The best product or service in the world will not guarantee success for your business. Potential customers must purchase your product or service in order for you to survive and grow. Developing and implementing a marketing strategy is a necessary process for a successful business. This process begins as you start your business, and it must remain an ongoing process throughout the life of your business.
Marketing is neither sales nor advertising, although both of these may be part of a marketing strategy. Instead, marketing is the thought process by which you:
- Identify the product or service you really sell
- Identify potential customers for your product or service
- Identify your competitors in selling to these customers
- Understand the basis on which those potential customers make buying decisions
- Know why customers will choose to purchase your product or service instead of your competitors'
- Determine the most efficient and effective methods to reach these buyers before they make their purchasing decisions
- Identify methods to deliver your product or service
- Develop an action plan
Identify the product or service you sell
This step is the foundation of all that follow. The key here is to identify your "market niche," not only in terms of the needs you fill. For instance, a residential lawn service provides lawn cutting, fertilization and so on. One need this business fill is the need for convenience on the part of "time poor" homeowners.
Identify potential customers for your product or service
Your potential customers are those whose needs may be filled by your product and service, and who may reasonably be expected to consider your business as a source of this product or service based on price, location and other factors. Everyone in the world is not your potential customer; you must focus on an attainable and realistic portion of the market.
Identify your competitors in selling to these customers
Your competitors are those businesses who fill the same need you do. They may or may not be in the same business you are. For instance, companies providing guard services to warehouses and those selling alarm systems to warehouses are to some extent competitors, even though they are not in the same industry.
Understand the basis on which those potential customers make buying decisions
Customers buy different products or services for different reasons, including:
and others. You must understand the basis on which customers make buying decisions related to your type of product or service.
Know why customers will choose to purchase your product or service instead of your competitors.
Based on the above analysis, you must determine the nature of your competitive advantage. If, for instance, your potential customers buy solely on the basis of price, are your prices the lowest? If not, how will you compete? Be cautious in this analysis. Your potential customers probably have established buying patterns which do not include you. You must give them sufficient reason to break these established patterns and buy from you if your business is to succeed.
Determine the most efficient and effective methods to reach these buyers before they make their purchasing decisions
Having determined why potential customers buy your type of product or service and why they will choose you, you are in a position to identify how they make their buying decisions. Do they typically buy because they've seen an advertisement in the telephone book or because they have driven by your place of business? Is this type of product or service generally purchased on the recommendation of another individual? Knowing how people "will" find you ensures that your marketing dollars are spent in the most productive way possible.
Identify methods to deliver your product or service
The most enthusiastic purchaser is unlikely to become a repeat customer if the product or service does not live up to his or her expectations, or if it is not delivered in a timely fashion.
Develop an action plan
You know what you need to do. Now you must develop specific, deliverable step that will enable you to do it. For assistance in developing your own marketing plan, contact the Silicon Valley - SBDC Office at (408) 385-4800.