Direct-mail Marketing: Checklist


  • Is there a perceived need for the product or service?
  • Is it practical?
  • Is it unique?
  • Is the price right for your customers or prospects?
  • Is it a good value?
  • Is the markup sufficient to assure a profit?
  • Is the market large enough? Does the product or service have broad appeal?
  • Are there specific smaller segments of your list that have a strong desire for your product or service?
  • Is it new? Will your customers perceive it as being new?
  • Can it be photographed or illustrated interestingly?
  • Are there sufficient unusual selling features to make your copy sizzle?
  • Is it economical to ship? Is it fragile? Old shaped? Heavy? Bulky?
  • Can it be personalized?
  • Are there any legal problems to overcome?
  • Is it safe to use?
  • Is the supplier reputable?
  • Will backup merchandise be available for fast shipment on reorders?
  • Might returns be too huge?
  • Will refurbishing of returned merchandise be practical?
  • Is it, or can it be, packaged attractively?
  • Are usage instructions clear?
  • How does it compare to competitive products or services?
  • Will it have exclusivity?
  • Will it lend itself to repeat business?
  • Is it consumable, so that there will be repeat orders?
  • Is it faddish? Too short-lived?
  • Is it too seasonal for direct mail selling?
  • Can an add-on to the product make it more distinctive and salable?
  • Will the number of stock keeping units – various sizes and colors – create problems?
  • Does it lend itself to multiple pricing?
  • Is it too readily available in stores?
  • Is it like an old, hot item, so that its success is guaranteed?
  • Is it doomed because similar items have failed?
  • Does your mother, wife, brother, husband, sister, or kid like it?
  • Is direct mail the way to go with it?
  • Does it fill an unfilled niche in the marketplace?

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

 

Profitability Objectives


Many firms have some type of profitability objectives for their pricing strategy. Management knows that:

Profit = Revenue – Expenses

and that revenue is a result of the selling price times the quantity sold:

Total Revenue = Price x Quantity Sold

Some firms try to maximize profits by increasing their prices to the point where disproportionate decrease appears in the number of units sold. A 10 percent price hike that results in only an 8 percent volume decline increases profitability. But a 5 percent price rise that reduces the number of units sold by 6 percent is unprofitable.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

 

Product Knowledge


You have to be expert before you even start your business. The old saying, “We learn by our mistakes” will not do your business reputation any good if it applies to your lack of expertise. You have to know your products or service inside out. You may love a business for the product lines, but will your customers love the products too? When problems arise with a product, or when a customer asks technical questions, are you knowledgeable enough to resolve these problems and answer their questions competently and confidently?

One way to increase your product knowledge is to contact the manufacturers or local distributor. They are usually happy to send you product information and answer your questions. Some of the questions you should research about your product lines (or service) are these:

  • How long have these products been on the market?
  • Are they seasonal, and when do most sell?
  • How often are these products upgraded or changed?
  • Could you be caught unexpectedly with obsolete inventory?
  • What do the manufacturers’ warranties cover?
  • Are replacement parts readily available?
  • Are the products competitively priced?
  • Are buying trends increasing or decreasing?
  • Are the products high, medium, or low in quality?
  • How do the products compare to the competition?
  • What are groups do these products appeal to?
  • What is the life expectancy of the products?
  • Could the products become obsolete due to changing technology?

After these questions are answered, you may find that the business is not viable after all. The product pricing may be too high compared to the competition, or you may discover that over the previous five years, overall demand for the products is declining due to technological changes and shifts in consumer buying trends. In another five years, the demand could become substantially less. The products may appear high in quality on sight, but you may discover that they are poorly made and not something that you would feel confident selling. Perhaps the manufacturer’s guarantees are inadequate, or replacement parts are priced exorbitantly and hard to secure.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Product Development Process


The product development process involves analysis of the marketplace, the buyer, the company’s capabilities, and the economic potential of new product ideas. This process may be both expensive and time consuming. To accelerate the process, many companies create multidisciplinary teams so that manufacturing and marketing plans can be developed in tandem while the product is being designed.

  1. Generation and Screening of Ideas: The first step is to come up with ideas that will satisfy unmet needs. A producer may get new product ideas from its own employees or from external consultants, it may simply adapt a competitor’s idea, or it may buy the rights to someone else’s invention. Customers are often the best source of new product ideas.
  2. Business Analysis: A product idea that survives the screening stage is subjected to a business analysis. At this point the question is: Can the company make enough money on the product to justify the investment? To answer this question, companies forecast the probable sales of the product, assuming various pricing strategies. In addition, they estimate the costs associated with various levels of production. Given these projections, the company calculates the potential cash flow and return on investment that will be achieved if the product is introduced.
  3. Prototype Development: The next step is generally to create and test a few samples, or prototypes, of the product, including its packaging. During this stage, the various elements of the marketing mix are put together. In addition, the company evaluates the feasibility of large-scale production and specifies the resources required to bring the product to market.
  4. Product Testing: During the product testing stage, a small group of consumers actually use the product, often in comparison tests with existing products. If the results are good, the next step is test marketing, introducing the product in selected areas of the country and monitoring consumer reactions. Test marketing makes the most sense in cases where the cost of marketing a product far exceeds the cost of developing it.
  5. Commercialization: The final stage of development is commercialization, the large-scale production and distribution of those products that have survived the testing process. This phase requires the coordination of many activities—manufacturing, packaging, distribution, pricing and promotion. A classic mistake is letting marketing get out of phase with production so that the consumer is primed to buy the product before the company can supply it in adequate quantity. A mistake of this sort can be costly, because competitors may be able to jump in quickly. Many companies roll out their new products generally, going from one geographic area to the next. This enables them to spread the costs of launching the product over a longer period and to refine their strategy as the rollout proceeds.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Analyzing Current Situation: Checklist


Phase 1: The Environment

  1. What is the state of the economy and are there any trends that could affect the industry, firm, or marketing strategy?
  2. What are current trends in cultural and social values and how do these affect the industry, firm, or marketing strategy?
  3. What are current political values and trends and how do they affect the industry, firm, or marketing strategy?
  4. Is there any current or pending federal, state, or local legislation that could change the industry, firm, or marketing strategy?
  5. Overall, are there any threats or opportunities in the environment that could influence the industry, firm, or marketing strategy?

Phase 2: The Industry

  1. What industry is the firm in?
  2. Which firms are the major competitors in the industry and what is their annual sales, market share, and growth profile?
  3. What strategies have competitors in the industry been using, and what has been their success with them?
  4. What are the relative strengths and weaknesses of competitors in the industry?
  5. Is there a threat of new competitors coming into the industry, and what are the major entry barriers?
  6. Are there any substitute products for the industry, and what are their advantages and disadvantages compared to this industry’s products?
  7. How much bargaining power do suppliers have in this industry, and what is its impact on the firm and industry profits?
  8. How much bargaining power do buyers have in this industry, and what is its impact on the firm and industry profits?

Phase 3: The Firm

  1. What are the objectives of the firm? Are they clearly stated? Attainable?
  2. What are the strengths of the firm? Managed expertise? Financial? Copyrights or patents?
  3. What are the constraints and weaknesses of the firm?
  4. Are there any real or potential sources of dysfunctional conflict in the structure of the firm?
  5. How is the marketing department structured in the firm?

Phase 4: The marketing Strategy

  1. What are the objectives of the marketing strategy? Are they clearly stated? Are they consistent with the objectives of the firm? Is the entire marketing mix structured to meet these objectives?
  2. What marketing concepts are at issue in the current strategy? Is the marketing strategy well planned and laid out? Is the strategy consistent with sound marketing principles? If the strategy takes exception to marketing principles, is there a good reason for it?
  3. To what target market is the strategy directed? Is it well defined? Is the market large enough to be profitably served? Does the market have long-run potential?
  4. What competitive advantage does the marketing strategy offer? If none, what can be done to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace?
  5. What products are being sold? What is the width, depth, and consistency of the firm’s product lines? Does the firm need new products to fill out its product line? Should any product be deleted? What is the profitability of the various products?
  6. What promotion mix is being used? Is promotion consistent with the products and product images? What could be done to improve the promotion mix?
  7. What channels of distribution are being used? Do they deliver the product at the right time and right place to meet customer needs? Are the channels typical of those used in the industry? Could channels be made more efficient?
  8. What pricing strategies are being used? Hw do prices compare with similar products of other firms? How are prices determined?
  9. Are marketing research and information systematically integrated into the marketing strategy? Is the overall marketing strategy internally consistent?

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

The Master Plan


Many people assume that a formal business plan is only for big time businesses. Wrong. A business plan is for anyone who wants to give their enterprise their best possible shot. It is where you detail out all the operational, marketing, and money matters of your business. It is, in essence, a road map. With it, you will better be able to reach your goal. Without it, you run the risk of spending precious time and money traveling in circles or unwittingly wandering into danger zones.

In response to the question, what a business plan is, follow the following”

  • A business plan is written by the home-based business owner with outside help as needed.
  • It is accurate and concise as a result of careful study.
  • It explains how the business will function in the marketplace.
  • It clearly depicts its operational characteristics.
  • It details how it will be financed.
  • It outlines how it will be managed.
  • It is the management and financial “blueprint” for startup and profitable operation.
  • It serves as a prospectus for potential investors and lenders.

A study for “why” of creating it, note:

  • The process of putting the business plan together, including the thought that you put in before writing it, forces you to take the objective, critical, unemotional look at your entire business proposal.
  • The finished written plan is an operational tool, which, when properly used, will help you manage your business and work toward its success.
  • The complete business plan is a means for communicating your ideas to others and provides the basis for financing your business.

While you are to be the author of the document, you shouldn’t hesitate to get professional help when it comes to areas outside your ken, such as accounting, insurance, capital requirements, operational forecasting, and tax and legal requirements. Finally, in response to the question, “When should Business Plan be used?” note:

  • To make crucial startup decisions
  • To reassure lenders and backers
  • To measure operational progress
  • To test planning assumptions
  • As a basis for adjusting forecasts
  • To anticipate ongoing capital and cash requirements
  • As the benchmark for good operational management

If you have been doing your research and homework all along, you probably have most of the raw material for the business plan, so it won’t be such an awesome task.

Business plans differ greatly, depending on the nature and scope of the enterprise. Some elements a person in a retail sales business would need in his or her business plan may be totally irrelevant for your service business. Similarly, business plans vary in length—from five or six pages or a virtual booklet; some are written in an engaging narrative style while others take another approach—just the facts. However, while business plans may differ in style, tone, length, and components, there is some common ground. Below is a list of items that should be in almost every business plan:

  • A summary of the nature of your business and its principal activity with a detailed description of the product(s) or service(s) you will offer.
  • A statement as to the form your business will take (sole proprietorship, partnership, incorporation) and how it will be managed and operated (with information on employees or subcontractors if applicable).
  • A discussion of any extra-ordinary (and potentially problematic) matters revolving around such things as space requirements, production processes, and operating procedures.
  • A discussion of major trends in your trade or profession.
  • A discussion of your competition and the basis on which you will compete.
  • A description of your target market that might include a profile of a typical customer or client.
  • A discussion of your plans for pricing, sales terms, and distribution.
  • A discussion of how you intend to advertise and promote your products or services.
  • A detailed statement of startup and operating costs for at least the first year.
  • A discussion of how your business will be financed.
  • Profit and loss and cash flow statements for at least the first year of business.

If this list has made a business plan seem all the more scary and arduous a task, don’t panic. There are books on the market that will guide you through the process.

A clean attractive business plan is a sine qua non if you will be applying for a loan or looking for investors. But even if the document is for your eyes only, you owe it to yourself to produce a professional-looking document. Since it is your road map, the neater it is the better it will serve you when you refer to it at various stages of your entrepreneurial journey.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Learn from Operations of other Organizations


There is nothing wrong with learning from other organizations. You should search each reasonable source for ideas that you can adapt—don’t be afraid or too proud to borrow ideas from anyone. Remember that to copy from one person is plagiarism, to copy from lots of people is research. If you offer a service, you might start by looking at the operations of a highly successful service provider. You can learn a lot by walking around companies and thus see how they have tackled their decisions about location, layout, capacity, product design, process design, performance measures, logistics, stock control, technology used, staffing, pricing, amount of vertical integration, maintenance and replacement, and financing.  When you look for improvements, see how other organizations have solved similar problems, and don’t be afraid to borrow good ideas.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Intra-Company Pricing


In order to achieve the benefits of decentralization, many companies have split their operations into divisions that act as more or less autonomous “profit centers.” These profit centers typically are allowed, within certain limits, to make their own price and output decisions. Their executives, furthermore, are judged on the basis of the divisional profits achieved.

Suppose a commodity or service is to be exchanged between two profit centers of a single company. The firm may produce copper metal in one profit center and fabricate it into copper wire in a separate profit center. Or production may take place within one profit center and marketing of the company’s product within another. The question then arises of how to price the internal transaction of, for example, supplying copper metal to the coppoer wire division. The supplying division will of course be interested in having the intermediate product valued at a high price, the receiving division at a low price.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

A Retailer’s Value Chain


The value a retailer adds lies in providing more choices, greater convenience, better quality, availability, and lower prices. To do so, it must perform several activities. The first stage of this chain is store operations, in which the retailer must perform four kinds of activities. First, it must make the right choices about the mix of goods that its stores must carry (merchandising). Once the mix of goods has been determined, purchasing must seek suppliers who are dependable, that is, would deliver on time and at good prices. The retailer, on the one hand, must also make sure that it does not run out of items that customers want but, on the other hand, cannot afford to be stuck which inventory that customers do not want. It cannot hold the goods too long either, because doing so also costs money. Moreover, the prices of products such as semiconductors or computers drop so fast that a retailer can loose a lot of money by holding inventory. Thus, inventory management is critical.

 

The second stage of the chain is logistic. The retailer must get the goods from suppliers to the right stores, at the right time, at the right cost. The last stage is marketing. The firm must market itself and its products through its advertising, promotion, and pricing, which is often done with the help of or in alliance with suppliers. In some cases the retailer may also have a service network to repair or maintain products.

 

In performing the activities of its value chain, a firm must interact with suppliers, customers, and firms in related industries. These other firms also have value chains of their own. What we really have, then, is a system of value chains called the value chain system.

 

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

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