The definition of marketing is to create a desire within your customers that leads to a sale. The way you go about creating this desire is to centre the features and benefits of your product or service around your customer needs while positioning and messaging around your customer. What I will do in this article is elaborate on some of these points as well as provide you with the basic building blocks of making sure that your own marketing plan is well-founded. At the end of the day, the magic word is customer interest: this is where marketing turns into sales and is the starting point to creating a loyal, happy customer.
As I mentioned in my article on what is marketing, a basic difference between sales and marketing from my own perspective is that sales is singular and marketing communicates with multiple people. In the past, you eventually needed to interact with people 1:1 in person which meant that every marketing activity ended in this interaction which is a sales interaction. Nowadays, however, if a customer purchases something from your website, they have bypassed you - and the need for human interaction! - entirely. What was this transaction but the result of marketing? Therefore a newer definition of marketing that includes purchase transactions is required by this kind of scenario.
The definition of marketing for your business is your brand which basically includes everything you are, say and do. If you want to take this further then you should personify your business with your very thoughts! (Read about creating a "Marketing Personality") As a business owner, your whole mode of being and attitude should be professional and predicated around representing your business in the best way possible. You need to become the kind of person who will attract the kind of people you want to sell to regardless of where you meet them. That is why it is crucial to know your customer not just in terms of what they like to buy but their lifestyle and values.
The starting point of a successful business is having a product or service which fulfills a specific customer need and has a unique selling point (USP) or differentiator. This is what gives your customers a compelling reason to buy from you as opposed to your competition. After this, the sales and marketing function is about making sure that everything your customer experiences after having coming in contact with your business is positive, engaging and moves them closer to becoming a loyal, happy customer. You need to manage your customer perception through everything from your point of sales (POS) environment to product packaging to your website to overall customer service and support.
No definition of marketing can be complete without talking about the process of creating a cogent marketing communication plan. This consists of three areas of Analysis, Strategy and Implementation but really can be as simple as asking yourself, Who am I talking to?, How do I reach them? And What do I say? For a more detailed exposition on these and related question, I will refer you once again to my article on what is marketing. If nothing else, the point of this exercise is to think and perhaps make a few mental notes; whatever you do, please do not just jump blindly into promoting a product or service without forethought!
The goal of all business is first to create something of value and then to create customers for this value. When you look at it in this simplistic fashion, this understanding can help guide your thoughts and actions in making sure that everything you do is about one of these two things. In the same way, creating marketing plans can be simplified to talk about Opportunity Analysis, Organizational Analysis and Market Analysis. You can add to this SWOT Analysis which looks at your internal and external strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Once again, while you should not get bogged down in dry and heavy theory, it is useful to look at these sales and marketing perspectives in order to be able to understand your market and develop and implement a successful plan.
Advertising is one of the first things that comes to mind when people think of sales and marketing and certainly communication is a key part of any definition of marketing which includes Written, Verbal, Physical and Electronic communication. A cogent marketing communication plan is about creating an integrated message across all marketing channels and, as possible, allowing for interactive marketing communication in order to engage your customer in a dialogue.
A big part of marketing communications is making sure your customer messaging is what I call “you”-centric. This means starting with a product or service that is designed around fulfilling an important customer need and best serving them. Then you need to decide who your customer is and where and how to reach out to them. Finally, your actual message, the what, should speak directly to your customer in their language. Try and use the word “you” and address them just as if they were there in front of you regardless of what channel or medium you use.
One approach to creating customers is to advertise and promote and then sit back and wait for them to come to you. It is here that people try and come up with gimmicks and ideas in addition to trying to come up with the best wording to engage and persuade customers. This approach may be seen as “passive” sales and marketing versus the more active approach of actually seeking people out via direct marketing methods like mail, telemarketing, in-person sales and networking.
As per my previously stated definition of marketing when you are engaged with a single person 1 on 1 with the outcome being a sale or no sale, this is my definition of sales. The primary characteristic that makes this different from marketing is the interactive nature of the interaction that takes place. As a result, in a sales conversation you may have the luxury of someone who is already interested but then it is your job to lead them through the sales process to evaluating your product or service, negotiating and then purchasing. A sales interaction also includes a significant amount of qualification and objection handling which is something that is not generally a part of marketing.
Any definition of marketing in today's Information Age is not complete without an inquiry into social media marketing, viral marketing, email marketing and online advertising trends. At the very least, you should be concerned with maintaining a professional website and providing your customer with some form of online interactivity if not a full blown e-commerce interface where they can make purchases by themselves.
There are 2 goals of automated marketing that I would like to point out as being of primary importance. Firstly, is it possible to enable your customers to transact business with you without having to interact with you in person? If, for example, your customers can interact with your website, receive relevant information and purchase, you can save on the time and expense of sales interactions and open the door for an exponential growth in your business. Secondly, you will often have prospects who have been marketed to who are now interested in your product but cannot purchase right now for one reason or another. Automated marketing is then about keeping these folks in your sales and marketing funnel through ongoing communications that keep this interest alive and give your customer a chance to purchase at a future date when the timing is right.
Do you have insights, strategies or a story about sales and marketing to share with other readers? Perhaps you have implemented a new strategy that is working really well or have insights into how the Internet is changing the sales and marketing landscape! Send in your thoughts in as much detail as you like to create a page in this section.