How To Find The Information You Need To Create A Marketing Plan

by Tom Egelhoff

As I have mentioned before on this site, my definition of marketing is that "Marketing creates value." So when you create your marketing plan your goal will be to devise a plan that will clearly define the value of your products or services in the form of customer benefits. Next, how you intend to present that message to your target market in the form of advertising or some other venue.

In order to construct your marketing plan effectively you need a plan of what types of information you need and where to find that information. For example: you will want to identify all your target markets. Yes, you may have more than one target market. You would also need information about your competition and how they operate and what your strengths and weaknesses are in competing against them. There are of course many more and space prohibits dealing with all of them but there are a few that are common to almost all small town businesses.

The Two Biggest Mistakes You'll Make

Small businesses usually make two very costly mistakes on most marketing plans.

Mistake 1.) They guess at who their target market is. Now there may be some guesswork involved but at least you what them to be educated guesses. Small businesses don't go to the the trouble to do the research necessary to really identify their real target markets. They think they know their customers from a day to day meeting with them but usually their perception is wrong. Do you know why your customers buy what they buy from you? If not, See: "Understanding Why Customers Buy." For information on identifying your target market See: "Target Marketing: Who They Are, How To Find Them."

We all see what we want to see. We sometimes tend to ignore or forget that customer who didn't find what they were looking for. For example: Customer is looking for a widget that sells for $19.95 and you either don't carry it or are out of it. You may dismiss this encounter as unimportant information for your marketing plan. But what you are unaware of is that each of your salespeople had five people each that month looking the that widget.

There is now a market for this product but because of a lack of communication no one knows it. If a record of customer requests could be generated by salespeople then this market could be identified and added into the marketing plan.

Mistake 2.) The positioning of your business. If you are unsure what I mean by positioning your business See: "How To Develop Your Position Strategy." New or start-up businesses tend to want to be all things to all people. They want to make everybody happy and spend extra money doing something for a customer that they really have no business doing. A steak house is certainly able to serve the equivalent of a Big Mac® but that's not what their business is all about. The steak house serves steak and they leave the fast food burgers to McDonalds.

Even though they have the ability to do what the customer requests, that request falls outside the profitable goals and strategies of the business. Microsoft might have the capability to make cake mix but they don't. It's not what the marketing plan says they should concentrate on that will create a profit for the company.

What Do You Need And Where Can You Find It?

There are at least four major areas that you much have information about before you can create your marketing plan.

Your Business Resume - By that I mean you need to sit down and write out everything that makes your business what it is. What are the strengths of your product or service? Could you write a marketing plan for my product if you didn't know anything about it? This exercise is the most important part of your plan. Everything else in the plan is based on this section. For some help with part, See: Chapter Two: Step One: The Business Resume from my book "How To Market, Advertise And Promote Your Business Or Service In a Small Town."

Target Market - You must know your target markets. These are the people who are most likely to want your products and/or services. The will fall into a pretty specific profile; age, income, education, marital status, children and many other criteria. For ways to identify your target market; See: "Target Marketing: Who They Are, How To Find Them." Once you are sure you have your target market identified then the next step is what is your message to them?

Your Product Message - Paul Revere once said, "The Redcoats are coming." A pretty important message in American History. Was this message logical or emotional? One could say it was a little bit of both. But, how would the customer react to this message? Does this message inspire a direct "call to action?" I would say Yes. Your advertising message must do more than just let customers know that you have a product. That message must also "create value" in the minds of your target market. In other words for every feature that you offer the customer a real benefit of the feature must be demonstrated. For ways to create product benefits See: "How To Develop Product Benefits That Sell."

How to get the message to them - If you haven't heard it before hear it now. Advertising must always be an investment, never an expense. There must be at least a 75% certainty that the adverting is going to produce more business than it costs. The profits from your business pay your rent, electricity, insurance and other expenses yet you probably don't run your business without heat or lights. You probably do your best to pay your rent on time. None of these expenses produce one single customer. Yet you pay them without hesitation. Advertising does produce customers that will pay for all these things yet is is often the first item to be cut or reduced from the budget.

In order to determine the best form of advertising for you you must know where your target market is. Do they listen to the radio? If so, what stations? Do they read the local paper? Magazines? Is the best way to reach them direct mail? For advertising tips see: "Checklist Of What Works In Print, Radio, TV, Direct Mail and Outdoor Ads" and "25 Low Cost Advertising Tips."

These are certainly not the only points that must be addressed in the creation of a marketing plan. But, they are probably the top four. Without these, you cannot make a marketing plan. You must know yourself and you absolutely must know your market.

The Last Word On How To Find Information To Create A Marketing Plan

Here are some other sources of information to help you create a successful marketing plan. The very best is your own local library. There you will find the Encyclopedia of Associations and Encyclopedia of Periodicals. These two reference books will show you who to contact in your specific industry that can help you with your plans and answer your direct questions because they are in your business.

You'll find many other good sources of information on all sorts of business and legal subjects at: "How And Where To Find Small Business Information."

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