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Preparing for a Marketing Plan & Strategy - « back to Articles

Most new owners will quickly learn that starting or buying a business involves much more than simply opening the doors and waiting for customers to arrive. Developing a marketing strategy and a marketing plan to attract and keep customers should be one of your main priorities.

Marketing is the process of getting a product or service into the hands of the customer. It is more than just advertising or selling, it involves identifying needs within the marketplace that you are able to profitably fulfill. When you match a product or service to someone's needs, develop a distribution network, establish attractive pricing and undertake promotion activities, in other words do marketing, customer sales will result.

Your product or service should have some distinct advantages over those of your competitors.

Features that could set your business apart might be:
  • products of higher technical quality
  • provide a more extensive product line
  • offer a better service policy
  • enable superior manufacturing processes
  • be in a better location from which to serve customers
  • provide lower transportation costs
  • offer lower prices
A marketing plan can aid you to assess:
  1. Where your business is now
  2. How you rate in comparison to your competition
  3. Where you want to be in the future
  4. How you can get to your goals
More importantly the marketing plan will help you gauge whether your expectations are realistic.

Produce a written marketing plan that provides you with a system to measure the rate of success your strategies have over time. It is easy to update a written plan as business or economic factors affect your business.

Improtant Questions

An effective marketing strategy should systematically produce information that will indicate the time frames and financial investment required.

Questions that need to be answered:
  1. Where is your company positioned in relation to the overall marketplace?
  2. What market penetration is needed for your product or service?
  3. What do you want to achieve by a marketing campaign?
  4. What actions will you need to take to achieve your goals?
  5. How realistic are your objectives, strategies, and tactics?
  6. Do you have the resources to engage in the marketing plan?
  7. How will you evaluate the success of your marketing plan?
Start the development of your marketing plan by thinking objectively about what your customers need and what you can realistically deliver. A marketing plan can steer you in the right direction but the direction must be based on your firm's capabilities.

Ooutside Research

Research will help you get to know your own business better, allowing you to gauge how your firm rates in the marketplace. You may have to undertake some outside research with customers and suppliers in your business network before you get reliable answers.

This research will help you determine:
  1. precisely what business you are in or should be in
  2. what products or services you supply or should supply
  3. the image your business has in the marketplace
  4. who your customers and competitors are
  5. how well you are doing in comparison to others in related business
  6. your capability in terms of production sales, service, and finance
  7. success rate of your current sales and marketing approaches
  8. environmental, trademark, patent or legal factors that could affect you
Market research can help you identify where a market is going and possible new markets your business could enter.

Research should assist you to evaluate potential in terms of:
  • expected growth
  • profit levels
  • level of competition
Information Sources

You may be able to access data based on your personal records and knowledge of your own business. More often you must seek information from other people in the business community. Competitors, customers, and suppliers could be asked directly or by requesting the return of a brief questionnaire by mail or E-mail. Studies are undertaken by market research firms, business periodicals, governments, business or trade associations, and Statistics Canada. These studies may provide invaluable information that you could not possibly have collected yourself due to the high cost of research and data collection. Public or university libraries may have files or data bases with information on businesses or industries that affect you. Professional advisers or Management Consultants can assist you to structure and evaluate your research.

Work with your Strengths

Identify your company strengths and deficiencies. Devise a workable strategy to maximize strengths and overcome any weaknesses. Sales targets need to be established and support programs as required, put in place. Develop your plan so that you feel you can achieve your goals with hard work and good management.

Establish procedures to monitor your progress regularly once your plan is in place. If sales are not increasing as planned or your customers have switched to a competitor's product, a review of your plan should be exercised immediately and a corrective plan should be implemented.

Establish a market plan that supports your business objectives and adopt a monitoring procedure for gauging its effectiveness. This is a huge step toward ensuring your company's bright future.

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