‘We need to do some marketing’ is a phrase often heard in small businesses when sales are not forthcoming or the competition seems particularly active. In fact what many people refer to as marketing is really some form of promotion, such as advertising or producing a brochure.
Marketing is more than that. It’s the whole process of understanding who your customers are, what their needs are and how you can satisfy those needs with your product or service. Promotion is about getting your customer’s attention and positioning your product in a way that they might find enticing enough to buy. It’s a part of the overall marketing plan of course but it comes as a consequence of doing some research into your target market and really understanding what your business is about.
A technicality some might say, surely the main thing is to let people know you’re there and make them an offer they can’t refuse. Well not really, promotion without first understanding your target market, who your competitors are and what your customers really value, can lead to valuable resources being devoted to promotional activities that have no realistic hope of bearing fruit. It’s the scattergun approach.
The foundation to any business idea is to make sure your research is sound by finding out as much as you can about your market and who else is in it using the internet, newspaper reports, magazines and trying to get as much information as possible from people who might buy from you.
As well as understanding your market it’s vital to decide what your business is about, and also what it’s not. Unless you aspire to be Del Boy’s successor dealing in ‘this ‘n’ that’ your business will need to follow the example of all successful enterprises by concentrating on a core purpose that builds on your strengths and fills a clear gap in the market.
To help you get better focussed, try imagining yourself as your customer. What sort of person or organisation would want your product or service and what might be important to you if you were them – it’s likely to be more than just the product features and the price. Qualities such as customer service, responsiveness, honesty, trustworthiness, ethics and shared values usually play a part in helping us decide who gets our hard-earned cash. Reflect the things that are likely to be important to your target in your promotional material and they will sense that you are talking to them.
The world’s big brands devote substantial amounts of money to their marketing process because they recognise that the return is well worth the investment in time and money, but the principles of marketing are relevant to any business, from a single self-employed person upwards. It’s just the scale that differs.
So, ‘We need to do some marketing’ might become ‘What does our marketing tell us we need to do to become more profitable?’First published in 2008