Marketing is a process of identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements in a profitable manner. This definition identifies a crucial element that some businesses lose focus of – that it is the CUSTOMER that must be the focus of attention.

Marketing is sometimes confused with selling and/or advertising. Marketing allows suppliers of goods and services to understand and interpret what their customers want, need and desire. Sometimes it can be useful to think of the marketing mix as a range of elements that can focus attention on the key aspects of marketing and also support the development of a comprehensive marketing programme. It can be useful to examine the following elements of your own marketing initiatives in relation to the following:-
  1. Product: Develop products and services in line with the real needs of the customer. This is likely to involve some form of primary or secondary market research. Speak to individual customers and focus groups – find out what they want now and in the future. Aim to innovate and create products and services with competitive features and benefits. Embed a structured and formal process for collecting and analysing customer feedback.
  2. Price: The value associated with a product or service is made up of its use value and its esteem value. Use value often reflects its functionality and its esteem value is usually reflected in the brand. Pricing will consequently reflect the perceived value to the customer in the market place. Price can be one of the main drivers of your positioning in the marketplace. In developing price ranges, aim to pitch the highest profit margin with the highest sales volumes. There is some evidence that most customers will aim not for the cheapest product but for something in the middle of the range – if you can make this product the highest profit margin then this will drive profit growth.
  3. Place: The place where customers buy your product and the distribution channels must be convenient and appropriate. Businesses must be aware of the needs of customers in ensuring that the buying process is quick, accurate and efficient. The nature of your business and its product or service in relation to the needs of your customers will dictate your place of operation – this may include high-street, out of town or warehouse distribution centres. In this respect, maintaining market intelligence on sales channel trends and the changing needs of your customers is vital.
  4. Promotion: Promotion is often the term many businesses use when they describe marketing. Sometimes, promotion can be a small part of the marketing activity. Promotion is the way that an organisation can communicate with its customers to showcase what it does. Promotion includes activities such as branding, advertising, public relations, corporate identity, sales management, exhibitions and offers. Promotion should identify the uniquely competitive elements of your product or service – things that differentiate you from your competitors. Your promotional activities should aim to attract attention, generate interest, stimulate desire and call customers to act and buy. Ensure that your promotional media describes not only the features of your product, but also emphasises the benefits.
  5. People: Your people make the difference between a great customer experience and a bad one. Your staff must have the knowledge and experience to do their job well and importantly, they must be appropriately motivated. Ensure that everyone who has contact with your customers is able to provide the level of support that reflects your brand value. Good customer service is often more important to customers than the cheapest price.
  6. Process: The process by which you meet your customers’ needs is often overlooked despite the importance of its impact on the customer. A structured process is required to meet the needs of customers when they contact the company, make product enquiries, ask for information, check stock availability & prices, place orders, expedite orders and initiate warranty claims and complaints. You must ensure that these processes are effective and meet the customer needs. It is often the WAY that you deal with your customers’ needs that drives the sales reorder process.
  7. Physical Evidence: This is an issue for service sector organisations. Unlike physical products, services are delivered at the same time that they are produced and this has its own unique set of potential problems. If you supply a physical product and it fails to meet the expectations of the customer then it can be returned by the customer and replaced. Often this will have no adverse impact on the service. In the service sector, you cannot take back and fix a service that you have delivered to a customer who is not satisfied. In the service sector there is a need to provide evidence of competence and credibility through references, word of mouth, client affirmations, qualifications & trade body memberships, status of previous clients etc.
  8. Positioning: Positioning relates to how you place your product or service in the marketplace in comparison to the offerings of your competitors. Your position in the market place is also about how your customer perceives your business. Positioning relates to brand values – often prestigious brands are positioned at the top of the market whilst brands of perceived lower value are positioned at the lower, cheaper end of the market. Some businesses are able to position themselves in a range of market positions using a range of product offers. Others, for example, suppliers of prestige cars would adversely impact on the brand value if they positioned themselves in a perceived lower market position supplying non-aspirational vehicles. Know your market and your position in it.
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