Business Planning: Marketing Basics

You will need to consider how you will market your business as part of your business plan. You’re not alone if you’re wondering, “What is marketing, anyway?” Entire books are dedicated to answering that question.

The big marketing picture

In a sentence, marketing is the process through which you get and keep customers. The marketing cycle includes

  • Customer, product, and competitive research: The marketing process begins with research that enables you to understand your customers and your market environment.

  • Development of marketing strategies: Following market research, the marketing process involves the development of product, pricing, packaging, and distribution strategies designed to meet the interests of your customers and the realities of your market environment.

  • Promotion: Promotional efforts include advertising, public relations, web presence, online customer interactions, and other communications that grab attention, inspire interest, and prompt product purchases.

  • Sales programs: Consumer interest converts into purchases through flawless sales programs backed by outstanding delivery systems.

  • Customer service: Customer service builds satisfaction, prompts repeat purchases, develops valuable customer loyalty to your company, and inspires positive reviews, recommendations, and word of mouth.

The nuts and bolts of a marketing plan

A marketing plan includes the following components:

  • Description of your market situation, including your customer profile and assessments of changes affecting your customers, competitors, and business climate

  • Your marketing goals and objectives

  • Your company’s positioning and brand statements

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  • Your marketing strategies, including plans for your product, distribution, pricing, and promotions, along with your plans for retaining customers, gaining repeat business, and building loyalty

  • Your marketing budget

  • Your tactical and action plans

  • Your long-range plans

Detail all these essential topics in your marketing plan. In your business plan — in the part where you discuss your company strategy — include a summarized version that provides the highlights.

Your business plan is mainly for external audiences — financial backers, business advisors, and key partners — so edit out details that people outside your business don’t really need to know and that you may want to hold close to your vest. These include your tactical and action plans and details of how you plan to allocate your marketing budget.

The new rules of marketing in a screen-connected world

The definition of marketing — the process through which you get and keep customers — is as old as the world marketing itself, but how you market in today’s always-online world requires radical changes to long-standing tactics and approaches. As you prepare the marketing plan for your business, take these new realities into account:

  • Your business needs an online presence. If the people you’re trying to reach don’t go online, those who influence them do, and they expect to be able to reach you on their computers and mobile devices. If you don’t have a web presence, ramp it up quickly.

    And if your website doesn’t load quickly and show well on all screens — from living room TVs to smartphones — with buttons that even the fattest fingers can click to access customer-desired information, work on a redesign sooner than later.

  • Your customers don’t differentiate between whether they’re dealing with your business online or face-to-face. They expect the identical brand image and customer experience whether they contact your business website or your bricks-and-mortar location. In fact, they expect your online and offline locations to interact seamlessly with each other.

    For example, they expect your website to provide one-click phone call and location directions, and they expect an online purchase to be serviced at your physical place of business.

  • Your online reputation can make or break your business. More people form opinions based on what they hear from friends or read online than from what they see or hear in a business-produced marketing message. Type your name into a search engine and see what comes up.

    If you don’t like what you see, get busy building a website and social media pages that people can find, and then build links to your sites.

  • You have only seconds to interest and pull people to your business. For decades, marketers pushed messages at target audiences, using ads and other one-way communications to interrupt consumers and urge them to take a specific action. In today’s market environment, pull marketing rules.

    That means you need to convey immediately interesting, useful, entertaining, educational information that’s capable of drawing people to your physical location or website —while prompting high-value consumer-to-consumer sharing of your messages as a welcome bonus.

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