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Chapter 4: Your Role in Marketing

When you are running a business, your main intention is to generate as much profit as you can. The way to do this is to put your business in the way of as many people as possible. After all, it is these very same people who will pay for your goods or services and eventually generate for you a profitable income. Thus, the word ‘people’ is a fundamental key element if you want to ensure for yourself a successful business activity.

The question is how can you make as many people as possible know about your business in an attempt to make them potential customers and eventually satisfied customers who will invest their money in to your business? The only plausible answer is the ‘marketing of your business.’

What is marketing?

There are many definitions of the concept of marketing out there but they all more or less signify the same thing. Basically, marketing is a sales’ strategy in which you go through the process of determining which products and services will be interesting to customers. Thus, in simple words, marketing assists you in developing your business by helping you establish a client business relationship.

What is your role in Marketing?

In order to ensure that your business as well as your profitable income grows, you will need to employ an efficient marketing plan.

An efficient plan is one that does not simply follow what the rest of the crowd in your line of business is doing. Even though a particular and popular marketing trend in your line of business may be the first step for you to market your business, this on its own is usually not enough. Simply sticking to common marketing schemes is the reason why most businesses do not attract as many customers as they originally had in mind. Drafting a good marketing plan implies that you will have more than an added database of customers but it also means that you are able to control the amount of cash spent on marketing and promotion. Rather than being taken by the marketing wave, you will ride your own surfing board and be in control of how much you want to spend allowing you to be flexible enough should there be a sudden change in the response to your marketing plan.

Take adverts in newspapers and commercial on radios as an example. Most businesses, unfortunately and unknowingly believe that this kind of publicity is the peak of their marketing campaign and they stop at that. But it is NOT. Despite the fact that placing adverts on the newspaper can draw traffic of customers your way, this simply is NOT enough. Even if you have used the most attractive spot in the newspaper your marketing plan cannot simply stop at that. This is because you will be missing on a large sector of potential clientele; and remember your main interest is to attract as many people as possible to your business.

Few business persons out there are aware that a large sector of society does not read newspapers or listen to the radio or it simply does not have the time to do these activities anymore. Just because life in our society has become so fast and hectic, your plan of attack has to be on the same speed frequency.

Additionally you want to attract new customers and not simply rely on the ones you already have. Chances are that the ones you already have came to you because of the marketing strategies you have already applied and now is the time to expand the market of your customers by using new marketing strategies.

Your marketing plan should be flexible

While it is true that you need to plan ahead to provide yourself with a solid marketing strategy, you need to allow and be ready to accept that some changes might be needed to your marketing plan somewhere down the line of implementation. It is best that you look at these changes as adjustments needed so that your business gets more out of your marketing plan.

Your plan might need changing because it has deviated away from your business goals or perhaps just because you decided to trim the costs of your marketing campaign. There is nothing wrong with that as long as your marketing plan directs your business to new potential customers.

The backbone structure of every marketing plan

Even if you should allow your marketing strategy to be adjusted along the way, there are certain points that should always be present regardless of the changes that take place in any marketing plan. These points would include:

1. The status quo of your business and the market within which it operates:This involves information about where is your business now? How is it doing? Good? Could it do better? What is not working? You will need to assess the answers to these questions against an up to date research carried out in relation to the latest behavior of marketing habits within the industry or market sector that you are operating in. At this stage you should also look at where your business stands as opposed to others competing in the same market as yours and also important is a thorough study of consumer behavior.

Additionally, you also need to determine your target market. Since you need to become aware of your clients’ likes, dislikes and overall habit patterns and because obtaining this information is quite a big project, you need to take the definition of your target market seriously. The study of the industry behavior you operate in, including performance in history up to the latest statistics, are the best points of references to obtain this information. First of all you target market would include those customers who are most likely to want to buy your products or use your services. Thus, for example if you are operating a lingerie business you can narrow down your target market to women. Therefore, the sex of your main clientele is one fundamental aspect that you should take into consideration. Next determine which age group of women might be interested in your products or services. Other things you should also take into account when determining your target market are their social standing, their status including their profession and education as well as their income brackets and the place where they reside.

At this stage, you need not be concerned with attracting other types of customers so you will be able to shift your focus when your business becomes a profitable activity. For now, focus on determining a specific target market. To gather sufficient data that is required for this purpose you can prepare questionnaires; ask for customer’s feedback either through a tick in the box leaflet or by simple communication with them. If you cannot carry out this study on your own, you can turn to professional consultants. However, keep in mind that other cheaper solutions that perhaps reap more effective results may be available at hand such as online information, census or free reports conducted by local authorities, agencies or companies who somehow deal with the industry that you want to launch your business in. Getting these free reports and insider information may require your membership in entrepreneur chambers and other entities that are vested with authority and are governmentally backed up to assist businesses in general.

Some tips that could assist you in understanding your target market is determining whether your target market is classified as a busy with little time on their hands or conversely usually have a lot of free time to spare. Are they the type of people willing to listen and are they usually the responsible type to follow up your offer or do you need to chase them to remind them of what you have to offer? Is the description of your target market such that you know they have a huge potential of becoming your clients? What type of people or specific percentage of your target market will equal a waste of time if you try to engage in a consumer-business relationship with? Are the people you have in mind usually skeptical of advertisements, sales agents and special offers? Is your target market educated, earns a high/low income and does it have trust issues?

These are examples of many questions that you need to ask yourself and then proceed to find the answer to. How can this be done? Have a look at statistics and do analyze their profile description in order to classify your target market in a much better way. For example, imagine selling baby stuff. Parenthood is common to both low and high earning sectors of society. However, while the high earning sector of your target market might be suspicious and also have a little time available the low income sector might for instance have more time on their hand because they are busy looking after their children since they cannot afford to send their child to a child care facility. If you take this as an example of how to classify your target market, you will then be able to adapt your marketing campaign to the different sectors of your target market.

A bit more effort is required if you intend on trading internationally. Launching a product for the first time and on a large scale like this requires an in-depth research of the different markets your products will be circulated in. For large scale products you should make a little investment in companies that can assist you in gathering the necessary market research. Focus groups are one such way this type of research is carried out but they would require some kind of compensation which varies from products all the way to monetary payments. Around twelve people fitting the same criteria of your target market will generally participate in each focus group. The feedback received from these focus groups is more than rewarding for your business as you will have a strong idea of clients’ expectations, you will get more details in their replies and some concepts or issues that you may not have considered before are most likely to crop up.

Communicating through telephone, email or relying on the traditional postal service is both fast and efficient if you decide to go for surveys, questionnaires or focus groups. Once more you will need to decide whether you and your staff will be working on the formulation, circulation and data collection of questionnaires or whether you will be leaving this in the hands of professional research companies. Your decision will depend on your budget, human resources (how many people or stuff is willing to assist you in this and how much will this cost you?) and what is your available time?

Before embarking on a survey, you need to have the following issues under control:

  • Come up with simple questions for your questionnaire;
  • From these questions you should be able to obtain specific information;
  • You must ensure that the questionnaires, emails and any other communication are passed on to people who could be potential customers. This part is a key element to the success of your service as it will provide with relevant information as opposed to that data which is not. However, there is a lot you can still do with information you are not sure about and this includes online marketing and increasing online traffic to your business website such as through the tactic of lead generation;
  • You must have a backup plan with regards to participation and this falls in to two stages: (1) Do not simply send your questionnaire to a few people. If you need the opinion and views of fifty people promote your survey to 150 people or more as lack of participation is usually the problem in these cases; (2) Promote your survey by rewarding participants with vouchers, cash, products and anything that would make people participate more out there. Passing on rewards using your own products could be in itself a free advertisement campaign of your business.

Although the following must necessarily be elements that you take into consideration in your marketing plan, it is important to note that the formulation of the points below are highly dependent on the information gathered from step one, that is, the market research carried out. Consequently, the more accurate and correct the information gathered, the more likely it is for your business plan to reflect a real picture of what you are dealing with in the market within which you want to operate your business. Inaccurate and incorrect information on a large scale might prove to be disastrous to your business strategy.

2. The SWOT analysis: Here you write down the (S)trengths, (W)eaknesses, (O)pportunities and (T)hreats that your business is facing depending on the outcome of you market research. Hence, in any survey or other research method carried out, one of the things to look for is the perception that potential clients have of competing businesses. Do not only look out for your competitors good points but also look for their weaknesses as you can use the negative criticism of your competitors as opportunities by making sure you do not make their same mistake and also by providing a solution for the problem the potential customers in your industry are facing; thereby having the opportunity to attract them to your business. The SWOT analysis should mainly focus on your business position and should therefore target your internals strengths and weaknesses.

3. Competitors’ assessment: You need to write down those businesses that are competing against your own business. You only need to pick a handful and write a few brief points about their own strengths and weaknesses but do not over obsess. Assessing your competitors’ marketing strategy requires periodical reviews and documentation. Keep track of how often they advertise their products or services and study the different methods they use such as promotions, discount offers, pricing techniques and even pay close attention to sponsorships. At this stage you are also to assess what makes you and your competitors similar and different. Ask yourself what is the strongest feature that makes your business stand out from your competitors. When carrying out this comparative analysis take a look at your competitors’ polices including the quality and pricing of their products, guarantee, and customer satisfaction and delivery policies. Compare the outcome of the competitors’ assessment with the internal assessment of your business. The end result should provide you with reasons that you will sue in your marketing campaign, thereby promoting how your business is better than that of your competitors. At this stage it is important that you are objective and true to yourself about how well your business stands against that of your competitors. You will then be able to use this objective analysis in your marketing campaign.

4. Your business objectives: What do you want out of your business? What can you achieve? It is important that at this stage you write down objectives and goals that you can somehow measure. These involve different marketing steps that together lead you to achieve your business objectives. Both short-term and long-term goals fall within this category and you need to be very precise with what your goals consists of. Thus, if for example, you want to increase the number of customers for your business, you should jot down exactly the percentage by how much you want to increase it and within what time. Being precise by determining exactly what end results you want to achieve when you set down to setting your goals is exactly what makes your objectives measureable. Being specific also allows you to come to terms with your weaknesses and to possible address them.

5. The strategy you want to use to market your products or services: This step like all other steps needs to be constantly monitored and adapted to the changes in the market behavior including that of your competitors and pricing. This is the part where you plan how you are going to market your business and where you choose the tools that will enable you to reach your objectives as explained in the step before. This would therefore involve a description of your products, an analysis of the pricing policy you want to adapt and the location of your business. Focus on the strengths and best features of your products, the location of your business and explain why customers would want to purchase them. For example, talk about the points that make your product better than that of your competitors, explain the ease of access to your place of business (parking space, accessible by public transport or the availability of slopes and restrooms for people with special needs, babies and children). Move on to discuss the service and why it is a reputable, safe area. Thinking in advance about what criteria and features your customers would desire to have from your products is fundamental. The trick is to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Looking at your business from your clients’ point of view involves also disclosing any difficulties your customers may encounter such as walking distance, the fact of having to take a flight of stairs before accessing your place of business and parking limits.

From the market the study carried out above, you will also be able to price your products according to the average standards of your competitors. Pricing, of course depends on the target market sector that you have determined in step one. However, if you intend to target high earning professionals you should look at your competition average pricing in this regards. The opposite is true if your target market is that for people on a budget.

6. The line of action to take: This involves planning the marketing strategy which should also take into account the generation of profits, the attraction of new customers. This stage also requires fixed timings in which you plan to achieve certain objectives. All the information that you obtained in the abovementioned steps will be used to implement your plan of action. Your plan should be written down and all the steps mentioned above to this information and objectives

Do not forget the clients that you already have! So do involve them in your promotional schemes.

7. Finances available: The amount of finances available is important as this will determine the line of action your marketing plan will involve. The percentage of the budget used to implement different aspects of a marketing plan will depend on your financial means Do not forget the clients that you already have! So do involve them in your promotional schemes. and ambitions. This is one area in which businesses vary greatly. However, the initial marketing budget amounts to an average of 50 % of the sales made for the initial years and this percentage is phased out gradually as the business starts to grow and more people become aware of the existence of your business and what products you have to offer.

The amount of budget allocated is not important as much as the type of marketing used to promote your business. Thus, creative marketing solutions are key for the success of your business.

You can also come up with a financial planning scheme whereby you use your sales objectives’ end results, that is, the profit emerging from planned sales, and plan to reinvest a percentage of it at a later stage as a planned budget. This is of course dependent on the actual number of sales achieved and this is why a marketing plan can be said to flexible.

The marketing plan document

The marketing plan document should include all the steps mentioned above. It should also have step by step plans to reach both short-term and long –term objectives and it should include how these objectives can be achieved.

Thus, breaking it step by step into publicity, public speaking programs, charity promotional events, partnering events, promotional activities, joint venture marketing, referral marketing, internet marketing, advertising, customer market and other activities that you think would serve to make people know about your services or product is the core part of your business plan. All these steps need to have an established budget, time line and a determined amount of human resources that you would require to run these marketing schemes successfully.