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Welcome to our series on Practical Marketing Planning. Today, we will discuss the essence of the MARFIN’S new and innovative marketing platform: the SmartCharts. A thorough understanding of this new concept is essential for developing a comprehensive, well-harmonized and creative marketing plan.
We are all familiar with spreadsheets. Spreadsheets are great tools. We all learned how to use them. However, Spreadsheets are only tools. They are useful only if they reveal an insight and convey a message. They can do that only if they contain meaningful information. We thus need to make them smart.
The goals behind developing MARFIN was to offer marketing professionals a digital tool that:
MARFIN accomplishes all this by breaking down the entire planning process in an original way into over 250 SmartCharts and graphs using the 5P framework. (See MARFIN introduces the concept of the 5th P.)
What is a SmartChart?
It is a chart that has a predetermined task that it needs to perform within a marketing framework.
The MARFIN SmartCharts have three functions: they serve for data entry; they facilitate analysis, and finally they aid in developing strategies. The structure of each chart and the corresponding specially-designed function keys make MARFIN unique.
The first function of a SmartChart is data entry. In the top menu, MARFIN lists the information that needs to be entered in each chart. This is a general list. It might need adaptation if your business has special characteristics. For further detail of this function, please read What is a SmartDatabase.
Next, by clicking on the question mark (?) at the end of the title of each chart, we access the description of the chart’s objective. It explains the special role of the chart in the marketing planning process and the insight it needs to provide. By describing our marketing task, MARFIN actually translates the information into practical application. This makes a chart a SmartChart.
Here is an example, Chart 1.3
To further understand the chart’s role in the planning process, MARFIN created several function keys which we can find under each chart:
We find the Forecast button under those charts where the marketing tasks involve trend analysis and forecasts of one or more variables, like market size, brand shares and advertising spending. The MARFIN forecast function uses the standard time series methods: moving averages and exponential smoothing. MARFIN is very flexible. If your company uses more sophisticated forecasting models, they can easily be incorporated in the platform.
With this button, we can access a description of how the chart functions. It lists the data that MARFIN enters. These are the numbers we already entered in another chart. The program also identifies the chart where those numbers were originally entered, and this is also the place to where you will have to return should you wish to change their values. It also lists the data we should enter and describes the tasks we have to perform.
This function was designed to familiarize the user with the basic concepts of marketing and the underlying principles of the MARFIN marketing management system. It describes the marketing theory relevant to the chart, and lists the marketing tasks we need to perform; furthermore, it explains what assumptions and conclusions have to be made. It includes an explanation of the chart’s strategic meaning and how the results of the analysis will affect subsequent charts. Here is an example of the description of the Marketing Tasks in Chart 1.10.
By clicking on the Assumptions button, we access MARFIN’s word processing capabilities. Here is the place where we record our assumptions and decisions made during the planning process for the task that had to be performed in a particular chart. Finally, all our decisions will be combined in to the marketing plan.
Whether we make a forecast, or decide on the strategy to follow in a certain region, we analyze various options and weigh possible threats and opportunities before making our final decisions. This thought process is very important. Unfortunately, it gets easily forgotten. That is why MARFIN designed this button where we can record this vital information.
We cannot emphasize enough the extreme usefulness of this function. These notes will help refresh our memory down the road. They will also be helpful to monitor the marketplace. If the environment changes, we will need to make adjustments to our plan. MARFIN easily facilitates such adjustments.
Source of Data
This function will also prove to be of great value. How easy it is to forget from where the numbers came? An additional benefit of having this space is that here we will be able to record observations on the quality of the data provided by the various sources. This function key is only attached to charts where data is entered, usually, the main chart.
Just like the Assumptions, the Source of Data is also a very practical feature. As time goes by, we will not remember what our thought process was when our forecasts were made, or from where the past numbers came.
Generally, we enter data in the main chart. The purpose of the subcharts is to take advantage of MARFIN’s number crunching capabilities. MARFIN thus rearranges the data entered in the main chart in several creative ways providing a unique insight into the business and consequently fine-tuned and better targeted strategies. In addition, we will be able to work with a higher degree of efficiency and a smaller staff. See a detailed description of MARFIN’s data handling in the article How does MARFIN make the numbers talk?.Graphs
By clicking on this button, we will be able to see the data of the main chart in several different graphs. These graphs will show the development of the key values over time or compare them in a specific year according to the selected variables. Rolling over data points will show more detailed values. The graphs are also very versatile. You can hide data sets as needed to help clarify your analysis.
In summary, MARFIN is an entirely new concept in software.
It is an interactive marketing planning system that assists marketing professionals in developing strategies for each element of the marketing mix and then combining them into a business plan. Although the program will take you through the planning process step by step, it will leave free rein to your creativity because you are in charge, it is you, not the program, who makes the decisions.
You will find MARFIN not only improves your efficiency and creativity but is also a lot of fun to use. For further explanation, please look at our videos at www.emarfin.com.