Write a marketing plan to take your product from a good idea to profit

Your marketing plan doesn’t have to ever make the best-seller list, but it should be written well enough to have a clearly drawn roadmap to guide the marketing side of your business. It is an integral part of your overall business plan, an essential component in turning your business from a “good idea” to a profitable operation, and it is proof to funding sources, both lenders and investors, that you have thought about how you ultimately sell your product or service and make money doing it.

No two marketing plans are exactly the same, but all that work contain the same fundamental elements. Follow this basic structure:

– Define your product. You need to know precisely what your product or service is and what it will do for your customers. Be very specific. Successful marketing requires a solid understanding of the features and benefits of every aspect of your product.

– Identify your customers. Who will buy your product and why? Again, be specific. Where do these people live and work? How much money do they earn? How often will they buy? Understand various purchasing sensibilities such as the importance of brand, location, warranty, and price.

– Identify your competition. Know your competition as well as you know yourself. Who else sells what you sell? Where are they? How do they market? How similar are your products? What are the comparative advantages and disadvantages between what they do and what you plan to do? What is your pricing structure? What do your customers like and dislike about them? What would make your customers buy from you instead?

You may believe that you have no direct competition; that is, no one else in your market is doing exactly what you are doing. But if that’s the case, how do you know there’s a need for your business? And how are your potential customers currently meeting that need?

– Set your prices. How much you charge affects both your profitability and your position in the market. Understand what your costs are, what competitors are charging, and how your pricing relates to your overall marketing strategy.

– Explain how you will interact with your customers. This includes the general promotion of your business, as well as the actual sales process. How will potential customers learn about you? What will lead them to you? Will you advertise? Make personal calls? Put up clever posters? Do you use the Internet? Will you have a retail store, be in an office complex or industrial park, or will you be based in your home? Once a potential customer realizes what you have to offer, how will you convert them from prospect to buyer? How will they actually receive the product? Will they come to you or will you hand them over?

Develop a very specific plan and plan for it at least a year in advance. Incorporate what you will be doing for the holidays and other special events, such as trade shows. Consider the waiting time required; For example, if a yellow page ad or special directory ad is important to your overall marketing plan, what is the deadline to place the ad and when will the new directory be distributed?

Along with what you are going to do, calculate what it will cost and what you hope the result will be. Although you can’t always accurately predict the results, you should have a solid reason for spending money before you do. The cost of marketing will vary by industry, but a general average is five percent of sales. Regardless of how much you spend, spend it in the methods that will give you the greatest return on your marketing investment.

As you develop your plans, keep in mind that this is not a linear process. For example, you might start with a particular product, and then as you study the demographics of your market, realize that you can capture a larger share of that market with a few product tweaks. What you learn from studying your competition may prompt you to make changes to your plans for engaging with your market. You also need to factor your production capacity into your marketing plan: do you have the capacity to produce a sufficient amount of product to meet your sales projections?

This is why you should give yourself plenty of physical space as you develop your marketing plan. Even if you’re using a business plan program on your computer, take notes on large sheets of paper and post them on the wall so you can easily see how each part of the marketing plan interacts with the other. While these software products vary in depth and quality, many are excellent, the basic physical limitations of a computer monitor force you to focus on one item at a time and don’t allow you to see the big picture without printing out your plan. .

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