The problems of international marketing planning

Of the potential sources of problems of planning in international marketing, it is the relationship between headquarters and local subsidiary staff which is likely to be the largest single factor. Headquarters staff, as guardians of the overall company strategies claim to have a far broader perspective of the company’s activities and might expect that subsidiary staff should simply be concerned with implementation of the details of the plan.

Subsidiary staff claim that, by being closer to the individual markets, they are in a better position to identify opportunities and should therefore play a large part in developing objectives and strategies of planning. This situation must be resolved if the international marketing planning process is to be effective so that all staff have a clear idea of their own role in setting, developing and implementing policy, and understanding how their individual contributions might be integrated into the corporate objectives and strategies.

There are a wide range of problems experienced by large US and European multi-nationals, at head office and in the subsidiary which are the main sources of conflict between headquarters and overseas staff.

Many companies recognize that for strategies to be successful, the managers of all parts of the company must share ownership of them through playing an active part in the development and implementation stages of the international marketing planning process itself. With greater emphasis on staff at all levels in the organization providing increased levels of service to customers it is important to involve all staff in the international marketing planning process. This is becoming more difficult as MNEs have ever greater numbers of their workers employed outside the head office country. In 1986 Matsushita Electric (Panasonic Corporation now) had 138,000 employees in Japan and 44,000 abroad but after ten years this had changed to 158,000 in Japan and 108,000 abroad.

As the company grows, therefore, a company-wide planning culture should be developed with the following objectives:

  • Market planning for international level becomes part of the continuous process of management rather than an annual ‘event’
  • strategic thinking becomes the responsibility of every manager rather than being restricted to a separate strategic planning department;
  • the international marketing planning process becomes standardized with a format which allows contributions from all parts of the company;
  • the plan becomes the working document, updated periodically for all aspects of the company, so allowing performance evaluation to be carried out regularly; and
  • the international marketing planning process is itself regularly reviewed and refined in order to improve its relevance and effectiveness.

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