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Reading all the recent posts about other Rainers plans for 2007 got me thinking about my own marketing plan. I was asking my father's advise, as I always do and he stressed the importance of having a comprehensive marketing and sales plan.
I did eek out a tentative bullet style action plan when I first started my new business 6 monts ago; but honestly my strategies have changed as have the demographic that I plan to target (thanks largely to my participaiton here on ActiveRain I as able to find my niche). So in addition to being insufficient, it is also largely antiquated. However the idea of writing a complete business plan seemed insurmountable.
That's when my father gave me an article he wrote on the same subject a few years back. I found it so useful I asked his permission to post it here for the rest of you. I did quite a bit of tweeking, but the majority of the text is my fathers.
HOW TO WRITE A SALES AND MARKETING PLAN by Mike Adams
Why take the time to write a sales and marketing plan? Simple: If you don't know where you want to go, how will you ever get there?
Actually, all businesses do have some form of business plan; it just may not be in writing. If you are daunted by the prospect of writing one, don't worry, there are many resources available to help. The U.S. Small Business Association has a series of publications as well as freeware and shareware software programs and templates that make writing a business plan much easier. SBA's website has these and many other resources available at: http://www.sbaonline.sba.gov/
The sales and marketing plan is an integral part of a good business plan, but it is usually not given the attention it deserves. Some companies pride themselves on the fact that they have no marketing or sales efforts. They say, "We have grown to this size just on word of mouth," Or "Salesmen are a waste of money." These companies generally have one person who deals with the customers, usually the owner, who is, in reality, the salesperson. Unfortunately, the owner usually also manages the production, makes deliveries and does anything else that needs to be done in a crisis.
This way of thinking will always limit the size of a company. That size varies with each individual; it is the amount of sales and production that one person can handle. If a company wants to grow past that level, it must have sales and marketing efforts, and any company involved in these efforts should have a written plan. What justifies the additional time and effort you'll spend creating a written plan? An increased chance for success. More specifically, a plan is:
A reality check when you first examine the results of your efforts
A timetable, helping you to coordinate all the activities
A tool that helps you evaluate your position in the market
A vehicle for tracking the progress of your plan
A blueprint for adjusting your efforts to respond to changes in the market
A starting point for future planning
Where Are You Now? This question involves more than just the current sales figures. Who are you as a company? What do your customers think of you? Do you specialize in one or more segments of the market? Do you sell to customers nationwide? Regionally? Locally?
Where Do You Want To Go? Some organizations really do not want to grow, and that's okay. However, if growth is a goal, you need to ask, "where do I want to go?" The answer might be "I want to increase sales by 50% of current levels each year for the next four years" or "I want to be the leading company in my region within two years." If you want to grow, however, you must be ready to increase production and willing to accept all the changes growth brings.
The Market The next step is to identify your market. Asking the following questions helps to clarify this. What is the market? How large is the market? Where is the market headed? How is the market segmented? Who is your competition? How are they marketing? Why do customers buy from you instead of the competition? Why do customers buy from the competition instead of you? Is your company perceived as a technological leader or follower? Is your company aggressive and not averse to risk-taking, or do you plan to grow carefully and slowly? Have you acquired an reputation for fast and reliable service by expanding your business only as quickly as your service organization can support it? Do you aim for the high-priced, high-quality end of the market, or does your company try to make an adequate product that can capture a large market share by selling at a low price?
Market Research Some of the answers to the questions above can be answered by trade associations, magazines, and journals. The most important aspect of market research, though, is feedback from prospective buyers. How do they feel about the product or service you are offering? What do they like, and what do they dislike? Getting such information, of course, requires that you speak with these prospects or get them to fill out questionnaires. In any case, the more hard data you have from potential buyers about their needs and preferences, the more valuable the marketing plan will be.
Writing the Plan Once you have answered the questions above, you are ready to begin writing the plan. If you plan to consult with a sales and marketing firm, this would be a good time to bring them into the picture. Otherwise, the plan is generally divided into the following sections, including information from the questions asked above.
Executive Summary This section summarizes the information in the entire plan. It provides a quick overview for new management or marketing employees who need to be familiar with the plan.
Market Analysis Market Definition: Who are your customers? Market Segments: How are they segmented? Current Strengths: What are the strong points (from a marketing position) of your company? Weaknesses: What are the weak points (from a marketing position) of your company? Opportunities: What are some areas that could easily be exploited? Competition: List each competitor and analyze their strategies. Pricing: What do your competitors charge?
Marketing Plan How do we get from here to there? Marketing must be distinguished from sales. Marketing is the art (and science) of identifying a need and then developing a strategic plan to satisfy it with convincing prospective buyers to purchase your product or service. Marketing Objectives: What do we intend to do? Positioning/Repositioning: How do we want to be perceived by the customer? Advertising: How much do we want to spend (and where) on advertising? Editorial: Identify individuals in the organization that can write technical articles to be published in trade journals. Plan to write a minimum number of articles each year. Public Relations: Send press releases, product announcements, and sales announcements to the trade journals and industry association journals of your customers at every opportunity. One-on-One Contact: Many companies choose their sources because of a solid personal relationship with their vendors. Trade Shows: Determine the trade shows and industry association meetings you want to attend. Direct Mail: Is direct mail advertising appropriate for your business? Plan the number of campaigns you want to do each year. Telephone Marketing: Is telephone selling appropriate for your business? Corporate Capabilities Brochure: This is a brochure outlining the capabilities of your organization. Sales support Materials: Other Printed materials used by sales. World Wide Web Presence: A home page or website outlining your company's strengths.
Sales plan No single aspect of the business is more important than determining how to sell. Without sales there is no business, no matter how well production, marketing research, and other functions are handled. Your plan must first address the question of exactly how your product or service will be sold. Sales objectives: Outline specific measurable objectives. Pricing: How do we intend to price our products? Commissions: Everyone involves in selling needs incentives. The incentives must be properly structured and clearly explained if they are to be effective. Discounts: Company policy should be determined as to the discounts and those doing the selling should be aware of the policy.
An important thing to keep in mind is that this type of plan is a starting point. It should be reviewed often and changes should be made accordingly. After all, as Dwight D. Eisenhower said, "In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable."
Disclaimer: ActiveRain Corp. does not necessarily endorse the real estate agents, loan officers and brokers listed on this site. These real estate profiles, blogs and blog entries are provided here as a courtesy to our visitors to help them make an informed decision when buying or selling a house. ActiveRain Corp. takes no responsibility for the content in these profiles, that are written by the members of this community.