescription audit reports are available through C-Marc, ORG and IMS.

(c) Others :
(i) Occasional Studies : From time to time, a report may be generated on a relevant subject, eg., Medical Promotion Index by IMRB.
(ii) Customised Studies : A study may be commissioned if desired to obtain information on a specific subject.
(iii) Informal Study : Pharmaceutical companies deploy a large number of field staff, who can be a constant source of market information. They (and other marketing personnel) must be trained to provide regular feedback.

5. Market Projections

3 to 5 year projections for the category, the product and its main competitors will help to put the future in perspective. This will indicate where you expect your product to go.

6. Promotional Plan

This section should contain the positioning, target audience, product strategy, promotional message(s) and sales promotion methodology. Try to make your plan purposeful and unique. Ask yourself this question : "If I do this, will I achieve my goal?"

7. Sales vs Expenses

This page will have much of what one needs to know about your plan - sales expectations, gross margin, marketing activities and their expenses, and contribution from the product. Prepare 3 statements, one for each of 3 years. The following specimen format may be used:

Sales (Rs)

1. Strength 1 (10mg, 20mg etc) @ Rs - (price) No. of units      A
2. Strength 1 (10mg, 20mg etc) @ Rs - (price) No. of units      B

Total sales A + B                                                                               C

Cost of goods (unit cost No. of units)                                    D

Gross Margin (C - D)                                                                   E

Marketing Expenses (Rs)

Items 1, 2, 3, etc (eg., samples, literature, gifts etc.)
No. of units cost per unit                                                              F, G, H, I, etc

Total marketing expenses (F + G + H + I etc)                                 J

Product Contribution (E - J)                                     K

8. Production Requirements

Prepare a statement of three-monthly requirements of sales packs and samples for production and materials management.

9. Follow up and Control

Design appropriate reporting systems to ensure proper implementation of the plan and to obtain feedback. Include specimen forms, if relevant, in your marketing plan document.

It may be a good idea to create an appendix containing all the statements and forms provided with your plan. By doing so, readibility of the main points in the plan can progress smoothly. The text can have references to the items contained in the appendix.

Presentation matters! So do make your presentation look good. However, remember that appearance cannot be a substitute for content!

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