Bruce Milne wrote many years ago in "Software Company Guerilla Marketing", that before you can begin your marketing campaign, you must first define your target customers, channels of distribution, and competition as narrowly and concisely as possible. Remember, you have limited resources. His advice continues below, as true today as it was then...

• Define your target customers: For example, if you have an accounting system to automate medical clinics, it may still be too broad to say your target market is all clinics. Rather, you may define your target as "certain types of clinics serving over 3,000 patients a month who are currently using a service bureau." This means a targeted campaign that is reflected in your marketing plan as part of your overall business plan.

• Define your channels of distribution: Again, it is too broad to simply say you're going to sell through dealers or through direct sales reps. Rather, using the medical clinic example, you may define your main channel as "specialty VARs, VADs, and OEMs who sell high-end, turnkey computer systems to the medical environment." Hint: If you're having trouble narrowing your customers and channels, ask yourself this question: What are the features and benefits of my product and to whom will these be the most valuable? In other words, who "wins" most from buying and using your product? You may have more than one target group, but you should rank order the groups so you can identify the top one or ones for your targetd campaign. Remember, you have limited resources... Who are you going to call on first?

• Define your competition: It pays to look at competitors first from a broad perspective, then narrow it down to the competition in your target market. Remember, those not competing directly in your market now may decide to move in later, so it pays to have some advance research. Ask yourself if you're positioned competititvely in terms of price, support, quality, features, and other factors influencing the buying decision of your customers.

Also take a look at how the competition is promoting. What are you up against in terms of promotional materials (brochures, demos, etc.), advertising, sales channel incentives, trade shows, etc.?