Develop a Marketing Plan. Here is template to consider:
WRITE YOUR PROBLEM STATEMENT
This identifies the problem you'll solve for your customer and provides the underlying reason people will frequent your business. The conclusion we should draw at this point in time is that you have a customer education challenge regarding your firm's capabilities and the way to succeed is to figure out the best way to provide customers data so they will buy your products and services. In this section you should profile each of these general customers.
Describe in detail your products and services and your business model.
TASTE, TRENDS AND TECHNOLOGY
What does your research indicate is the trend in your field? Will it stay the way you are currently offering supplies and services or will it change? This item covers the developments you expect for the next few years. Evan a 'perfect' business can become obsolete overnight due to future developments. Specify in this section a 5 year forecast of your field in your area.
SALES REVENUE FORECAST
Have you developed these targets? This section shows your estimates of future sales revenue for your business. To finish your marketing plan, you'll need to spell out the specific actions you will take to achieve your forecast sales revenues.
When customers consider patronizing your business, they first consider whether or not you can solve their problem. But they don't stop there. They also compare your business with other businesses. It's helpful for you to make a similar comparison so that you understand how your customers think. This exercise, as any exercise in the marketing area, requires some mental gymnastics. Your job is to place yourself in your customers' frame of mind and objectively compare your business to the competition.
Sometimes business owners let their personal prejudices taint their opinion of a competitor. If your competitor provides a larger selection of merchandise or better service and lower prices than you, it won't matter much to your customers that you don't like the other business' website ads or think it has ugly product lines. Think for a moment about the decisions your customers face. What specific methods can they use or places can they go to solve their problem? Incidentally, some of these places and methods may not involve a competing business. Customers do things for themselves or get their needs solved from friends, community and government agencies or other sources.
First, identify the most likely three ways your customers are going to solve their needs in addition to your business, and make a note of each. These are your principal competitors. To be thorough, write a short statement of each competitor's main strengths and weaknesses. Remember to place yourself in the mind of your customers when you do this exercise.
DIFFERENTIATE YOUR BUSINESS FROM THE COMPETITION (YOUR NICHE)
Your next job is to describe how your business differs from the competition's strong and weak points. Again, remember to carefully look at your business from the customer's perspective. If you're not sure how your pricing policies compare to the competition, here are some guidelines. Most people associate high prices with high quality and extra service, while they associate low prices with low or average quality and minimum service. Make sure you provide extra quality and service if your prices are higher than your competition or make sure that your prices are lower if your quality is average and your service is minimum. Check your assumptions by making a price survey of the competition. Remember that customers may take for granted that you have the same strong points as the competition; if so, you can leave those out of your description. Customers hope that you do not share the same weak points as the competition. But if you do share some weak points, it is probably a good idea to mention the ones you have in common.
DESCRIBE YOUR TARGET CUSTOMER
The next step is to describe your target customer in specific, individual terms. As you know, business is a very personal endeavor. When you sell services or merchandise, you sell to one person at a time. As a matter of fact, most people don't like being treated like members of a group instead of individuals. Additionally, most of us are more comfortable talking with one person than making speeches to a large group. So it makes sense to address your advertising, promotions and other marketing activities to a single person instead of a group.
Of course, no two customers are exactly the same. But if you can personalize your marketing program to a typical customer, it will be more effective because it will seem friendly to your customers. The easiest way to do that is to create a mythical target customer and individualize that target customer so that you consider him a friend. Be as specific and as personal as you can.
DECIDE HOW TO REACH CUSTOMERS
Once you describe your target customer, it's easier to create a list of possible ways to reach that person. One of your jobs as a businessperson is to decide which of all the possible methods of communication will give you the most exposure for the least cost in money or time.
One of the most effective ways to reach and keep customers in the long run is by word of mouth. All the marketing and advertising you do can only entice your customer to try your business the first time. After that, he will come back to your business if he likes what he received and he'll tell all his friends. But be aware that customers are even more likely to let friends know if a business doesn't meet their expectations.
Write down the five or so methods you think will reach most of your customers. Remember to select methods that are appropriate for the overall number of people in your target market.
CREATE A MARKETING BUDGET
Now that you have a wish list of things you'd like to do, it's time to decide which of the promotional ideas you can afford and which are too costly. However, if you didn't allow enough money, or, if you're not sure how much money is enough, you'll want to stop here for a moment and think about it. Ask yourself these questions:
How much money do I need for a promotion? I suggest that you allow enough money to tell all your target customers one time. If you tell them all once, they can decide when to come see you. And if you have designed your business so that it truly addresses a customer need and is different from the competition, your target customers will become very alert. Evan if they don't see your first message, they will hear about you by word of mouth. If your promotion plan exceeds your budget, you'll need to go back and revise your Capital Spending Plan to allow for the promotional expense.
Are your methods of promotion cost-effective? Once you've estimated the cost of reaching all your target customers with the first message, compare that cost with the amount of money in your budget. Your job is to get the most exposure for the least outlay. Making that final decision may mean that you have to refine your promotion cost estimates from rough guesses into bids and quotes from suppliers. Normally, unless you're really unsure of promotional costs, you shouldn't take the time to obtain those quotes for now. Just balance your wish list against your budget to develop your marketing plan.
To create a marketing plan, start by listing each of the promotional items you decided on for your promotion together with their costs. Then add up the promotional costs and fill in the total. Next, list each of the promotional items you plan to use during the next two years of your business together with the monthly cost of each. Those two groups of specific actions and costs, promotion and monthly marketing, advertising and promotional costs will become the blueprint for your marketing plan.
WRITE YOUR MARKETING PLAN
By now, you have asked some tough questions and faced some critical issues. You may wish to combine the major points of the exercises into a summary narrative, or you may wish to present the results of each exercise independently. If you summarize the work into a narrative, your plan will read more easily and look more professional. However, the potential downside to combining the answers into a narrative format is that you may inadvertently leave out a point of major interest to your backers. If you do elect to combine the answers into a narrative, be careful to cover all the points in each exercise.
DISCUSS THE RISKS FACING YOUR BUSINESS
Every business faces risks. The people whom you will ask for money will want to see that you can not only face reality but also deal with possible difficulties. The following discussion outlines risks small business owners typically face. Once you've analyzed these factors, you'll be ready to write a summary of the risks that apply to your own business.
COMPETITION: Most businesses have competition. How will your business differ in significant and positive ways from your competition? If your competition is strong, don't minimize that fact, but figure out ways you will adjust to or use that strength. For example, if you plan to open a restaurant next to an extremely popular one, part of your strategy might be to cater to the overflow. Another might be to open on days or evenings when the other restaurant is closed.
PIONEERING: If you anticipate no direct competition, your business probably involves selling a new product or service, or one that is new to your area. How will you avoid going broke trying to develop a market?
CYCLES AND TRENDS: Many businesses have cycles of growth and decline often based on outside factors such as taste, trends or technology. What is your forecast of the cycles and trends in your business? For example, if your forecast tells you that the new electronic product you plan to manufacture may decline in three years when the market is saturated, can you earn enough money in the meantime to make the venture worthwhile?
SLOW TIMES: Every business experiences ups and downs. Is your business small and simple enough, or capitalized adequately enough, to ride out slow times? Or do you have some other strategy, such as staying open long hours in the busy season and closing during times of the year when business is dead?
OWNERS EXPERTISE: Nobody knows everything. How do you plan to compensate for the knowledge you're short on? Write your risk analysis by first thinking of the main dangers your business faces. This shouldn't be hard, as you have probably been concerned about them for some time. Some of these may be on the list set out above; others will be unique to your business. Once you have identified the principal risks facing your business, write out a plan to counter each. But don't bog yourself down worrying about all sorts of unlikely disasters.
Complete the above 11 point marketing plan and finalize your business model. You will then have the tools to attract and retain customers. It will be time to execute it and succeed.