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How can I develop our marketing strategy

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I suggest a strong marketing plan. The objective of that plan is to focus on your latest market research, the current prospective customer base and your present risks and opportunities in the product or services you are planning to sell.

WRITE YOUR PROBLEM STATEMENT This identifies the problem you'll solve for your customer and provides the underlying reason people will frequent your business

BUSINESS DESCRIPTION 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.

COMPETITION ANALYSIS 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.

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.

DESCRIBE YOUR TARGET CUSTOMER The next step is to describe your target customer in specific, individual terms. 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. 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.

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.

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.

SUMMARY

Complete the above marketing plan to finalize your business model. You will then have the tools to attract and retain customers. It will be time to execute it and succeed. Your brand name will have occurred to you during this process.

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