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This part outlines the key essentials you need to include in your marketing plan. No matter how it’s organized, your marketing plan should be a straightforward and easily understood-to anyone. It should provide you with a clear direction for your marketing efforts for the coming year, and it should give an insightful look into your company for all readers.
The “market situation” section should contain your best and most clear-headed description of the current state of the marketplace (this is no place for hunches).
- What are your products/services or product/service lines?
- What is the dollar size of your markets?
- What is your sales and distribution setup?
- What geographic area do you sell to?
- Describe your audience in terms of population, demographics, income levels and so on.
- What competitors exist in this marketplace?
- Historically, how well have your products sold?
Your market situation section might read like this:
XYZ and Associates is a bookkeeping and accounting firm started in 1981. We provide tax services to individuals and to businesses under $500,000 in annual sales. We provide bookkeeping and payroll support to those same businesses. Our market area Coffey County, Kansas, and its neighboring counties.
For the personal market, our clients typically are in the $75,000 and higher income range, or they are retired with assets of $200,000 or more. For the business market, most of our work is for restaurants, service stations, independent convenience stores and a large courier service.
With the exception of a slump from 1988 through 1991, XYZ and Associates has grown steadily from its inception. Gross sales in 1997 were $145,000.
Competition for our immediate market is a group of eight firms roughly comparable to our company. Only one of these firms, Acme Bookkeeping, has an interest in marketing itself. We believe we rank second in the group of competitors, behind Acme.
We have a strong position in the restaurant portion of our business.
Much of this information exists in the heads of the management team, the way it is at many companies. But now is when you write it down. For example, how much information do you have in your office–right now–on your competition? A marketing plan gives you a chance to pull all this relevant information together in one place, to spur ideas and justify actions.
Consider each of your products or services up against the matching products or services of your competitors. How well do you stack up? Is there any significant market opportunity for you that neither you nor your competitors are currently exploiting? You’ll also find that the best thinkers in your company may well have different ideas about elements of the current situation. Your marketing plan will provide a good arena to test different snapshots of the market against each other.
When most small business owners think about a marketing plan they think that it isn’t so much for a small business but for a larger one. Marketing plans geared toward the big corporate crowd communicate in a language few human beings understand (think the teacher off of Peanuts). However, the words you use are much less important than how seriously you approach the task. In this series I will help map out how to create a marketing plan that fits you and your business, hopefully with some humor along the way.
Part 1-Gathering the Ingredients
Before you begin to write/scribble/draw, pull together some information you’ll need. Getting the information first avoids interruptions in the thinking and writing process. Have on hand:
- Your company’s latest financial reports (profit and loss, operating budgets and so on)
- Latest sales figures by product
- A listing of each product or service in the current line, along with target markets
- Your understanding of your marketplace: your competitors, geographical boundaries, types of customers you sell to, existing distribution channels, latest and most useful demographic data, any information on trends in your markets-this information you should be able to find in your business plan. What?! You don’t have one?! Stop right now and start working on your business plan.
- Ask each of your salespeople to list the most crucial points that need to be included in the coming year’s marketing plan. A lot of the time they see things you don’t, so it is important to get their perspective also.
- Last but not least, your supplies. I love to get a huge piece of paper because writing a marketing plan can me messy. It is also a good idea to let the other people that are involved all have a different color of pen, so when you are reviewing you know who came up with what.
Don’t be scared to scratch your first draft or your second or your third. Creating a marketing plan can be frustrating, but once you have the essentials in place your goals will be easily met. Check back often to read part 2 and part 3 here on the Coffey County Chamber Blog.