Marketing made simple.
Many companies are confused about marketing, and it is not surprising.
Over the years I have heard numerous comments, for example, “We are too small to worry about marketing.”
Other negative comments include “If only we had the time to do marketing”, “These marketing people talk in jargon, it’s not relevant to us”, “Marketing costs so much, it’s way beyond our means”.
Of course these are all misguided comments, but to be fair to business owners, it can be considered a function of some of the dogma delivered by ‘so called’ Marketing Guru’s.
For example, the world renowned and excellent Philip Kotler goes some way to create total confusion. His defines marketing as:
“The societal marketing concept holds that the organisation’s task is to determine the needs, wants, and interests of target markets and to deliver the desired satisfactions more effectively and efficiently than competitors, in a way that preserves or enhances the consumer’s and the society’s well-being.”
No disrespect here, but I think he must have swallowed a dictionary. Try reciting this five times before going to bed, and see whether you can recall it the following day.
The Chartered Institute of Marketing put it more succinctly;
“Marketing is the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying consumers’ requirements profitably”.
The energetic and charismatic Tom Peters also keeps it brief.
“The relentless pursuit of an almost familial bond between customer and product”.
All the above are correct, but for the ‘micro’ and the SME we need to simplify this further.
I like the following;
“Marketing is Creating the Conditions to make Selling Easier”.
I would bet that most people could recite this definition no more than twice, and still remember it the following day!
Providing the means used in the definition are legal and ethical, then this principal should serve business well when considering marketing ethos. Marketing exists because companies must sell to survive.
Many small businesses do not have a ‘Marketing Department’, or someone dedicated to the task. Irrespective of whether the business or entity has dedicated marketing, many of the messages herewith hold true, no matter whether you are IBM, or Joe’s Kitchen Supplies.
There needs to be an understanding from all that EVERYONE in the workforce has a responsibility for marketing. How many times have you heard someone berating their employer, the way they go about day to day business, and their supposed incompetence? What picture does that paint for you? Employees must buy into the principal, and show pride in their employer.
So, let us consider some of the simple aspects of marketing.
1. Answering the phone promptly and courteously
1. Allowing customers to enquire / place orders over the internet
1. Having clear and concise paperwork / literature etc
1. Ensure your paperwork, van, web site carries a common theme and logo
1. Having a clean van
1. Smart and clean dress sense
1. Developing a sense of pride in your employment
There are of course many other simple and inexpensive things that can be done. At this point, take 5 minutes to write down three simple things that can be easily adopted within your business, and will make selling easier.
It is amazing how many small companies have not done a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats). And those that have, admit it was done many years ago! And to go hand in hand with a SWOT analysis is a PESTE analysis (political, environmental, social, technological, economic). These simple charts can be easily made, or downloaded from the internet. They can also be scribbled on a blank piece of paper!
Some golden rules for delivering a full and meaningful SWOT and PESTE analysis.
1.. Ensure that the exercise to fill in the SWOT and PESTE is carried out by the Company Owner, someone in middle management, someone junior in the business, and the most recent recruit (where possible)
2.. Ensure that each person spends no more that 15 minutes each on SWOT and PESTE
3.. Bring in an independent person to chair and arbitrate on the subsequent brainstorm
4.. Repeat the exercise every 6 months
5.. Evaluate all progress in each case
6.. Take corrective action where the business appears to have taken a retrograde step.
Why have different levels of staff carrying out the exercise? Providing the owner realises that no one person has a monopoly on good ideas then the answer is obvious. Different people will have a alternative perspective and viewpoint about aspects of the business. The view from the bottom is likely be very different from that at the top. The new recruit may have experiences that identify unknown weaknesses or strengths, and has viewed the issues with a new set of eyes.
Keeping each analysis short is key. More than 15 minutes spent on filling in the SWOT or PESTE form is likely to pressurise an individual to seek issues that are peripheral, rather than key. An independent arbiter is important during the brainstorm, particularly if the ‘junior’ has any bold observations likely to disturb the boss! Repeating the exercise 6 months later can, in many cases be the key to determining whether the company has made progress or not.
Having carried out the exercise, brainstormed all the points, it is now important that an action list is compiled. Consider those that are the easiest to implement or deal with, and prioritise actions based on their likely input on the turnover of the business. The action list must be specific about WHO should carry out each task, and by WHEN. The list must be challenging but realistic.
With ALL actions identified, question, “will this action Create the Conditions to make Selling Easier”? If the answer is no, then put this action at the bottom of the list.
Where clear actions have been identified, actioned and clearly had an effect, try to quantify any subsequent increase in turnover as a result (where possible).
If this sounds time consuming, then you have probably over complicated your understanding of the process.
Once you have created a sense of belonging, and joint marketing responsibility within your team, you should start to observe a level of creativity within the business that can reap tangible rewards. Of course, during tough times, it makes sense for each employee to provide thoughtful input into the business from a job preservation perspective.
In this competitive world, it becomes a commodity game if you are just one of a number of ‘stationery suppliers’, ‘hair dressers’ or ‘insurance brokers’. It is key to marketing and PR that you provide some ‘innovation’ to your offering. If the ‘product’ is the same as others offer, then perhaps the means of commercial delivery needs to be different. Ask yourself, “What makes our product or means of business different from our competitors?” If you cant think of anything, now is the time to be creative. Choose an aspect of delivery that should be viewed as favourable by your clientele.
It is now important to get your messages out to your target audience. Your business must be projected to your customers and prospects in a way that creates a desirable image. This is called ‘Public Relations’, often shortened to ‘PR’. In the past this meant an image portrayed to the general public (business to consumer), but over the years this has been adopted for the ‘business to business’ sector.
PR activities include getting a message to its clientele and target clients about such issues as crisis management, industry relations, investor relations, media relations, publicity, and visitor relations. More recently Corporate Social Responsibility has become a key phrase, covering local, environmental, customer and employee relations.
Historically the public and commercial press was an appropriate PR vehicle. Newspapers, industry journals, all good places to gain exposure. PR ‘on the move’ became popular – advertising and getting one’s image projected at Railway Stations, on the side of Buses, roadside adverts, plus many others. Postal PR became, and still is very popular. Exhibitions and conventions have been popular for many years. TV came along, and for those seeking huge consumer markets here was another vehicle to excite the target audience. Later it was the turn of commercial radio.
Over the last 10 years, PR has had numerous new platforms to work with, spurred on by the internet. Taking the internet one stage further, we now have Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Linked In and many more to further enhance our image. Add to that mobile technologies, and our market can be specifically targeted on the move.
It is important to recognise that PR is not necessarily placing an advert to encourage sales, it is to ensure that your target market view your company as an honest and outstanding supplier capable of delivering your needs when you have them. Where possible to become the ‘name’ synonymous with the need. A good example is ‘Hoover’, which has become a generic name for vacuum cleaner. Sadly this has outlived its benefit over the years, as many intending to purchase a Hoover buy an alternative brand, and still call it a Hoover!
So, where do we start?
This is where we need to consult the outcomes of our SWOT and PESTE analysis. We need to establish:
1. Who is our target market?
1. How do we get our message across?
1. What are the habits of our target audience, and how do we get to them?
1. What message do we wish to project?
1. How do we measure our success?
Let us consider the above point by point.
Our target market should have already been identified. If not, we need to ‘re do’ the SWOT analysis.
Getting our message across can be achieved many ways. Do we wish to advertise? Do we wish to get an article published? Do we want to e mail prospects (be aware of data protection and anti spamming laws)? Do we believe a video clip is best?
Regarding the habits that our target audience has let us consider the scenarios:
when marketing to teenagers – what do they do? They use the internet, they read teenage magazines, watch the TV, and use mobile phones & pda’s.
when marketing to production engineers – what do they do? They read industry journals. They use the internet. They attend exhibitions and conferences.
when targeting the Owner of a small business – what do they do? They may have no time to read business magazines. They use the internet. They may attend exhibitions and networking events.
Regarding the message we want to get across, this can be varied. For established businesses perhaps the message is to publicise a recent charitable event the company has been involved in. Alternatively recent measures taken to reduce environmental impact. For less established companies, perhaps the message is part of the company’s culture that makes it different from its competition. Perhaps you want an article published about something worth shouting about.
Measuring how successful our chosen route has been can prove difficult, as today’s PR ‘seeds’ are tomorrow‘s Sales ‘fruits’.
There is no doubt that the options can be many, and the task may appear daunting. However, providing that the company strategy and marketing plan can be integrated, the options can be assessed easily.
If all is unclear, a good Sales & Marketing advisor will provide impartial and invaluable guidance. Many companies are quick to offload the responsibility to a PR Agency. Many PR agencies are excellent, but can be costly. In many instances businesses outsource parts of PR that they have the ability to do in house with little effort, and some automation of processes.
Prior to engaging a PR agency, an impartial review of the Marketing plan (including SWOT & PESTE), the Company Strategy, and the systems in place at the business (for PR deliverance purposes) can be invaluable, and potentially save fees. A good Sales & Marketing advisor will bring experience gained across many platforms and clientele, and will be able to identify actions that can be carried out in house, and those that are best placed with an agency.