Developing and implementing a marketing strategy is a necessary process for a successful business. This process begins as you start your business, and it must remain an ongoing process throughout the life of your business.
Marketing is neither sales nor advertising, although both of these may be part of a marketing strategy. Instead, marketing is the thought process by which you:
- Identify the product or service you really sell
- Identify potential customers for your product or service
- Identify your competitors in selling to these customers
- Understand the basis on which those potential customers make buying decisions
- Know why customers will choose to purchase your product or service instead of your competitors'
- Determine the most efficient and effective methods to reach these buyers before they make their purchasing decisions
- Develop an action plan
Identify the product or service you sell
This step is the foundation of all that follow. The key here is to identify your "market niche," in terms of the needs you fill. For instance, a residential lawn service provides the physical lawn cutting, but also fills a need for convenience on the part of "time-strapped" homeowners.
Identify Potential Customers
Your potential customers are those whose needs may be filled by your product and service, and who may reasonably be expected to consider your business as an obtainable source of this product or service based on price, location and other factors. Everyone in the world is not your potential customer; you must focus on an attainable and realistic portion of the market.
Identify your Competitors
Your competitors are those businesses who fill the same need you do. They may or may not be in the same business you are. For instance, companies providing guard services to warehouses and those selling alarm systems to warehouses are to some extent competitors, even though they are not in the same industry.
Understand Potential Customer's Buying Decisions
Customers buy different products or services for different reasons, including:
and others. You must understand the basis on which customers make buying decisions related to your type of product or service.
How is your Product Different
Based on the above analysis, you must determine the nature of your competitive advantage. If, for instance, your potential customers buy solely on the basis of price, are your prices the lowest? If not, how will you compete? Be cautious in this analysis. Your potential customers probably have established buying patterns which do not include you. You must give them sufficient reason to break these established patterns and buy from you if your business is to succeed.
Effectively Reaching Your Customers
After having determined why potential customers buy your type of product or service and why they will choose you, you are in a position to identify how they make their buying decisions. Do they typically buy because they've seen an advertisement in the telephone book or because they have driven by your place of business? Is this type of product or service generally purchased on the recommendation of another individual? Knowing how people "will" find you ensures that your marketing dollars are spent in the most productive way possible.
Develop an action plan
You know what you need to do. Now you must develop specific, actionable plan that will enable you to do it. For assistance in developing your own marketing plan, contact the Alameda County SBDC at (510) 208-0410.
1. Marketing Topic Area (SBDC National Information Clearinghouse) http://www.sbdcnet.org/marketing.html
2. Marketing & Sales Management (U.S. SBA Website)