Basic Business Cents
Developing Your Marketing Strategy
A fundamental question for any business is, “Do you sell what you can make or do you make what you can sell?” The answer might surprise you unless you carefully develop a marketing strategy. The first step is to conduct some market research.
Study the demographics of who will use your output, consumers, resellers, age group, industry, etc. How large is the market, is it growing or declining, location of buyers, purchasing habits, and best sales channels are questions to explore. What is your appeal to this market?
The next step is to identify your target market. From my experience, if you say your market is so large that if you only get 1% of the market you can become rich, you will likely get lost in the crowd and not succeed. But if you narrow the niche or segment of the market to not only become a major player in that niche, but to dominate it, then you have a good chance to be successful. Consider how well your product/service fills unmet needs or wants, how well the niche fits your business vision and skills, cost of entry into that business, and competitive positions. This is really defining a favorable opportunity.
Now that you have identified your target niche, do an analysis of the competition you expect to face in that segment of the market. Develop a worksheet listing the competitors, their strengths and weaknesses, pricing strategy, benefits and features, reputation, sales channels, image, and financial strength.
With your market research, study of the prospective buyers, and competitors, you can develop your pricing strategy. Do your benefits outweigh that of the competition so that you can demand pricing at the top of the scale? Do your costs of production and delivery provide the opportunity to sell on lower price? Selling at the low end of pricing is usually a bad choice that can lead to price wars. You need to identify an area where you will have an advantage, maybe even an unfair advantage. Bundling of products, service benefits, application knowledge, location, features, and benefits, benefits, benefits…..can support higher pricing. Look at your pricing from your customers’ eyes and justify the value of your products/services. Make sure that your pricing provides adequate income for your business
Your marketing message should always speak in terms of benefits to your marketing segment customers/users. It is natural for us to fall in love with our products and tend to brag about them in our marketing messages but remember, the customers do not care about that; they only care about what that product can do for them. Always speak in customer language.
In marketing, there is value in repetition, so develop a short marketing message or brand that you use constantly to enforce the message of the essence of your business. Your collateral, advertising, logo, and signage should repeat this brand. As time goes on, you may wish to rebrand your business as conditions change, but remember the consistency of the image you wish to project.
A 12-month marketing plan should be developed and incorporated into the organization’s business plan. Begin by identifying the goals of the marketing plan such as to increase the awareness of your business among prospective customers, attract more customers to buy, and increase customer satisfaction and thereby increase more referrals. Develop a chart by month for the next year with tasks, roles/responsibilities, completion time, materials, social media activities, alliances, email marketing, conferences/trade shows, target media contact list, tools/resources, and budget. This plan should be reviewed monthly and fine-tuned with new information learned.
The budget should identify target customers and sales channels to reach them. It should also include one-time charges, monthly expenses, and staff time.
A summary of the marketing activities can be shown in a marketing calendar to serve as a reminder of what is required at which time. It should be reviewed monthly for learning of the value of each and adjustments made accordingly.
Your image and service need to be appraised constantly. Is your facility neat, orderly, and appealing? Are you and your employees knowledgeable, courteous, and helpful? Is your website easy to navigate with a clear call to action? How well do you handle customer inquiries and complaints?
The question stated earlier on whether you should sell what you can make or produce what you can sell cannot be answered simply if you want to optimize your success. It is an iterative process to be studied carefully and strategized for best results.
Like anything else in business, your marketing strategy needs to be current, which means regular review and making corrections as needed. It is a key guide in attaining success.
Reference: SCORE Marketing Cookbook
Simple Recipes for Marketing Success