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Marketing Strategy...The Basics

The marketing strategy section of the business plan describes who the customers are and how you will get word to them about the goods and services you offer. If the consumers don’t know about your business, you won"t stay in business very long. Besides a breakdown on who you’re selling to, it also explains the competitive analysis of your business.

Define Who Your Customers Are

Like every section in the marketing strategy, you need to be very specific. It's not possible to reach a demographic of 25 to 75 years old. The generations buy differently, they shop differently and they get their information differently. This makes it too costly for you to reach all of them. It's best to focus on a more narrow demographic and then expand as you grow.

Which Groups of Consumers Will Buy From You?

Are they socially minded and connected? Are they interested in the environment? What magazines do they read? How do they spend their time? Get to know the "lifestyle" of your customer.

This will help you know what types of events to plan in your store. For example, if you have older customers, then a free health screening in the store would be a big draw. If you had Millennials, then free Wi-Fi would be a big draw in your business.

If your customers are socially minded, you might do pet adoptions in your store.

When I had my shoe store. We offered a discount to customers who allowed us to recycle their old footwear.

Which Businesses Are Competing Against Yours?

VIsible and invisible...The visible competition is obvious. For example, if you own a shoe store, it's other stores who sell shoes.

The invisible ones are the harder ones. These are the stores in town who compete with you on reputation and service. They do not sell shoes (continuing our example) but everyone in town holds them up as the example of the "best" way to do retail or having the best customer experience.

Spend some time thinking about and investigating both types before you craft your vision for your store. And then articulate it here in the business plan. It will serve you well.

How Is Your Business Different From the Competition?

This step is the one most retailers think is simple. But the truth is it's where they fail the most. They use terms like "service," as if no other retailer provides service. This section has to be specific and not generic.

This isn't for the bankers or investors you are trying to get to back you, but for the chance to survive.

There is a reason so many small businesses fail in the first few years. Not knowing what makes them different from the competition is the main one.

What Is Your Competitive Edge?

Make sure you are considering online retailers as direct competitors in this section along with brick-and-mortar stores. Do not be so naive as to say "we will have great customer service" as your strategy. That is not enough anymore. It's the exact same line in your competition's business plan -- think about that!

The marketing strategy part of your business plan will include the market segmentation, competitive analysis and all other selling strategies. This requires research and exploration of new ideas and a strong commitment.

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