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6. How we reach our market

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Guidance on writing the 'How we reach our market' section of your business plan.


In section 4 you described who your customers are; now you need to describe how you’ll communicate with them and what you want to tell them.

Describe how you’ll reach your customers

Start by thinking about how you’ll reach the people who will pay for and use your service. If you have different groups of customers, you might need to use several different types of communication.

Think about the kind of relationship each type of customer would like to have with you.

For example, some customers may want to buy something from you online as quickly as possible. They never want to see you or talk to you, and they may not want to hear from you again.

Other customers will want to have a more personal service, where they know who to contact if they have problems. They may want to be involved in developing the service or even get the chance to volunteer with you.

There are lots of different ways to reach your customers; these are sometimes called marketing channels. Think carefully about which channels are most appropriate for which customers – for example, older people are less likely to use social media and might be more likely to read a local paper.

You should also think about whether you’re trying to reach new customers (who you don’t know much about) or existing customers (who you already have a relationship with), as you may need to treat them differently.

Marketing channels could include:

  • social media (Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube)
  • websites
  • print media (newspaper advertising or editorials, trade/sector magazines)
  • online media (trade/sector newsletters, your own newsletter)
  • emails
  • word of mouth
  • events, open days or trade shows
  • flyers and posters
  • radio advertising or editorials
  • linking into national/local campaigns
  • press releases
  • blogs.

Describe what you need to tell your customers

Next, think about what you need to say. If you don’t have a clear purpose for your marketing, your customer may not get the right message. Are you just giving them some information or do you want them to take action? If so, what action do you want them to take?

Make sure you have simple and clear messages that are relevant to each audience.

Now you’ve worked out the who, how and why of your marketing, you can describe your marketing strategy.

6.1 Marketing strategy

Give an overview of what you want to achieve through your marketing plan

This might only cover the first year of your business plan as it’s likely you’ll want to review it as you learn more about your customers.

  • What do you need your marketing plan to achieve? (For example, 'Recruit X new customers over the next 12 months,' 'Increase sales to regular customers by X%,' 'Increase brand recognition.')
  • Who is the target market for your marketing strategy?
  • Why have you chosen to target this group at the present time?
  • What are your key marketing channels and why do you think these are most important to invest in?
  • What is your overall marketing budget and how will this spread out over the business plan period? (For example, you may have a large marketing spend in the first year, which decreases once you are up and running, or you may need a big seasonal push every year.)
  • Is your marketing plan related to or reliant on any major campaigns, events or programmes?
  • When and how will your marketing plan be reviewed?

Refer to your fundraising strategy if you have donors

If you’re also raising income from donors, you may want to refer to your fundraising strategy and describe how your marketing strategy complements the work you’re doing to attract donors. It’s important to show that you have clear and distinct messages for each strategy, so that you are not confusing donors with customers.

6.2 Marketing plan

Set out a brief overview of your marketing plan

You may want to include a full marketing plan as an appendix. This could include full timescales, costs and more detailed descriptions of your customer groups.

For the overview, it’s helpful to lay the information out in a table, as in the example below.

Who is the target customer or beneficiary group?How will you reach them?What do you want to tell them and what action do you want them to take?When will you do this: regularly or at a specific time?

Parents of babies and toddlers who have not visited our café before

Word of mouth (parents’ groups, existing customers

Social media: Facebook page, Twitter

Free listing in local online ‘Things to do with kids’ forum

Visit the café for a free coffee when they buy a kids’ meal

January and February 2017 (winter offer)

Potential business clients for our consultancy service


Email to existing contacts

Business briefing breakfasts: private invites to warm contacts for session on hot policy issue, led by our consultants

Attend exclusive networking sessions to learn more about our area of expertise and our consultancy service

From March 2017

March 2017 (coincide with web launch)


6.3 Our brand

Describe your brand and how you communicate it

Your brand should be a key tool in your marketing strategy. It’s your chance to tell the world who you are and make sure that all of your marketing activity is linked together.

A brand is not just about a logo. It’s about your key messages, the way you present yourselves to the world and the way you want to be seen. A successful brand:

  • communicates how you want to be perceived
  • makes it easy for customers to identify you or distinguish you from competitors
  • makes it easier to build loyalty
  • helps to build trust.

Look back at your values. How do you get these across to the people you want to reach?

This might be through tangible marketing (logo, strapline, imagery, website design) or more intangible activity (the way you describe your organisation when you’re talking to people, the type of relationships you have with customers or clients). What kind of message do you want to convey?

Brand identity

Briefly describe your brand. If you’re in the process of updating your brand, describe how you want to be seen in five years and what you need to change to achieve this.

Key messages

List the key messages that you want to convey to your market. These might be three or four short statements about who you are, what you do and what action you want people to take. You might not actually state these in all of your communications, but the type of marketing you use will help you to get these messages across.

Managing the brand

Describe any tools that you have to help keep your brand consistent. This might include a ‘style guide’ that tells your staff how to write and present communications in line with your brand identity.

You may also have brand guidelines, which tell both your staff and other organisations how they should use your logo or refer to the organisation.

6.4 Key Relationships

Highlight relationships that are important to your marketing strategy or brand

Many voluntary organisations work in partnership with other organisations and businesses.

In section 8 you’ll describe your delivery partners, but here you should highlight any relationships that are important to your marketing strategy or brand. These might be local businesses who help to promote your work, or national campaigns that you link into as a core part of your marketing plan.

For example, a breast cancer charity may link into Breast Cancer Awareness Week. A significant portion of their marketing activity might take place during that week, so a large portion of the budget may also be spent at that time.

This kind of relationship can be hugely beneficial, but you should also recognise the risks of being associated with another brand, such as your own brand and message being overshadowed by your partners.

Page last edited Oct 12, 2020

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