A Strategic Marketing Plan For Your Business: Start With Market Research
Small businesses create jobs and stimulate the economy. Politicians and economists alike bring up the success of small business as the engine of economic growth. But to drive economic growth, and to be successful and to grow your small business, you may need some help with your small business marketing plan. Developing a strategic marketing plan for your business is important in order to track the effectiveness of your marketing efforts and make your limited funds go further. However, the success of the small business does not necessarily rely on sales volume; rather it depends on fulfilling an unchartered customer need and providing a specialized product or service at a profit for the company while controlling growth and maintaining high customer satisfaction. Lack of marketing budget make a strategic marketing plan all the more important; the solution for small business owners is to optimize available marketing funds by targeting the right customer segments and locales, and using the right tools such as media and social networking to create a buzz for you. The first step in developing a strategic marketing plan is to conduct solid research on your industry.
Conducting Market Research:
Conducting market research will help you focus on your brand and target a specific market for your products and services. Find out what customers in your marketplace want or need, and then examine your competition for services they provide, their marketing strategies, successes and failures. Researching economic, demographic and marketing trends in your industry will also help you hone in on a strategy so you don’t reinvent the wheel. These are the three areas you should focus your research:
What customer need is your service or product fulfilling? Is there another related or more pressing need that you could or should address? Once you have framed the question in this way you can create and distribute surveys and questionnaires that are designed to reveal your customer needs, or unearth needs that are not being met in your marketplace. Focus groups are another great primary source for understanding customers’ attitudes. Don’t rely on family memebrs or friends for focus group or survey participants, as these are likely to result in sympathetic and misleading data. There are a number of companies that can help you find survey participants and real user feedback.
Research your competition by looking at how they market their products and services. How successful are the marketing campaigns? What elements do they include, or not, in their strategies? Conduct a comparison analysis of your products and services to theirs. Is there a customer need that your products and services fulfill that others do not?
Keep up to date with economic, political and marketing trends that impact your industry so you can develop an effective, proactive marketing strategy that responds to ever-changing market conditions and optimizes opportunities in the marketplace.
It is often possible to find results of meta-studies or large scale research studies that are relevant to your business. Using these secondary sources is significantly cheaper than conducting primary research yourself. The most effective use of secondary research, however, is to inform and direct the questions posed in a survey or a focus group – by asking the right questions of your customers the first time, you will save money, but you will also have information that is not publicly available to your competitors In the long run, taking this step will save you money and time because the information will provide you a working footprint for developing an integrated marketing plan that is singular and effective. This market research is the first step in combining your small business marketing ideas into a coherent, integrated marketing plan.
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