The MARFIN planning model consists of over 250 preprogramed charts (spreadsheets) and graphs following a logical path that takes the planner through the planning process step by step; first, by developing a strategy for each element of the marketing mix and then combining those strategies in a harmonized marketing plan.
I. The Database
The key to developing an effective marketing database is to enter and store the data in its marketing context.
MARFIN accomplishes this by using the analytical charts for data entry and storage as well. This unique system provides the planner with the following benefits:
- It identifies the information that is needed for the analysis; and
- The planner will always know what information is available and what information is still missing.
When a chart comes up, it contains the information that was already entered in different parts of the program. Each piece of data can be entered only in its designated chart. If a number does not make sense when we look at it in another context (in another chart), then the planner will have to return to the chart where it was originally entered. That is the only place where adjustments can be made. That is the only place where the planner has the necessary information available for making realistic adjustments.
For example, we forecast market development in Chart 1.7. If later, when we forecast brand sales developments, we think that the market forecast was too optimistic or too conservative, we will have to return to Chart 1.7 and make adjustments there. In the market share section, the total market numbers are not changeable.
This unique function aims at making sure that the numbers entered are as realistic as possible.
II. The Charts
Each chart has a marketing objective to accomplish. The chart’s objective can be accessed by clicking on the question mark (?) next to the title.
Under each chart, we find a row of functions:
- Forecast (if applicable) - One of the major tasks of the planner is to project market development and the future position of the brand. MARFIN's forecast function helps facilitate this process.
- Chart Explanation - With this button, the planner can access the description of the chart: it lists the data that MARFIN enters and describes the tasks the planner has to perform. It gives a detailed explanation about how to fill in the chart, and explains the chart's marketing meaning.
- Marketing Tasks - Here MARFIN lists and describes the marketing tasks for the planner to accomplish. It explains what decisions need to be made and instructs the planner not to forget to record them in the Assumptions or in the Conclusions.
- Assumptions - By clicking on the Assumptions button, we find a checklist for the planner to record his or her observations and assumptions made during the analytical phase. This function will also enable the planner to monitor the marketplace during the year and make the necessary adjustments if the environment changes and the assumptions turn out to be incorrect.
- Source of Data - Here the planner enters the source of the data entered in the chart.
- Sub-charts are analytical charts. Generally, the planner will enter data in the main chart, and MARFIN rearranges the numbers in several different ways in corresponding sub-charts so as to reveal the strategic meaning of the data. Through this unique feature of MARFIN, the planner will gain a special insight into the market dynamics. This is how MARFIN makes the the numbers talk.
- Graphs – Similarly to the sub-charts, graphs display the data of the main chart in different creative ways for better understanding.
III. The Sections
MARFIN consists of eight sections of similar structure. Each section represents an element of the marketing mix (market, market share, product, price, distribution, advertising, promotion) and there is also a financial section.
Each section consists of a series of charts that are needed for fundamental business analysis and strategy development. The charts are structured according to regions and the planning period.
The first step is to define the product for which we are preparing the plan. The next step is to define the regions. This will differ according to where our department is located within the corporate hierarchy, i.e. at which level we want to prepare the plan. If we plan for a city, then the regions will be the individual districts. If we want a plan for a region, then the regions will represent the counties or cities of the regions. Similarly, countries or larger regions will be used for a worldwide plan.
The third step is to determine the time frame for our planning. The longer the past data extends back, the more accurate our forecast will be. We thus have to determine the first year for which data will be entered as well as the end of the planning period. The planning period is the number of years for which we will prepare the plan. It depends on the corporate management system, and usually encompasses 3 to 5 years. Before starting, the planner will thus identify the first year for which data is available and the end of the planning period (EOP).
During the setup, the planner also needs to identify the currency and determine the order of magnitude to be used. With MARFIN, we may plan in units or in value. Generally, we will analyze the market first in units and then in value. Analyses in units reflect the real situation in the marketplace, while the data expressed in currency is the function of two variables: the actual sales development (in units) and the price development. If possible, we should always enter unit sales first, and then data in value.
IV. The Menu Bars
MARFIN has two menus. The planner will find the main menu bar under the heading. This menu includes under the MARFIN button with the general setup, the selection of the various sections, and finally the MARKETING PLAN button. Under each section name, there is a roll down menu.
A. Main Menu
The main menu allows the planner to navigate among the eight sections and access any chart of the program.
A. The first button is called MARFIN and contains the following menu items:
- Other Plans
- Plan Settings
- Plan Criteria
- MARFIN's Structure
- MARFIN Model
- Strategic Checkpoints
Buttons two through ten open up one of MARFIN's sections; they represent the elements of the marketing mix: Market, Market Share, Product, Price, Distribution, Advertising, Promotion; the Financial section and the Marketing Plan.
The small roll down menus have a similar structure with reference to each section:
- Information Needed
- List of Charts
- Section Model
- Strategy Options
(1) The Introduction contains a short description of the dataflow within the section and lists the tasks for the planner.
(2) the Information Needed lists the data that the planner needs to enter in the charts of the selected section.
The first step in business analysis is to develop a database relevant to our business. We must ask: What information do we need in order to have a thorough understanding of the competitive situation? If we do not have reliable data on hand, we can start using MARFIN with our best estimates. Knowing what we ought to know is the first step toward knowledge, and MARFIN helps us to take that first step.
(3) List of Charts - There are two different types of charts in each section: charts where data is collected for analysis and charts where strategy is developed. The charts are listed so that the planner can see how the data flows from the first analytical chart to the last chart containing the strategy. The planner can select any of the charts.
(4) Conclusions - During this process, the planner will make several decisions. These decisions will be recorded under this button. When the screen opens, the planner will find a list of major decisions that need to be made in the respective sections. The planner is free, of course, to add any other categories. This button works as a word processor. The ultimate plan will consist of a summary of these recorded strategic decisions.
(5) The Section Model is a flowchart illustrating the dataflow and the step by step strategic thought process from analysis to the determination of the appropriate strategy for the selected element of the marketing mix.
(6) Strategy Options - In order to develop the right strategy, we need to know what options we have under different market conditions. To aid the planner in this complicated process, strategy option overviews were devised for each section, and they can be consulted easily during the planning process by clicking on this button. MARFIN will not decide which strategy to use; it merely indicates the options. The planner has to make the decision.