What do you think marketing is? Advertising? Online activities? These can all be a part of marketing but they’re really just communication tools and techniques. Marketing is much bigger – it is a whole way of approaching and doing business, with communications as the end output. Obviously a very important output, but in isolation it will not give you the full benefits of marketing.
One definition of Marketing is; ‘identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements, profitably’. That means gearing your whole micro-business around the customer. So rather than producing something and then trying to find customers to buy it via advertising and sales, you identify what the market wants or needs, find a way of producing it and then let them know it’s available. That may mean changing the whole philosophy of the micro-business, but the world is littered with companies who’ve failed because they didn’t keep up with changing customer demand.
Try the following steps to become more customer-focused.
1. Make sure there is a genuine market for the product you’re selling. Speak to customers to confirm they want what you’re selling and that they’re willing to pay the price you need to make your target profit. Analyse your strengths and weaknesses to identify what you’re best at and adapt your company around it.
2. Really get to know your customers. If you sell to individuals, identify what kind of house they live in, how much they earn, what they drive, what they read, etc. If it’s other companies, what size are they, where are they based, what do they produce etc. Its easier to talk to someone you know, especially if you understand them. Get to know your customers so you know how to talk to them and how to treat them.
3. Work out how and why customers buy and the factors that are important. Do they buy on price or is it really colour and whether you can deliver at 8pm on a Tuesday evening that makes the decision? Don’t guess this or put your own interpretation on it – use your understanding of the customers to work it out. Better still, ask them. You can read more about identifying buying processes in Customer Purchasing Processes.
4. Now you know what you’re selling, who to and how they buy, develop a plan. Cover off all the buying stages and how you’re going to capitalise on it. For example, if they generally start by researching via the internet, make sure you’re near the top of the search engine listings and invest in your web site. If they need to visit a shop and browse, make sure the local papers are covered. If they buy over the telephone or make enquiries following a retail or web site visit, focus your attention on that.
5. Make sure your plan has realistically covered off the timescales for different activities and has an adequate budget for what you want to do. Do you have the resources in place? If you want to do a lot of activity it can occupy a lot of time and money – who’s going to do it and can they do their usual job at the same time? Can you meet demand if activity proves as successful as planned?
This is real marketing. But it’s not a one-off exercise. Consider it as a loop and conduct a regular review to make sure everything is still valid and appropriate.