Marketing is about is competing. Unfortunately your customers have a choice – a bewildering array of products are available through an ever increasing number of channels. To survive and thrive you must persuade as many people as you can to choose you as often as you can. That’s the function of marketing.
A great deal of business is complicated; happily for you the basics of marketing are not. There are only three ways to grow your business; to acquire more customers and to persuade your customers to buy more and to increase the frequency of spend. The function of marketing is create an environment in which these three things are promoted. Importantly, if anything you are doing to promote your business does not lead to any of these three things, then stop doing it.
Many millions of words have been written about what marketing is and how it can benefit your business. I don't want to add to the white noise so this is not an exhaustive article. Instead I have chosen 10 things that I believe every business needs to do to make sure that they are set up properly for maximising the opportunities available to them. I make no distinction here between the real or the virtual world – these things are equally valid for both.
The biggest mistake businesses make is to start with their product and take it to market. Although this may sound like the intuative approach it's actually wrong. The problem is that you are making a massive assumption in believing that what you sell will interest any significantly large audience (i.e. beyond your family who will always tell you that your widget is lovely).
What you really need to do forms the basis of one of the most powerful marketing paradigms; 'Find out what people want, and give it to them'. When I first started out as a rooky marketer I worked for a company who are now one of the most successful businesses in the world (Diageo). It was the early 80s and the boffins in marketing had recognised that the British wine drinking public were ready for a change; a trading up if you will, from sweet German wines. Research showed that the market was ready for what it perceived to be a little more sophistication. Then, as now, sophistication came from the French so they 'invented' a product called Piat d'Or. Piat d'Or was not a good wine by the standards of any connoisseur but it was EXACTLY what the public wanted; French wine in a pretty bottle and very easy drinking. They ran a campaign with the strap 'Le French adore Le Piat d'Or' and that clinched it. Piat d'Or was the first wine in the UK to sell 1 million cases. It didn't win any wine medals but it made a heap of profit for the business.
If marketing had just one function it would be to drive price down the decision making ladder. The ultimate moment for a marketer is when a customer buys something and doesn't know or care what they paid for it. Price is, therefore, not a mark up on your cost, but what people are prepared to pay for your product. Customers don't care about your costs. Example: two shops in the same street sell the same product, one for £1 and one for £1.50. The more expensive shop argues that their shop costs more to run so they have to charge more ...... see what I mean. Who cares?! I'll buy the product for £1 please.
A watch is not something that tells the time (feature), it's a 'make sure I'm never late' machine (benefit). Think about which proposition is more attractive to a potential customer. To continue with the example given above; what would happen if the shop selling the product for £1.50 could persuade the potential buyer that there was a benefit to that extra .50p? Let us say that the shop owner spent a great deal of time and effort to make their shop an altogether more pleasant experience to shop in by adding a café, air-conditioning and really helpful staff. Ok, it might cost a bit more to add these benefits but not .50p more. By stressing the benefit of shopping with them the more expensive shop makes more money.
The annoying thing about a competitive economy is just that; competition. More often than not, after all the research has been done by your potential buyers, there's not much to choose between two or three. In the end the decision may well come down to who goes the extra mile? What can you package with your product that won't cost the earth but will have a high perceived value? After sales service? Free helpline? Free accessories? A guarantee? Free delivery? Anything that can tip the balance in your favour is worth doing.
Ultimately the decision to buy comes down to one thing; 'do I trust these people with my money?'. It is therefore the task of every business to offer as much reassurances as they can. Testimonials are a powerful way of achieving this, by offering a list of other people who have taken the plunge and survived, you are really going to ratchet up the trust. But let me throw in another idea; why not reverse the risk? It's very old trick but one that seldom understood and it takes the form of the money back guarantee. The CFO will hate it but the effect on your sales will be sufficient to persuade even him.
Here's the deal: 'Ok, you like what I'm selling but your not sure if you trust me. Fine, take it away, use it and if your doubts are confirmed, bring it back and we'll give you your money back'. The very, very worst that will happen is that around 5% of people will take you up on it (it's usually MUCH less). But when you factor in the 80% of people who bought when they otherwise wouldn't have done, that's been a good days work.
It's an old cliché but it's no less true. What we're doing when making a decision to buy something is to go through a process which satisfies us that our choice is the right one. The more information you have about a product the more likely you are to feel good about buying it. It's up to you, therefore to give potential buyers that information, and here's the thing; you can't give them too much. So long as your copy is interesting and relevant then people will read it. The more time they spend engaged in the information you provide, the more likely they are to fork out to buy it.
The journey from the shelf to the checkout (in a shop and on a website) can be the longest journey a customer will take when engaging with your business. Every step they take magnifies any doubts they may harbour. For heaven's sake - make it easy! Make quite sure that everyone knows where the check out is, have loads of them and keep the queue flowing. On your website, stick to the one page checkout principle, don't force people to register or add loads of information that you want to capture but they don't want to give. Of course it's important for your CRM but a database filled with people who didn't buy stuff is just useless.
For the most part we buy things we want not what we need. This means that most buying decisions are made in the heart and not in the head. Think about what you are doing to generate desire. If you have a row of people looking in through your shop window or at the homepage of your site with their tongues hanging out then you're on the right track!
In point 1 above I argued that giving customers what they want is the most powerful marketing paradigm. It is, of course, fundamental. However, here's perhaps a more powerful one; solve people's problems. Sure, think about the benefits of your product or service and stress these things, but what problems does it solve? 'Living in a gloomy house? Then buy one of our handy light bulbs and never grope in the dark again'. Or, 'Feeling thirsty? Don't go to the tap and have a free glass of tap water, carry our handy bottle of mountain spring water with you and never have a dry mouth again.' (see below for more on mountain spring water*).
Finally and perhaps the most commonly over-looked aspect of marketing is the follow up. If you don't have a strategy in place for after-sales follow up - get one. Nothing is more likely to generate further sales than a quick call, email, letter, fly by to ask the question: 'How did that work for you?'.
But there's also another major benefit. You know the one about how we make one good recommendation to nine bad ones? Well, that after sales call could just head that off. By catching the customer before they tell all their friends what went wrong you stand of chance of turning the situation round. Beleive me, there's no stronger recommendation than the one that runs; 'It all went t*ts up but a nice guy from customer sevice called me and offered me a free ....'
*The bottled water effect – if anyone ever tells you that marketing is a load of baloney than ask them when was the last time they paid money for a bottle of water. Or put another way, when was the last time they paid around 4000 times more for product that has no proven benefits over the free version out of the tap? You see, marketing does work; all you have to do is find the product the market wants, stress its benefits, demonstrate how it solves problems, make it desirable, build up the trust and add a little value. All you then have to do is to make it d*mn easy to buy! Oh, and then call the customer and ask them how it went.
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Over the years Carrdale have developed a system for assessing a business from a marketing perspective with a view to creating a marketing plan which will make your business more stable and more profitable.
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