There are a number of pricing strategies that you may want to adopt throughout the course of your business depending on the situation. Here you should describe the pricing policy that you wish to adopt as a start-up business. There are several pricing strategies that you could consider using, including; introductory offers, promotional offers, discounts, special offers, market penetration pricing (low introductory prices to grab an initial share of the market).

One important thing to remember here is that it is very easy to lower your price, but much more difficult to raise your price back up again. Your pricing over time should be stable (once the introduction period has ended, for example), and you should avoid confusing the market by frequently raising and lowering your prices.

Also don’t be afraid to increase your prices once a year, 5% is usually an acceptable increase, higher than 5% might require some explanation. Your suppliers will be increasing their prices on you so if you don’t at least pass this on it will eat away at your profits. A 5% increase is not really that much and some customers may not even notice this marginal increase. However over time, this will impact your profit considerably. Always advise your existing customers of a price increase (however small) and briefly have a courtesy statement as to why this increase is necessary, a increase from suppliers and the time since the last increase will usually suffice.

For some products and services, you may be guided by the price that the market demands (what the competition price is), however if your product or service is clearly differentiated then your price should be considerably more than the competition.

Higher pricing strategies should always be monitored to make sure you are not pricing yourself out of the market. Provided you promote your product extensively and regularly and maintain your point of differentiation, then you are on the right track. Have you ever seen recently produced Apple products discounted? Have a matrix that identifies what products or services that you offer and where they sit in the overall scheme of things. a suggested matrix (that I use) is shown below.

This gives you a quick snapshot of where your products sit in each of the markets you are in and how you might structure your pricing. The model serves as a justification for your pricing strategy based on a number of factors. You may decide to change Moderate, Medium, High’s and Low’s with percentages if you wish.

Keep an eye also on the last time the product or service was updated or modified. Your customers will not be too keen on buying an outdated product or service particularly if the competition has new and regularly updated products that compete with yours on every level.

A simple change in packaging or a slight modification can maintain (or even increase) your price and a promotional campaign around all this can relaunch this product to even greater levels that before. Think what Apple did with the existing iPhone 5, which became the iPhone5c and 5s and how they reinvented the product and made even more sales the second time around.

I know now you are thinking well that’s all well and good but I’m not Apple, I know you are not! All I am saying is you think about some of their marketing methodologies, and how you could apply some of these into your own business. When I train businesses in marketing strategies I always use Apple as a good example.

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When you think about how to improve your business, the purpose is to gain and retain customers - not rocket science! To be competitive you have to plan for this, remaining and improving your competitiveness will be very difficult to achieve without a marketing plan, and this does not have to be a long drawn out exercise.

A marketing plan provides you with direction. It tells you how to develop, and how to improve your business processes that will satisfy customer demands, communicate the benefits of your products and services to your potential and existing customers, and guarantee customer satisfaction.

Marketing must shape the future, as well as delivering today. By sensing the emerging opportunities, market, product and service innovation drive future revenue streams, and brands and relationships make them more certain, you will begin to find out how to improve your business. Your plan should be such that it enables you to encourage people to want to do business with you.

Marketing is Every-one's Job

Everyone in your business is involved one way or another in marketing your products and services. They may not be actively involved in the planning process, or be directly responsible in finding customers , but they will all in some way be in a position to contribute to the success of your business in gaining and retaining customers and maintaining your competitiveness. For this reason, you, and your key staff, should have some understanding of what the process of marketing involves as it applies to your business.

Generate Marketable Products or Services

Do you have products, ideas, concepts, or services that you have screened and tested to ensure they will satisfy customer need and that are potentially profitable? Have you analyzed your products life cycle in order to predict it's sales pattern over a period of time? Do you continue to search for new products and services? If you don't have a durable marketing product, you will not build up and more importantly retain a customer base.

Profile your Competition

How well do you know the other businesses that compete for your customers? Who exactly are the competitors? What are their strengths and weaknesses? You should gather as much information as you can on their marketing and communication strategies, types of advertising, their products and services, prices, markets and how they take advantage of changes in the industry. Identify any areas in the market that are not filled by your competitor's products and services, and that could be exploited by yours. Remember your competitors will be watching you also!

Analyze Market Opportunities

Market research is essential. Assemble information about your business's current and potential markets, about the users (consumers) of your products and services, and about those areas where your business has the competitive advantage when it comes to introducing and improving and new products and services or entering new markets. This market profile should include your current and future market's size, growth potential, barriers to entry, key players and the existence of particular niches.

If your business is a small to medium business enterprise (SME), research tell us that almost 75 per cent of your customers will come from within a five kilometre radius of your business.

Target your Market

Based on the information you have gathered, and on the skills and resources of your business, you should now be able to select specific target markets. If you are not in the mass-marketing business (i.e. you don't offer your products to everyone out there), then you are in a position to pinpoint those segments of the market at which your products and services should be targeted.

Develop an Appropriate Marketing Mix

Your preliminary research will now enable you to consider the 4P's of marketing. This is the set of controllable variables that all businesses attempt to blend into the right combination to achieve the dominant position in the market place.

The four key factors are:

1. Price

2. Product

3. Promotion

4. Place

In the long run the success you have in addressing these four components will determine your ultimate success in the marketplace. Only objective research will give realistic feedback on customer needs and values.

Develop a Strategy for Publicizing your Product

If you have the products and services people want, and are prepared to pay for,then your next step is to bring these to people's attention. You will need to develop a strategy to address advertising and promotion of the products and services, new product launches, sales campaigns, ans distribution policies.

How can you get value for your advertising dollar? Are there more cost-effective ways to promote your product? Should you be using more that one method? With the exception of new products, look to promote and advertise over the 'lean' periods of the year to supplement otherwise low sales periods.

Review your Performance Regularly

Unless you monitor the progress of your marketing plan, you will run the risk of not finding out until it's too late that the plan is not working. Analyze and review sales results constantly to ensure targets are being achieved along with expectations.

Amend your plan accordingly in the light of your findings and analysis and you will find out how to improve your business!

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Where are you now and what is your vision of the future? Planning is the art of visualization. It is the bridge to the future!

It is the ability to take something in your minds eye, and transform it into reality. This process is also a safety net, as it allows you to explore possibilities and adopt or describe them dependent on your ultimate goal, before you commit resources to actualize them. The business plan starts with defining the business vision, mission and value statements.

Vision Statements

People often looked puzzled when they hear they should write a vision and mission statement. What are these and what relevance have they to their business? Vision is big picture activity, broad in scope and short on detail, a statement about where you want your business to be at some point in the future. Often referred to as a desirable state at some future point. The vision is what you are creating and moving towards, it will remain constant, in focus, and so will your values.

Mission Statements

The mission statement should answer the following questions:

1) What business are we in?

2) What will the business do?

3) Who for, and why?

4) What sets this business apart from others?

The mission statement defines your business. It does this in terms of market, product line, geographical areas and distribution channels. It provides the foundation to gather and analyze and formulate strategies. The mission statement is a declaration of how your business purpose, customers, products, services, markets, and philosophy all contribute to the achievement of your vision.

Whereas the vision statement is a succinct statement, the mission statement is necessarily longer to convey the business principles. A business's objectives, strategies, and performance measures should then flow from the vision and mission.

The statement of mission, and the resultant strategies and objectives, look to identify where you want to be, and, in the process help you to determine where you are. The statement gives you important information on how to get there, and tells you when you have arrived. It unifies your efforts and energy, and gives meaning and purpose to all that you do.

It begins with the basic question’ what business are we in?’ It will require some thought. Defining your market too narrowly will preclude you from considering other possibilities. Too broader a definition will mean you lose focus on your core business and objectives, and in the process use precious resources for a small result.

Value Statements

This is a list of the values that you hold in conducting your business. This could be described as a set of non-negotiable minimum standards to which all of your work and dealings must apply.

The values of the business can be demonstrated by statements that:

1) Include a customer focus.

2) Underline the importance of people.

3) Acknowledge the business's responsibility is to the greater community.

Mission and vision statements should be statements that energize employees, customers and suppliers. Some people find the ‘warm and fuzzy’ approach too difficult, because there are no hard and fast rules. Often such values are those of the owner, or they are statements dreamed up to satisfy people’s expectations. However when value statements are incorporated, they can be a strong motivating force.

Values may relate to levels of technical competence or how dealings with clients are conducted, both on a business basis and a personal basis.

By always having an awareness of your values can prevent many of the dilemmas that can arise in business situations.

Values are what keep you on track to achieve your vision, you may need to re-visit them from time to time as a pulse check in order for you to say yes, this is the right thing to do!

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Put simply, it is those people that are most likely to purchase your products or services.

Understanding this key area is essential for the success of your marketing activities and ultimately your business.

You must describe your target market (the people most likely to purchase from you) in as much detail as possible. What will they look like, provide a picture of them, where do they live? What age group would they be in? Are they male or female? Are they married or single? Are they parents of children of a certain age? What is their income level?

What is a target market? This is powerful information, do this exercise vary carefully, you may need to perform some market research if you are unsure of your market(s).

Once you know your target market(s) then guess what? You now need to ask the question; what appeals to them? What motivates them to purchase? How do they find the types of products or services that you are selling? You will establish this by careful market research.

Once you know this, then you know what promotional activity will possibly work, and you can develop your promotional activities accordingly! This is exactly how the larger organisations work (as spend millions in the process), but broken down it's is as simple as knowing what motivates them to purchase, then using this in your marketing activities (advertising in particular).

Many business think they know their market, but with a little bit of research you could identify more groups of customers that you could market to, who find your products and/or services more appealing, and who ultimately will purchase from you.

This may just give you the drop on your competitors that you were looking for!

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What is a Business Image?

Put quite simply image is the picture than other people have of your business. It is also the picture you hold of yourself. If your business projects a true and attractive reflection of itself, you have a strong competitive advantage in the marketplace. You should aim to portray a professional business image at all times.

A neglected poorly communicated or outdated image of a business can leave an indelible and damaging impression. Once an identity is created is created, it must then be continuously managed. Marketing, advertising and public relations are the tools for image creation and maintenance.

Perception is everything! It can shape your reputation and form a major part in your market positioning., which is ultimately decided by your customers, so a professional image should the goal of the business at all times.

Become a Good Neighbour

Do your activities upset the local community in which you operate? If so, do something immediately about noise, fumes, smells, waste disposal, parking, visual pollution all the things that can create antagonism locally.

Or do your activities receive warm local acknowledgment because you support local development, contribute to local community associations, donate to charities, support schools, sponsor student or apprenticeship awards, offer assistance with local sport, art and youth activities?

Think of the many ways that you could keep your local community onside by becoming a good neighbour!

Know your Community

No effective program can be planned without a knowledge of the local community. What problems are of concern locally, lack of recreation facilities, youth unemployment, historic sites, pollution? What are your community's main interests, sport, culture, parks and gardens? Who are the opinion leaders? What is the current economic situation? Only with such background information can your image-building efforts be directed into the correct channels.

Identify and Assess Available Avenues

If you now know what it takes to be a good neighbour, and you know your community, then your business can now explore ways of demonstrating good citizenship and developing the perception of a good neighbour.

List all possible options from which a balanced selection of program strategies can be made, for example;

1. Media relations.
Keeping local media aware of your projects that impact favourably on the local community.

2. Participation.
In local community activities.

3. Newsletters.
For distribution to staff, clients, opinion leaders, libraries and local businesses.

4. Speech-making.
Addressing local schools, clubs, civic groups on the current activities and projects in your business.

5. Sponsorships
From financing the local pet show to purchasing much needed equipment or supplies for the local retirement village.

6. Product donations.
Donating products or services as prizes in local raffles, at school fetes or for other community fund-raising events.

7. Open days
InvitingImage reputation management the community to view your facilities, and feature demonstrations, tours and events.

Select your strategies in terms of the nature of your message and business coverage required, cost, time, and your particular business situation.

Building a Good Reputation

1. There is no quick way to have a good reputation.

2. A good reputation is everyone's job, not just you, the business owner.

3. You cannot have a good external reputation unless you have a good internal reputation.

4. Important decisions by stakeholders are based invariably on trust.

Remember - It may take years to build a reputation but only a moment to destroy one!

 

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This refers to marketing techniques that use pre-existing social networks to produce increases in brand awareness or to achieve other marketing objectives (such as product sales) through self-replicating viral processes.

It can be word-of-mouth delivered or enhanced by the network effects of the Internet. It is a marketing phenomenon that facilitates and encourages people to pass along a marketing message voluntarily. Viral promotions may take the form of video clips, interactive flash games, advergames, ebooks, brandable software, images, or even text messages. The basic form of viral marketing is not infinitely sustainable.Viral Marketing

It is claimed that a customer tells an average of three people about a product or service he/she likes, and eleven people about a product or service which he/she did not like. Viral marketing is based on this natural human behavior.

The goal of marketers interested in creating successful viral marketing programs is to identify individuals with high Social Networking Potential (SNP) and create Viral Messages that appeal to this segment of the population and have a high probability of being passed along.

The term is also sometimes used to refer to stealth marketing campaigns, the use of varied kinds of astroturfing both online and offline to create the impression of spontaneous word of mouth enthusiasm.

The term refers to the techniques that seek to exploit pre-existing social networks to produce exponential increases in brand awareness. It's primary use is to harness the network effect of the Internet to reach a large number of people very quickly. Viral advertising only succeeds if the original email campaign element is compelling and worth sending on.

A low cost form of this marketing gaining wide acceptance is blogs (weblogs). These are diarised entries on a website which often invite conversation from third parties. Blogs can include text, photographs (photoblogs), videos (vlogs), or audio (podcasts).

Blogging is a form of viral marketing that combines the power of word of mouth (wom) with the efficiency of the Internet. Small business can use blogs to demonstrate their expertise.

For example, a landscaper might consider a weekly blog about lawn care and gardening tips including case studies and photos or video content. If people find the blog interesting they may share it with friends who have similar interests.

Blogs demonstrate one of the changes occurring in Internet usage. Many people are becoming on-line 'prosumers', that is they produce and consume on the Internet in ever increasing numbers!

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