I recently saw a group of recruitment advertisements for marketing consultants. On reading the content of these job notices, my heart sank. It seems a lot of businesses, especially small businesses are using bad, incorrect and out of date definitions as to the role of marketing in their organisation.
You see some advertisements which are just silly. These tend to fall into three groups:
- Businesses putting all their marketing ‘eggs’ in one basket. Many of these businesses think social media is a magic bullet to all their marketing problems. They see social media as a cheap marketing option. It isn’t and by focusing solely on social media these firms may be missing traditional marketing channels which give better value for money and better returns on investment.
- Businesses who underestimate the marketing task. I saw one advertisement recently for a business asking for someone to ‘sort’ their marketing on a contract of eight hours a week. I believe that firm would be better off by spending money on a consultant rather than employing an individual on such a restricted contract. That consultant could design a marketing plan and existing members of staff could work to that plan. This matches current marketing theory that every employee of an organisation has a role to play in marketing that organisation
- Businesses who want a miracle worker but who don’t want to pay for that miracle worker. I see plenty of advertisements for marketing staff that want a jack of all trades. They want one person who is an analyst, a researcher, a planner, a strategist, a web designer, a photographer, a graphic designer, a copy writer and a videographer. They then say the salary for such a person is the equivalent of a shop floor labourer. I’m not joking. One such example I saw recently was for a graduate, with three years experience, to carry out the above wide range of activities, for a salary of £18,000 per annum. Casting my eye over the job description, I estimated that the value of the task required would reasonably demand a salary of £35,000 per annum. Worse, it is rare to find an individual who has an analytical brain; who is good at collating and analysing facts and figures; but who is also creative. The human brain doesn’t work that way, some people are good at creative arts but then tend to be awful at figures. Other people are excellent at analysing data but can’t draw for toffee.
However, I think the biggest mistake made by many organisations is to view marketing as solely a promotional activity. Marketing is seen as a substitute term for advertising or sales promotion. Marketing is not advertising. Marketing is not PR. Marketing is not door to door visits by sales reps. Yes, all those activities are related to marketing but they are subordinate to marketing.
Marketing is the development of customer-focused business strategies. It is the conversion of corporate mission and goals into practical strategies and tactics. Your marketing plan will determine how you approach promotion as part of the wider marketing mix.
Remember, your strategic marketing plan will lead to corporate policies, plans and investments which affect all parts of your business. Each area of the 7 P extended mix will itself have it’s own mix of tactics and methodology.
- Product: You will have a product mix. Different product/service options designed to meet the needs and desires of different target audience segments. Marketing strategists will work closely with product developers and your production managers to provide best fit product options for target segments. In each of these segments you might have a product range. Marketers will be closely involved in new product development and management of products through their life span.
- Price: You will have a mix of prices designed to meet the wallets of different target segments. Marketers will help manage prices to maximise returns and to help extend product life span.
- Place: Marketers will help decide how your goods are brought to market, how they are distributed and where they are sold. This might mean physical stores, home delivery, electronic supply. Increasingly the use of 3D printers is raised. Do you want to sell through retailers or third-party agents. Do you want to sell directly? If you are operating internationally, do you need a partner firm already within your selected market?
- People: Who are the right people for your organisation. How should they look at behave? Do you want to mirror your customer base? For example, if you are selling high street fashion to the 18 to 25 demographic, do you want 60 year old sales staff? And it could be that you want different people within your organisation for different customer groups. Take as an example a landscaping firm which does both domestic and commercial work. Domestic customers may be happy to see a workman in a boiler suit or a fleece jacket but a big building firm would most likely want to see a representative in smart business attire.
- Process: Process needs to match customer expectations. If you are making ‘bespoke’ garden furniture, it is likely that your process will reflect artisan craftmanship. If you are mass producing widgets for the automotive sector, your customers would likely expect a clean automated factory with short lead times, kaizen, and just in time supply.
- Physical evidence: The documentation and other physical evidence used by your business should also match your target customers expectations. Different customer groups will have different expectations. So an insurance firm selling car insurance might get away with documents covered in puppet meerkats but that same insurance firm selling building insurance won’t use those documents to sell commercial building insurance (in fact that firm will likely use a completely different brand entity to do so).
- Promotion: You will have a promotional mix. A wide range of promotional tactics and channels to maximise your exposure to your target audience. This mix should not only meet the expectations of your customers, it should maximise your share of voice. It should be a mix of push tactics, like traditional advertising which ‘push’ your products into the minds of your target audience and ‘pull’ tactics which get consumers to demand your products from retailers and suppliers. Promotion should also help build brand equity and customer retention. Social media content tends to be ‘pull’ promotion. It builds desire and moves customers from prospects to regular customers. It is however a poor channel for push marketing and getting your products fresh into the minds of consumers. Social media’s main benefit is the building of a customer community. It has so far proven to be a poor sales channel.
There are several models of how promotional messages work in the minds of consumers.
The traditional model was that consumers minds carry out a structured process when deciding to buy. Promotional activities must therefore match that structured process. This process is described by the mnemonic AIDA:
- Awareness: First your customers must become aware of your offer.
- Interest: Then they become interested in your offer
- Desire: That interest should develop into a need to obtain your offer.
- Action: The consumer then should be prompted to take action to obtain your offer.
Promotional activities should therefore work to develop and match these procedural stages.
The hierarchy of effect model of promotion is similar:
- Consumers become aware of your offer
- They demand and build knowledge of your offer
- They develop a liking for your offer
- They develop a preference for your offer
- They develop a conviction to obtain your offer
- They purchase your offer
More recently, the information processing model of promotion has been developed;
- First target consumers are presented with your offer
- You get their attention
- You develop comprehension of your offer in the minds of target consumers
- They retain that knowledge and comprehension
- That knowledge and comprehension affects the target consumers behaviour and they purchase your offer.
As you can see each of these models requires promotional activities to carry out a range of tasks. There is another mnemonic (marketers love a mnemonic; and a matrix), DRIP:
- Differentiation: Marketing is about leveraging difference. Your promotional activities should create an identity which distinguishes your offer from that of your competitors.
- Remind/Refresh: Your promotional activities should reinforce the knowledge of your offer in the minds of consumers. It should remind previous purchasers that your offer still exists.
- Inform: Your offer should inform your target audience of the content of your offer.
- Persuade: Your promotion should persuade target customers to purchase your offer.
Each of these tasks will take prominence depending on the place in which the target customers mind sits in the purchasing process. For new prospects, informing them of your presence in the market will take prominence. For existing customers, your promotion needs to remind and refresh. For switching customers, you want to differentiate so they move to your offer from that of competitors. For undecided customers, your promotion needs to prioritise persuasion.
So promotion is not as simple as sticking a post on Facebook, or a video on YouTube. It needs careful though and a mix of promotional routes which maximise exposure to the market. Most of all promotion is part of a far wider marketing process.
So stop getting marketing wrong. think beyond the stereotype and apply marketing theory to all aspects of your business.