Marketing Basics: the foundation to a successful marketing plan


Marketing is both an art and science that plays a defining role in the success of most businesses, so it’s no surprise that most business owners seek outside advice in this area. If you’re not an expert in this marketing, it can be overwhelming when you realize that every aspect of your business that’s experienced by your customers is a form of marketing.

Effective marketing means taking it step-by-step – don’t just jump to the tactics – the “where” and “how” you’ll market your product or service. This is one time when going by your gut won’t cut it – you need to go through a proper marketing process to build important insights that will help you develop a strategic marketing plan. Doing so can further your sales instead of relying on reactionary tactics that may result in a waste of time and money.

But before considering where and how to market your business, you need to get familiar with your potential clients – your target audiences.

TARGET AUDIENCES

Every business has a primary target audience that they’re hoping to attract, and often secondary and tertiary target audiences too.

Primary Target Audience: These are the potential customers that are most likely to buy your product.

Secondary Target Audience: Not as obvious as the primary target audience, this next group of customers represents a promising market for additional sales and may require a different marketing strategy.

Tertiary Target Market: Even less obvious than the primary and secondary audiences, this third group of customers will be less likely to buy from you but is still worth pursuing.

Ideally, you want to market aggressively to your primary target audience. If budget allows, include your secondary and tertiary target audiences. Each target audience needs to be well defined, so you’ll need to do some brainstorming on their ages, income levels, gender, family make-up, and lifestyle, such as activities they enjoy doing. Visualize as much as possible – create a collection of pictures that represents your target audiences to remind you of who you’re trying to reach and what’s important to them. You might be surprised to uncover marketing opportunities you hadn’t thought of before.

You’ll also need to research your target audiences to determine the type of media they’re exposed to. You can source articles online for media audience statistics including television, radio, newspaper, outdoor and Internet. This exercise will help you find out how your target audiences like to receive information.

With a good grasp of who your target audiences are, you can move on to evaluating and selecting the right marketing mix. There are four pillars to consider here – the four “P’s” of marketing.

Building your marketing plan’s four “P’s”

The four “P’s” are the elements of a solid marketing plan and each deserve equal research and attention as defining your target audiences.

Product

Your product or service and its design play a major role in marketing. Aspects of packaging, quality, key features and names all contribute to making something “marketable” – something that meets the needs of a target audience and stands out from the competition.

Price

The price of your product or service is also part of your marketing strategy. You need to determine if what you’re offering is filling a gap and what price the market will bear.

Your pricing strategy should account for the competition and perceived value of your product or service to help you decide on the best way to price it:

Value Pricing: Being the lowest priced product or service in the market may help you attract customers, but is not always the best strategy unless you are planning for high volume sales, fast growth, and are willing to make this strategy long term.

Mid price-range: A cost that is not too high and not too low is a viable pricing strategy because it will allow you to appeal to a wider group of customers.

Premium Pricing: This strategy involves pricing high to meet your target audiences’ perception of your product or service having higher quality or being more desirable in its class.

Your business plan will need to include your sales forecasts and pricing strategy before going to market. If the selling price ends up higher than what the market will bear, you may need to rethink your production process or product design to ensure a lower cost. A great idea is not always marketable if it can’t be sold at an acceptable price. Do your homework on product costs before going too far in the development of your product or service.

Place

Place refers to where, and sometimes how, your product or service will be available to your target audiences. This is another area where your target audience research pays off. You can decide if marketing your business online or in a high traffic retail area will help increase your sales. You might discover places you hadn’t thought of before such as offices, your home or someone else’s home. You’ll also know if some options are out of the question – some products that need to be “tried on for size” may not appeal to potential customers if only offered through an online store.

It’s also important to know if your target audience will buy your product or service as an impulse buy or a well-researched purchase. Will people go out of their way for your product or service so that you can have a “destination” retail location, or will your business offering need to be located within a mall or high traffic area around other complimentary businesses? Location is key, however high rent spots are not always necessary. Knowing all of this information will help you develop your distribution strategy.

Promotion

Ah, the fun part, the part where most people jump to first – promotion! Promotion is how and where you’ll market your product or service. There are endless choices on how you can market your business, includingadvertising, direct mail, sponsorships, trade shows, public relations, websites, and partnerships, to name a few. It’s easy to get caught up on the right logo or slogan for what you’re marketing, but this is icing on the cake. Yes, promotion is an important pillar for your business, but you need to build a strong foundation – the rest of your marketing plan – before you start designing the promotion of your product or service.

Mastering the marketing basics isn’t something that comes easily to every business owner. If it’s not your forte, or you’re too busy to dedicate the required time to your marketing plan, engage a consultant or marketing coach to help refine your existing strategy or develop the specifics of your marketing plan. An experienced consultant will advise you on effective strategies without expensive trial and error, as well as educate you on the marketing planning process to empower you when you go to market.

Published in The Mompreneur, January 2010  issue. Comments have been disabled due to a high amount of SPAM!