Lynne Franks talks about including a marketing strategy in your business plan.
What are you selling and to whom?
The section of your business plan that covers marketing should precisely define your products or services, and your customers. You may think you know exactly what these aspects of your enterprise consist of, but a fresh, close examination of what you're selling and to whom is always beneficial.
Perhaps your vision is of a health food shop, but are you really certain what types of food you re going to sell? Will you include fresh fruit and vegetables? What about bread and dairy products? Will you also sell vitamins and cosmetics? Is there a shop in your area that's already selling health food? If so, how is yours going to be different? Who is your store specifically aimed at?
You need to include a full explanation of your offer together with the market you are aiming at. Give your assessment of your market, whether it s growing or stagnant, and what competition is out there. Get out all your research on your product or service, and use it to write this section of your business plan. Then define your specific customer, incorporating all the appropriate lifestyle information about them.
If you're thinking of opening an exclusive women's spa, for example, you could be aiming your business at the following potential customers:
Women aged between 25 and 25, mostly professional workers with disposable income, a high rent or mortgage, who eat out three times a week. They tend to join clubs, want to feel special, and read Vogue, Marie Claire, and Elle. They don't watch much TV but do surf the Net; they spend a lot of money on fashion and beauty, read books, and like to think they are organic. They are mostly single, and earn upward of £30,000 a year.
In a more general sense, they are a growing market of independent working women, who are not impressed with old-fashioned, aspirational advertising, are very health orientated, don't wear heavy make-up, and exercise at least twice a week.
This is all hypothetical of course. But it gives you an idea of how to analyse your potential client or customer and her lifestyle. The more specific and accurate your analysis, the more impressed with your thoroughness and expertise your potential investors will be. It will also help you tremendously when strategising your communication plan.
There are many ways of communicating a business's message to its market. You may have some very original ideas for doing so. But there are certain marketing basics to keep in mind when developing your plan.
DIRECT MAIL using promotional material or a personal letter, is one approach that is most common in business-to-business communication.
LOCATION and SHOP WINDOWS are often the most effective marketing tools you have if you are in retail, although good publicity and advertising will help, if you have the budget or contacts.
TRADE EXHIBITIONS are important, if you're manufacturing or wholesale, as part of developing a brand awareness campaign.
NETWORKING in both your community and industry is important to establish your company's reputation.
PUBLICITY and ADVERTISING, whether you're selling a product or service to the consumer or to the business sector, are always important. You can oversee these efforts yourself or use a consultant.
WEBSITE telling your company's story and linking into as many other relevant websites as you can get to is more important than ever. Include an aspect of e-commerce in your business plan, explaining where you will sell your product or service on the Internet, if not for right now, certainly for the future. Websites are expensive to design unless you or a close friend is a cyber wizard. You can get quoted anything from a few thousand pounds up to half a million to design one. Find yourself a wizard, who can help you create a dynamite site for a reasonable price.
As with any aspect of business, there is no mystery to marketing. Having studied, analysed, and thought about your potential customer, you should be clear about who you are trying to sell to by now. Just think about what would encourage someone to come to you for your product or service. What might they read or see that would motivate or impress them?
And what is the most that you can afford to budget for your marketing costs? Ask your accountant or financial adviser for some help in determining this. You ll need an approximate figure for the final section of your business plan - the financial strategy.