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Organizational traits and trends

No single organizational form can be recommended, as common sense and market needs are the final arbiters. However, the following factors always need to be considered:

  • Marketing ‘centres of gravity’;
  • Interface areas (for example, present/future; salespeople/drawing office and so on);
  • Authority, responsibility and accountability; ease of communication;
  • Co-ordination;
  • Flexibility; and
  • Human factors.

As these basic traits indicate, an organization's marketing planning effectiveness, (demonstrated through its performance and assessed through constant monitoring), is affected significantly by the way it organizes for marketing. The typical evolutionary pattern for an organization that has grown over time will lead it from being a ‘one-man- band’, where one person will perform all tasks, and where sales essentially involve order-taking with small amounts of prospecting or advertising, to the multi-functioning super-department incorporating a whole range of specialist activities. As an organization grows and becomes more sophisticated in its approach to marketing, it is faced with a number of options for structuring its range of marketing activities. Wherever practicable, it is sensible to organize around customer groups, or markets, rather than around products, functions or geography, so that personnel, accounting, production, distribution and sales policies are tailored to unique sets of market needs. Increasingly, firms are organizing their operating units around customers or core processes, such as product development, order fulfillment and cost reduction. The key difference between conventional structures and a core process, team-based approach, is that the team becomes multifunctional with responsibility for, say, inbound logistics, production, sales and supply, rather than each activity stage being a distinct and separate operation.

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Lack of a suitable organizational structure for an integrated marketing function, compounded by lack of meaningful information about market segments, means that marketing planning is unlikely to be successful. Experience has shown that, above all, the very best marketing plans in terms of direction and performance emerge from an organizationally inclusiveprocess. Fundamentally, marketing planning is simply a process, with a set of underlying tools and techniques, for understanding markets and for quantifying the present and future value required by the different groups of customers within these markets – what marketers refer to as segments. It is a strictly specialist function – like accountancy or engineering – which is proscribed, researched, developed and examined by professional bodies such as the Chartered Institute of Marketing in Europe and Asia, and the American Marketing Association in the USA. Sometimes customer-facing activities such as customer service, selling, product development and public relations are controlled by the marketing function, but often they are not, even though many of them are included in the academic marketing curriculum. The planning team might also include a representative from product development, brand managers, key account managers and so on, depending on circumstances. The advantages of this team-based approach to marketing planning are as follows:

  1. Any plans emerging are based on a deep understanding of the organization's asset value (tangible and intangible assets) and capabilities.
  2. Members of the team ‘own’ the plan, thus preventing implementation problems later on.
  3. The marketing director, or whoever is responsible to the board for integrating and co-ordinating all the plans emanating from this process, can be sure that he or she is not foisting unwanted plans on to reluctant functional heads.
  4. Any strategic functional plans, such as IT, logistics, purchasing, R&D and so on, will be genuinely market-driven or customerneeds- driven rather than production driven.
  5. Any business or corporate plans that emerge at a higher level will also be market driven.

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