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Effective Marketing Plan

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Raising Money
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The Tools
- The Elevator Pitch
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Strategic Issues
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g

- Sustainable Growth

Sales & Marketing
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Market Analysis
- The Plan

The Human Element
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  Employees
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Miscellaneous
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Selling Your Business

Unlike a business plan, a marketing plan focuses on the customer. It is your plan of action - what you will sell, to whom you will sell it, how often, at what price, and how you will get the product to the buyer. It also covers what you’ll say about your product or service, and where and when you’ll say it. Here’s a closer look at putting together a marketing plan that works.
1. Define Your Product’s Features, Benefits and Distribution: Describe what the product or service does, how it works, what features it offers and most importantly what problem it solves - people buy solutions. Describe the product’s physical characteristics such as size, weight and color. Define its benefits in emotional as well as functional terms. Know which features and benefits of your product or service will appeal to different market segments.

Give information on pricing, including whether and how you discount. Price is not rigid; it may have a range and vary by market since it is based on perceived value, cost structure, profit objectives and the competition’s pricing.

Describe your distribution process. The type of network you choose will depend upon the industry, the size of the market and how your competition distributes. Some of the more common channels include direct sales, OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer), manufacturer's wholesale distributors, brokers, retail distributors and direct mail.

2. Profile the Competition and Identify Your Competitive Advantage: Research the competition to find out their sales volume (dollars and units), market share, key product attributes, pricing, specifically targeted market segments, distribution strategy, positioning, key customers, customer perceptions, etc.

You must have a sustainable competitive advantage, so decide how your product or service is different. Do you have patents, copyrights, a proprietary process or technology, exclusive licenses or agreements? Are you the first to market? Have you developed a core competency that would be cost prohibitive for the competition to develop? Do you have the best people or the best strategic partners? Analyze your strengths and weaknesses versus the competition to determine your competitive edge.

3. Describe Your Target Market: Developing a profile of your target customers is critical. You need to know who the buying decision makers and influencers are.
  • If you're reaching out to businesses, describe which type, including the industry, revenue level, location, job titles of purchase decision makers/influencers and other important characteristics.
  • If consumers are your audience, describe their age, sex, income level, geographical location, marital status and other relevant facts. If possible, include psychographics, which offer insight into attitudes, opinions, perceptions and beliefs. What are your customers’ buying habits (where, when, why, how much, how frequently)? If you identify several market segments, rank them in order of priority.
4. Research Trends and Marketing Issues: Identify key trends in the marketplace and assess their impact on your product or service. You can do this by consulting trade organizations, reviewing trade publications and reading research reports. Examine the dynamics of the market, including changing motivations, unmet needs and emerging segments that have strategic importance. Use such tools as focus groups or surveys to gain additional insight. By doing this, you’ll be able to prioritize which markets offer the best opportunities.
5. Position Your Product/Service: Positioning is the complex set of perceptions, impressions and feelings your product or service evokes in your target market. Not only must your position be unique, relevant and credible, it must solve a problem or relieve a stress in order to be truly effective. Positioning is communicated through product design, price performance and marketing communications - all of which should have a consistent approach. Certain segments may respond to different value propositions and may require different positioning strategies.
6. Create a Communications Strategy: The goal of your communications is to sell your product or service by creating awareness, delivering information, educating the market and advancing a positive image. Communications include everything from packaging to the visual look of marketing materials, and from the message you convey to the media vehicles you employ to the materials used by your sales force and the attitude of your customer-service staff. Communications work best when they portray a consistent and persuasive message.
7. Define Your Goals: Determine what you want to accomplish. Make your goals challenging, but achievable. Do you want to increase sales, improve market share, penetrate a new market segment, change a perception, generate more store traffic, reduce customer complaints? Be specific and make your objectives measurable. For example, by what percentage do you want to increase or decrease sales?
8. Focus on Customer Retention: Customer retention is a matter of business survival, as getting a new customer is five times more expensive than retaining a current one. Use your successes with current customers to attract new referral business, but also remember that not every customer is worth keeping. You cannot be all things to all people. Sometimes you have to let customers go, and refocus energies on those clients who are a better fit for your business.
9. Develop a Budget: To develop a realistic budget, look at such things as the type of product or service you offer (business-to-consumer or business-to-business), your product’s lifecycle (launch, growth, maturity, decline), and your competitors’ spending levels. Established business-to-business products and services can spend as little as 2% of their expenditures on marketing, while a consumer product or service that is launching may have to allocate more than 20%.
10. Measure Marketing Effectiveness: Keeping track of results is the only way to improve your marketing efforts. The key is determining which data should be collected. Your marketing results may be measured in sales (dollars or units), market share, store traffic, number of inquiries or reduced complaint rates, along with other metrics. Tracking can also be based on surveys that assess customer perception. Effective measurement lays the groundwork for future plans.
Prepared by:

Geri Stengel, president of Stengel Solutions, a business strategist.  She can be reached at 212-362-3088 or E-mail

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Contact Geri Stengel at
  212.362.3088 or E-mail

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