How to Cook Up a Great Marketing Plan Part 2-Add the Essentials

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.

Market Situation

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.

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How to Cook Up a Great Marketing Plan-Part 1

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:

  1. Your company’s latest financial reports (profit and loss, operating budgets and so on)
  2. Latest sales figures by product
  3. A listing of each product or service in the current line, along with target markets
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Tec Update-Cloud computing

Cloud computing is the use of computing resources (hardware and software) that are delivered as a service over a network (typically the Internet). The name comes from the use of a cloud-shaped symbol as an abstraction for the complex infrastructure it contains in system diagrams. Cloud computing entrusts remote services with a user’s data, software and computation. -From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Wow that is confusing, huh? Let me make it simple.  Imagine your PC and all of your mobile devices being in sync—all the time. Imagine being able to access all of your personal data at any given moment. Imagine having the ability to organize and access data from any online source. Imagine being able to share that data—photos, movies, contacts, e-mail, documents, etc.—with your friends, family, and coworkers in an instant. This is what personal cloud computing promises to deliver.

In essence, personal cloud computing means having every piece of data you need for every aspect of your life at your fingertips and ready for use. Data must be mobile, transferable, and instantly accessible. The key to enabling the portable and interactive you is the ability to synch up your data among your devices, as well as access to shared data. Shared data is the data we access online in any number of places, such as social networks, banks, blogs, newsrooms, paid communities, etc.

I hope this clears up any confusion about “The Cloud” and ultimately I think this technology is a great advancement and we will all head towards the cloud eventually.

Here is a great video that explains the cloud also:

5 Tips To Get Your Business Ready For The Holiday Season

The holidays are just around the corner and that means that holiday shoppers are already looking for gifts to buy. So don’t wait any longer to start stocking up on inventory and preparing your holiday promotions.

To help you get started, here are 5 tips to get your business ready for the holiday season:

Tip #1: With the holidays just around the corner, think about offering Free Gift Wrapping on your products as an extra incentive to those holiday shoppers!  Pinterest has all kinds of great wrapping ideas, you can be as extravagant or crafty as you want to be.

Tip #2: Send out an email newsletter to your fans, followers and customers letting them know what’s new and sharing any holiday promotions!  Newsletters are a cost effective way to communicated with your current and potential customers, just make sure you are consistent!

Tip #3: Include a Thank You Note or Holiday Promotion with your customer purchases this month, this will help differentiate you and build your brand loyalty so your customers come back again and again.

Tip #4: See if you can combine any individual products into gift sets for a holiday product line…it’s a great way to attract holiday shoppers and increase your average sale at the same time.

Tip #5: With all the preparation for the holiday season, don’t forget to take a little time for yourself so you don’t get burnt out.

What are you doing to get prepared for the holiday shoppers?

Slow down to get more done.

It is amazing to me how fast time flies, seems like I can blink and another week has come and gone.  With all the activities/events/meetings we are involved in it is no wonder why everyone feels exhausted all the time.  Do you ever feel like you have worked your butt off all day and at the end of it you don’t feel like you accomplished anything?  Have you made an important phone call to only forget to ask that imperative question?   That might be a sign that you are working too fast and not utilizing your valuable time.  Believe it or not, you can get more tasks done by slowing down than speeding through your work.  If you would have spent a little time preparing for that busy day or important phone call you would have used the time you spent more efficiently but instead it cost you more time in the long run.

So how do you effectively slow down so you can speed up? There are two critical steps:

1. Identify what is working. . . and do more of that.
2. Identify what is not working. . . and change it.

So now you are thinking about how you spend your time and you need to know how to identify what is working and what is not.  This might sound a little juvenile but for a week or so write down how you spend your time, when you take breaks and lunches, and even time how long it takes you to complete a single task.  If you cannot determine what is not working in your routine then you can never fix the problem.  This is not about making judgments of what is “right” and what is “wrong.” It’s about seeing what moves me toward where I want to be and what is keeping me stuck. Acknowledgement of this awareness is an excellent first step in moving forward. When you notice the details of how you currently perform various tasks, you can then consciously choose to change those methods, allowing you to “speed up” over time. This results in more opportunities at the end of the day for additional work, planning, or even play.

A great way to get more tasks done during the day is by single tasking.  Gasp. That is right I said to single task.  For so long everyone has put a heavy emphasis on multitasking and I don’t always think this is the best solution.  If you have a to-do list take one task start it and do not move on to another assignment until it is complete.  To help keep you on track put a blank piece of paper next to you and whenever you have a thought pop into your head, take one second to write it down, but then go back to the job at hand.

Objectively look at your habits, your ideas, and your existing and desired skills so you can get better and go faster. Take the time now to slow down. . . to re-dedicate your focus, so you can move in a positive direction and hold your pace. Change is rarely easy but often critical to move us where we want to go.

So commit to yourself to slow down right now, by taking an inventory of what is working and what is holding you back. Once you’ve identified the things you want to change you can start changing those . . . ultimately helping you speed up.