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Aggressive firms commit to marketing.

When the economy slows it is a natural temptation to slash such "soft services" as advertising and marketing.

After all, no one is buying anything anyway, so why throw good money after bad by advertising?

In reality, though, this is precisely the time that aggressive companies commit the funds they need to restore their corporate and fiscal health. If you have adopted a wait-and-see attitude, one of these companies could be developing an elaborate marketing plan to steal away some or all of your business.

It does not matter whether the economy is strong or weak, it is always important to know what your market is and where it is located. This is the role of a marketing plan.

Marketing is much more than advertising and selling a product. It involves identifying the needs and wants of the marketplace, matching your product or service to those needs, then establishing distribution, pricing and promotion strategies.

A written marketing plan provides a measuring stick for your success over a period of time. It is also easier to update as economic conditions or business change over the course of time.

A marketing plan usually includes such information as:

* a description of your product or service

* a description of the target market

* identification of the competition

* a specific set of attainable and measurable goals

* advertising, pricing and delivery strategies

The process of developing a marketing plan begins with a situational analysis to determine where your business is in the marketplace.

You also need to determine your business's capabilities in terms of production, financing, sales, service, the success rate of any sales or marketing program you currently have in place and any legal factors which could affect your company.

Market research will not only tell you where your company is currently headed, but also where the entire marketplace will be in the future. This will allow you to identify potential niches within the marketplace that your company can fill.

The marketing plan itself must be based on specific and attainable goals. Put them in priority and achieve them step-by-step, one-by-one.

Some marketing experts use the seven 'P's of marketing to describe the contents of a marketing plan. The seven 'P's are product, pricing, packaging, place, promotion, positioning and perception.

Managing your product or service successfully is the cornerstone of any marketing plan. You must have a crystal-clear idea of what need your product fills in order to market it successfully.

The way you price your products clearly positions you in the marketplace and against the competition. Pricing must be based on clear knowledge of what you need to be profitable.

Packaging conveys the way you want your product to be perceived by the consumer. It is, however, much more than just an attractive box and includes the way you display your product, your signs, company graphic and trucks.

In marketing terms, "place" refers to where your products are sold and how they are distributed to those locations.

Promotion is much more than just advertising. It also includes public relations, sales promotion and your corporate image.

Positioning, like packaging, is fundamental to the way in which your products will be viewed in the marketplace - what position or market niche they fill.

Perception, the way people think or feel about your company, is the most potent marketing tool of all. That image takes years to develop and even longer to change.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Laurentian Business Publishing, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Supplement: Small Business Survival Strategies
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Apr 1, 1992
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