A sound marketing plan is key to the success of your business. It should
include your market your market research, your location, the customer group
you have targeted, your competition, positioning, the product or service
you are selling, pricing, advertising and promotion.
"You're in business to serve a customer need," says Derek Hansen,
founder of American Capital Access. "If you're not sensitive to customers,
don't know who your customers are, how to reach them and, most of all, what
will convince them to buy your product or service, get help."
Before developing your plan, you must do your homework. Effective
marketing, planning and promotion begins with factual information about the
marketplace. Visit your local library, talk to customers, study the
advertising of other businesses in your community (including that of your
competition) and consult with any related industry associations.
Once you have all the necessary information, it is time to put your
plan down on paper. It should accomplish the following:
1. Define your business
2. Define your customers
- Your product or service
- Your geographic marketing area--neighborhood, regional or national
- Your competition
- How you differ from the competition--what makes you special
- Your price
- The competition's promotion methods
- Your promotion methods
- Your distribution methods or business location
3. Define your plan and budget
- Your current customer base: age, sex, income, neighborhood
- How your customers learn about your product or service--advertising,
direct mail, word of mouth, Yellow Pages
- Patterns or habits your customers and potential customers share--where
they shop, what they read, watch, listen to
- Qualities your customers value most about your product or service--
selection, convenience, service, reliability, availability, affordability
- Qualities your customers like least about your product or service--can
they be adjusted to serve your customers better?
- Prospective customers like least about your product or service but whom
you aren't currently reaching.
The final component in your marketing plan should be your overall
promotional objectives: to communicate your message, create an awareness
of your product or service, motivate customers to buy and increase sales.
Objectives make it easier to design an effective campaign and help you keep
that campaign on the right track. Plus, once you have defined your
objectives, it is easier to choose the method that will be most effective.
- Previous marketing methods you have used to communicate to your
- Methods that have been most effective
- Cost compared to sales
- Cost per customer
- Possible future marketing methods to attract new customers
- Percentage of profits you can allocate to your marketing campaign
- Marketing tools you can implement within your budget--newspaper, magazine
or Yellow Pages advertising; radio or television advertising; direct mail;
tele-marketing; public relations activities such as community involvement,
sponsorship or press releases
- Methods of testing your marketing ideas
- Methods for measuring results of your marketing campaign
- The marketing tool you can implement immediately
The essential idea is targeted marketing--making sure your message
reaches the people you want to persuade. Today's marketplace is too
fragmented and diffused to reach everyone without the expenditure of vast
sums of money. This makes the formulation of a specific customer profile
all the more important. "Before, we always tried to get everybody and
their brother to buy from us. Need-less to say, that approach didn't work.
Then we started a marketing plan that targeted a specific geographic area."
says one long-time business owner, "and it brought in all the business we
Reprinted from the United States Small Business Administration
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