The ultimate result of a good marketing plan is a set of marketing programs that are designed to achieve your marketing objectives.
In the Marketing Programs section of your marketing plan, you're basically developing a very detailed promotions "to do" list.
In essence, it's a task list that describes what will be done, when it will begin or be completed, who will accomplish the tasks, and so on.
The task list has a hierarchy to it. A group of marketing tasks, taken together, constitute a marketing program.
In other words, a company might have multiple marketing programs in play at any given time. Each marketing program uses one or more marketing tactics, and the execution of a marketing tactic is a marketing task.
The Marketing Programs section of the marketing plan builds on any prior discussion of marketing tactics. For example, a discussion of marketing tactics might state that your company will participate in industry trade shows. A marketing program might lists the trade shows and their dates, your objectives for attending trade shows, which company representatives will be sent, the trade show results you expect, the specific marketing tactics you will employ to promote trade show attendance, and so on.
Marketing programs are your roadmap for achieving marketing success. They are your action plan. They explain who will do what when and why.
Marketing programs can be formatted in a chart, table, timeline or in any other way. Programs can be grouped chronologically or by event types. For example, you could list all the activities planned in each month, or you could group similar activities, such as public relations activities, together regardless of when they'll occur during the year.
If your list of marketing programs becomes too lengthy, you might reconsider whether you are taking on too much for a given time period. When it comes to marketing, it's better to do a few marketing programs well than to do a mediocre job on a longer set of marketing initiatives.
To keep your marketing programs descriptions short and to the point, you might also decide that it's better to place some of the more detailed bits of information -- such as a media placement plan outlining where and when ads will run for an advertising campaign -- in an appendix to the marketing plan.
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