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A marketing strategy will help you identify your best customers, understand their needs and implement the most effective marketing methods.

The internet has transformed business marketing. No matter what you do, the internet is likely to be at the heart of your marketing strategy.

Social media is firmly established as a marketing tool. Having a presence opens up new lines of communication with existing and potential customers.

Good advertising puts the right marketing message in front of the right people at the right time, raising awareness of your business.

Customer care is at the heart of all successful companies. It can help you develop customer loyalty and improve relationships with your customers.

Sales bring in the money that enables your business to survive and grow. Your sales strategy will be driven by your sales objectives.

Market research exists to guide your business decisions by giving you insight into your market, competitors, products, marketing and your customers.

Direct marketing can be a highly successful way to generate sales from existing and new customers. Find out how to target them in the best way.

Exhibitions and events are valuable for businesses because they allow face-to-face communication and offer opportunities for networking.

PR

Favourable media coverage can bring a range of business benefits. But how do you attract the attention of editors, broadcasters and journalists?

Developing new products - checklist

To keep ahead of your competitors, you need to keep a close eye on your product line and, where appropriate, develop new and upgraded products to bring to market. Use this checklist to help to develop new products, from coming up with new ideas to setting budgets, deciding on product specification and prototyping.

  • Generate ideas for new and modified products from customer feedback, employee suggestions and technological developments, for example.
  • Assess how these ideas fit with your strategy, market position and skills and check you have the resources to devote to development.
  • Research the market, assessing customer requirements and sales potential; identify key risks and plan your marketing strategy.
  • Research the competition and potential competition; learn from competitors' successes and failures.
  • Form a project team covering all the key skills (eg marketing, design, production, purchasing and finance) led by a product champion.
  • Plan the critical path, identifying which activities must be undertaken in sequence and which can happen in parallel.
  • Set budgets, objectives and timescales. Be prepared to regularly assess progress during the project and, if necessary, modify plans.
  • Assess risks to the project such as technical hurdles, availability of cash and other resources and whether you can secure intellectual property rights.
  • Define the basic product specification and translate specific features into product requirements; identify your key selling points.
  • Estimate the likely production costs and work out what price you will need to achieve to reach the desired profit margin; assess likely actual costs of development and production, allowing for contingencies.
  • Design the product, taking into account marketing, production and purchasing requirements.
  • Develop a prototype to iron out technical and production issues and to test market reaction. Are customers happy with the price you will be asking for the product? Make any necessary changes.
  • Gear up for full-scale production and launch the product.
  • Continue to monitor the product's success and look for opportunities to further develop it.

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