A business plan is an argument supported by data and analogies on why future customers will buy a company's product or service. Many plans are effective at making the case on some of these basic questions: What problem is the business trying to solve? What is the company's solution and what will it sell for? Who is the management team? Unfortunately, what many business plans leave out is the company's marketing strategy for teaching targeted prospects about their product and actually getting them to purchase it.
Sometimes business owners think if the company builds the best product, prospects will automatically buy it. Unfortunately, the market is filled with innovative products that no one ever purchases. Contrary to that popular quote, just because you build it, doesn't mean people will come.
Why Having a Marketing Strategy Can Help
The marketing strategy section inside of a business plan can help determine exactly who your prospects are, how they will be reached, what will be said when they are found and how they will be converted and retained.
In this part of the plan, it's important to first understand your market and the competition inside it. Markets change rapidly, and new competition can pop up daily from every corner of the internet.
You can identify your competition by answering the question, “What does the prospect do to currently solve the pain that our company focuses on?" Make sure that your targeted marketing niche is as well-defined as possible. For example, the market should not be identified only as "children's games," but instead "educational children's electronic games for ages two to five to be used on a smartphone or tablet."
There can be direct as well as indirect competitors. An indirect competitor of car rental company at the airport may be ride-sharing services or traveling by public transportation. An important part of your marketing strategy is understanding what each competitor charges for the value that they offer and when is a prospect likely to choose one instead of the other.
How to Develop a Marketing Strategy
Overall, identifying what's currently being done well or poorly can help you meet the needs of prospective customers in your selected market niche. Is the market expanding or shrinking, and what changes are happening in adjacent areas that might represent new opportunities? For example, car riding services replacing taxis also has affected the food delivery business.
After this is completed, you can then list the variety of marketing strategies and channels that will be used to make your prospects aware of the solution when they need it. I think this step is critical because I believe that companies actually can't just sell anything to anyone. Instead they need to be there when those prospects are ready to buy.
This can mean using a variety of tactics to reach the right prospects over a long period of time, such as online marketing (content, social media and/or search engine advertising) or direct marketing (phone calling, trade shows, press releases and/or events). Getting the name of a targeted prospect and being able to market to them over a long period of time can help you eventually meet their needs.
An important part of your marketing strategy is determining the cost of acquiring a customer. You can compare this with the lifetime value of that customer to help make sure that the marketing investment is profitable. Based on the marketing strategy, your marketing team can discuss what collateral will be needed to support these tactics.
You may want to develop offers to attract new prospects. Consider offering free trials, money-back guarantees or special packages at a discount. You can discuss other conversion strategies that can be used such as content-rich email marketing, calling scripts and ad remarketing campaigns.
Marketing tactics can also be developed through strategic alliances and partnerships. Consider finding other companies that sell to the same market segment, but are not competitors. Sometimes identifying the right prospect and partners that can help solve this initial issue can be difficult. For example, companies that sell security fencing can share some of the same prospects of those that sell electronic security systems.
Finally. the product or service distribution plan needs to describe exactly how prospects will buy and take delivery from the company. This can be over the internet, through retail locations, direct sales reps or other resellers.
Keep all of this in mind when creating your business plan, and try not to leave out the marketing strategy. While it can be difficult to develop, a marketing strategy may impact the ultimate success of your company.
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