HMR SUMMIT '99

ATLANTA -- A concise marketing plan can secure the cooperation -- from top management on down to store-level -- that's needed to launch a meals program.That's what consultant Ed DeLuca, who is a former KFC executive, restaurateur and founder of DeLuca Inc., Middlebury, Conn., told attendees at the HMR Summit '99 conference here last month.Boiling down goals and strategies to a few pages that every

ATLANTA -- A concise marketing plan can secure the cooperation -- from top management on down to store-level -- that's needed to launch a meals program.

That's what consultant Ed DeLuca, who is a former KFC executive, restaurateur and founder of DeLuca Inc., Middlebury, Conn., told attendees at the HMR Summit '99 conference here last month.

Boiling down goals and strategies to a few pages that every department head can hold in his or her hand -- or view on a computer screen -- can literally keep everybody on the same page as the program is developed, and that is crucial, too, DeLuca said. "We hear over and over again that we have to get commitment from top management, but to get that commitment, or even their attention, we need to present a plan that's concise and cohesive," he said.

"You need to organize information in much the same way you would if you approached a bank for a business loan. It doesn't work to take a whole stack of papers into the bank and then try to explain what you want to do," he added.

DeLuca acknowledged that most business people have a market plan, of sorts, but he said it's often fragmented, contained in a seemingly unrelated bunch of papers, or maybe parts of it aren't even on paper.

If the data is organized, it's easier to share it with the departments that will be involved, especially if there are a lot of them, DeLuca said.

He also pointed out that a formalized plan can save time and money in the early stages of the project simply by serving as a communications tool.

"If everybody knows what you're doing as you progress, you don't have to keep having meetings every five minutes. It's also a lot less expensive to make mistakes on paper than it is in the brick and mortar," DeLuca said, stressing that putting the plan into an organized format need not make it inflexible.

He also offered an example of how a marketing plan, complete with a timetable, can keep bog-downs from happening.

"For example, if you've set a timetable for when you'll need new signage in the [deli/food-service] department, your advertising department or agency -- whoever will be making the signs -- will have had time to work that into their schedule."

There's even a psychological advantage to having a plan that can be circulated to all the departments involved in the project, DeLuca explained.

"It's just human nature that people participate in that which they help to create," DeLuca said.

DeLuca then described the essentials of a such a plan.

It should include, in abbreviated terms, the objectives and the strategies that will be employed to meet them, he explained. And then he presented a list of the individual marketing elements such a plan should address.

The elements he listed are: existing products and new products, pricing, packaging, signage, advertising, promotion/merchandising, public relations and research.

For each of the elements, he explained, an action program to carry out strategy should include the project description, what it aims to accomplish, means of evaluation, assigned responsibility for execution and supervision, and a schedule with a timetable for completion of each of the steps. And each should be realistically budgeted for, he added.

DeLuca, who now has his own consulting business, E.E. DeLuca Entrepreneur LLC, in Milford, Conn., had played an active role in the operation of DeLuca Inc., the fresh food manufacturing company he founded, until the company was acquired last year by Perdue Farms, Salisbury, Md.