Marketing is supposed to drive business strategy. The number one activity that marketers all over the world should do is to continuously search for new opportunities for the company and carefully apply segmentation, targeting and positioning which are the three fundamental factors of any marketing strategy. After segmentation, targeting and positioning, the next step is to flesh out the 4Ps, making sure that they are all aligned with the overall STP trend. One of the most impactful problems that in the last years came out in many marketing departments is the so-called one-P marketing strategy. Many marketing departments act as if Promotion is the only way which drives more selling.
Today’s corporations embrace Customer Relationship Management (CRM) as the most important tool nowadays. This means collecting private information about individuals to better guess what they could buy in the future. Fewer people pay attention to TV commercials. Marketers should find more effective media.
Usually the number one question which experts make to business owners is the following one: “Who are you trying to sell to?”. Saying “Everyone” is never the correct answer. Serving everyone and trying to sell your product or service to the whole world is not the right way to get into. Now, fortunately most companies do not answer “Everyone”. One of the most important thing that marketers should implement is identifying different market segments and preparing offerings for each segment.
Organizations of all sizes have one major goal in common: serving and satisfying customers. Satisfying customers is an activity which requires the cooperation of every single business unit within the organization. HR, Marketing, Finance, R&D and others should share the same mission and the same vision. Everyone within the organization should have the same amount of responsibility for the company’s overall success. In recent posts I shared with you the statement “Customer is king!”. Corporations should develop a clear hierarchy of company values with customers at the top. Managers usually say that their main target is “Stakeholders” – that’s probably because of their relevance in owning the company, judging the company’s performance, enhancing or decreasing the level of the stock price. Managers look at everything in terms of stakeholder value.
Top management should show the employees in each department how their specific actions can positively affect the attraction or retention of customers. Measuring customer satisfaction, by customer groups and by specific items (product, service, price…), is something organizations should do from time to time. Customer satisfaction is the organizations’ major goal. Remember, if the customer is not thoroughly satisfied, he will buy from your competitors. The aim is to define the company’s brand and values and to get the employees to “live the brand”. Discounts all over the world usually want to provide goods at the lowest possible cost. Volvo’s people are determined to design the safest automobiles.
Customer orientation is a must for all companies. Have you ever had the experience of trying to call a retailer of any kind and waiting on the phone listening to a three-minute message and finding it impossible to reach a live person to talk to? Probably yes… so, your company needs to make it easy for customers to reach you by phone, fax, e-mail and so on. Another major problem which affects businesses of all kinds occurs when someone asks the company “Who is your target customer?” Organizations should study their potential customers very well in order to understand how they act, think and feel. The best way to do that is to engage in continuous dialogue with customers in the stores, over the phone as well as through e-mail.
Marketing plans set sales, cost and profit goals for the year ahead. It may happen that customers have different preferences from year to year… that may be something caused by superior competitive offering or wrong pricing. Remember, a company’s reputation is hard to form… it may cost years of hard work in order to get a good reputation, but the same reputation which has been gained in years and years of hard work can disappear in a few minutes due to a customer’s negative message on the net and a related word-of-mouth negative activity. So, do more sophisticated consumer research. Use more analytical techniques (SPSS or Excel above all). Do data mining.
Today’s new marketing tool is “Customer Insight”. The company that more than others understands customer insights in terms of needs, perceptions, preferences and behavior will eventually gain the competitive edge. The greatest tool that a company can use to gain customer insight is dialoging with its target consumers, singly and in groups. Here are the most important tools which can be used by companies: focus groups, surveys, depth interviewing and in-store research. Focus groups are very important. They enable a company to invite up to 12 individuals to discuss with a skilled moderator on a focused topic – for example about a new product or service. The moderator’s task is to ask questions, solicit comments and manage the discussion in a way that maintains interest.
Organizations should monitor every new technology. They should also prepare similar offerings to those of your competitors. And if your employees are not happy, if you have not attracted the best suppliers, if you don’t have the best distributors and your dealers are unhappy and especially if your investors are not happy, you’re in big trouble. It means that your company has not properly managed its relationships with its stakeholders. If your investors are not satisfied that means that they do not keep their funds invested in your company’s stock. How do you fix all that problems? Simply by better managing employees, supplier relations and distributors.
Usually, as you probably know, employees work best when they are well chosen, well trained, well motivated and well respected. So, employees should share the same company’s values, vision, mission, positioning.
Another major sin occurs when your company is not good at finding new opportunities. So, if your company has not done well in finding new opportunities in the last years, as a marketing manager you should set up a system for stimulating ideas from your partners. Most companies search for new ideas by starting with their current product and varying it in some way. Varying design, varying ingredients or some others product’s components is something a company can do.
Communication is an important factor, too. Your target market may not know much about your company. If your brand is not relevant within a category or subcategory of products, and if it’s not distinctive, your communication plan should be reviewed.
Relevance, having a strong brand, keeping on making good research about customers using analytics and communication research methods are the things that must be implemented today. Relevance is the key.