Marketing Strategy

The marketing and sales plan explains what our marketing strategy is, how we will execute it and how we will ultimately generate sales. It addresses concerns such as how we will convey our service or product's features, benefits and uniqueness; how we will entice potential customers to buy our product or service; and how we will develop customer loyalty that will generate repeat business and referrals.

Our marketing and sales plan should also demonstrate a thorough understanding of our target market as gained from both primary and secondary sources. Primary sources include any market research our business conducts, such as interviews, surveys, focus groups and market testing.

Secondary sources include data and publications produced by trade and industry groups, government agencies, chambers of commerce, merchants associations and so on. Like the industry analysis, the marketing and sales plan is research-intensive. (To understand the qualities that make for a great company, investors must dig deep into "soft" metrics.

Our marketing plan isn't just a document for potential lenders and investors. It's a key tool in our business's money-making strategy. Even if we weren't looking for financing, weu would need a marketing plan.

Branding
How will we brand our company? Think about what kind of image we want to project and how this image will help us connect with our target audience. Include a picture of our company's logo and any other visuals that convey our company's image.

These include our business's website, interior and exterior shots of our store, photos of our product and the way it is packaged, the uniforms our employees will wear and anything else that we will use to convey our business's brand.

Marketing
Our marketing plan must define our target market, and it must be very specific in doing so. We aren't likely to be taken seriously if we define the target market for our grocery store as "All people, because everyone needs to eat." While it's true that everyone needs to eat, we'll need a more in-depth answer to this question, one that reflects our business's unique features and benefits.

A good target market description provides detailed demographic and psycho-graphic descriptions of our potential customers. What methods of marketing will we use to reach our target customers? For example, how and where will we advertise? What promotions or giveaways will you offer? What makes these marketing methods the best ones for conveying the unique features and benefits of your product and for reaching your target market? How much will it cost? Break down our marketing budget and be specific.

Understand the Competition
Where do our potential customers currently obtain the product or service we are selling? What strengths and weaknesses do those businesses exhibit? How will we offer a superior product or service?

Let's say that currently, our potential customers are only able to obtain local foods by shopping at the farmer's market - which is only open for four hours, once a week - or through a community-sponsored agriculture (CSA) program, which makes people commit to buying a certain amount of produce each month and doesn't let them choose what they'll be eating.

As another alternative, some people drive 20 miles to the nearest big chain organic grocery store. Many people like shopping at the farmers market because they get to meet the people who produce their food and interact with members of their community. Others like the CSA program because they no longer have to think about shopping for produce. And the big chain store offers a great selection.

However, our local foods grocery store will make local foods available every day of the week for 12 hours a day, from 9am to 9pm. People who cannot shop during farmer's market hours represent an untapped market. We can also steal market share from the people who make the long drive to the big chain organic grocery store by offering a much more convenient location.

Furthermore, we will offer a wider variety than is available through either the farmer's market or the CSA program, and unlike the CSA program, our store will not require customers to commit to spending a certain amount of money each month and will give them greater choice in the produce they eat.We will also host community events and "meet the farmer" days to foster the same sense of community provided by farmers' markets and CSAs. Don't commit the common mistake of claiming that our product or service is so unique that it has no competition.

Make the Sale
What sales strategies will we use to make your marketing plan pay off? The best marketing plan in the world is all for naught if we can't close the sale. If we send out flyers that get people to come to our store, what customers find when they arrive is what will ultimately make or break your sales.

How products are displayed, how our store is organized, how our employees behave, how much they know about the products and numerous other factors - all within our control - will comprise our sales strategy and should be discussed in our plan.

Another big point to hit is how we will price our product or service. What will make this price appealing and worthwhile to consumers and profitable to our business? How does it compare to our competitors' pricing strategy? What profit margin do we anticipate on our major products?

Essentially, our marketing and sales plan describes how we will convey to our customers what's in it for them and then get them to actually purchase our product or service. Professional help, if we can afford it, can help us prepare a better marketing and sales plan, especially if we are inexperienced.