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Planning for the future

In the first instalment in a four-part series on marketing for small businesses, Noel Dyson examines the need for ‘a plan’.

A MARKETING plan is considered crucial for success of any business, let alone a small business.

Statistics show one in five small businesses folds within the first five years, and a failure to properly market their goods or services is often one of the root causes of that demise.

The Small Business Development Corporation reports that, for many years, marketing advice has been one of the top three requests it receives.

Without a planned approach, most small business owners fall into a tactical, ad hoc advertising process where they are often reacting to market trends.

With proper research and planning, however, they can often anticipate market trends and be in a position to try and lead them.

They also can find out what their customers want and develop the products, pricing and placement to meet those demands.

Within its marketing plan a company needs to consider the four ‘Ps’ of marketing – product, positioning, price and placement (distribution).

However, to get the four right, the business needs to know what its customers want.

Market Equity CEO Brent Stewart said marketing planning was crucial for business success.

“Finding what the customers want, finding a way to meet those and then backing that up with a full marketing program is the basis of the marketing concept,” he said.

“Those small businesses that market successfully ultimately become medium-sized and then large businesses.

“There are so many elements of the marketing mix that, if you don’t allocate resources to them successfully, you can make life very hard for yourself.

“Having a good base of information is also important.”

Small Business Development Corporation managing director George Etrelezis said he could think of nothing worse than an ad hoc approach to marketing.

“Too many small business owners think marketing is just taking out an ad. Marketing has been in the top three of needs for small businesses that we deal with for many years now,” he said.

“You have to have a plan of attack. You have to identify your market and once you’ve done that, you have to work out how to reach them.”

Mr Etrelezis said small businesses had to make sure they would get a return on their marketing investment.

“The whole marketing campaign has to result in conversions at the cash register,” he said.

Marketing Centre managing director Michael Smith said businesses needed to plan to ensure their finite resources were put to the best use.

“You need to find out what the customers want, work out how to attract them to the product you are offering to meet that need, and work out how to get it to them,” he said.

“When you are starting out in the planning process you need to end up with two things.

“Firstly, where can you win? What area of the market can you target where you will have the best return for your investment and the least competition?

“The second thing is to build an offer that is going to be desirable and different and defensible.

“Having identified the sector that is most successful you can then build the company that will help you succeed.”

Mr Stewart said distribution was looming as one of the best ways for a small business to create a competitive advantage.

“Distribution is one of the most overlooked areas in the marketing mix,” he said.

“How did Dell get into the mature, crowded market of personal computer hardware?

“They did it through distribution.

“Dell came up with a pretty compelling offer. A product that came to the customer quickly, cheaper than it was being offered in the stores and with exactly what the customer wanted in it.”

p Next week: Making the marketing plan.

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