Creating a Marketing Plan That Will Give You the Competitive Advantage You Are Looking For

Are you a small business owner wondering how to get ahead of the competition and increase sales? Generally, the one goes with the other, unless you are one of the few who are lucky enough to have more business than you can handle. And if you’re in that situation, you should probably think about expanding! Either way, your business can benefit from a solid marketing plan. If you need to grow by attracting more customers, or improve your margins by lowering costs, putting some thought into how you market your business is the first place to start, especially if you think you will need to seek additional funding to move your business to the next level.

A marketing plan is like a business plan for an already existing company, although for new businesses seeking funding, a complete business plan should always be a subset included in the overall business plan. Marketing plans define what your objective for your company is and present the various short and long-term strategies you plan to use to achieve that objective. Marketing is often painfully oversimplified in the minds of people who don’t understand or have experience in it. This is easy to do because certain elements of marketing appear to be quite simple. For example, anyone with a few hundred dollars can pay for a radio or print ad. Relatively few people however can clearly define a measurable result by which they will determine how successful the ad was or define how it will fit into a larger, more comprehensive marketing plan.

The marketing plan begins at the most fundamental level of your business: why you exist. What is your mission, your vision? If your answer is simply “to make money,” you need to put some more thought into it! Marketing plans force you to examine this and many other questions in order to become more competitive. Once you have defined why you’re in business and what customer need you are satisfying, it’s time to evaluate how you’re doing in context of what you need, and in comparison to your competitors.

Forming a strategy in part by comparison to your competitors involves completing a comprehensive market analysis, which includes detailed research and consideration of every individual competitor, with their strengths and weaknesses and the opportunities and threats they provide or pose. Where are they doing better than you and what can you do better than them? Conducting such a detailed analysis will help you uncover your core competency. Or in other words, the thing you can do better than all of your competitors.

If your marketing plan helps you identify this one piece of information, it will be a success. For an investor considering funding an existing business, the magnitude of your core competency and resulting competitive advantage will do more than any other information in your marketing plan to convince them to give you their money. One important factor in further refining your market analysis is evaluating your current market share. How much total demand is there, and how much of that have you captured? How will that demand grow or shrink in the coming months and years?