Starting a business? Are you thinking about taking the plunge and starting that great business idea of yours? Several sources have listed out certain key steps you need to take before launching that big dream. These are checklists that remind you of the many tasks you should perform when starting a business:

  • Evaluate yourself, your level of motivation, the amount of money you can risk (whether or not you are funding the business yourself) and what you’re willing to do to be successful
  • Choose the right business for you. The key to success in business is to find a need that you can fill, that you want to fill and that will produce enough income to build a profitable business
  • Be sure there really is a market for what you want to sell. Never assume there is a market for your business, always research your idea. You should talk to real potential prospects, definitely not family and friends, to find out if they would be interested in what you’re selling and how much they would pay for your product
  • Start on a small scale before going all out; you must test an idea on a small scale, then build on what works well, reshape what shows promise and discard the headaches
  • You need to learn from others; find mentors, join groups with like-minded people, study everything you can about your industry and what it takes to get from where you are to where you want to be
  • Write a detailed business plan highlighting how your business will evolve, brand values and challenges along that path, as well as ideas on how these challenges will be resolved
  • You should never stop learning and trying new things. You need to evolve with the times.

But this to-do list is not what this post is about though. Imagine running through your checklist of things to do and you are still unable to reach your target customers! Now that would be a disaster. This is where effective marketing strategy comes in.

A marketing strategy is a business’s overall game plan for reaching people and turning them into customers of the product or service that the business provides.  Marketing strategy highlights the role of marketing as a link between the brand and its customers. This is made up of the company’s value proposition, key marketing messages, information on the target customer and other high-level elements and should have a longer lifespan as these things ideally do not change very much over time.

Creating your own marketing strategy

Your brand’s marketing strategy should grow out of the company’s value proposition and promise. PEP Stores for example, offers ‘up-to-date affordable and durable products’ and as such all marketing strategies for the brand will revolve around that. Your marketing strategy should address these questions: (1) where are we now? (2) Where are we going? And (3) how are we going to get there?

In an attempt to answer these questions, your strategy must incorporate the following elements:

Situation Analysis: Every firm needs a review of the business environment for new opportunities that could be leveraged for competitive advantage. This reveals the strengths and the threats that the company should consider for long-term sustainability, in relations to its customers and competitors.

Positioning: You should create a strategy that plays on your brand’s strengths, qualities and match them to the needs of your target audience. Basically, positioning involves making decisions about whether to compete for a share of the total market or for a specific target group (competitive scope) and whether to compete on costs or product differences (competitive advantage). Whatever strategic positioning approach you decide on, just ensure that it aligns with your company’s or brand’s vision and mission promise.

Segmentation: Your target audience falls into classes or segments based on their needs. A major route to success is to identify these classes and their respective needs and then find ways to address such needs way better than your competitors.

Promotional tactics: Decide which marketing activities will inform and educate your customers about your brand and its product offerings. These activities could be different forms of advertising, experiential marketing, digital marketing, just ensure that you limit your activities to those that will suit your target market.

Marketing Plan: Once you have decided on your strategy, draw up a marketing plan that sets out how you intend to execute and evaluate the success of your strategy. It is not uncommon for the business’ marketing strategy to be confused with its marketing plan. The marketing strategy informs the marketing plan which is a document that lays out the types and timing of marketing activities to be carried out to reach customers.

The plan should be constantly reviewed and updated to suit the constant changes in customers’ needs and attitudes within your industry.

Monitoring and evaluation: It is important to constantly monitor and evaluate the different elements of your marketing strategy. Constant research is necessary to ensure that your strategy is leading your business in the right direction. A simple approach to this would be customer feedback; questionnaires, focus groups can be used to inform future marketing strategies.

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