How to Prepare a Marketing Strategy

In order to stay in business, you have to have customers. This is the basic fundamental truth in business. How you going to survive if you don't have anyone to buy from you?

That's why an effective marketing plan is absolutely necessary in order to communicate with, motivate, and secure customers. Your marketing strategy must be carefully and thoughtfully designed.

If you are using your business plan to secure outside financing, remember that many investors and funding agencies look at the marketing strategy very closely.

They want to know you have a realistic and price conscious strategy to get your product or service into the hands of customers.

When you are preparing your marketing plan, you need to define:

- How you are going to get your customers attention to your product;

- What is the main message you want to convey to your ideal customer about your product or service;

- What sort of marketing methods are you going to deliver your message to your target customers;

- What are you going to say to secure the sale.

Now that you have an idea of where your target market is (Industry and Marketing Analysis in the previous section), you need to come up with a plan on how to attract them. In other words, how are you going to get these people to come to your place of business.

In this section, you must convince yourself and your reader that you know where your target market is located and how you plan on attracting them.

You need to ask yourself two very important questions. First, how is your target market going to find you and secondly, once they find you, what are you going to say to them to get the sale.

Having defined the relevant market and it's opportunities, one must address how the prospective business will exploit these opportunities.

A marketing strategy that explains how the business will organize and implement it's marketing plans in order to achieve desired sales performance must be presented. This involves focusing attention of each of the marketing tools a company has at its disposal.

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of an effective marketing strategy, there's something you need to understand that can make the difference between a successful business and one that goes out of business. That is to...

Set Your Business Apart - The Selling Point

Every business sends a message in its marketing. This message emphasizes important attributes of the company such as “low pricing” and “number one customer service”.

What message do you give your customers to motivate them to buy your product? Your marketing message is the first thing that potential customers will see.

You want that message to be direct, short, and contain a solid, power packed benefit that will make that person's life a little easier. Ask yourself the following questions:

- How does your product or service meet the needs and wants of the customer?

- Will the purchase of your product affect their pocket books? Will it save the customer money?

- Will the customer save time? Will it give the customer a sense of freedom?

- How does the product or service make customers feel about themselves? How does it affect their self image?

It is important that you take a good look at your product or service and find out what the important benefits are.

In your marketing strategy, you will need to identify certain elements such as distribution, pricing strategy, advertising, promotion, site analysis, and related budgets. However, before you do any of that, you will need to identify a strong selling point and exploit it to your target audience.

Once you identify you selling point, you can capture your audience's attention using targeted and effective advertising and promotion and set a strong pricing strategy.

I'm constantly amazed at the amount of entrepreneurs who haven't identified a strong selling point. The selling point is often called the “unique selling point” because it is a certain element that is truly yours and is different from the rest of your competition.

Your selling point is that part of your business that truly captures it's essence. Without a strong selling point, why would anyone want to go to you?

The selling point is that unique angle that you are going to sell your product or service. The selling point is basically that element that will fill the market weakness or the market wants. The want can be just about anything from better service and products to better prices as long as it is in short supply within your particular product.

Alright, let's say there are three similar mini van companies, A, B, and C. Companies A, B, and C are selling to similar working class markets. Companies A and B are aiming their marketing efforts at affordable pricing.

Company C however, has identified that families not only want an affordable mini van but they want safety for their families. Price has been identified as secondary and safety first.

This gives company C the advantage because they know what their target market wants and they know that this market is being under serviced.

This gives company C their selling point...Family Safety. With this in mind, company C's marketing campaign identifies one of the strongest benefits of using it's mini van, family safety.

Safety becomes company C's marketing message and it is this message that carves out a nice marketing niche for company C.

By using this marketing message, company C has identified it's strongest benefit for working class families, safety. Remember, customers want to receive benefits and you should be aware of how your product or service fulfills the entire range of their needs and more specifically, wants.

It is in your marketing message that you will outline your selling point that contains the strongest benefit for your target audience.

Your primary message must concentrate on the strongest benefit to the customer that most effectively motivates your customers. By using the strongest benefit you basically stake out a competitive position for your company.

Your marketing must communicate these benefits through every interaction you have with your target audience which includes marketing materials, company name, slogan etc.

How Do You Get The Message Out There?

Once you have identified what sort of message you want to get across to your customers, you must decide how you are going to get that message to them. How do you reach potential customers? Do you advertise? If so, where? What about radio ads? Newspaper ads? Direct mailings? In the end, it will all come down to money and testing.

Since every marketing medium costs money, you need to carefully plan how you intend on spending your marketing dollars.

Of course, you want the best bang for your buck and for every advertising dollar spent, you want maximum return. However, it's very important that you understand the truth about marketing. You must monitor your results from the start so you know what works and what doesn't work.

You must constantly monitor your marketing campaigns and keep testing. Keep the ones that work and get rid of the ones that don't.

When you are planning your marketing campaign, be sure to look for:

- Compatibility . Make sure your marketing message matches the type of marketing mechanism you choose to use. You want to reach your target audience with the right message carried by the appropriate marketing vehicle.

- Various methods . Use various methods to get your marketing message across to your target audience. This way, potential customers see your message from a number of sources.

- Exposures . It is very rare that your message will have the desired sales effect the first time round. It takes many exposures before a customer actually thinks of using your product or service. Think about the last time you saw an ad, what did you think? Did you want to jump out of your seat to go buy the product? Or did you think, hmm, interesting...

- Price . Marketing campaigns cost money. Huge, direct mailings can cost thousands. Choose those marketing vehicles that are cost effective.

- Creative . Be creative when you are devising your marketing plan. Get inside your customer's head and try and come up with some creative ways to attract them. Marketing is not a cut and dry discipline so think outside the box and use your creative energies. You are only limited by your imagination.

Here are some marketing mechanisms you may want to include:

- Brochures. Flyers, leaflets and other materials can be quite effective. However, it costs money to produce the brochures so make sure your mailings are targeted. The more targeted the mailings are, the more effective they are. Remember the last time you received “junk” mail? What sort of materials caught your eye? What interested you and what didn't? Hit and miss mailings never work and are a waste of time and money so make sure your mailings are targeted.

- Direct mailings. These can be quite effective and as the name suggests, these are direct, targeted mailings. These can be flyers, catalogues, coupons, or anything else you can think of.

- Newspaper ads. These can be quite effective. Includes newspaper ads, magazines, and other publications. Here is a word of advice. People, by nature tend to look away from ads, so why not write a useful article that they find useful and include your contact information at the bottom of the article.

For example, if you run a health pet food store, why not write an article on “5 ways to prolong your pet's life”. Include this article in pet magazines, newspapers, and anywhere else that your target audience might read. Pet owners love their pets and will find this very useful. They will come to respect and trust you which will lead to sales.

Always remember this...People don't buy from someone they don't trust. Win your customers respect and you will get their trust and once you get this, you get a life time customer.

- Radio ads and other broadcast media. Radio ads can be quite effective as well as television ads. However, these can be quite expensive so choose wisely.

- Company website. This is a fantastic tool and shouldn't be ignored. Your website is your salesperson 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Remember that if you get enough people to your website and it's informative enough, you can effectively get your message across. Take this website for example, it's targeted to you. You're reading this website because it contains information that you may find useful.

Your website will be read by people around the globe so make it useful and informative and you'll be rewarded many times over..

- Online advertising. Millions of people surf every day, all day long. You can pay for ad space, online classified ads, banner ads, set up an affiliate program (a gold mine if done right!), search engine positioning, pay per click, directory listings etc. There is huge potential for targeted online advertising.

- Mailing lists. This is very important for both online and offline advertising. Start constructing your mailing list. These leads will probably be one of the more valuable aspects to your business. If you can keep in direct contact with your readers on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis, you can drastically increase revenues.

Try and get your customers contact information and stay in touch with them on a consistent basis, either through a newsletter, specials, coupons, or other marketing methods. The important thing is to stay in touch.

You can also purchase mailing lists but they can be very expensive. If you choose to go this route, make sure your mailing source is very reliable.

- Networking. Very useful and very effective. Networking with other companies and using there referrals is a great way to gain new customers. Try joining various organizations and establish relationships with other complimentary, non-competing businesses.

- Free stuff. Try giving away free materials that people might find useful. The material will all include all of your contact info such as your name, slogan, numbers, email address and web site address. The material can include contests, coupons, specials or other discounted samples of your product.

These are just some of the marketing vehicles that you can use to get your message across. Just remember to be creative in your marketing strategy.

There's one thing that you must always remember when you're putting together your marketing campaign and that's to always have your customer's....

Response In Mind

What is it that you want your customer's to do once they read your material? Do you want them to purchase? Visit your web site? Email you? Call you? Always have your customer's response in mind. Once you know that response, you will have a much better idea of how to construct you advertising campaign.

What's the use of putting together a marketing campaign when you don't know what you want your customers to do? The trick is to pull you targeted audience into your sales process. Get them interested so they act upon the suggested response such as: “Act Now - Call 1-800-STAR!”.

Identify the procedures you want to use in your marketing campaign. From the ad stage, to the contact stage to the response stage. The marketing plan section of your business plan should include:

- The message you attempt to send customers; how you position your company in the market;

- The marketing methods and mechanisms you want to use;

- The sales procedure you wish to use;

- The costs associated with each advertising campaign.

Reviewers Thoughts

I'm constantly amazed at how many entrepreneurs put little or no thought into their marketing sections. The marketing section explains how you are going to get sales. Unless you have a huge guaranteed contract, business plan reviewers want to know exactly how you are going to sell your product or service.

This is a very important part because the reviewer wants is interested in the rationale behind choosing certain marketing methods. Specifically, will it be effective in reaching the decision makers targeted audience? Show how you can focus your advertising to reach the necessary group of individuals who will be persuaded and respond.

The reviewer will consider whether the sales promotions would be an effective part of the marketing mix for the business. Does the promotion give an appropriate incentive to purchase? Does the marketing strategy contain the appropriate message and sales point? Does it stress your competitive advantage?

Remember to include the costs of the marketing strategy because a business plan reviewer wants to see what you are doing and how much it's going to cost. If you are asking for funding, they will definitely want to know whay you're asking for.

Alright, let's check out an example using our fictional company: Terra Engineering .

Click here to see a marketing plan sample

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