How to Find Your Business Marketing Formula
A marketing program should be based on a marketing strategy, which is the big‐picture idea driving your business’s success. The marketing program is all the coordinated activities that together make up the tactics to implement that strategy. To make both strategy and program clear, write them up in a marketing plan.
For example, a general contractor may choose the strategy of renovating and building residential homes close to downtown areas in appealing smaller cities and larger suburbs in their region to take advantage of a trend where professional couples are moving out of the suburbs and back to revitalized downtowns.
Analyzing your Five P’s
What really matters in marketing are the points of contact between the customer and your communications, products, and people. These customer interactions with you constitute your marketing program. To make a list of your own influence points, use the following Five P’s of marketing for your categories.
Determine which aspects of the product itself are important and have an influence on customer perception and purchase intentions. List all tangible features plus intangibles, such as personality, look and feel, and packaging — these are the aspects of your product that influence customer perception.
First impressions are important for initial purchase, but performance of the product over time is more important for repurchase and referrals.
List the aspects of price that influence customer perception. What does it cost the customer to get and use your product? The list price is often an important element of the customer’s perception of price, but it isn’t the only one. Discounts and special offers belong on your list of price‐based influence points, too. And don’t forget any extra costs the customer may have to incur, like the cost of switching from another product to yours; extra costs can really affect a customer’s perception of how attractive your product is.
List the aspects of placement or distribution that influence the accessibility of your product. When and where is your product available to customers? Place is a big influence, because most of the time, customers aren’t actively shopping for your product. Nobody runs around all day every day looking for what you want to sell her. When someone wants something, she’s most strongly influenced by what’s available to her. Getting the place and timing right is a big part of success in marketing and often very difficult.
The web allows you to define your market narrowly and locally, or globally, or in local markets other than your physical one. For example, if you have a bookstore specializing in children’s and young adult titles, then you would do best to be present in the local areas where there are the most children and young adult readers. The web can narrowly target the top five cities for your product.
List all the ways you have to promote your offering by communicating with customers and prospects. Do you have a website? Do you routinely update your blog, Facebook page, and Pinterest boards? Do you advertise? Send mailings? Hand out brochures? What about the visibility of signs on buildings or vehicles? Do distributors or other marketing partners also communicate with your customer?
If so, include their promotional materials and methods in your marketing program, because they help shape the customer’s perception, too. And what about other routine elements of customer communication, like bills? They’re yet another part of the impression your marketing communications make.
The web hasn’t finished revolutionizing promotion, and you can innovate to get messages out creatively and inexpensively in a lot of ways.
The fifth P is perhaps the most important one, because without people, you can’t have a marketing program. List all the points of human contact that may be important to the success of your program. If you run a small business, this list may just be a handful of people, but even so, include this list in your planning and think about ways each person can help make a positive impression and encourage a sale.
The web has also revolutionized the process of making connections with people. Your professional and business Facebook pages, your blogs, your tweets, your Pinterest boards, and so forth are all opportunities to build followers and friendships.
Refining your list of possibilities
You need to find efficient, effective ways to positively influence customer perception. You want to use elements of your marketing program to motivate customers to buy and use your product. The list of your current influence points for each of your Five P’s is just a starting point on your journey to an optimal marketing program.
Now ask yourself the following questions: What can be subtracted because it isn’t working effectively? What can be emphasized or added? Think about each of the Five P’s and try to add more possible influence points. Look to competitors or successful marketers from outside your product category and industry for some fresh ideas.
The longer your list of possibilities, the more likely you are to find really good things to include in your marketing program. But in the end, don’t forget to focus on the handful of influence points that give you the biggest effect.
To craft your own winning formula, think of one or more new ways to reach and influence your customers and prospects in each of the Five P’s and add them to your list as possibilities for your next marketing program.
Avoiding the pricing trap
Don’t be tempted to make price the main focus of your marketing program. Many marketers emphasize discounts and low prices to attract customers. But price is a dangerous emphasis for any marketing program because you’re buying customers rather than winning them. That’s a very, very hard way to make a profit.