There are several separate markets for this kind of seminar:
Corporations with interest in improving the planning of groups or individuals either inside the corporation or related to the corporation. The most obvious are the larger corporations that market through separate channel entities, such as distributors selling to dealers, manufacturers selling through dealers.
Owners and managers of smaller- or intermediate-sized businesses.
Individuals looking to either start their own businesses or improve their business planning skills and knowledge.
4.1 Market Segmentation
The total potential market in units is shown in the following table and chart, by type of market point. The larger corporations don't show up in the chart because they are dwarfed in gross unit numbers, but of course they do contribute a major potential market to the business.
Small and medium businesses
4.2 Target Market Segment Strategy
For the corporate market we need to focus on specific companies with specific opportunities. They should all be companies that work with independent channel points, because these are the most likely buyers. Channel development or channel marketing is the main job area for the first push.
For small and medium businesses we need to focus on organizations that can lever our market offering: the American Management Association, for example, the AICPA, trade associations and industry associations, perhaps some magazine publishers if they survive the 2001 shakeout.
For individuals we need to lever off organizations that cater to individuals looking to start up their own businesses: that might include SBDCs and publications, websites such as www.bplans.com, and others.
4.2.1 Market Trends
It's hard to find businesses dedicated to developing this kind of seminar. In general, seminars are an additional revenue generator in businesses or organizations that have other major objectives. For example, seminars are developed and offered by SBDCs, the AMA, chambers of commerce.
As a result, market trends are unclear. Has the development of software affected this market? We're not sure. Larger well-organized seminar businesses have not developed.
4.2.2 Market Growth
We have no indication of market growth in this pulverized and diffuse market. No statistics are available. What we do know is that there is growth potential, and plenty of potential market.
4.2.3 Market Needs
The underlying need is accelerated learning. Developing business plans isn't a skill people normally include in standard curricula for standard education, it is a skill considered ad-hoc, a specialized skill developed and exercised for a specialized task.
Those who don't have time for academic learning still need to develop business plans, and the seminar gives them a chance to gain familiarity in a few hours. Combined with business plan software, they can move forward and reduce the fear, break the pattern of procrastination, and move ahead with their planning.
In some market niches, seminars may serve their participants as continuing education required by professional licensors. This could be true for CPAs, for example, or attorneys.
In the large corporation context, there are additional market needs. Companies that market through channel partners need three things related to business plans:
Business information from the channel partners about business conditions, plans, projections, and business programs.
Consistency of numbers, definitions, business models, forecasts, and analysis.
Useful realistic planning.
Occasions suitable for regular meetings with events--such as business plan seminars--that can attract independent small businesses to attent those meetings. They use the meeting to announce new products, marketing programs, etc. Meetings are often held in attractive vacation locations so channel partners can combine business with vacations.
4.3 Service Business Analysis
The business plan seminar business is very diverse. It ranges from the high end, colleges and universities and some consulting companies offer serious multi-day seminars in planning and strategic planning for hundreds and even thousands of dollars.
4.3.1 Competition and Buying Patterns
At the high end, colleges and universities and some consulting companies offer serious multi-day seminars in planning and strategic planning for hundreds and even thousands of dollars.
There are also very serious seminar offerings from organizations such as the AMA, AICPA, etc. These tend to cost above $500.
Useful seminars are offered as well by SBDCs, smaller colleges and universities, community colleges, and even high school night school programs. Many of these are free, or close to free.
There are also related seminars offered by vendors of get-rich-quick schemes and multi-level marketing programs. These unfortunately add noise to the market, confuse potential participants between real value and thinly-disguised sales pitches.
4.3.2 Main Competitors
The way this business is positioned, we should try to work with our main competitors, instead of compete with them. AMA, AICPA, and business schools could be co-sponsors and allies rather than competitors.
Other competition would be business plan consultants, and in a sense all low-end business plan seminars.
4.3.3 Business Participants
The business plan seminar business is very diverse. It ranges from high-end seminars lasting more than a day and costing more than $1,000, to free sales pitches intended to draw would-be entrepreneurs for the purpose of selling products.