Amongst other more lengthy descriptions, the Chartered Institute of Marketing defines marketing as “The management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably”. It’s all about getting the right product or service, to the right people, at the right time, in a way that suits them and is at a mutually beneficial price. Without proper marketing it’s difficult for a business to get close to its customers and give them what they want.
The good news is that many small businesses are already applying the basic marketing principles without even thinking about it. To many marketing is largely advertising, selling and promotional activities but there will be other activities in the business that are an important part of the marketing mix which are carried out without the ‘marketing’ label.
For example, most businesses appreciate that they need to know their customers, and their customers’ needs, well. They also know that to stay in business they need to be able to satisfy those needs, as and when the customers require it, in a way that suits them. Finally all good businesses know that they can’t stay still and be complacent. In order to keep ahead of the competition they know that they have to develop existing and new products and services to keep the customers coming back.
The 7 Ps of Marketing
Successful marketing depends on addressing some key questions:
- What is the business offering and is there anyone out there that wants to pay good money for it?
- Realistically what should that price be?
- How is the business going to deliver the product or service to its customers?
- How will the business reach customers to let them know what’s available, what’s new etc.?
These are the traditional 4Ps of marketing – Product, Price, Place, and Promotion – but in addition there is also People, Process and Physical Evidence to make up a more complete 7Ps of marketing.
There’s no point in developing a business around a product or service that no-one wants. The market needs to be big enough to sustain the business and subsequent competition. Successful businesses start by finding out what the potential market wants and then develop the right level of product or service to suit. They stay successful by responding to customer feedback and developing products accordingly. Give them what they want not what you would like them to want. Don’t go over the top on quality if it’s not what is wanted – that’s not to say that it shouldn’t be the best it should be for the market. However, if all they really want is a Ford Fiesta don’t try to sell them a Ferrari.
Get your pricing right – look at the competition or comparable products/services if you’re not sure where to start. Your business could have the best product in the world but if it’s at a price that the customers are not prepared to pay for it it’s not going to sell. Also, too cheap can be as damaging as too expensive. The price has to match the perceived quality or the incongruity will lead to mistrust of the product, and ultimately the brand – if those gold watches you’re selling are ‘only £20’ customers might wonder at their authenticity and reliability.
Make it as easy as possible for customers to find and buy your product and pay particular attention to how they are presented – whether in a retail unit or online. Make sure they know that they can rely on your business to have whatever they need in stock, when they need it, and that it will be delivered when and where they want it.
At the same time control your inventory to make sure the business has the right things in stock and in the right place. Customer surveys show that many choose their suppliers, and keep them, on the basis of their delivery performance so it’s also important to make sure that the ‘purchase experience’ matches expectations. Everything that will be seen by the customer (including stationery, packaging, promotional materials and business environment) must reflect the quality of the brand.
It is not enough to ‘build it and they will come’. You need to remind your customers where you are, why they should care, and what’s in it for them if they come to you rather than the competition. Promotion includes most of the activities that many businesses associate with marketing – branding, advertising, PR, sales, exhibitions and special offers – all across online and offline platforms. In a highly competitive world your promotions need to grab the attention and get your customers interested enough to act in your favour.
‘People buy people’ – something that is particularly true for services but is also true for products. The customer-facing people in your business have an impact on the customer experience so make sure that they are motivated, properly trained, and appreciate their role in marketing the business.
Customers are not generally interested in how you do business as long as it works for them but if it goes wrong they may not come back. Are your customers being kept in long queues – either physically or by telephone? Are they kept informed while they wait? Do they come away feeling valued even though there may have been an initial problem…? Excellent processes could help to keep your business ahead of the competition. If done well people will remember the positive customer service rather than the problem if something goes wrong.
Services are intangible but you can help potential customers to ‘get a feel for’ what you offer using case studies, which tell a story about what you do, backed up by testimonials from happy customers. This is an easy way to illustrate expertise and add the credibility that can help influence a purchase.
The 7Ps of marketing are the essential ingredients that make up the marketing mix and when combined they help businesses to successfully achieve their objectives.
About the author: Deborah Rowe, Consultant, Sheba Marketing
Deborah is a chartered marketer, member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, and fellow of both the Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing and the RSA. She has more than 20 years of solid marketing and communications experience which she puts to good use as principal consultant of Sheba Marketing. Sheba Marketing provides no-nonsense business-to-business marketing support to small and medium-sized organisations that want to achieve great things. www.shebamarketing.co.uk