By Max Jenvey of Oxxygen Marketing Partnership, a strategic business accelerator specialising in the bakery, foodservice and convenience retail sectors

Hopefully one of your resolutions for 2011 includes a business plan focusing on growth. No cheating now it doesn’t count if it’s still in your head. Commit to the plan in writing and don’t worry if you haven’t already done so, as we will help you.

Question: why do some high street and branded bakery chains do so well? Answer: they develop and stick to their marketing plans. Independent bakers often say: "Our customers love our range just the way it is, it has been like that for years." Yes, your customers do love your products, but failure to regularly update your range can lead to disaster.

Start with your customers: who are they, what do they want? Most importantly, ask them. Before making changes to your business, conduct your own market research, focusing on current range, sales and profitability. Kill poorly performing products immediately. What drives your customers’ buying behaviour, their need states at breakfast, lunch and dinner and the in-between times snacking, breaks, feed me now and buy now to take home.

Consider current trends and issues; obesity is a major UK challenge and Mintel found that a quarter of women wear clothes 18+, a third of men wear size XL, with 30% of children classified overweight. So you have two opportunities: cater to it or counter it, balancing your offer between healthy and indulgent treats. Think whole grains, super fibres and fat-burning ingredients that promote feeling fuller to cash in on those New Year resolutions.

Now back to the 2011 plan: map out all the seasons, holidays and promotional periods. Work out the investment required to achieve each activity with realistic targets. If you want to increase your sales by 20% year-on-year, that’s great, but that 20% must be broken down into smaller, bite-sized chunks for example 2% pricing, 5% promotions, 3% new product development, 1% improved purchasing, 3% staff training and customer service and finally 6% through availability. In 2009, 40% of coffee shop customers ranked product availability as the number one issue (him! coffee shop report 2009).

Finally, ensure every change you make is measurable, down to the last raisin in your buns. Stick to your plan and you can afford the cherry on top.