Your existing and potential customers fall into particular groups or segments, characterised by their ‘needs’. Identifying these groups and their needs through market research, and then addressing those needs more successfully than your competitors, should be one of the key elements of your marketing strategy.
Every business has strengths and weaknesses. Your marketing strategy must take account of how your business’ strengths and weaknesses will affect your marketing.
An honest and rigorous SWOT analysis, looking at your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats is a good starting point for your marketing strategy document. Also, conducting some market research on your existing customers at this point will help you to build a more honest picture of your reputation in the marketplace.
Strengths could include:
Weaknesses could include:
Opportunities could include:
Threats could include:
Once you understand your business’ internal strengths and weaknesses and the external opportunities and threats, you can develop a strategy that plays to your own strengths and matches them to the emerging opportunities. You can also try to minimise your weaknesses.
The next step is to draw up a detailed marketing plan that sets out the specific actions that will put that strategy into practice.
Create a marketing strategy that makes the most of your strengths and matches them to the needs of the customers you want to target. For example, if a particular group of customers is looking for quality first and foremost, then any marketing activity aimed at them should draw attention to the high quality of your products or service.
Once you have created your marketing strategy, you must then decide which marketing activity or activities will ensure your target market know about the products or services you offer, and why they meet their needs.
There are many ways to achieve this – such as various forms of advertising, exhibitions, public relations initiatives, internet activity and an effective ‘point of sale’ strategy if you rely on others to actually sell your products. But try to limit your activities to those methods you think will work best, to avoid spreading your budget too thinly.
Monitoring and evaluating how effective your strategy has been is a key element, yet often overlooked. This control element not only helps you see how your strategy is performing in practice, it can also help inform your future marketing strategy. A simple approach is to ask each new customer how they heard about your business.
Once you have decided on your marketing strategy, draw up a marketing plan that sets out how you intend to execute that strategy and evaluate its success. The plan should be constantly reviewed and, if necessary, updated so you can respond quickly to changes in customer needs and attitudes in your industry and in the broader economic climate.
Before looking at new markets, think about how you can get the most out of your existing customers – it’s usually more economical and quicker than finding new customers.
Perhaps you could sell more to your existing customers, or look at better ways to retain key customers.
Analyse the different needs of different groups of customers.
Focus on a market niche where you can be the best.
Aim to put most of your efforts into the 20 per cent of customers who provide 80 per cent of profits.
After the business plan, you might want to think about a marketing plan. Sometimes, a marketing plan is the next most important document that a new business owner will write, setting out how you are going to target and interest potential customers in your product or service. However, before you sit down to work on it you will need to:
As well as setting out what your marketing strategy is going to be, set targets such as how much each marketing activity should increase sales, what the budget is for each activity and who in the business will be responsible for each activity.
Some of the marketing strategies you might consider, for example, include:
Business support organisations, such as the local Chamber of Commerce, can help with setting out your marketing and business plans and you may also be able to attend start-up events or courses which cover writing a marketing plan as part of their content.