The First Steps Of Marketing

Nearly every company on the planet sets out with the main objective of earning money. This is generally done by producing some form of product, or offering a service, and then charging people money for it. This fundamental theory is fairly straight-forward, although it contains many intricate details.

Firstly, it is a very rare case where a company can offer a product or service that is genuinely unique and cannot be provided by anyone else. This means that your business will be competing with other businesses that sell a similar product and you will both be trying to earn money from the same shoppers, who only want to spend their money once.

Marketing is the main tool used by modern businesses to draw prospective customers to do business with them and not with their competitors. It is a very broad topic that is affected by a great number of internal and external factors, but when done right it can be the one business practice that could make or break a company. Any time spent on marketing will reap benefits, although spending this time efficiently can yield incredible outcomes.

So where should you start when creating a marketing strategy for your own business? Well, every situation is different, and every company will have its own set of strengths and weak points that must be taken into consideration, but there is a marketing principle that can be applied to almost any corporation to be used as a marketing platform.

The Marketing Mix

The marketing mix was a phrase that was first coined in the 1950’s and is a phrase that is used to express the fundamental building blocks of any marketing strategy. It reflects the fact that marketing is not a simple, blunt-edged business technique, but rather a subtle balance of different aspects of business operations. It got its name because it is similar to the ingredients checklist for a recipe.

The term was later built upon to include the concept of “four P’s” that described the critical elements of the marketing mix. The formalisation of these P’s made it very clear for business managers and marketers to swiftly associate the elements of marketing to the strengths of their own organisations, and by doing so could very rapidly form a tailored and efficient marketing plan. The four P’s are Product, Price, Place and Promotion.

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Product

Although every element of the marketing mix is a requirement, the “product” element mentioned as one of the four P’s is perhaps the most crucial of all. It describes the physical product or intangible service that your business will be selling, and at the end of the day it is the reason that customers are going to spend money with you. If this part is not adequately managed then your organisation will find it hard to make it through.

Many people don’t think that marketing has any role to play when it comes to the actual product that your business is selling. In fact, the typical train of thought very often bears the precise opposite sentiment. Surely it should be the other way around – your manufacturing department creates an item for sale and then it is the task of the marketing department to discover ways to sell it, right?

Take the computer software market as an example. There are many established brands of both operating system and software application products on the market already, and since the market is relatively well saturated it would be incredibly tough (and expensive) to “take on the big boys”.

Rather than creating an operating system and then attempting to craft a marketing strategy to rival the likes of Microsoft or Apple, it would be far more effective to look at what types of product are sought after in the current marketplace, and how feasible it would be to produce and sell them. By being aware of the marketing mix early on in your product development period you can avoid business dead-ends at a later time.

Once your products have been fashioned and created it is still a vital skill to be able to objectively evaluate your own products to recognise the reasons why a customer should buy your product rather than a competitors’.

A different form of this part of the marketing mix is known as product variation and is typically used to either extend the lifecycle of a product currently in the market, or to make your new product attractive to as many consumers as possible.

The motor industry uses this approach very effectively by offering various engines, trim packages and interior options with the cars that they offer. They use the marketing mix to good effect to sell their own products in an incredibly competitive marketplace. Whilst these companies may have substantial marketing budgets, the same principles can be applied to all businesses.

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Price

Another key factor in the marketing mix relates to the price of your products or services. This isn’t a simple case of performing market research to figure out the top price that your customers would pay (although that can be a handy tool to use), but rather making use of the price of your products as a strategic weapon designed to achieve any specific targets your business has.

Although it may seem obvious, it’s still worth pointing out that price has always been, and probably always will be, one of the crucial factors that shoppers take into account when they are making a purchase. It is also worth noting that customers do not constantly consider the lowest price to be the best value.

There are many questions that you need to ask yourself while devising a good pricing strategy, key amongst which are the price sensitivity of your customers, what your rivals are doing and how can pricing boost your own profits. From a strategy point of view though, pricing can be covered by two primary principals; price skimming and penetration pricing.

Price skimming

The main idea driving price skimming is to make as much cash as possible from the segment of the market which is price-insensitive and are going to be willing to spend a large amount of money to receive a product or service early on.

This pricing strategy is very often used in the consumer electronics industry where customers will often eagerly await the release of a new mobile phone or computer games console. Makers could set almost any price they wanted to and there would still be a loyal base of customers that would pay it.

Penetration pricing

Penetration pricing is at the opposite end of the pricing spectrum, and is geared towards gaining a large market share at a short-term cost so that financial rewards can be earned long into the future. It can be a risky strategy, but when used correctly it can setup revenue streams for many years to come.

Another thing to keep in mind is that “price” is the one part of the marketing mix that will generate earnings for a business. The other members of the four P’s will all cost money to create or undertake.

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Place

Place is the portion of the marketing mix that is often disregarded by companies, but it is still a significant part of selling your product successfully. In a nutshell, it describes the way in which you deliver your product to your customer, and consequently how you receive money from them. It can be a fantastic marketing approach when used appropriately.

The most typical ramifications of place-based marketing are the physical venues in which your products are sold. For the vast majority of consumer products, this includes the distribution network between your manufacturing centres and shops or other outlets around the world. Since distribution of a physical product costs money it is crucial to identify your own priorities and adjust your distribution network appropriately.

With the growing use of the Internet by your potential customers, marketing methods have had to take into account how they use the Internet to help deliver their products. By using the Internet as a point of contact (or even as a complete distribution channel in download-based markets such as MP3s) firms are now able to reach out to a huge pool of potential customers.

Promotion

When you say the word “marketing”, most people instantly think of the promotional aspect of the marketing mix, although as we have seen, this is only one branch of a more complete system. Promotion can be employed on a very individual basis or as a mass communication instrument, and whilst it can be an expensive undertaking it is often an essential one.

Advertising is one of the most typical forms of promotion. Typically it would be done by posting on billboards, creating short clips for TV and radio or by physically distributing flyers or leaflets to potential buyers. With the coming of the information age we have seen a great increase in promotion via e-mail and the Internet, or simply as targeted advertising materials posted through your door. The potential for individualised advertising has never been so good.

Another significant part of promotion involves branding, which may not necessarily yield more product sales directly, but relates back to one of the preliminary purposes of marketing; getting customers to choose your product over those of your rivals.

Putting it into Practice

As previously mentioned every company is different and will have different marketing needs. By using a mixture of the four P’s reviewed above you can take a good view of your own marketing strategy.