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Marketing Basics

What is marketing?

Marketing can cover a lot of ground and mean a range of different things to different people. But there is no denying good marketing is vital to any business. In straight terms marketing is:
  • Anticipation of customer needs, and wants. Finding out what the market trends are and how to fill them.
  • Creating customer needs and wants. The ability to convince people they need your product or service.
  • Satisfying customer needs and wants with relevant products or services they will buy.
  • Making a profit.
Covering the basics is easier if you follow the traditional '4p's'. Product, Price, Promotion, and Place.

Product
Creating a product is one thing, getting people to buy it is another. Initially, the product/s or services chosen to sell need to be of good quality, fulfill a need, and be seen as value for money whatever the price. If you sell a product people need, chances are they will buy it. If you offer the 'only one of' of any product, people will buy it, or use the service regardless of how it is offered in most cases. High standards are great, but striving for absolute perfection may not be.

You can't please everyone, which is where finding out about your target market, finding a niche and selling a product to them works well. From this, a whole range of other people will buy as well, and your product will satisfy more needs than you originally set out to do. From here even a product less than perfect can sell well and give you a chance to explore the market and refine the product, or add more products.

Knowing what is going on in the market and about competitor product performance is imperative. As is knowing what customer needs are, what they aren't getting from competitors and giving it to them with your product.

Price
Pricing is very important in that it must
  • Cover the fixed and variable costs
  • Make you a profit
  • Reach and engage the target audience
  • Be consistent with brand image.
So again the marketing to identify customer needs is paramount. Pricing is everything with buyers. The natural instinct is to buy the cheapest, but consumer savvy knows that cheapest isn't always best. It will come down to performance and value for money in the end. Any price is acceptable by consumers if they feel they are getting value for money. So rather than try and do everything on the cheap to get a cheaper product out there, look to showcasing the features your product has.

Convincing the market that a product is the best for them and the price is value for money is the key. Price your product fairly, cover your costs, and make a profit. Remember, an initial higher price can always be 'discounted', which appeals to bargain hunters.

Promotion
Here is the single best thing you can do to make your business successful. Promote. It can cost a fortune, or cost you time, or both. It can be free and take no time at all. Cost will factor more than anything else when you start out. The key to finding how best to market is to first do some research as to what everyone else with a similar product is doing. Secondly, find your target market and see how best to reach them. No one method is the best marketing method for every business. Not every business needs every method, and normally several methods are the best way to go.

Here are some of the options open to you, and it's really only limited by imagination:
  • Press releases
  • Community notice boards
  • Mail outs
  • Classified ads
  • Print
  • Online marketing, youtube, podcast, email, banners, website, and myspace, to name a few.
  • Signs
  • In store promotions
  • Word of mouth
  • Television
  • Radio
  • Prize donations
  • Charity donations
  • Business cards, pens and other 'giveaways'
The list could go on forever. Find the angle that makes your product better than others. This can be an actual feature you have added specifically. or something the product already has or does that can be picked up on. A perfect example is marketing your brand of raspberry jam as 'fat free', when in fact no jam contains fat, but you can persuade the consumer to think yours is better. Another good example of this are products saying no added sugar or no added fat, consumers see this as a healthy option and buy it. When, in fact, the product isn't claiming not to contain sugar of fatůsimply that they have added no extra.

Use this type of marketing, in a legal manner, to promote your product. Decide what your product's unique selling points (USP's) are. It may not always be something directly connected to the product, it may well be excellent service, speed of delivery, credit terms, or technical support. Pricing is not the best choice as a USP, as business shouldn't get into the trap of price wars. If you need to charge a higher price give consumers good reasons why, sell them the benefits and people will buy. From there keep it consistent. Do regular customer surveys to ascertain what they want, or feel they are missing.

Place
Where is your target market? Local, regional, national or international? Knowing this will help decisions about how and where to place marketing efforts. But also, what other areas or ways can you sell products? You could consider:
  • Bulk sales to wholesalers
  • Direct sales to customers using your own sales force.
  • Indirect selling to customers using sales agents or alliance partners
Methods can be any combination of:
  • Selling face-to-face on customer premises
  • Selling face-to-face via retail outlet.
  • Phone sales.
  • Direct email campaigns via email.
For businesses that grow, franchising is an option to extend your sales activity and coverage.

New business vs old
New business is very important to bring in. But while doing so, don't forget existing customers. It only takes one bad experience to send a customer elsewhere. Once they are gone it's hard to get them back. With existing buyers, a trust of service has already formed and getting them to buy again is less costly.

Make every contact with a customer or prospective buyer a positive experience. Give them easy access to answers for questions they might have. Customers see you and your staff as the company. Employees must understand about the importance of quality customer service. It's not a matter of every staff member knowing everything, but every staff member should know basics to each product or service the company offers. In addition, have staff that specialise in certain areas readily available for other staff to call on when needed. Alternatively, be available yourself as much as possible.

For help creating a marketing plan take a look at PlanIT Marketing Plan 4 Professional Edition.
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