No marketing process, even the most carefully developed, is guaranteed to result in maximum benefit for a company. In addition, because every market is changing constantly, a strategy that is effective today may not be effective in the future. It is important to evaluate a marketing program periodically to be sure that it is continuing to achieve its objectives.
There are four types of marketing control, each of which has a different purpose: annual-plan control, profitability control, efficiency control, and strategic control.
The basis of annual-plan control is managerial objectives—that is to say, specific goals, such as sales and profitability, that are established on a monthly or quarterly basis. Organizations use five tools to monitor plan performance. The first is sales analysis, in which sales goals are compared with actual sales and discrepancies are explained or accounted for. A second tool is market-share analysis, which compares a company’s sales with those of its competitors. Companies can express their market share in a number of ways, by comparing their own sales to total market sales, sales within the market segment, or sales of the segment’s top competitors. Third, marketing expense-to-sales analysis gauges how much a company spends to achieve its sales goals. The ratio of marketing expenses to sales is expected to fluctuate, and companies usually establish an acceptable range for this ratio. In contrast, financial analysis estimates such expenses (along with others) from a corporate perspective. This includes a comparison of profits to sales (profit margin), sales to assets (asset turnover), profits to assets (return on assets), assets to worth (financial leverage), and, finally, profits to worth (return on net worth). Finally, companies measure customer satisfaction as a means of tracking goal achievement. Analyses of this kind are generally less quantitative than those described above and may include complaint and suggestion systems, customer satisfaction surveys, and careful analysis of reasons why customers switch to a competitor’s product.
Profitability control and efficiency control allow a company to closely monitor its sales, profits, and expenditures. Profitability control demonstrates the relative profit-earning capacity of a company’s different products and consumer groups. Companies are frequently surprised to find that a small percentage of their products and customers contribute to a large percentage of their profits. This knowledge helps a company allocate its resources and effort.
Efficiency control involves micro-level analysis of the various elements of the marketing mix, including sales force, advertising, sales promotion, and distribution. For example, to understand its sales-force efficiency, a company may keep track of how many sales calls a representative makes each day, how long each call lasts, and how much each call costs and generates in revenue. This type of analysis highlights areas in which companies can manage their marketing efforts in a more productive and cost-effective manner.
Strategic control processes allow managers to evaluate a company’s marketing program from a critical long-term perspective. This involves a detailed and objective analysis of a company’s organization and its ability to maximize its strengths and market opportunities. Companies can use two types of strategic control tools. The first, which a company uses to evaluate itself, is called a marketing-effectiveness rating review. In order to rate its own marketing effectiveness, a company examines its customer philosophy, the adequacy of its marketing information, and the efficiency of its marketing operations. It will also closely evaluate the strength of its marketing strategy and the integration of its marketing tactics.
The second evaluation tool is known as a marketing audit. This is a comprehensive, systematic, independent, and periodic analysis that a company uses to examine its strengths in relation to its current and potential market(s). Such an analysis is comprehensive because it covers all aspects of the marketing climate (unlike a functional audit, which analyzes one marketing activity), looking at both macro-environment factors (demographic, economic, ecological, technological, political, and cultural) and micro- or task-environment factors (markets, customers, competitors, distributors, dealers, suppliers, facilitators, and publics). The audit includes analyses of the company’s marketing strategy, marketing organization, marketing systems, and marketing productivity. It must be systematic in order to provide concrete conclusions based on these analyses. To ensure objectivity, a marketing audit is best done by a person, department, or organization that is independent of the company or marketing program. Marketing audits should be done not only when the value of a company’s current marketing plan is in question; they must be done periodically in order to isolate and solve problems before they arise.
Kent A. Grayson Jonathan D. Hibbard Philip Kotler