Marketing  (Lesson 4)

My opinion is that marketing is one of the most misunderstood concepts in business. It’s very rare that I start working with a business and find that they have a solid marketing plan in place. Usually there are a lot of gaps.

That isn’t to say that they’re not taking marketing seriously, or spending a lot of money on it. Most business owners are well aware that they need to market themselves. If nobody knows you’re there, they can’t become customers.

For some traditional small businesses, the only marketing they need is a sign on the front of the shop that gives passersby an idea of what they sell. If you walk past a shop with “Newsagency” printed on the awning in big letters, you know that you can pick up a newspaper there. You also know there’s probably another similar shop on the next corner. These businesses exist on local residents and passing trade, so they don’t exactly need a global marketing plan.

If your ambitions go beyond selling The Australian to people on their way to work, though, you’re going to need to put a bit more effort into marketing. But you’ve taken care of that, right? You’ve paid a talented designer to create an attractive brochure for your business and spent a small fortune on a website, so you have marketing in the bag.

Glossy publicity materials are important, of course, but they aren’t a central part of marketing – they’re the output at the end of a process that’s driven by economics, not art. Marketing is a complex process, and to get it right you need a deep and detailed understanding of the numbers.

Too many businesses confuse marketing with advertising, sales and service. These all come into it, but marketing is a lot bigger than that. Instead you should look at it as a combination of all the activities you use to put yourself in the marketplace.

The purpose of a business is to bring in profitable customers. The more of those you attract, the more profitable your business is going to be. And how are you going to attract them? Marketing.

One of the things I believe is that when you get right down to it, every business is a marketing business. That’s how you’re going to succeed, grow and increase your profits. If you run a company your number one goal isn’t selling widgets or services; it’s turning people you’ve never met before into regular customers. These might sound the same thing, but they’re not.

This is where so many people get it wrong. Their efforts are focused on delivering their products or services, and marketing is usually an afterthought. They create a business then add a marketing department to it. This is looking at it backwards. Remember what I said – every business is a marketing business. Everything you do has to be geared towards that one goal – attracting profitable customers.

Your marketing needs to be set up to take prospective customers on a journey. I break this journey down into seven stages:

  • Suspect – Any member of your target market.
  • Prospect – Someone whose details you have, and who has yours, but hasn’t bought from you yet.
  • Shopper – Someone who’s bought from you once.
  • Customer – Someone who’s bought from you then comes back to buy again.
  • Member – Someone who feels like a valued part of your business.
  • Advocate – Someone who tells others positive things about your business.
  • Raving fan – Someone who’s so enthusiastic about your business they bring in new, profitable customers and do your selling for you.

Everyone who has a need for your products or services is a suspect. The aim of your marketing is to move as many as possible as far along the journey as possible.

To your success,