There’s no doubt about it – we’re living in a customer-focused world these days, and the businesses that acknowledge this fact and craft their strategy around it are thriving.
The internet (and particularly mobile smartphones) has given customers in every sector immense power – they can read reviews, compare brands and communicate with other customers instantly, no matter where they are.
So how can your business adapt? The answer lies in marketing – both understanding the core principles of marketing and creating a marketing plan that allows you to achieve meaningful growth.
And if this isn’t something you’ve thought of before, don’t panic – the good news is that it’s something you can begin immediately and you can see immediate and significant returns if you put in the right amount of effort.
Core marketing principles you should know
Dr. Steven Van Hook has a very useful YouTube series, the Fundamentals of Marketing Basics in which he explains the commonly agreed-upon core principles of marketing. Understanding the following points form the perfect foundation for generating your own marketing success:
The four p’s of marketing
The following four elements need to be considered when thinking about your business’ approach to marketing:
1. Product: Don’t be mistaken, it still matters what you’re selling. You want your product to be remarkable and of the highest quality possible. The design, development, branding and packaging of your product will all factor into how successfully you market it to your target audience.
2. Place: Where do you sell your product? Is it primarily sold digitally, through an e-commerce store? Or do you have a storefront that you want to attract customers to? Maybe your product isn’t physical at all – it could be a service or creative talent. The place where consumers encounter and then use your product determines much about your marketing strategy.
3. Price: Of course, price matters too. As mentioned earlier, the fact that consumers have limitless information at their fingertips means they’ll be able to compare your price to competitors nearly instantly.
4. Promotion: This may be what you think of as “marketing” – but the previous three factors all determine how you approach promotion, which is merely how, where and what you communicate customers to call attention to your business.
The four c’s of marketing
The four p’s of marketing all focus inward – they force you to think about what your business is doing in the marketing department. But again, the world is changing – the businesses that can think from the perspective of a customer will have success in today’s marketplace. Dr. Van Hook suggests re-thinking the four p’s from the customer’s perspective.
1. Customer value: How does this product benefit the customer from their point of view?
2. Cost: What is the true cost to the customer (including travel time, shipping, etc)
3. Convenience: How easy is it for the customer to find information and buy your product?
4. Communication: What kind of messages is your ideal customer receiving from you?
It’s a good practice to get in a customer mind frame when thinking about marketing.
Positioning and targeting
Before you start crafting your marketing messages, you need to think about two very important marketing concepts – positioning and targeting.
Positioning is relative – where do you stand in the field of competitors? Are you the top-quality option? Are you a niche product that only appeals to a person with a very specific need? Are you a newcomer or an already well-known quantity?
When considering positioning, you’ll also need to determine your value proposition, sometimes referred to as a unique selling proposition. Value props or USP’s are short statements of why a customer should buy your product instead of your competitors.
Targeting incorporates your ideal customer or customers – who do you envision buying your product? It’s a good idea to come up with some hypothetical customer personas or demographic segments that you want to appeal to.
Traditionally, businesses target based on gender, income, age, education or location. But in today’s mobile-first world, there’s an amazing amount of detail you can target on.
For all the negative publicity it receives, internet tracking allows businesses to see an amazing amount of information about who is visiting their website, considering their product, and eventually converting into a paying customer. If used responsibly, this will allow you to find look-a-like audiences – prospective customers that match specific traits of your top customers – and reach them with a useful message at the right time.
Creating a plan
Now that you understand some of the essentials, it’s time to formulate a plan. These seven steps are outlined by marketing guru Adam Erhart in his YouTube video How To Get More Clients. You don’t need to follow these steps exactly, but it’s an excellent example of the kind of outline you need to make for your own efforts:
1. Have a plan – This one seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people just dive right into marketing without thinking about it. The results are predictably underwhelming. Whatever you do, you need to keep track of what you’re doing and assess whether or not it’s working.
2. Define your ideal customer – Who are you most valuable customers? Learn as much as you can about them and then try to attract people that match their characteristics that matter most.
3. Find your target audience – Once you know who you’re targeting, you need to find out where they hang out, digitally or physically. You can’t reach them with your message unless you know where they are!
4. Be different – What makes your business unique? Keeping your target audience in mind, establish a USP that will resonate with them. Differentiate yourself from your competitors.
5. Provide value up front – Use your website, blog or storefront to make a visit worthwhile, even for customers that don’t wind up buying. The more people that have a reason to visit your store or website, the better.
6. Teach others – Use whatever your business’ expertise is to teach others. It provides value to your prospective customers, and everyone appreciates some help.
7. Become an authority – With the right expertise and teaching efforts, you can become a respected authority in your industry. This lends instant trust and credibility to your marketing message and products. The best way to do this is to produce excellent teaching material and get involved in the conversation on social media – Facebook, Twitter, Quora – wherever your audience hangs out.
The key to creating any marketing plan is to carefully outline the steps you will take and also consider how you will measure success. Nothing should be too rigid – as you get out there into the marketing fray, what you learn will help you form more successful future iterations.
If you would like to view either of the videos mentioned in this article, you can do so here:
Fundamentals of Marketing Basics, by Steven Van Hook