inspiration into reality
Why Marketing is not a Luxury
For many businesses, marketing is considered a luxury item. Perhaps this is because marketing is usually seen as a highly creative process, involving advertisements and big agencies that are, of course, all very expensive. What many people, fail to realise is that marketing is actually much more than TV ads, pretty logos and brochures.
Wikipedia defines marketing as "…a set of processes for creating, communicating and delivering value to customers and for managing customer relationships". With this definition in mind, marketing no longer seems luxurious, but rather essential. You need to understand the value your product or service brings to the marketplace and maximise customer relationships. Here are some tips to make marketing work for your business, big or small:
1) Do Your Homework
Every good Marketer knows that the most important part of marketing is research. It is apparent everyday that many businesses by-pass the critical stage of planning. It has been said before but it is worthwhile repeating here: 'when we fail to plan we plan to fail'. This is very true when it comes to marketing.
It doesn't matter if you are a start-up or are a multi national business, you can still plan. In fact, your marketing plan should be reviewed every 6 months or so, or when a major change occurs, such as a sudden change in the economy or a new competitor moves into the market. Below are the two basics that every business should know:
Know what makes you different: If you have not done so already, sit down and figure out what makes your product or service different than that of your competition. Research your competition. What are they doing? Where are they? Are they missing an opportunity? Does your product or service stand-out in comparison? What benefits would your potential customers have buying from you rather than from your competition?
Know your customer: What are your target customer's expectations? What are their buying cycles? What benefits are they interested in? How do they define value? What influences their purchasing decisions? What price are they willing to pay? Why would they buy from you?
In addition to knowing the above, it is an excellent idea to create a full marketing plan that is integrated into your business plan.
2) Get Word of Mouth Referrals
Word Of Mouth (WOM) referrals are, by far, the best method of getting new customers, not least of all because they are free. They are also about trust. As consumers, we are bombarded daily with messages about why we should buy 'X or Y' to a point where it is difficult to differentiate. This is why we turn to our trusted colleagues, friends, acquaintances and family to assist in our decision making process about new products or services. When we trust in our referral source, we transfer that trust to the recommended product or service. This does not happen with paid advertisements, which makes WOM referrals much more valuable.
So, how can businesses create WOM? Most importantly you need to meet and exceed the expectations that are expected from the customer and promised by you. This builds the essential trust and positive customer experience that will generate WOM for you. Thrilled customers are very likely to pass on the good word and conversely, dissatisfied customers are likely to share their experience as well. It is important to get it right when it comes to your customer relationships.
You can also give your existing customers an incentive to refer you. The more personal, the better. Build a relationship with your customers and then just simply ask them who they think may also benefit from your product or service. It is amazing how people will help out when simply asked. If you do get a referral, a thank you call can do wonders as can an unexpected discount, or freebie, the next time that client deals with you.
3) Retain Your Customers
It is a lot cheaper to keep your customers than to get new ones; it is estimated that it costs 6 to 7 times the amount to acquire a new customer than to retain existing ones. With that knowledge, it is a real wonder why all businesses don't have a strategy to keep their customers happy.
So how do you find out if your customers are content? And how do you keep them that way? The answer is simple: ask them and find out about their experience. Whenever possible try to speak to your customer directly, depending on your channels. Find out specifically what they appreciate and what could be improved upon. This is a fantastic way to gain valuable information about your customers.
Some businesses may find this a hard task as does invite criticism. However, if you view it as an opportunity to show your customers that you are listening and dedicated to meeting, and exceeding, their expectations, you will only benefit. Just make sure that you act on the information you receive. If, for example, your customers tell you that they don't appreciate how many times they go to voicemail when they try to contact you, you need to find a solution.
4) Get the Word Out
Below are a few ways to gain publicity for your product or service. Whatever idea you choose, it is a good idea to make sure that the audience is within your target market.
- Offer your expertise
You can make a strong name for you and your company just by offering your expertise. This can be in many forms such as speaking events, website blogs, articles, etc. Potential customers will likely choose your product or service over an unknown competitor, as they will feel that they already know you and your capabilities. Plus, these types of mediums should give you many opportunities to differentiate.
Well-written and pertinent news releases can be a very effective marketing tool and work both in the online and traditional media. When writing a news release, keep in mind the current events. Let's say you are a gardener and you have followed the reports in the paper about the water shortage in the area. You know from your experience that locals are concerned about their gardens withering away. Why not offer a local paper an article on tricks to keep gardens hydrated or about the most resilient plants? It will give you free press and position you as an expert.
Event organisers are always on the lookout for great giveaways that fit with their event. Consider donating your product or service to an event if the audience fits with your customer base.
To sum up, marketing is not a luxury. If you don't want to commit to a full time staff member, consider outsourcing this function, as you are likely to get a seasoned marketing professional for the price of having a junior in-house.