What is marketing?
Marketing is everything you do to place your product or service in the hands of potential customers. It includes sales, public relations, pricing, packaging, and distribution. If business is all about people and money and the art of persuading one to part from the other, then marketing is all about finding the right prospects and customers to persuade.
One way of doing that is to buy marketing prospect information from lead generation providers. You can get detailed contact lists that often come with additional marketing and sales intelligence that makes lead generation the cost-effective way to get sales.
These lists can include company information, names of decision makers, and information on any business category you choose. Basically, you get to buy everything you need to know about prospects, making it that much easier to sell to them
Marketing is a strategy for allocating resources (time and money) in order to achieve your objectives (a fair profit for supplying a product or service).
Marketing doesn't begin with a great idea or a unique product. It begins with customers — those people who want or need your product and will actually buy it.
But people don't just "buy" a product. They "buy" the concept of what that product will do for them, or help them do for themselves. That’s why it’s important to take time at the beginning to discover who your potential customers are, and how to effectively reach them.
Above and below the line
Traditionally, marketing is divided into two spheres: above the line (ATL) and below the line (BTL). ATL is an advertising technique using mass media to promote brands. This type of communication is conventional in nature and is considered impersonal to customers. ATL makes use of traditional media such as television, radio newspapers, magazines, outdoor and the Internet.
BTL is more about unconventional brand-building strategies. It uses less predictable methods than the usual specific channels of advertising to promote products and services than ATL.
These include activities such as direct mail, public relations, sales promotions, consumer promotions, consumer incentives, trade incentives, and retail promotions. BTL focuses on direct, more personalised communication, most commonly direct mail, e-mail, and online communication, often using highly targeted lists of names to maximise response rates.
Importantly, BTL is usually far more cost-effective than ATL, making it an ideal choice for cost-conscious SMEs.
How to structure a marketing plan
Your marketing plan needs to take into consideration five critical areas of your business:
This is obviously the range of products/services that your business offers. If your products are limited in variation, then this area is simple.
However, if you have a wide range of products that need to be categorised in some manner, this is where the value stream approach of categorising them by “similar processes” will be helpful. Also ensure that you find product differentiators. You have to be able to determine from the outset what makes your product or range of products different from the competition’s.
Setting prices for your products depends very much on where your product is in its life cycle and how much competition you face in the market. If you are serving a specialised “niche” market with very little competition, your market is more likely to support higher prices.
If you are in a competitive market and your product is at the tail end of the life cycle of the product then you will have to target lower prices to stay in the game. You may want to offer seasons price specials, such a spring sale, or a festive season special. Other options include “two for the price of one” specials, or promotional gifts for buyers.
This is all about how your product is made available to your customers. You need to determine the impact of location, which affects availability of the product when making decisions on this aspect of your marketing plan.
If you can provide products immediately, you are more likely to attract larger market share than if the customer has to wait for the product. You can also attract a larger price. To build your market, you may choose to sell directly to end-users.
This'll give you confidence that there's demand for your product and will also create customers that you can contact for product and packaging feedback before you hit the stores. The web is one highly effective channel. You can also tap into your own personal network as you begin.
Host a home party to share your product with friends and friends-of-friends, sell through local community groups and e-mail your network. Next, you can look at small, independently owned, local stores. It's a good idea to start with them before hitting larger chain stores because it's easier to get in touch with the direct decision-maker, and they're more inclined to take on new items to differentiate themselves from larger stores.
Approach promotions from as many different angles as you can, using many diverse marketing and advertising channels.
A wider spread of marketing promotion channels will help to make your business more successful. This is one big reason why your company has to have an Internet presence. Always remember to be realistic about your budget. If it’s small, don’t spread it too thin. Rather focus on a few targeted promotions.
Avoid blanket approaches as these are rarely successful. Online direct marketing techniques have made it possible to promote specific products, a practice which can yield much higher conversion ratios. Think of designing your promotions around targeted segments of your market to achieve the greatest return.
With the explosion of social media marketing, people have become a key component of the marketing plan. Getting this side of your marketing strategy right is very important, because it impacts the image of your company and how it is perceived in the market place.
That means that how your people interact with your customers is critical, from phone calls, and face-to-face interactions, to e-mail, and online conversations. This is all about relationship-based marketing, as opposed to product-focused marketing.
Understanding and reacting to the conversations that are taking place on social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook is vital. Listen to the conversations that are taking place and tailor your products and services in line with what people want. That will help you keep you ahead of your competitors.
Best advice: Do’s and Don’ts of marketing
- Do research. Find out if other companies are providing similar products or services, and at what prices.
- Do make sure the market for your product or service is large enough to provide you with a customer base that can support your business.
- Do price products competitively. That does not mean going cheap. You want to find the right balance because raising prices may create market resistance.
- Do keep your marketing pitch simple.
- Do ensure that your product or service delivers on the features you use to sell it.
- Do use your product's packaging to communicate with your customers.
- Do have well defined marketing objectives before you start, and a budget to match.
- Don’t try to sell your products or services to everyone. Be clear on who your target market is.
- Don’t assume that all consumers will purchase your products or services for the same reasons. Vary your marketing message.
- Don’t expand into new markets before exploring all possibilities in your current customer base.
- Don’t go over the top with promotional pricing or special offers as they can affect how customers perceive the quality of your products or services.
- Don’t market your products or services to the wrong audience. If your market is a business owner, don't send advertising promotions to an employee.
How to measure campaign effectiveness
All too often, marketers measure campaign effectiveness by tracking the total number of sales leads generated. More importantly, however, you need to measure how many of these leads turn into qualified sales opportunities, and revenue for the business.
True campaign effectiveness is measured by tracking both the total leads generated, as well as the total number of these leads that become qualified sales opportunities.
You should also track and link company revenue to marketing campaigns, taking into account individual sales transactions, aggregate transactions, and total revenue generated by every marketing campaign. Here are some examples:
- Using special coupon or ID codes on adverts
- Directing browsers to a special web page so you can track hits and measure the success of the campaign
Instructing every staff member (especially sales team and receptionist) to always enquire about how the prospect heard about the business.