Marketing is everything you do to promote your business, from the moment you conceive of it to the point at which customers buy your product or service and begin to patronize your business on a regular basis.
Growing A Customer Base
To succeed, entrepreneurs must attract and retain a growing base of satisfied customers. Marketing programs, though widely varied, are all aimed at convincing customers to try out or keep using particular products or services. Business owners should carefully plan their marketing strategies to keep their market presence strong.
Marketing is based on the importance of customers to a business and has two main principles:
- All company policies and activities should be directed toward satisfying customer needs
- Profitable sales volume is more important than maximum sales volume.
To best use these principles, a small business should:
- Determine the needs of their customers through market research
- Analyze their competitive advantages to develop a market strategy
- Select specific markets to serve by target marketing
- Determine how to satisfy customer needs by identifying a market mix
Important Marketing Plan Components
Every marketing plan has to fit the needs and situation. Even so, there are standard components you just can’t do without. A marketing plan should always have a situation analysis, marketing strategy, sales forecast, and expense budget.
1. Situation Analysis
Normally this will include a market analysis, a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats), and a competitive analysis. The market analysis will include market forecast, segmentation, customer information, and market needs analysis.
2. Marketing Strategy
This should include at least a mission statement, objectives, and focused strategy including market segment focus and product positioning.
3. Sales Forecast
This would include enough detail to track sales month by month and follow up on plan-vs.-actual analysis. Normally a plan will also include specific sales by product, by region or market segment, by channels, by manager responsibilities, and other elements. The forecast alone is a bare minimum.
4. Expense Budget
This ought to include enough detail to track expenses month by month and follow up on plan-vs.-actual analysis. Normally a plan will also include specific sales tactics, programs, management responsibilities, promotion, and other elements. The expense budget is a bare minimum.
Every small business owner-manager must ask the following questions to devise effective marketing strategies:
- Who are my customers and potential customers?
- What characteristics define your consumers or business customers?
- Where are they located?
- Can and will they buy?
- Am I offering the kinds of goods or services they want – at the best location, at the proper time and in the right amounts?
- Are my prices consistent with what buyers view as the product’s value?
- Are my promotional programs working?
- What do customers think of my business?
- How does my business compare with my competitors?
Marketing research focuses and organizes marketing information. It ensures that such information is timely and permits entrepreneurs to:
- Reduce business risks
- Spot current and upcoming problems in the current market
- Identify sales opportunities
- Develop plans of action