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Creating a Marketing Plan

-- 2011-01-24 3:00 am --

Too often businesses open their doors fully expecting a large customer base to suddenly appear. In reality, it is up to the business owner to draw the customers in. The key to growing and maintaining a profitable small business is developing an effective marketing plan, complete with the following components.

Product or Service Development and Design
Development and design includes deciding what products or services your business will provide, what purpose they will serve, and at what cost. Details such as product color, size and packaging are selected during this process. Development and design turns an idea into a reality.

Research the Competition
Find out how long your closest competitors have been in business, what products or services they offer and how much they charge for them. Learn your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses to help improve your advertising plan.

Research Your Target Customers
Knowing details about the customers you are trying to reach helps you create an effective advertising plan. Age, gender and location are common factors when determining your target customers.

Advertising
Although there are many avenues available, generally the most valuable method of advertising is word of mouth. Ask your satisfied customers to share their experiences with their friends and family. Networking groups can also help increase your customer base. Many business owners will display your business cards or brochures at their location if you agree to place their materials at yours.

Another useful tool is your website. Several companies offer free or low cost sites with easy, do-it-yourself instructions. When preparing text for your website be mindful of search engine optimization, or SEO. Using commonly searched for keywords and creating links to and from your site are ways to become more visible to search engines. Be warned that designing a website can be a daunting task If you are unfamiliar with the proper website setup procedures, it might be advisable to consult a professional.

Printed material like newspapers, magazine and direct marketing materials can reach a larger audience. Other media such as radio and television also get your information out to the masses. Make sure your printed material is being sent to people in your target demographics.

Branding
Your brand is the image you want your customers to have of your business. Being known as faster, cheaper or friendlier than the competition are a few of the endless possibilities. Decide how you want your business to be perceived and then take the appropriate actions to make that perception a reality. Create a slogan or motto for your company to support your brand. Make sure your slogan is catchy, compact and easy to remember. A memorable slogan goes a long way toward reinforcing your brand.

Marketing strategies should be reviewed at regular intervals to assure your plan remains effective and keeps up with current market trends and services or product lines offered. Whether you are opening a new business or you have been in business for years, making a marketing plan can be both beneficial and financially rewarding.