Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Research for a Better Marketing Strategy

imageThis article was written by Michelle Russillo, SCORE Orange County Management Counselor

A marketing strategy will help you define your business goals and develop activities to achieve your short-term and long-term marketing plans. Your marketing strategy is a concise description of your business’s products, anticipated sales and position compared to the competition. Your marketing plans are the specific actions you’re going to undertake to achieve the goals of your marketing strategy. In creating both your strategy and plan, market research is extremely beneficial. The information you gather can provide a more accurate foundation for making decisions and increase your profit potential.

Your business will not succeed just because you want it to succeed. Determining if there is a market for your products or services is the most critical item in the planning process. Once you decide on your product or service, you must analyze your market—a process that involves interviewing competitors, suppliers and new customers. Knowing your market is one of the biggest factors in success. Write down the benefits of your products or services. Describe your company’s unique selling proposition. Answer these questions:

  • Who are your customers?
  • Where are they located?
  • What are their needs and resources?
  • Why do your customers buy from you?
  • What benefits could you offer that would entice more non-customers?
  • How can you sell more to your loyal customers?
  • If you add features or services, will people pay more for them, or will they attract more customers?
  • Is your service or product essential in your customers’ day-to-day activity?
  • Can the targeted consumer afford your service or product?
  • Where can you generate a demand for your service or product?
  • What areas within your market are declining or growing?
  • Describe how you will position your products or services. Can you effectively compete on price, quality and delivery? What is the projected profit? In addition, define your current marketing methods.

Knowing your competition is another critical step in creating a marketing strategy. Be able to answer these questions:

  • How many competitors provide the same service or product?
  • What is the overall market trend and how are you holding up in terms of market share and profit position?
  • How do you really rank against your competitors?
  • What substitutes are there for your products and how much of a threat are they?

Measuring your marketing strategy is the next step. Measuring will let you know if what you are doing is working. Analyzing your marketing strategies helps you figure out where your customers are coming from. Don’t keep doing the same old thing without measuring results. It’s about what your target audience desires and you being able to deliver it before your competition. Make sure your marketing message is aimed at fulfilling that desire.

Define your target market to help you create a marketing plan. Market strategy assists you in the development of critical short/mid-term goals and knowing your market’s profit boundaries. The next critical element is having a budget. Develop a budget for your marketing plan. By revisiting your marketing plan and your measured results at least once every quarter, you can make the necessary revisions to your budget based on your targets. Marketing is an investment, so a budget is necessary. Knowing your next steps will help you increase your market share and make decisions such as whether you will advertise, use Internet marketing, direct marketing, mobile marketing or public relations. Make changes based on the general economy of your service or product area.

Once you have obtained and analyzed this information, it will become the foundation of your business plan. Market research is important because it forms the foundation for the basic assumptions in your financial projection and creates your marketing strategy. To be successful, a small business owner must know the market. Market research is merely an orderly, objective way of educating yourself about your market.