One of the main difficulties faced by any entrepreneur is that advertising has changed and evolved over the last few years. It now includes audio, visual, and electronic media. Website programming of all sorts allows you to interact with your customers. And that is just the tip of the iceberg!
The Internet has made unbelievable amounts of information accessible, but it has also contributed to information overload. An effective advertising / marketing campaign is not about being everything to everyone, but is about having a conversation with your ideal customer and measuring those results through sales and/or feedback.
Advertising: Advertising is an attempt to influence the buying behaviour of your customers or clients by providing a persuasive selling message about your offerings. Technically, advertising is only one way of promoting your business; ensure that whatever form of advertising you choose fits in with your marketing plan, strategy, and budget.
Forms of advertising:
- Bench / bus stop advertising
- Billboards and signage
- Business cards
- Direct mail
- Paid ads on TV and radio, and in newspapers and magazines
- Pay per click advertising on the Internet
- Sending promos with invoices
- Sponsored links on websites
- Vehicle advertising
- Yellow Page listings
Marketing: Marketing is a process of interesting potential customers and clients in your offerings. The key word in this marketing definition is “process”: marketing involves researching, promoting, selling, and distributing your products or services. Marketing involves everything that you do to match your potential customers to your product or service.
Forms of marketing:
- Attend industry tradeshows and networking events.
- Create a customer feedback form and make suggested improvements.
- Create joint ventures and collaborative approaches with complementary enterprises.
- If your staff or company has made a mistake, apologize immediately and compensate your customer appropriately.
- Include positive customer feedback on your website or brochure.
- Respond in a timely fashion to telephone messages, emails, and written correspondence.
- Reward your present customers for passing on the word to your future customers such as rebates, discounts, and thank you letters.
- Satisfy your customers’ needs to the best of your ability and to the level of service that you advertise. Do as you say.
- Sponsor a youth sports team or fundraising event.
- Submit press releases to local media. Often!
- Volunteer on a board related to your industry.
- Write a letter or article in your local newspaper or trade magazine offering tricks and tips from your industry.
Here are some of the major areas and questions, by category, that you can ask in order to develop your marketing plan:
1. Know your audience.
- What do they want?
- Where do they shop?
- What do they read?
- How old are they?
- Where do they hang out?
- Do they need your product or service?
- Can they afford your product or service?
2. Know your competition — be prepared to do a little detective work.
- What are your three main competitors doing to advertise and market themselves?
- Where are they advertising? How often?
- What types of advertising methods are they using?
- What types of marketing methods are they using?
- How long have they been operating?
- Are you reaching the same audience?
- Is your message different?
- What about your message differentiates you from the competition?
3. Examine what the larger businesses in your industry are doing.
- Adapt their tactics for your audience, business niche, and budget.
4. Know your message.
- What exactly are you trying to say?
- What do your customers want to hear?
- Why should they buy from you and not someone else?
Write your marketing plan in five subsections:
1. Target Market / Competitive Analysis
You will need to understand the size of the target market for your product or service, and the number of competitors that already satisfy (or don’t) the market you are attempting to break into with your new business idea. The target market section should cover:
- Outline your target market — age, gender, where they live, income, buying habits, etc.
- Total size of target market in terms of gross sales and/or numbers of units sold.
- Trends affecting the target market (refer to your SWOT and PEST analyses).
- Summarize your competition’s characteristics — include estimates of market share, your sense of their financial health, comparison of products / services to yours. Include your direct and indirect competition in this analysis.
2. Services / Products
Your marketing strategy should communicate what makes your product or service unique.
- What is the one thing that makes your product or service unique? This is called your ‘unique selling proposition’.
- What other competitive advantages does your product have: packaging, utility, quality, service, availability, etc.?
- What benefits will your customers enjoy by buying your product or service: save money, feel better, experience new sights, etc.?
3. Pricing Strategy
An important part of marketing is determining the price of your product or service. If your prices are too high for your customers, some will pass you by. If you do not charge enough, some may question the value of your offerings. Some markets and products will be price sensitive — consider what pricing says about your company and your products.
- Using the worksheet provided, calculate your fixed and variable costs. Summarize how you arrived at your base costs and/or justify it through market price, and then calculate how long it will take to break-even.
- Are you offering discounts to volume customers, wholesale prices to distributors or agents, discounts to cash vs. credit card payments?
- Does fair market price allow you to run a profitable business from which the owners can make a decent living?
4. Sales / Distribution Plan
Your sales / distribution plan should detail how the transaction between you and your customer will take place. You need to explain in detail what type of distribution channels are available to you: account representatives, sales people, internet referrals, delivery services, wholesalers, and retailers. Analyze the various stops and routes in your distribution plan for possible efficiencies or duplications, cost-savings, and excessive costs.
- How will you distribute your product or service? Will it be in one region, provincial, national, international? Outline all of the steps and different companies in the chain. Consider what might happen if a business defaults or closes. Do you have alternate sources for the same service?
- How can your customers pay for their product? Will you provide credit terms? How will you handle deposits, refunds, returns, discounts?
- What kind of after-sales support will you offer? Will you charge for this service?
5. Advertising and Promotions Plan
Your advertising and promotions plan must detail how you are going to communicate to your customers and prospects. If possible, provide an example of a mock-up of your brochure, website pages, advertisements, etc.
- What principles, operating procedures, and company objectives will embed your marketing plan in day-to-day operations of your business?
- What training will you offer your staff in the areas of promotion, customer service and support, and industry “best” notoriety?
- What is your annual advertising plan? Is there some initial start-up advertising that will start sales flowing? Consider the annual buying habits of your customers, cyclical nature of your business, and cash flow constraints of your company.
- What are your start-up costs for producing: brochures, business cards, hosting and creation of a website, signage for your vehicle and office location, association membership dues, telephone directory listings, and grand opening celebrations (to name a few!).
- How will you measure the success of your advertising and marketing? How will you research new trends in communications, public relations, and advertising?