Every time you speak to someone about your business you are involved in marketing. Any conversation about your firm is an opportunity to promote your business and increase sales. A marketing strategy will help you focus. It will identify the different ways you can talk to your customers, and concentrate on the ones that will create most sales.
It tells you what to say, how to say it and who to say it to in order to make more sales. Because timing is critical, it will tell you when to say it, too.
Marketing strategy: Objectives
Your marketing objectives will focus on how you increase sales by getting and keeping customers.
To explain how to do this, experts talk about how best to package your products and services, how much to charge for them and the best way to take them to market.
A marketing strategy will help you tailor your messages and put the right mix of advertising approaches in place so that you bring your sales and marketing activities together effectively in an effective marketing plan.
Marketing strategy: Knowing your customers
A successful marketing strategy depends on understanding your customers, what they need and how you can persuade them to buy from you.
There’s no substitute for knowledge. Experience and regular two-way communication will tell you a lot about your customers. But targeted market research will build a more detailed picture of customer segments with similar needs. It will help you understand how to target these people so you’re not wasting time on people who aren’t interested in your offer.
But you’ll also need to understand how your market works – Where do your customers find out about your offer, for example? Your strategy should even tell you how you measure up against the competition and what new trends to expect in your market.
Marketing strategy: Making A Plan
A marketing plan explains how to put your strategy into action. It’s going to set marketing budgets and deadlines, but it will also let you know how you are going to speak with your target customers – whether that’s through advertising, networking, going to trade shows, direct marketing, and so on.
Crucially, it will let you know when to talk to your customers. Timing your activities to fit their buying cycles will save money and maximize sales.
Finally, your marketing plan should look to the future: it should outline how you follow up sales and what you’re doing to develop your offer.
As with any plan, progress should be regularly measured and reviewed to see what’s working and what isn’t, so you can establish new targets as your marketplace changes.
How to Create Marketing Plan
A marketing plan sets out how you’re going to put your marketing strategy into practice. The marketing plan ensures that everyone in the company knows what you are trying to do and what they need to do to make it happen.
Include goals, budgets, and deadlines in your marketing plan
An effective marketing plan must set clear objectives that will help you towards your longer-term strategic goals. Where your marketing strategy includes targeting a particular customer segment, for example, your marketing plan should have specific, measurable objectives for helping you achieve this goal, such as increasing sales by a target percentage. Setting deadlines and agreeing on marketing budgets to work with helps you focus on your priorities and commit to achieving them.
You should make sales forecasts and goals a key part of your marketing plan and feed them into your overall business plan. But other performance measures could be just as important. For example, you might establish targets for numbers of inquiries, numbers of new customers, average transaction value, etc. Or you might simply wish to maintain positive cash flow.
Planning your advertising
Your day-to-day business marketing activities are likely to be focused on communicating with existing and potential customers. Your marketing plan should set out when and the way you will do this.
Start building a schedule by identifying key times of the year – for example, when business customers plan the next year’s budget or seasonal purchasing peaks (such as Christmas). Time your marketing campaigns to fit with these dates and look for other opportunities, such as trade exhibitions, that you can take advantage of.
As well as marketing communications, your marketing plan should span the full mix of advertising actions. Developing new products and building your distribution network might be significant parts of your strategy, as an example. You will also need to plan carefully for any price increases or tactical moves like an end-of-season sale.
You may also want to strengthen your marketing capabilities. Note in your marketing plan whether you intend to give staff sales training or introduce new customer relationship management (CRM) technology. Maybe you need to introduce more efficient systems or measure customer satisfaction. Including tasks like these in your marketing plan helps ensure that they are identified as priorities and that you dedicate time and money to them.
Know your Target Market
Trying to satisfy a wide range of different needs is rarely effective. Splitting your customers into various groups of similar individuals will enable you to market your products or services specifically to those that’ll be most profitable to you.
Identifying your target market
Begin to identify the different segments among your present customers by looking for groups with similar characteristics. Consumers are often segmented by age, gender or income. Business customers can be broken down into various industries or by size. In practice, location is often an integral factor, whether you’re targeting local customers or looking for export opportunities.
Segmenting your market should enable you to identify the similarities between your distinct customer groups – and the differences. You will be able to more clearly understand what aspects of your offer appeal to each of the groups and adapt your product or service to more closely match their requirements.
This might mean modifying your product – or working on delivery, service, reliability or some other need that is important to that market segment. It might also mean adjusting the way you advertise your offer – so you change your pricing policy or use distribution channels that reach your target customers more efficiently. You should also accommodate your promotional messages to the different customer segments.
Finding and evaluating customers
Knowledge is everything when it comes to identifying which groups of customers you ought to be targeting. Market research can help you understand more about the needs, tastes and spending habits of different groups of potential customers. This ought to inform you about the customer segments most likely to purchase your offer and the kind of promotion and sales actions they will respond to.
A SWOT analysis will help you assess your strengths and weaknesses as a business and spot the opportunities and threats that are looming in your market. It’ll help you evaluate if you are in a position to carry out a strong marketing and sales campaign with your target groups of customers. Significantly, it will also enable you to see how you measure up against the competition.
Understanding what your rivals are up to is critical. How are they working with your target group/s? Would you do better or worse? Where are the gaps – In their offer and in their marketing? Are groups of customers being ignored by rivals? Could you target these profitably?
This combination of market research, SWOT analysis and benchmarking should give you a detailed image of your marketplace and your own potential. This, in turn, will tell you where you need to be directing your advertising tasks and how. Only when you are armed with this knowledge can you confidently tailor your message to various sections of your market and have persuasive conversations with your prospective customers.