Most companies and organizations know that marketing is important to their success, but they sometimes struggle to understand what kind of marketing they need. Indeed, the difficulty understanding what marketing they need is often due to differences in what the word “marketing” means to different people.
For some, “marketing” means advertising; to others, it means sales/selling, deals and price promotions, and to still others, it means the company’s Web presence. Although marketing can mean all these things, the fact is, advertising, sales, price deals, and Web-based strategies are not the essence of marketing. In fact, if a company equates marketing with these more tactical level decisions, it runs the risk of wasting its marketing expenditures. This creates a vicious cycle in which businesses hold back from marketing because they think it doesn’t work.
Prior to implementing marketing tactics such as advertising and sales strategies, the strategic marketing decisions must first be made–to establish the focus for marketing efforts, and to ensure that they are more likely to deliver the intended results. What strategic marketing decisions provide the foundation for marketing tactics such as advertising?
First and foremost, a company must be crystal clear about its “sweet spot” in its marketplace. The sweet spot is the intersection of the company’s choice of which customers, its value proposition, and its ability to execute (deliver) value to those customers.
1. Specific target market. Too many companies take a “spray and pray” approach with their marketing, thinking that broad coverage of the market will maximize their chance of sales revenue from any and all interested customers. However, this is a recipe for disaster. Companies that get the most for their marketing efforts have a precise definition of their target customer. Witness Apple. Apple’s products are expensive, targeted to the high-end of the market. Apple executives are as proud of what the company chooses NOT to do as what it chooses to do. The focus on a specific target market facilitates its success in the market.
2. Clearly articulate value proposition. Second, a company must have a clearly articulated value proposition, a statement that encapsulates the key benefits a customer will gain when buying and using the company’s products. Customers always have choices in the market—they can choose to buy or not to buy; they can choose competitor A’s products or competitor B’s products; they can choose to spend their discretionary dollars in another product category entirely (say, by taking a trip rather than by buying a new consumer electronics gadget). Companies that clearly understand the specific reasons why (i.e., customer benefits) customers should purchase from them (over a broadly defined group of competitive options) have a clear focus that facilitates success.
3. Execution. Once companies have clearly defined their target market and articulated their specific value proposition (vis a vis competitors), then it can focus its tactical marketing efforts. Specific media can be utilized, and a specific message can be crafted. When the right customers hear a compelling message, the magic of marketing can happen. At this point, each and every interaction with a customer—from the first time they hit a company’s Website, to the time they set foot in a store, to a question about pricing or billing—becomes a compelling moment of truth: The company either works to build and establish a relationship with the customer, or the interaction somehow undermines or damages the customer experience. Careful attention to customer interactions and details is what differentiates those who reap the benefits from their marketing and those who say their marketing doesn’t deliver.
Certainly, defining the sweet spot takes a bit of luck and serendipity, but making the hard, strategic decisions provides the necessary focus and discipline to maximize marketing success.
About the Author:
Jakki Mohr has a Ph.D. in Marketing from the University of Wisconsin. Her popular book, Marketing of High-Technology Products and Innovations written with co-authors Drs. Sanjit Sengupta and Stanley Slater, is currently in its third edition.