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March 16th, 2010

Scott Harris is the founder and principal of Mustang Marketing in Thousand Oaks. He writes columns for various publications, including the San Fernando Valley Business Journal, and has recently been reminding companies that tough economic times should encourage them to revisit their marketing plans – and that doesn’t mean cutting the budget arbitrarily to save money.

“Today’s economy is our new reality,” says Harris, “and blaming Wall Street is not an acceptable excuse for not doing well in 2010. We’re all dealing with the same economic environment, which means we have the same opportunities and the same challenges that our competitors do.” Marketing TipsIf you are new to marketing, or need a fresh way to look at things, a review of some marketing basics from the perspective of our “new reality” may be just what you need.

Product position, value proposition

Generally speaking, your mission as a business owner is to identify and bring to market quality products and services, delivering better value than competitors. You need to develop unique insights about your customers’ buying behaviors – as well as those of potential customers. This way, you can tailor your message.

Your core message,  sometimes between the lines and sometimes explicit, tells customers the benefits of doing business with you (your “value proposition”). It may, for example, be something like “big enough to get you the best price, small enough to know your name.” Depending on needs and venues, particular ads could focus on just one proposition, or bring in some others. The point is, are you communicating your message clearly and consistently?

Market and competitor research

You need to know your competitors well, and stay abreast of what they are doing (and saying) so you can better position your sales efforts. By identifying segmentation, competitive behavior, market opportunities and product/service “gaps,” you will discover opportunities you may well have missed.

Market research can be as vast or as focused as you need it to be. Online databases from both corporate America and government have a treasure trove of information about businesses in every state. Remember, too, that the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) many of you have used for years was replaced by the North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS). The NAICS breaks down businesses in Mexico, the U.S. and Canada by type and location.

Online resources

Below are some very valuable online resources to assist you in researching and developing your marketing plan, or at least getting your pump primed. The list cannot possibly be exhaustive, of course, so use the links to bridge to others that will get you where you want to go, and tell you what you want to know.

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Resource list

A great place to begin your research is the Carnegie Business Library.

Fedstats is “the gateway” to statistics from some 100 federal agencies and departments.

The North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) is just one of many, many useful databases from the Census Bureau.

The Service Corps Of Retired Executives (SCORE) offers  free online business tools.

You can easily send out your press releases via the Internet with PR Newswire.

Verizon offers a number of documents on “Expanding into New Markets.”

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