Marketing 101: A beginner’s guide

 

As a businessperson, you probably have a working knowledge of the 4P’s of marketing. But do you know about the 7 P’s? What about the 4 C’s? Furthermore, do you understand the implications of these variables for your business? This blog is a building block upon which the rest of your marketing strategy and plan can be built. Exciting, right? Let’s get started:

The traditional 4 P’s:

Product (or service)– First and foremost- why are you in business? What is it that you are selling that you can provide better than anyone else? In order to have a successful business you must first have a great product or service to sell. At times, “what” you sell is less obvious than you might think. Take Amazon, for example– one might argue Amazon sells almost everything. At its core, however, what Amazon is selling is convenience and access. It’s an open forum for anyone to use, displaying millions of products that you can receive within 2 days of purchase. Think about it, you could buy the same products elsewhere, you could go down the street to Target and pick up what you need, but with Amazon you have more choices and the convenience of never having to leave the house. This is in large part why they have been so successful: they have tapped into a set of key features and benefits that no one to date has been able to provide better than they can. Other key elements of your product or service include considerations on who it is for–who is the end user? What are their needs and pain points that you are solving? You could design the most beautiful product in the world but it won’t matter if no one wants to buy it (If a product enters the market, and no one buys it, did it exist?). In addition, we know that no great product or service exists forever, what innovations or additional offerings do you have planned? Have you identified where your buyers may be in the product or services life cycle? As you can see- your Product (or Service) is a lot more complex than “this is what I’m selling.”

Price – Price can be tricky: at times it’s an indicator of quality, other times it’s a deterrent and one of the core reasons a buyer shops elsewhere. What is most important to understand is your product, or services perceived value. Sales ultimately is an exchange of value. Especially in terms of services, this can be hard to quantify. Take an accounting firm for example, you are paying this firm to do your taxes. The value you receive is not something you can hold in your hand, rather the peace of mind in knowing that you received the most money from your return, and avoided any late fees, penalties or audits. Most often, it’s also knowing this is a service you cannot provide yourself. If you are a small business owner you know the value of finding a great accountant and how much it can save you. If you are an individual with no major deductions or purchases, your perceived value for this service will be lower, and you might opt to do this yourself. Think about the value of the product or service you provide- how does it stack up to competitors? What does it communicate to your potential buyer about the value they will receive? Is there a rationale for your pricing model (is it based on market data)?

Place– Your place is where customers can find your products or services, as well as where they will find information about your brand. Let’s say you own a small clothing boutique. You have a small downtown storefront, an e-commerce website and products listed on Amazon. These are all part of your “places.” In addition, you advertise on Facebook and Google, and send out a monthly newsletter with new arrivals– these are additional places that your consumers interact with your product to consider. Are all of your “places” communicating the same message?

Promotion– Promotion is ever evolving and growing, and consists of the following categories: advertising, public relations, social media marketing, email marketing, search engine marketing, video marketing, direct marketing and sales promotions. The promotional aspect of the marketing mix is how your potential buyers find you, and what entices them to buy. It’s your megaphone into the world so to speak– commercials, mailers, your website, sponsorships, events, coupons, they are all part of your promotional mix. There is a misconception that promotions have to be costly. The reality is, you can create promotions for as little as you would like. While the dollar amount behind a promotion can have a significant impact on the results, some marketers are finding free promotion through publicity and guerrilla marketing tactics. Bottom line, don’t let promotion scare you: word-of-mouth is still one of today’s most powerful marketing techniques.

 

The 3 (additional) P’s of services marketing

Services marketing can be a bit more complex as its harder to see evidence of the transaction, and it usually requires more interaction with people and some kind of unique process:

  • Physical Evidence– The tangible proof of service provided to your customer, and also the evidence, or receipt. This can include anything from a brochure, invoice, report or other deliverable that the client received. Tangible material is still essential in the digital age, more and more people want to “feel” what they are receiving, so if you work in a service-based industry, think about how you can provide your customers with this sense of security as an added value. Say that you are a computer technician tasked with working on a crashed computer. What physical evidence are you leaving the client with outside of your proposal and invoice? Do you have an impressive business card? A summary of the services performed printed on a branded letterhead? Can you leave behind a copy of your brochure and maybe a “How-To” guide for future computer crashes? All of these little tangible items reinforce the value provided to the customer, and make them more likely to feel secure in their choice.
  • People– With services people are interacting more with a person than a physical product, which is what makes customer service all the more essential. People might consist of your employees, or yourself- anyone and everyone that interacts with the customer throughout the process. The experience a customer has with the people that perform the work can be the difference in a positive or negative experience. Say that something with the service you provide goes wrong, your relationship and skills handling the error will determine whether you have lost a client, or if you can fix the problem and shift the mindset back to that of a satisfied customer. Conversely, even if there are no problems with the service, a negative interaction with an employee can cause a client to request a refund, or seek other service providers in the future. Never underestimate the power of human interaction.
  • Processes– 9 times out of 10, there will be more than one person who can provide the same service you do. While your customer service can definitely help set you apart, your process, or methods through which you execute and deliver your service, are ultimately a major part of what makes you unique. Maybe your process is informal, and is designed to make your customer feel the personal touch. Or the opposite may be true, you might have a highly regimented and automated process to guide the customer through every phase of the service cycle. Either way, how you perform your service is an essential part of your marketing mix.

Now, technically, we’re done with the P’s: but I am going to go out on a limb and propose one more:

  • Personality– Branding is an important influencer for any organization, and while this P could technically be placed under “Promotion” I think it really should be in a category of its own. Your brand personality influences how potential customers think about you and ultimately impacts the decision to buy. 

Interestingly enough, there was another “mix” defined by Robert F. Lauterborn, entirely focused on the customer, referred to as:

The 4 C’s:

  • Customer Solution– The focus here is on the customer’s wants and needs, and using those to create your unique product or service. It asks the question: what gap in the marketplace are you filling? While this may seem identical to your “product” it is a different approach focused first and foremost on the customer.
  • Cost– Cost is more than price, it includes any cost to the customer. That can include the time it takes for the customer to get to your store and the monetary cost of gas, parking, shipping, taxes, etc.
  • Communication– While promotion focuses on blasting your message out into the marketplace, communication is centered around the interactions involved, and effectiveness of your message in the target market.
  • Convenience– The convenience factor is not to be underestimated, look at how Amazon has shaken up the retail market by relying on this key feature. Convenience goes beyond place, and focuses on what makes the sale easiest for the end consumer.

 

Each of these marketing mix elements are unique, but interdependent upon one another for alignment and effectiveness, none of them can be considered in a vacuum. It is also important to note that your marketing mix needs to be flexible, adaptable and focused. By focus I mean 2 things: Your Goals and Your Customer. In my opinion the two are equally important and should be the focal point of all of your marketing activities. Your ultimate gut check will be asking: will this benefit my customer and help reach my goals? Write it down, post it somewhere and ask yourself it again and again. It is all too easy to get lost in the vast wilderness that is marketing, without any rationale as to why and how its affecting your audience or goals. When you ask yourself these questions you pave the way for a successful marketing mix. 

So we’ve defined the major marketing mix elements and the key questions we need to ask ourselves: what now? Once you understand the elements of your marketing mix, you can start creating your marketing strategy and plan. As mentioned in the video, I like to apply elements of the scientific method to design an effective marketing mix. My recommended approach is:

  1. Define your business goal(s)– Make your goals SMART (Specific, Actionable, Measurable, Realistic and Time-Specific).
  2. Hypothesize your key customers– I use the term hypothesize as you may not know with 100% certainty who your core customers are. Maybe you think it’s one group and in reality it’s another. Write down who your product or service is designed for to begin, and do your research to determine “where” they are and how you can reach them. 
  3. Do your competitive research– You NEED to know who your competitors are, what they are offering, and how they are communicating it. You don’t want to find yourself in a position where you are repeating the same selling points as your competitors.
  4. Develop your strategy– This is where your marketing mix comes in! Put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and write down your assumptions for each of the marketing mix elements outlined above. From there it is recommended that you consult with a professional to help you define the rest of the elements of your marketing strategy. This is where your brand positioning, unique selling proposition, brand personality, benefit laddering, and core idea will be defined.
  5. Create your marketing plan– Once you know how you will talk to your audience and who they are, how do you reach them? How do you keep them interested and loyal to your brand? These are all elements of your marketing plan. Your plan should include actionable tactics, a budget and timeline. Again, it is recommended you seek the help of an expert in order to apply the most effective tactics to achieve your goals. Often I find clients dabble in one plan or another, but without an integrated approach it often winds up being a drop in the bucket (more about integrated marketing later, I promise).
  6. Deploy– Execute the marketing plan!
  7. Record data– It’s easier than ever to measure your results with digital marketing. Use this data to set benchmarks, identify areas of success and areas of improvement.
  8. Make adjustments– Based off the results, make observations and come up with a secondary hypothesis. For example, say you see an uptick in sales coming from Men while you were primarily thought your core audience was Women. Perhaps you create a new landing page for this audience with an ad targeted at this group to see the results. Marketing is ever evolving and your observations and hypotheses always changing, make it a habit to test new ones at least quarterly.

There is a lot of info here, I know- so to keep it simple I created this Marketing 101 infographic to break it down.

Interested in a knowledge check? Take our Marketing 101 Quiz! Comment below with your score to tell us how you did, and share any questions or comments you have.

As mentioned above it is always important to seek help in some of the key components of marketing to be sure you are not wasting time or money talking to the wrong audience or communicating the wrong message. For a free 30-minute marketing audit of your product or service contact Sunny Dublick Marketing today.