Marketing is better viewed as a concept, and not an activity.
A common definition is ďanticipating and satisfying customer needs, profitability'. 'Selling' 'advertising' and 'marketing' are words often thought to be interchangeable, perhaps partly due to the fact that advertising and selling area direct result of marketing. People can relate to the tangible results. But to limit your marketing thoughts to any one avenue means you will miss vital marketing opportunities. Marketing needs to encompass EVERYTHING:
- Reinforces your brand, promotional activity, and company identity
- Sets how the business presents itself to customers, suppliers and employees
- Controls business behavior, response and interactions
Marketing policies must be clear and consistent. Meaning it needs to be understood and carried out by every single staff member. A mission statement captures all points so having one of those makes following guidelines easier. Keep it achievable and realistic for staff, make your needs clear and provide any necessary training to meet the level you require staff to work at. In addition:
- Take time to clearly explain the aims and objectives of the organization to employees
- Listen to their concerns and act on them
- invest in their development
- Campaigns like 'best idea of the month' can encourage creative thinking and make employees proactive in marketing.
These days' customers are keen to know about the philosophies and values that make a business tick. To sell to customers you need to make a connection and each staff member needs to have the ability to relate to customers and relay their needs. Service level agreements (SLA's) need to be implemented as a guide for staff to follow. SLA's can be internal, between departments, customer, or supplier with specific levels of service outlined and turnaround times expected. Service level measures might include:
- Telephone answering policies
- Email signatures
- Receptionist/customer greeting protocols
- Order placement to delivery time
- Response time to enquiries
- Complaints procedures, including response times
- Goods returned policy
Customers need to be encouraged to talk to you. Set up focus groups to meet on a regular basis and discuss your level of service, product performance, and possible development ideas. For the cost of perhaps a buffet lunch and some of your time some of your best marketing strategies may come from this.
A special note about complaints
Mistakes do get made and customer complaints will happen from time to time. How a complaint is handled is the key to repeat customers. Don't see complaints as a personal attack and go on the defensive, see it as a tool to learn from, and possibly diffuse a bigger problem, e.g. if a fault has occurred in the product that could have had a much larger impact if left. Regardless of where the problem stemmed from, when a customer complains is not the time to deal with it. Do not pass the buck of blame, ultimately you are responsible for your products and staff performance. If a complaint comes in, listen to the customer and move as swiftly as possible to deal with the problem and resolve it. Then look to the source. Without apportioning blame, take the responsibility upon the company, here are strategies to use to put the smile back on customer faces:
- If you pick up a problem before complaints, notify buyers and staff as soon as possible to the problem
- Apologise, without blaming Joe in accounts for sleeping in, being late and adding extra to the invoice by mistake. Simply extend an apology.
- Keep customer informed on the problem and why it occurred. Again, this is not the time apportion blame, if it is a fault of a staff member there is no need to name names and give a blow by blow account to the customer.
- Tell customer how you will resolve the problem for them. If you intend to sack Joe from accounts they don't need to know that. Just how you can resolve the particular problem for them.
- Make sure your resolution is acceptable to customer or offer a choice i.e. replacement, money back, voucher to the value of.
- Let the customer know how the company will prevent the particular problem from happening again. Within reason also.
- Thank the customer for their time in bringing the matter to your attention.
Keep a good record or implement a process whereby the amount of complaints, what they concern, and who is complaining so data can be analysed and understood. Prevention is better than cure and identifying a common thread leads to proper resolution.
Complaints are not problems to be endured, they are a tool for making your business better. Complaints can give you insight to customer needs, can save you money, can reveal fundamental glitches or staff friction, and give you areas to target future marketing strategies.
Key performance indicators
All criteria that for your service level commitment should be included in your KPI (key performance indicators) measurements. These key measures are used to indicate the smooth operation and successful level of a business. Useful to measure how well a business is doing, and setting ongoing improvement targets, here are some of the things KPI measure might include:
- Amount of new orders received
- Amount of new customers
- Amount of deliveries not meeting SLA performance
- Amount of enquiries resolved before time stated in SLA
- Amount of complaints received
Be sure the systems used are capable of measuring the KPI's required by you. You may need to do them manually at first. Try to avoid changing KPI measure too quickly. To be valuable comparisons made over a longer period of time are better.
This should project the brand image you have created, as everything else involved with the product/service should. Image is everything and if you sell a high quality, exclusive product, you'll need the look and feel to back that up. These types of products are likely to attract customers with more expendable income, who are used to a more prestigious look. On the other hand, if your brand image is about good value and friendly service, you'll want a more casual and dynamic look and feel. Here are some things to consider:
- Are you making the most of your space?
- Is reception welcoming, and in keeping with the brand image? Is it well designed?
- Do you have too little space or too much?
- Is the car parking adequate?
- Are directions to where you are easy to follow? Consider those coming by personal car, public transport, walking, and describing to others how to find you verbally.