Smith’s marketing situation

As an international company and the largest retailer of books, magazines and stationery in the UK, WH Smith’s operational environment is more and more complex internally and externally. They need the strategy of marketing planning to help them organise and achieve their objectives which are being a market leader in each of their markets and providing the best service for customers. (WH Smith 2003 annual report) In accomplishing the marketing objectives through marketing activities, marketing planning helps WH Smith define what activities will and will not do.

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For example, their American travel retail business is in downturn since the 11 September attacks. This is an economic situation; they do not have the power to control it. If the organisation plans well, they still can reduce or avoid losses. To do marketing planning the first thing is to analysis of markets and the trading environment. Marketing planning helps the organisation to realize this situation and minimize its threats. ‘The board of directors took immediate action to sale of its airport and hotel stores for a total of 49m.

The airport stores have been sold to US gift and news retailer the Hudson Group for 41m, while the hotel retail business has been sold to its former management for  8m. ‘ (http://www. thebookseller. com/) WH Smith cannot be all products to all people. Marketing planning helps the organisation to determine core target market and segment customers. Marketing planning takes into consideration the market of tomorrow. Customers may change location and demand, markets may change the size.

Therefore, marketing planning can monitor markets changing and identify customers demand. It also helps to find new opportunities and access the organisation’s potential to take advantage of them. ‘McDonald, Payne (2001) state marketing plan contains a mission statement, SWOT analysis, assumption, marketing objectives, marketing strategies and programmes. Note that the objectives, strategies and policies are established for each level of the business. ‘ Thus, marketing planning is the need for setting mission statement, objectives, and strategies specifically.

According to WH Smith 2003 annual report, the organisation’s objective is being a market leader in each of their markets and providing the best service for customers. It seems good, but it is full of generalities. It will not help the organisation make tough decision. WH Smith must understand what they are trying to achieve specifically, what the environmental problems, opportunities are, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. Marketing planning process will help them to reconsider those questions internally and externally.

To do WH Smith marketing audit is all about planning for their future, but the marketing plan cannot plan everything, because the organisation does not have all the information they need and some external forces are changing rapidly. Basically, the information is easier to gain on the internal environment rather than the external environment. For example, political forces and social forces both belong in the external market environment and it is therefore difficult to gain the information. A reason for this is the external market is largely beyond the organisation’s control.

The other reason is political, economic, social and technological factors are changing all the time and it is difficult to follow the latest changes. In the internal market environment, marketing organisation information is more difficult to gain, because it costs the time to find out organisations’ efficiency. ‘McDonald, Payne (1996) state that marketing planning is a series of activities which are tackled in logical sequence in a way that leads to the setting of marketing objectives and the devising of programmes to meet them. The output of this process is the strategic marketing plan.

‘Wood (2003) defines the marketing plan as: a document that summarizes marketplace knowledge and the marketing strategies and specific plans to be used in achieving marketing goals and objectives. ‘ According to the definitions above, marketing planning can be defined as the process which involves reviewing the market situation – implementing, analysing and controlling activities to achieve the objectives. The marketing plan is a document that contains a mission statement, SWOT analysis, marketing objectives and strategies. Thus, the marketing plan is an output of marketing planning.