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A look at small business questions from the Southwestern Oregon Community College Small Business Development Center (SBDC).
By Arlene M. Soto CMA, CGBP, Southwestern SBDC Director

Is a marketing plan different from a business plan and do I need both?

A marketing plan is a section of a business plan and in many ways is even more important than a full business plan. The marketing plan for a company identifies: the target customers for products or services, branding, packaging, competition, competitive advantage, market trends, pricing strategy, a distribution model, sales potential and a promotion plan. Profitable sales are the heart of any business and a marketing plan gives direction to making those profitable sales possible. A business plan encompasses all aspects of operating a business, important for financing, but often time consuming to create.

The first step in developing a marketing plan is market research, the collecting of data and analysis that will help determine how successful a business could be. Market research may be primary, directly asking potential customers about their preferences; or secondary, looking at data available from other sources such as published surveys, books, magazines, industry associations, government agencies or the internet. The keys to effective market research are: it needs to be timely, based on valid assumptions, as comprehensive as possible and accessible at a reasonable price.

Customers buy products and services because they have wants, needs, concerns or problems. Basic market research assumptions consist of the answers to these questions:

(1) What do you plan to sell;

(2) Who will be most interested in buying it;

(3) How much or how often will customers buy;

(4)What is a reasonable price point;

(5) Where do you plan to sell;

(6) What other options are available to customers to alleviate their want, need, concern or problem.

Once the market potential has been determined, it’s time to look at the best ways to reach prospective customers. Keeping in mind the available budget for advertising, where would customers expect to hear about the business? Knowing the demographics of target customers helps. Where do they get information? How do they make a buying decision? The written marketing plan will incorporate all the research that’s been done into an action plan for reaching potential customers and creating a lasting impression in the minds of buyers.

An excellent resource for writing a marketing plan is available at Market research assistance is available through the local Small Business Development Center office. Still not sure where to start, advisors from the Small Business Development Center are available to provide direction and their help is free and confidential.

The SBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Oregon Small Business Development Center Network, the Oregon Business Development Department and Southwestern Oregon Community College. Arlene M. Soto has been the Director of the Southwestern Small Business Development Center since July 2007. To ask a question call 541-756-6445, e-mail, or write 2455 Maple Leaf, North Bend, OR 97459. Additional help is available at the OSBDCN Web page

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