You may not realise it but every product you buy, every shop you visit, and every restaurant you dine at has been influenced by the power of marketing.
But what is marketing and why is it so important for the performance of all businesses, regardless of their size? Well, marketing is so much more than an eye-catching advert, it’s the understanding of what consumers want in order to meet, or exceed, their expectations.
Marketers must identify consumer trends and review what competitors are offering so that they can target their audience with the right product at the right time for the right price. If businesses are unable to do this successfully, then their competition will do and so performance is impacted.
Why is marketing so important?
Marketing is a fundamental cog in any business’ wheel and has three key benefits:
- Allows businesses to add value - If time and effort are invested in analysing customer data, businesses can understand their target market intimately. This increased awareness of what the customer wants and when allows a company to add real value to their audience.
- Enables a powerful brand to be developed – Marketing isn’t just about selling a product, it’s about developing a brand that customers can resonate with. This is what ultimately differentiates one company from another.
- Builds trust with customers – With consistent messaging that remains true to the brand, trust can grow. This results in loyalty and customers becoming advocates of the brand.
These benefits can only be realised if a business takes a structured and focused approach to marketing.
The 7Ps model
A popular marketing framework adopted by businesses all over the world is known as the 7Ps model or the marketing mix. This provides a simple framework to allow marketing activity to be planned and monitored to gain an understanding of what works and what doesn’t.
The seven Ps stand for:
The product (or service) provided should always fit what consumers want or need, be of good quality and meet consumers’ expectations. The product offered doesn’t need to be tangible, such as an insurance policy or a haircut, for example.
The product must be considered as being good value for money as its only worth what consumers are willing to pay for it. This doesn’t mean that the product should be the cheapest available. After all, price is the only element of the marketing mix which generates revenue; the other six Ps all cost businesses money.
The product should be available from where the target consumer finds it most convenient to shop. This not only applied to bricks and mortar stores but increasingly to e-commerce. Consumers consider delivery to be an important factor when online shopping so the ease and cost of buying from a website comes under this element of the marketing mix.
A company may sell the best products but if consumers aren’t aware of them then sales targets will be difficult to achieve. Advertising, PR, branding and social media outreach are all key communication tools for a business to attract and appeal to their audience. Good promotion ensures that product benefits, as well as features, are communicated consistently to the consumer across all channels.
People buy from people and consumers sometimes find it hard to differentiate the product or service being sold from the staff selling them. This means that having the right employees in place is essential as they are as much a part of the business offering as the products or services on offer. Customer satisfaction is king and this is even more important when online reviews and social media statuses can influence prospective customer buying decisions.
Consumers are demanding more than just a good product or service, they’re also looking for a quality experience throughout the buying process and beyond. The sales process much be seamless. From the behaviour of the sellers for face-to-face purchases to the usability of the website for online sales. Businesses are encouraged to take a customer-first approach when designing systems rather than developing ones that work best for the company.
Even if the customer is paying for an intangible product, such as a massage or legal advice, physical evidence still plays an important part in the marketing mix. Consumers want reassurance that they will receive a good product, even before they’ve paid. Marketers can help consumers to understand what they’re buying by including testimonials or reviews in their marketing material and by ensuring that premises and web pages are appealing.
Each of these elements of the marketing mix is key to the success of a marketing plan yet they cannot be considered in isolation.
Increasingly, marketers are using content marketing to appeal to their audience. Rather than focusing marketing efforts purely on promotion, content market seeks to educate, engage and entertain the target audience.
Although content marketing may not result in a sale as quickly as more traditional promotional methods, there are many benefits. Essentially content marketing is good for both businesses’ bottom line and customers too.
The time and resources that businesses invest in content marketing will be repaid with increased sales, cost savings and loyal customers.
But does this mean that there is still a place for more traditional marketing techniques such as email marketing? The short answer is yes. In fact, email is a great way to get useful content to the intended audience.
The effectiveness of email marketing campaigns has improved as smartphones have become a necessity rather than a luxury. People are able to use their phones to check their email at a time that’s convenient for them. As long as the content being sent via email is relevant and valuable to the recipient then it’s a great way to attract and retain customers.
What’s next for marketing?
The future of marketing may be difficult to predict but one thing is for certain. The fast-paced change that marketers have needed to respond to in recent years is only set to continue. But with changes in technology, social trends and consumer behaviour can often present opportunities, as well as challenges, for marketers.