Marketing is more than advertising or selling. It’s about businesses understanding what customers want and being able to match, or exceed their expectations.
According to the CIM (The Chartered Institute of Marketing):
“Marketing is the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.”
Simply put, marketing is about finding, getting and keeping customers.
Marketing is key to a business’s success, no matter what their size. It means knowing as much as possible about your competitors’ products or services, and identifying current trends so that you can offer customers the product or service they want at a price they will pay, where and when they want to buy it.
In order to create a winning marketing strategy that keeps you ahead of your competitors you need to put in place an easy to follow marketing process.
Marketing process key steps:
• Customer and competitor research: The first stage of the marketing process is to find out as much as possible about your customers and competitors to help you to really understand them.
Customer – Use the findings from your market research to help you to define who your target customer / audience is so that you can focus your efforts and budget on reaching and influencing them using the best methods and the right message.
Competitors – Really knowing your competitors and their product or service offering will help you to differentiate your business and product or service. Understanding what is different or unique about your product or service will help you to stand out from your competitors. Clearly defining your product or service unique selling proposition (USP) is vital for the future success of any business.
• Developing marketing strategies and plans: The marketing strategy explains where you want to get to and the marketing plan explains how you will get you there.
Marketing strategy – Following on from market research, the next step is to develop a marketing strategy that both underpins and helps you to deliver your overall business goals. The marketing strategy includes descriptions of; your business and its products or services, your target customers, your competitors, where you sit in the market and the marketing approach you want to take.
Marketing plan – The marketing plan contains the specific actions to be undertaken to achieve the marketing strategy objectives.
The marketing plan includes details about your business’ USP, pricing, sales and distribution plans and advertising, public relations and promotional activities. The marketing plan sets clear and achievable goals, assigns resources efficiently and establishes realistic time scales.
Examples of marketing activities:
Customer recommendations or referrals usually happen as a result of providing excellent customer service and value for money.
Networking is particularly good for making business contacts, identifying new clients and promoting your business. A powerful marketing tool, especially for B2B organisations, networking is essentially about collaboration. Often face to face, networking involves meeting new people and developing long-term, credible relationships with them. Since people often like to do business with people they know and trust, it is important to take the time to listen to and get to know your business contacts.
For a business to be sustainable it not only needs to gain new customers but it also needs to keep them. Relationship marketing involves developing strong, long term relationships with customers through activities such as customer loyalty schemes and providing excellent customer service. Relationship marketing works best when you enable two way conversations with your customers.
Advertising is used to inform or influence potential and current customers about your product or service using various options such as; brochures, posters, radio/cinema/TV adverts, direct mail, etc.
Public Relations (PR)
PR helps your target market to understand your business and its products or services, e.g. via newspapers, television, radio, magazines, emails, etc.
At its most basic, a website can help your customers find you, provide contact details and showcase your business and products or services. In addition, you can inform visitors to your site about any special offers you might have, as well as improving customer service by giving useful information and enabling customers to provide feedback.
A commercial message aimed at influencing customer loyalty, brand perception or increasing sales sent to a targeted group of customers. Examples of email marketing are newsletters and promotions of new products or events.
Social Media Marketing (SMM)
Uses social networking websites to promote a business’s products or services by providing an alternative way of reaching potential and existing customers. Businesses use SMM to help increase brand awareness and customer reach by producing content that users will want to share either by word of mouth or via their social network.
Creating and distributing meaningful content to attract and retain customers and ultimately drive profitable sales. The aim is to share content that is relevant to your business in a variety of formats, whether in a blog, newsletter, video, magazine etc., with your prospective or existing customers to establish trust and a genuine connection so that they will want to do business with you.