Setting out clear marketing strategies is a crucial step for any business, not least for smaller businesses. While having a clear marketing strategy doesn’t guarantee success, research shows that it’s a key ingredient in improving your odds of profitable growth. In short, a successful marketing strategy ensures a need in your target market matches a product or service your business can deliver. Once you’ve found a match, your goal is to cost effectively communicate the benefits of choosing your offering to the target market. Remember though that acquiring customers is a difficult and expensive business, so when you’ve found a new customer how much are they worth to you: is it a one-off transaction or a more profitable relationship you hope to nurture over many years? Any marketing strategy you choose needs to be flexible, so imagine the strategy you set out as a series of sign posts rather than a fixed train track. By taking a flexible approach you’ll be able to navigate unforeseen circumstances you’ll come across along the way. Here are the 5 steps to developing a strong marketing strategy:
1. Understand your strengths and make your weaknesses irrelevant So what are you good at? A marketing strategy with substance must play to your strengths as a business. To lay strong foundations for your marketing strategy it’s worth spending some time putting together a SWOT analysis, assessing your business’ strengths and weaknesses; the market opportunities and market threats. During this stage it might be worthwhile conducting some market research with your existing customers to get a more honest idea of your reputation in the market place. An anonymous email survey may give you more candid response – so be prepared for praise and criticism! If you’re sending a survey out to 100 or fewer people try www.Zoomerang.com as it’s free to use and easy to create a professional looking survey. Strengths might include: specialist knowledge, unique product features, personal service, flexible service. Weaknesses might include: inefficient computer systems, high customer attrition, limited financial resources, low employee skills. Opportunities might include: growth in market sector, change in government regulation, using the internet to reach new markets. Threats might include: new competition, economic downturn, more attractive alternative to your product/service
2) Segment your market Many small businesses fall into the trap of thinking that their product or service will appeal to ‘everyone’. Often the reason they do this is because they fear that excluding certain groups of people will limit their opportunity. This thinking couldn’t be further from the truth – and remember that while you may think your target market is limitless your marketing budget certainly isn’t! So, instead of trying to ‘boil the ocean’ let’s instead try to characterise the needs of particular segments or groups of a market. The focus of your marketing strategy should be to identify their needs through market research and address those needs more successfully than your competition. By matching your strengths to the particular needs of a segment in the market place will give you the greatest chance of success. For example, there might be a market segment that considers quality first and foremost. If this matches your strength as a business that delivers a quality product then all your marketing activity should highlight the high quality of your product or service.
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