Due to profound changes over the past 10 years in the business environment, today, as never before, companies face a host of challenges as well as opportunities in terms of survival, profitability and growth. Marketing plays a key role in addressing these challenges. Financial success of a business typically depends upon marketing’s ability to:
- Develop and focus upon specific, well defined target markets
- Assess the wants and needs of both present and potential customers
- Design and manage product/service offerings to meet those needs
- Develop a sustainable competitive advantage over competition
- Establish effective pricing policies
- Develop and implement effective and efficient communication strategies to reach the company’s target markets
In essence, marketing is the art and science of selecting target markets and attracting, keeping and growing customers through the development and implementation of marketing strategies and programs that create products/services that provide superior customer value and long-term relationships. The question then becomes for many businesses, where do I begin to develop an effective Marketing Plan to ensure my company’s overall success now and into the future?
Before specific marketing activities can be developed, the company must first understand the current and potential environment that their product/service will be marketed in. A situation analysis also referred to as a SWOT Analysis; in which the firm should identify its strengths (S) and weaknesses (W) as well as understand it external opportunities (0) and threats (T) versus competition. Performing the SWOT Analysis allows the business to identify and establish their competitive advantage, which is set of a unique/distinctive features of the company and their product/services, which perceived by the target market, separating them from the competition. Potential customers view these features as reasons why they select the company’s offerings vs. competition. These are also the key marketing features/attributes that are highlighted in all the company’s marketing efforts. A simple SWOT Analysis follows a logical step-by-step model:
- Identify 6-8 possible major competitors in the marketplace
- Develop a list of key marketing attributes for each competitor i.e. Years in Business, Geographical Market Area, Products Offered, Marketing Messages, etc.
- The same attribute list will be used for each competitor allowing for a similar/equal comparisons.
- Compare each competitor’s same individual attribute (i.e. years in Business) to each other. Listing it as either a strength (S) or a weakness (W) versus competition.
- Once completed, this will give the business a very good understanding of the competitive marketplace, comparing competition to competition.
- The individual business will then compare itself against each competitor’s list of attributes. Allow the business to analyze how it stacks up against competition – – identifying opportunities(O) and also threats (T).
The SWOT Analysis helps the company to identify internal strengths (S) and weaknesses (W) and also understanding external opportunities (O) and threats (T). The SWOT Analysis, is the 1st step in developing an effective marketing program/plan.
The information gained from the SWOT analysis will be used extensively in the formation of all types of marketing strategies and tactics implemented by the company. Clearly, it all begins with the SWOT Analysis. This step in the planning process will have a major part in determining the marketing strategy and its impact on future performance of the business. As a business prepares to develop a marketing strategy, they must carry forward into their strategic thinking and implementation each issue as identified in the SWOT Analysis.
About the author
Robert Mika is a Consultant for the Small Business Development Center at Brookdale Community College (SBDC), assisting clients with their Marketing Strategies and plan and also teaches the Marketing Strategies for Small Businesses workshops for the SBDC.
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