Strategic Marketing for Entrepreneurs
New business ideas abound. More and more people seek to create and own their own businesses. However, creating a sustainable, money-making business has never been so difficult. There are far too many challenges and pitfalls.
As a teacher and business consultant, I am barraged with people looking for advice for starting a business. In virtually every case, the would-be entrepreneur possesses a credible idea. In most cases, the entrepreneur has done his/her initial research and is ready to try to reach out to family or the business community to seek initial funding.
It is at this point where I generally provide my essence of the aspiring founder’s strategic marketing plan and in virtually every case, the business ideas vaporizes. The process is so simple yet so essential. I tell the future entrepreneur that there are four essential questions that must be asked and answered:
- Who is your target market?
- What are the needs of the target market?
- What is your distinctive competency is satisfying those needs?
- How do you intend to communicate that distinctive competency?
Let’s examine these issues in greater detail.
Who is the target market?
This is the essential question. To be successful, an entrepreneur must be able to identify a specific target market or segment of the marketplace. This target market must be homogeneous within, heterogeneous without, substantial and identifiable. Ideally, such a target market can be accessed through some medium. Almost by definition, this target market can be profiled and described. It should reside in some kind of geographic, demographic or psychographic domain.
The target might be further described as heavy or frequent users of a product or service.
What are the target market’s needs?
Once the target market has been identified, the next crucial step is to research that market in terms of its specific needs. This is where some level of research is needed. In doing the needs assessment, these are some of the questions that need to be addressed:
- What other competitors occupy this space?
- What are the pros and cons of each competitor?
- How important are price and channels of distribution in determining the needs of the target market?
- Are there exogenous environmental factors that might weigh on the success of the venture? Such factors might include: (1) dependence on technology or innovation; (2) political/legal environmental considerations; (3) global factors weighing on manufacture and/or distribution; (4) sourcing and/or supply-chain considerations.
We have now arrived at the moment of truth. What does your idea or innovation offer to the target market that is different or better than what the competitive marketplace is currently offering? The entrepreneurial idea or venture rests on this. If what you are offering is no different or better than what the marketplace is currently marketing, there is no need for your innovation. Don’t throw your money down the proverbial “rat hole.”
Your idea or innovation must be intriguing enough to capture the imagination of your target market. To be a success, you must sell that distinctive competency and you must be sure that people are willing to spend money to possess that innovation.
If you have come this far and the lights continue to shine green, you are now ready to develop and implement the marketing communications plan. In this final step you might develop a strategy to communicate to your target market your distinctive competency”
- What is it?
- Where you can obtain it?
- What does it cost?
- Why do you need it?
The four-step process is simple yet rigorous. More than 90 percent of innovative ideas will probably never make it through the hurdles and hoops, and that still hardly guarantees success. However, if the entrepreneurial idea is still alive after addressing the four-step process, the venture might just make it.