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Business Plan Elements – 5 & 6

March 29, 2009

Part 5: Marketing and Sales Strategies

Marketing is the process of creating customers, the lifeblood of your business. The first thing you want to do is define your marketing strategy. While there is no single way to approach your marketing strategy, it should be part of an ongoing self-evaluation process and will be unique to your company.  However, there are some steps you can follow which will help.

An Overall Marketing Strategy would likely include these elements:

Market penetration strategy for growing your business. This growth strategy might include: an internal strategy such as how to increase your human resources, an acquisition strategy such as buying another business, a franchise strategy for branching out, a horizontal strategy where you would provide the same type of products to different users, or a vertical strategy where you would continue providing the same products but would offer them at different levels of the distribution chain.
 
Channels of distribution strategy. Choices for distribution channels could include: original equipment manufacturers, an internal sales force, distributors, or retailers.
 
Communication strategy.  How are you going to reach your customers? Usually some combination of the following works the best: promotions, advertising, public relations, personal selling, and printed materials such as brochures, catalogs, flyers, e-marketing, etc.
 
Once you have defined your marketing strategy, you can then define your sales strategy.  How do you plan to actually sell your product?

Your Overall Sales Strategy should include:

A sales force strategy. If you are going to have a sales force, do you plan to use internal or independent representatives? How many salespeople will you recruit for your sales force? What type of recruitment strategies will you use? How will you train your sales force? What about compensation for your sales force?

Critical sales activities.  When you define your sales strategy, it is important that you break it down into activities. For instance, you need to identify your prospects. Once you have made a list of your prospects, you need to prioritize it. Next, identify the number of sales calls you will make over a certain period of time. From there, you need to determine the average number of sales calls you will need to make per sale, the average dollar size per sale, and the average dollar size per vendor.

Part 6: Service or Product Line

What are you selling? In this section, describe your service or product, emphasizing the benefits to potential and current customers. For example, don’t tell your readers which 89 foods you carry in your “Gourmet to Go” shop. Tell them why busy, two-career couples will prefer shopping in a service-oriented store that records clients’ food preferences and caters even the smallest parties on short notice.

Focus on the areas where you have a distinct advantage. Identify the problem in your target market for which your service or product provides a solution.

Give the reader hard evidence that people are, or will be, willing to pay for your solution. List your company’s services and products and attach any marketing/promotional materials. Provide details regarding suppliers, availability of products/services, and service or product costs. Also include information addressing new services or products which will soon be added to the company’s line.

Overall, this section should include:

A detailed description of your product or service (from your customers’ perspective). Here, you would need to include information about the specific benefits of your product or service. You would also want to talk about your product or service’s ability to meet consumer needs, any advantages your product has over that of the competition, and the present development stage your product is in (i.e., idea, prototype, etc.).

Information related to your product’s life cycle. Be sure to include information about where your product or service is in its life cycle, as well as any factors that may influence its cycle in the future.
 
Any copyright, patent, and trade secret information that may be relevant. Here, you need to include information related to existing, pending, or anticipated copyright and patent filings along with any key characteristics of your products/services that you cannot obtain a copyright or patent for. This is where you should also incorporate key aspects of your products/services that may be classified as trade secrets. Last, but not least, be sure to add any information pertaining to existing legal agreements, such as nondisclosure or non-compete agreements.
 
Research and development activities you are involved in or are planning to be involved in. R&D activities would include any in-process or future activities related to the development of new products/services. This section would also include information about what you expect the results of future R&D activities to be. Be sure to analyze the R&D efforts of not only your own business, but also that of others in your industry.

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