What Is Marketing, Anyway?

Basic Business Cents

The dictionary defines marketing as the action or business of promoting and selling products or services. Too many people believe that if they design a better mousetrap or put up a web site, customers will beat down their door for the honor of obtaining their product or service. It isn’t usually that way in the real world. It is necessary to market the product or service in a way to entice the customer to buy.

There are many components of marketing and the judicial use of which to use, when, and where are critical to long-term success.

Market Research gathers information about customers’ needs and preferences, which are not always the same. Sometimes the customers do not really understand what their true needs are and good market research may have to dig deep enough to discover it. The customer’s goal is to be very pleased with the benefits of doing business with you and you have to ensure that your product or service fits that need or preference. Market research should find the best way to reach that customer to make the sale.

Sales are the actual actions of exchanging your commodity for money. It can be in a store, face-to-face at the customer’s site, direct mail, on the Internet, at a convention, or on the telephone. Until you make that sale, you have no income to finance your activities. Sales professionals are fond of saying that nothing starts until a sale is made.

Promotion is defined as the publication of a product, service, or organization to increase sales and public awareness. It can take the form of advertising in various forms of media, radio, television, newspapers, magazines, trade papers, public spaces, vehicles, billboards, etc. The first rule of thumb in advertising, as in all other promotional vehicles, is to speak of benefits to the user and not of features of the product or service. This is difficult for inventors and engineers as they are in love with their product or service. Press Releases can be useful as an alternative or supplement to advertising and it is free, but it must be truly newsworthy or the media will not use it. Word-of-Mouth from delighted customers is the best form of promotion but it has to be earned. Electronic Word-of-Mouth is emerging as important and is facilitated through various social media forms. It can be expedited by placement of promotional pieces on selected outlets. Direct Mail is an avenue to reach customers, which can either be my postal services or electronic.  Build and use your Network; it may be your most important asset.

Collateral is the printed form of customer benefits of your product or service. It can by flyers distributed by mail, display rack cards, brochures, catalogs, hand-outs, manuals, books, and other material supporting the promotion of your products or services. Testimonials, especially unsolicited testimonials, and case studies are very useful as prospective buyers look for references.

Not to be forgotten, After-Sales Activities are a very important element of marketing. Service and follow-up to ensure satisfaction, or better yet delight, with the product or service by the customers are critical.

Good market research and a market plan will reveal which of these activities best fit your product, service, target market, capabilities, and abilities to produce. The Market Plan will detail not only which, but when and where to use these activities.