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Undoubtedly, there are several businesses in your area that offer the same product or service that you provide. But that’s not to say you can’t compete successfully. By developing a sound marketing plan, you can clearly define a promotions and sales strategy that will demonstrate the benefits of your product/service over your competition.
The marketing plan helps you analyze your market/industry. It defines your current customer base, their needs and how your product/service will satisfy those needs. It also explains your methods for promotion and sales. Frederick Marshall, creator of BekBe Cards in Indiana, Pennsylvania, uses a logo and a slogan to promote his relationshiporiented greeting cards. “I think you need to have a slogan because it can set your product apart from someone else’s,” says Marshall, whose product carries the tagline on its logo, “We can change America one relationship at a time.”
Before developing this portion of your business plan, first research your market. Your primary objective–via the marketing plan–is to convince current and potential customers that your product/service offers better value. Your marketing plan should include:
- Marketing objective: Include quantitative goals such as increases in market share and sales. Define your typical customer (average age, marital status, ethnicity, income level and occupation). You should also list potential customers.Specify the size of your market, the demand for your product/service, the location of your customers, how their needs are currently being met and why these customers will benefit from your product/service. Include the methods you will use or have used to research and test your market (library, focus groups).
- Industry outlook: Provide historical background on your industry. Explain how it has changed over the years and include factors that have contributed to the changes (economics, technology). Discuss current and future trends that will affect your industry.
- Competition. Determine who your competition IS and . their location. Consider their size, annual sales and the percentage of the market they occupy. Explain the advantages that your product/service has over your competition.
- Sales objective: Determine how your product/service will be sold (retail, Internet, mail order, broker) and what distribution channels will be utilized. Outline your pricing policies for each product/service and how they compare to the competition. Decide whether you will be a low-price/high-volume or a high-price/low-volume operation. Include your projected sales for the first couple of years and discuss peak and slow sales periods.
- Advertising and promotion: Determine if advertising will be handled inhouse or by an outside agency. Discuss the advertising method you will use (television, radio, flyers, the Internet or word of mouth). Include how much will be budgeted for advertising. Discuss any public relations activities used such as trade shows or press releases.
- Customer service: Determine how customer complaints will be handled (by phone, in writing or at a customer service center). Specify who will handle these concerns and how customer satisfaction and customer service performance will be measured (comment cards, surveys).
- Service contracts: For product-oriented companies, describe the service contract to be offered. Like a warranty, it defines what product parts or repairs will be covered