Successful analysis can become the key to your business success

Highly effective marketing is a make-or-break necessity for most small businesses. It's really impossible for you to be successful without good marketing and sales techniques—that's what brings the dollars in the door. Marketing is more than simply letting people know about your products or services. First, you need to know who your customers are. You need to get so close to them that you can anticipate their needs and desires. You need to be able to communicate to them exactly why they need what your business can provide. And, then you have to reach them with that message.

Our discussion here is intended to introduce you to some of the concepts and strategies that professional marketing experts in large companies use and show you how they can be adapted to help your small business thrive, beginning with an overview of marketing and continuing through the following:

How to analyze the market environment. You must not only know your product, you must be aware of the competitive environment and cultural trends to assess your business's place in the market.
Understanding market research. Market research is not just for large companies. There are many research techniques that you can adapt to fit your needs and budget.

Product development must be an ongoing, intentional process. Your business must develop and refine products or services that meet customers' needs, even before the first sale.

Packaging and pricing your product. How you present and package your business' offerings is crucial to your company's success.

Choosing effective distribution methods. In a tough economy, effectively getting your product or service to your customers can mean the difference between success and failure.

Advertising to build your customer base. While it's unlikely you'll be bidding on a Super Bowl ad slot, you need to focus on promoting and advertising in order to reach your target market. And, small businesses need to be creative in the use of public relations to reach potential customers.

Building a successful marketing plan to drive long-term success. To succeed, you need to know where you are going. A marketing plan pulls all the elements of building shows you how to put it all together into a cohesive planning document that will become your blueprint to marketing success.

Marketing Demystified

What do we mean by "marketing?" To many time-starved business owners, marketing means two things: advertising and selling. However, ultimately you'll be more successful if you step back and look at the "big picture" by taking the time to thoughtfully analyze your products or services and your business as a whole in relation to your competition, your customers, and to societal and regional trends and conditions.

The key to successful marketing is answering the following question for your business: How will you communicate a meaningful difference about your business idea (product or service) to the people who might be most interested in buying it?

There are five questions that should be answered for every business:

What's unique about your business idea?

Who are your target customers? Who buys your product or service now, and who do you really want to sell to?

Who are your competitors? As a small business, can you effectively compete in your chosen market?
What positioning message do you want to communicate to your target buyers? How can you position your business or product to let people know they are special, in ways that are important to these buyers?

What's your distribution strategy? How will you get your product or service in the hands of your customers? Often your distribution method will provide an additional marketing channel, or give you the opportunity to promote more products as you provide the first one.

What's Your Unique Business Idea?

Intuitively, or based on sound research, you believe your business will succeed because you are doing something different

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