Your business needs a marketing plan.
In a previous post we discussed a checklist of 29 steps when starting your Business. This topic was number 3.
Prepare a business and marketing plan that includes sales materials, distribution requirements, packaging details, product specifics and a labeling description.
At the beginning of a business venture someone needs to make a business and marketing plan. The owner or management should review and re-write the business and marketing plan every year with updated outlook and new practices.
If you go to the checklist of 29 steps from a previous post, note that the first two topics cover the business name and the type of business. Once these are known, they determine the contents of the business and marketing plan. For example, if a business were selling bulk products, like landscaping bark, they would be concerned with handling heavy material and the marketing plan would have a much different focus than the marketing plan of a business selling professional services. The idea is that different subjects will be important in different markets.
Someone must do the research to find out about the market and what is important to the customer. The business will need information about market size ant the competition. With respect to the competition, you may want to know their prices, terms volume, inventory, and delivery methods. And of the highest importance, it is critical to understand the customer.
At the research stage, the business management has to learn the rules and practices in their market. You want to find out what the other businesses in your market are doing, and from knowing that, determine what you can do better. This better feature of your business will be a basis for your focus.
Here are some critical subjects in the marketing plan where a business can do better than the competition. Look over the suggested critical items below and write down your plans on the subject.
Traditionally, this meant brochures, posters, print advertising, business cards and things like that. Today sales materials include web pages, picture files, video, audio, and more that you can release on the internet.
All of this material can be distributed through Social Media. The sales materials includes the brand or logo, images, description of product, emphasis on the benefits to the customer, special offers and everything else used to get the product known and purchased.
Look first to what is required by regulation and what is used in the current market. It is a bad idea to try to change things or not comply with the rules. You may be required to make hazardous materials statements, follow weight and label laws, have bar codes and identification numbers, and more. Follow the practices used by others, at first, then look for ways to make improvements or changes that will appeal to the customer.
Most businesses will need to provide the specifications on their products. Size and packaging will result in the units on a pallet and the way it is secured. The details on the products themselves that are included in the specifications again depends on the market. When describing the specification, it is a chance to focus on the better features that are included in the plan.
Getting the product to the customer at the best time and place is the job of a good distribution plan. It includes consideration of replacement or making more products, the inventory requirements to meet the sales demand and the details on what product are going where and when are they shipping. The size of business products can vary from rail carloads to mail packages. Plan according to the sales forecast and remember to not run out of product in the distribution system. There is one good reason to include distribution in the plan and that is to be prepared to fix it when things go wrong. The distribution plan should include several options to allow flexibility if any one means of distribution fails.
Some companies will go to trade shows, some will hire a professional sales staff, some will put up web pages and use Social Media and some will use mailing lists. The promotion plan will tell how the business will use the sales materials and other means to get the word out about the business and its products. A common event is for a business to meet with a professional buyer or a purchasing agent. In this case it is important for the promotion plan to be well researched and fit the format required by the buyer.
The most critical part of the whole process of managing a business is deciding on prices. If the business asks too low prices then money is lost. Many businesses arrive at prices by adding a margin over the cost.
Other businesses calculate direct and overhead cost plus an expected profit to find their prices. And there are many businesses that get prices that are determined by the market and negotiation. The business owner needs to know where the break even point is and how price might determine volume and profits.
The actual marketing plan will have two parts, the results of research and the decisions made on the critical subjects listed above.
Often, this actual marketing plan is kept in strict confidence. Parts of it are of use to attracting investors and managers, but some secrets are always kept.