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How to Start a Marketing Plan

Posted by Anonymous

Product Description

Every new business requires a large portion of its initial attention to be put towards the marketing of its product. A business is obsolete if the public is unaware of what is being offered. The first step to a complete marketing plan is being able to describe the business' purpose on every level, from every angle. Is what you are offering a product or service? What is this product or service intended for? How is it unique? You should be able to answer each of these questions quickly and thoroughly to ensure that you have complete understanding of what it is you are trying to sell. The most important question might be how is your product unique? The answer to this question should be concise, simple, and specific and create a statement that will serve as the foundation of your marketing plan.

External Environment Analysis

After you are positive that you have a product or service with potential and you are confident in your knowledge to back it up, it is time to focus your attention on the external environment. Where are you trying to sell your product? Is it a school? A city? A state? A country? Identify the largest possible population that will have access to what you are attempting to sell. Every culture has a subculture and it is important to be aware of what is acceptable so you know if what you're putting out there is appropriate and if there is a demand at least somewhere within that general environment. Another critical issue when dealing with the external environment is the law. Make sure you familiarize yourself with marketing rules and regulations in the area you're entering so you can avoid legal issues later.

Competitive Analysis

Almost as important as having vast knowledge of your own product or service is gaining an understanding of your competition. Knowing what you're up against plays a very important role in product development because it can help guide you in the right direction. Once you've analyzed the environment you are entering, take a look around and find the products or services that are already established and that could be potential competitors. How are these competitors different? How are they similar? What aspects of their business plan do you feel are positive or negative? Find a way to emulate their positive attributes and avoid anything you feel they are doing wrong. Direct competition is inevitable but figuring out how to fill the holes your competition is leaving will ultimately be the difference.

Consumer Analysis

Within the external environment that you have already familiarized yourself with, there is a smaller population known as your target market. Your target market includes the people that need or want your product or service more directly than the rest of the external environment. Gather demographic information, such as:

  • Average age

  • Average income range

  • Average education level

  • Typical occupation

  • Family make-up

Also gather lifestyle information, such as:

  • Hobbies

  • Interests

  • Political views

  • Cultural or religious beliefs

Once you have this information you can begin to understand what drives these particular people toward your product or service. Is what you are selling appealing to these people out of necessity or basic appeal? Differentiating the reasons your target market is attracted to your product or service will help you find the best way to grab their attention. Additionally, distinguish between repeat customers and new or one-time users. Of course it is always important to grow your business by attracting new customers but it is less costly to maintain loyal, repeat customers. Do not over exert your quest for new business at the risk of severing relationships with your existing business. Bottom line: keep consumers happy.

SWOT Analysis

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Your strengths and weaknesses are internal issues, and opportunities and threats are external factors. Based on the above analyses you have created, take the time to write down what you believe to be your company's strengths and weaknesses. Keep in mind that some of your strengths can also be viewed as weaknesses and vice versa. For example, look at the size of a company. A large company offers extensive resources and often times more experience, but a small company offers close, personal attention that results in more intimate business relationships. Overlooking these double-meanings might leave holes in your marketing plan that competitors could target and exploit. Opportunities and threats are external factors, which means they may not necessarily be in your control to change. But whether you can change these factors or not, acknowledging them is important so you can figure out how to use your resources to take advantage of the opportunities and protect yourself from threats.

The ultimate goal is to maximize your strengths and opportunities and minimize your weaknesses and threats. Your SWOT analysis should be an informative tool built upon what you learned from your product description as well as your external environment, competitive and consumer analyses. The idea is to summarize all of the information you've collected and put it into an organized and concise analysis that will help you understand your business and its surrounding environment. This analysis is meant to guide you toward the specific steps needed to execute a successful marketing strategy.

Goals and Objectives

Your SWOT analysis might have raised some questions, specifically how you are going to handle your weaknesses and/or any potential threats. Goals and objectives are like the "to do" list of your marketing plan in that they will keep you on track by making sure you are carrying out the specific tasks required to get your product or service up and running - you can even go as far as to cross them off as you've completed them. Create a plan that will help you in the actual, physical execution of marketing your business or POSITIONING your product or service. To help you, follow the four "P's" of positioning:

  1. PRODUCT: What are you offering? How is it different? Why is it worth choosing over the competition?

  2. PRICE: With regard to your competition, are you high-end, low-end or middle of the road? What will this say about your product or service?

  3. PROMOTION: How will you advertise your product or service? What kind of advertising appeals to your target market? How will you use packaging to your advantage?

  4. PLACE: Where will you distribute your product or service? Where will you advertise (promotion) so that your target market will become aware of what you are selling?

When answering these questions be very specific. Think of what applies to your product or service that might not apply to something else. Create a custom set of goals and objectives for your business. The more precise you are the easier these tasks will be to accomplish.


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