Welcome to this sixth module, where we will spend time researching, formulating and implementing your marketing plan to get your proposition out into the market place and convert sales opportunities into purchasers and advocates

Tackle the module in bite size chunks, don’t feel the need to do everything in one go and allow plenty of time to digest and apply the information covered

The module includes helpful ‘Activities’ for you to complete, it is strongly recommended that you undertake them to get the most out of the content and the key learning points

​Allow yourself time to reflect and take on board the advice, key messages and suggested tasks in the programme to enable you to move forward with your self employed campaign

This module will enable you to

  • Consider and set out what your marketing strategy is going to be

  • Understand and segment your customers and their needs better

  • Research and understand your target markets and main competitors

  • Identify your competitors’ key strengths, weaknesses and differentiators

  • Undertake a SWOT analysis of yourself and your business and use it effectively

  • Establish how, where and when you will be advertising your proposition or using PR

  • Consider, formulate and implement your growth plans for the business

  • Draft and begin implementing a relevant and effective marketing plan for your business

Your marketing strategy will be built around your marketing mix, consisting of four elements, known as the four Ps, sometimes also called the four Cs

  • Product = Customer solution

  • In the previous module 5 we looked in some detail at your offering and value proposition

  • Price = Customer cost

  • In the previous module we also looked at key pricing principles, options and models

  • Place = Customer convenience

  • We’ll look at distribution channels or ‘where you sell’ in more detail shortly in this module

  • Promotion = Customer communication

  • Your selling, advertising and PR will also be examined below in this module

Before we consider and pull these strands together we need to look at a few subject areas with the key starting point being your market research

Key areas of market research will include your

  • Customers

  • Who are they?

  • Where are they?

  • What are their needs?

  • Competitors

  • Who are they?

  • What are their strengths and weaknesses?

  • What are their differentiators?

  • Pricing

  • What are your competitors’ prices?

  • How do they arrive at their price points?

  • What method of pricing are they using?

Lets have a closer look at each of these areas

Identifying your target markets involves establishing facts and trends, not intuitive guessing 

The two main ways of researching and finding out about your customers are

  • Passive research

  • Relevant industry associations, trade reports, trade publications and magazines

  • Related government departments, local authorities and non-governmental agencies

  • Much online info is free to access, but some may require membership or other costs

  • Only pay for databases if you are sure that they represent value for money

  • Searching Google with key words and phrases can provide lots of useful info 

  • LinkedIn and Facebook can also enable you to glean helpful customer trends

  • Active research

  • Talking to a representative sample of potential customers about their needs

  • Surveys of your target customers to establish the potential market size and needs

  • ‘Survey Monkey’ and other similar platforms offer cheap and easy to use tools

It can be useful to break down your potential market into identifiable segments or groups

Especially if you have limited resources and need to focus in on your most profitable targets

Market segmentation can enable you to

  • Identify groups of customers with similar needs and buying habits to target accordingly

  • Spot the most profitable groups and focus on them with the most appropriate offerings

  • Ensure that your selected segments have identifiable buying patterns, don’t just assume

The key segmentation questions for you include

  • Is the segment and its needs and buying habits clearly identifiable and consistent?

  • What is the size of the segment and how much of it can I reach?

  • Can I create a marketing plan that will convert the segments into sales?

  • Does the segment fit in well with my offering and available resources?

Where selling to consumers (i.e. not businesses) markets can be segmented four ways

  • Behaviourally – e.g. buying/spending/usage habits, loyalty, risk taking

  • Psychologically – e.g. lifestyle, emotions, values, attitudes, beliefs

  • Demographically – e.g. age, gender, ethnicity, income, occupation

  • Geographically – e.g. physical location, seasonal factors, population density

Where selling to businesses and organisations, markets are often segmented in three ways

  • Needs based – e.g. supply chains requirements, cost base or specification issues

  • Tiering – e.g. categorising by their value to you, by the ease of sale, by longevity

  • Firm based – e.g. size, geographical spread, shared characteristics, demography

Your competitors will generally fall into two categories

  • Direct competitors who

  • Offer products or services that could replace yours

  • Seek to offer the same or a similar solution

  • Compete with you for your customers

  • e.g. McDonald’s and Burger King compete directly for each other’s hungry customers or B & Q who compete directly with Homebase for DIY customers

  • Indirect competitors who

  • Offer products or services that satisfy the same need

  • Seek to offer an alternative solution

  • Compete with you for the same market

  • e.g. McDonald’s and Domino’s Pizza compete indirectly in the takeaway market or  B & Q  who compete indirectly with local trades people to complete customer home repairs or improvements

Pricing is frequently one of the main competitor threats that business's identify

Understanding what your competitors pricing is, and how they arrive at it, is valuable info

You may be in markets where pricing is publicly and readily available, in which case

  • Online and ‘on foot’ research will enable you to establish the pricing you are up against

  • By tracking price changes you can work out what their pricing strategy seems to be

  • You can then use this info to help you enhance and shape your own pricing strategy

Alternatively, you may be in markets where pricing is kept confidential, in which case

  • You or somebody else could undertake some ‘mystery shopping’ to identify their pricing

  • You could talk to people in your network who know your competitors and their pricing  

  • If appropriate, you could offer price matching/bettering to customers to gain price info

Having looked earlier at your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, we now need to look at understand and manage yours 

It is crucial to forming your marketing strategy that you have self awareness about your

  • Strengths and Weaknesses

  • Depending on circumstances, sometimes strengths can become weaknesses

  • Similarly, changing situations can sometimes turn weaknesses into strengths

  • Opportunities

  • What  opportunities you foresee in your chosen markets?

  • The opportunities to pursue are the ones that can be converted to sales

  • Threats

  • What threats you face that need avoiding or managing?

  • If you can’t side step a threat then you will need to contain it

‘Place’ or ‘customer convenience’ or ‘channels of distribution’ are all the different ways to describe the same thing i.e. the various places or ways that you get your offering to your customers

 

The four broad distribution channels when selling to consumers or businesses are

  • Direct selling – you and your business interacting with end user customers

  • Selling through retailers – distributing via organisations that then on-sell to end users

  • Selling via wholesalers – distributing via organisations that then on-sell to retailers

  • Selling through agents – via third parties e.g. franchisees, intermediaries, brokers etc

The specific ‘place’ or ‘places’ may, for example, include

  • Static shops, pop-up shops, franchise shops, market stalls or other shopping outlets

  • Fixed office locations, flexible/serviced offices, home office or other physical venues

  • Your own bespoke website, or as a partner or associate on third party websites

  • e-commerce online websites e.g. Amazon, e-Bay, Wayfair, Alibaba, Etsy and many more

The key purpose of advertising spend is to significantly increase the number and quality of sales opportunities that, hopefully, can then be converted into buying customers

The key purpose of PR (public relations) spend is to tangibly increase the positive awareness of your business in your target markets and sectors and thereby to, hopefully, measurably increase yours sales conversion rate

Your sales conversion rate is the percentage of times that you convert a sales opportunity into an actual sale e.g. if you have 10 sales opportunities and convert 4 of them into an actual sale, then you sales conversion rate is 40%

Whether or not advertising and/or PR are helpful activities for you to undertake will depend on numerous factors such as

  • Who your target markets and sectors are

  • What your competitors are doing and why

  • How it fits in with your brand and offering

  • What you can afford to spend and for how long

  • What else you could spend money on to generate sales

  • Whether your current sales conversion rate need improving

  • Whether your sales conversion rate can be improved

Let’s have a look at your potential routes forward in relation to adverts and PR by looking at some key questions and issues and also by undertaking some essential activities

Your competitors, their propositions and the markets you compete in will not remain static, over time they will change, develop, grow, shrink, redefine and shift

If your proposition and your business remain static then

  • Relative to your competitors and the markets you are in, you will almost certainly be going backwards in one or more ways

  • Your lack of flexibility, agility and creativity is highly likely to render you and your business unresponsive to future threats and opportunities

So thought needs to be invested in deciding what your growth plans are (and how you are going to implement them) in relation to your offerings, markets and sales

Let’s look at the potential growth of your offerings and markets first before looking at the issue of sales growth

As you will see from the diagram below, your growth strategy can go in four different directions

They are not mutually exclusive, however, each one would need it’s own specific and different growth strategy

Developing different offerings for your existing markets - it is easier to sell to people you know and understand

Entering completely new markets with a completely new offering - the highest risk route

Finding new markets for your existing offering - selling what you know to people you don’t know 

Growing your existing market share with your existing offering - works well if you have a small market share

Whatever your preferred growth strategy is, once you are up and running and staring to sell, you will need start thinking about how you are going to allocate your sales and marketing resources to best effect, particularly as you grow

Your offering will include one or more distinct income streams of products and/or services that relate to one or more specific markets you are seeking to exploit

For example, you might have four distinct income streams

  • Selling product ‘A’ to consumers

  • Selling product ‘B’ to wholesalers

  • Selling product ‘C’ to commercial businesses

  • Selling product ‘D’ to charities

The key question from the above example is, what is the basis on which you decide how to allocate your sales and marketing resources across the four products ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’ and ‘D’?

A helpful way of thinking about your products or services and beginning to answer this key question is in terms of their market growth potential and your market share as shown in the diagram below

For example, if product ‘B’ is currently generating a small turnover for you and the wholesale market you are selling it in is growing fast then, for you, this is one of your ‘Potential Gems’

For example, if  product ‘A’ is currently generating a large turnover for you and the consumer market you sell it in is growing fast then, for you, this is one of your ‘Super Stars’

For example, if product ‘C’ is currently generating a small turnover for you and the commercial business market your selling it in is growing slowly then, for you, this is one of your ‘Probable Dogs’

For example, if product ‘D’ is currently generating a large turnover for you and the charities sector you are selling it in is growing slowly then, for you, this is one of your ‘Cash Cows’

For each of these above four quadrants, the implications for the allocation of your sales and marketing resources include

 

  • Super Stars

 

  • The income generated and potential for growth is crucial to your business

  • Your competitors will be working hard to gain a share of the growing market

  • You need to expend whatever is needed to protect and grow your market share

  • Cash Cows

  • The income generated is financially important to you, but won’t grow much further

  • Competitors will only be interested if they think they can capture your customers

  • Sales and marketing spend need to focus purely on retaining existing customers

  • Potential Gems

  • While the income currently generated is small, the growth potential is significant

  • Growth will be via winning your competitors’ customers plus ‘green field’ customers

  • Only invest sales and marketing resources if you believe it'll grow into a ‘Super Star’

  • Probable Dogs

  • The current income and growth potential are low, so sales generation will be modest

  • Only worth investing sales and marketing resources if it becomes a ‘Cash Cow’

  • If this is unlikely, then no sales and marketing resources should be invested

This module has enabled you to

 

  • Understand and define what the four Ps (or four Cs) mean for your offering

  • Identify who your customers are, where they are and what their needs are 

  • Assess your key competitors’ strengths, weaknesses and differentiators

  • Research and respond to your competitors’ price points and pricing strategy

  • Analyse your skills, strengths, opportunities and threats and how to manage them

  • Confidently prepare and begin implementing an effective marketing strategy

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