The purpose of business is to get and keep customers – something that’s difficult to do without a marketing plan. Such a document provides you with direction. It tells you how to develop products or services that will satisfy customer demands, communicate the benefits of your products and services to customers, and guarantee satisfaction. In essence, it is a plan that enables you to encourage people to do business with your organisation. Here are some important aspects to consider…

1. Remember: marketing is everybody’s job.

Everyone in your organisation is involved in marketing your company’s products or services. They may not actually work in the marketing department, or be directly responsible for finding customers, but they will all in some way be in a position to contribute to the organisation’s success in gaining and retaining customers. For this reason, you, and your key employees, should have some understanding of what the process of marketing involves as it applies to your organisation…

2. Generate marketable products or services.

Do you have products, ideas, concepts, or services that you have screened and tested to ensure they will satisfy customer need and that are potentially profitable? Have you analysed your product’s life cycle in order to predict its sales pattern over a period of time? Do you continue the search for new products and services? If you don’t have a durable, marketable product, you won’t build up and hold a customer base.

3. Profile your competition.

How well do you know those organisations that compete for your customers? Who exactly are your competitors? What are their strong and weak points? Gather as much information as you can on their marketing and communication strategies, types of advertising, their product, price and markets, and how they take advantage of changes in the industry. Identify any areas in the market that are not filled by your competitors’ products or services, and that could be exploited by yours. Remember, your competitors will probably be watching you also.

4. Analyse market opportunities.

Market research is essential. Assemble information about your organisation’s current and potential markets, about the users of your products or services, and about those areas where your company has the competitive advantage when it comes to introducing new products, improving current products, or entering new market territories.

This market profile should include your current and future markets’ size, growth potential, barriers, key players and the existence of particular niches. If yours is a small to medium business enterprise, remember that research tells us that 75 per cent of your customers come from within a five kilometre radius of your business. In Australia, print and electronic rssources are available providing demographic information to assist you build a viable customer base.

5. Target your market.

Based on the information you have gathered, and on the skills and resources of your organisation, you should now be able to select specific target markets. If you are not in the mass marketing business, i.e. you don’t offer your product or service to all-comers, then are you in a position to pinpoint those segments of the market at which your specific products should be targeted?

6. Develop an appropriate marketing mix.

Your preliminary research will now enable you to consider the 4Ps of marketing. This is the set of controllable variables that all companies attempt to blend into the right combination to achieve the dominant position in the marketplace. The four key factors are: Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. In the long run, the success you have in addressing these four components will determine your success in the marketplace.

7. Forecast sales potential.

You will need to produce a detailed outline of your sales targets, a plan for achieving those goals, and costs to be incurred in attracting customers.

8. Develop a strategy for publicising your product.

If you have the products or services people want, and are prepared to pay for, then your next step is to bring these to people’s attention. You will need to develop a strategy to address advertising and promotion of the product, new product launches, sales campaigns, and distribution policies. How can you get value for your advertising dollar? Are there more cost-effective ways to promote your product? Should you be using more than one method? Do you need to promote your product all year?

9. Review your performance regularly.

Unless you monitor the progress of your marketing plan, you will run the risk of not finding out until too late that the plan is not working. Check sales results constantly to ensure targets are being achieved within expenditure budgets. Amend your plan as required in the light of your findings.

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