Finally, where you sell your product can have a profound impact on your success. For many years, IBM equipment was not sold in any retail outlet. In the late 1970’s, with personal computers growing in market acceptance, the company made a strategic decision to open their own retail stores, carrying chiefly IBM products and representing the only place these products could be purchased. As more and more stores offering a wide array of computer equipment and accessories became fashionable, IBM was forced to reassess its strategy. Today, IBM equipment is available through many competing retail outlets alongside most of its major competitors’ products.
For many years, doctors made house calls. Today, if you want to see your doctor, there is a high probability you will have to go to his office. Depending on the patient, i.e., customer profile, the office décor will vary widely – homey and comfortable with a range of toys and children’s books in the case of an obstetrician, to severe and even simple in the case of a radiologist. Lawyers specialising in corporate law and dealing primarily with large corporations are normally located in downtown high rise office buildings and their office décor is usually tasteful, elegant and expensive. Smaller law firms might be located in suburban areas and their décor less ostentatious.
Every effort should be made to ensure that the location where you conduct business is convenient for your customers. The facility should be appointed in a fashion that will make them feel comfortable. The object is to make it as easy and as inviting as possible for them to do business with you.
In the late 1900’s, a new, previously unimaginable location emerged. Today, the Internet is one of the fastest growing marketing channels. You should follow its development carefully. Does your product lend itself to marketing on the Internet? If so, do you have a website? Has it been professionally designed? Have you taken the same pains to tailor its appearance to appeal to your ideal customer as you have with your office décor?
Does your site have an e-commerce capability? Do you have someone on staff, or perhaps an outside contractor, who stays abreast of changes in technology and updates your site accordingly? Do you or an employee or outside contractor specialise in the business as opposed to the technology of your site? Do you have a marketing plan for your website? In the 21st Century, the Internet has become an indispensable and ever more important location to conduct business and if you do not keep abreast of it, you will run the risk of getting left behind, a relic in a modern and progressive world.
As you move forward in designing and implementing your marketing plan, be sure to carefully consider the final three P’s of marketing: Packaging, Positioning and Place. Combined with Product, Price, People and Promotion, they form the matrix of a successful marketing initiative.
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A vital consideration in any business plan is how you position yourself and your product in comparison to your competition. With what you know about your ideal customer, how can you best appeal to them? What can you say or do to drown out all of the other commercial messages striving for their attention? What are their hot buttons – and how can you push it?
At the heart of the question is your understanding of why the potential buyer would purchase your product. What is his perceived need and why is your product the best able to satisfy it? When you have answered this question, position your product accordingly.
Is the prospect looking for quality above all else? Then position yourself as the supplier of the best performing, longest lasting product. Are they seeking speed of delivery? Position yourself as the offering the fastest turnaround in the market. Is price of paramount importance? If so, position yourself as the lowest cost provider. Whatever the need, you can jump to the head of the line by positioning yourself as the leader in this area.
Ultimately, of course, you must deliver. Remember the four levels of customer satisfaction. It can be fatal to create expectations in the mind of a customer and then fail to at least meet these expectations. The words of Peter Drucker should be heeded: “Under-commit and over-perform.” In other words, be sure that you are able to live up the promise created by the positioning of your product.
In the world of marketing, perception is everything. Successful companies focus not only on improving the economic value of their products but also on increasing their perceived value. Packaging plays a major role in determining how the customer views your product. Packaging takes many forms.
First, consider the actual physical packaging, from the product’s color and shape and style to the container in which it is shipped. Apple has been a leader in designing computer shells that look sleek and modern. An Apple computer virtually shouts, “Look at me. I’m the latest and greatest!” Apple’s target customer is the individual seeking the ultimate in user friendliness and the creative professionals such as a graphic designer or an architect. These are the very people to whom the ultra modern packaging is most likely to appeal.
Second, the appearance of your marketing collateral is also extremely important. If you are in the up-scale clothing business, you will want all of your brochures to have an elegant, expensive appearance. They will probably be four color and printed on glossy paper, showing chic models dressed in the latest fashions. On the other hand, if you run a chain of stores selling work clothes to farmers, you will want to project a totally different image.
Third, consider the importance of personal packaging. If you are selling financial services, you want to look conservative and affluent, projecting the image of one who is both trustworthy and successful. This will be reflected in your dress, your manner of speech, the car you drive and so on. A very different impression would be required if you were selling motorcycles or sporting goods or gardening equipment. Pay close attention to the image you project. It should offer a clear message to your ideal customer: “Look, you can trust me. We’re birds of a feather. I relate to you and your needs and am the right person to satisfy them.”
The third element of your marketing strategy is People. Consider all people involved in the sales process. First, study your customer. Create a profile of your existing customer base. If you are starting your business and have no customers as yet, your profile might describe the customers of your competitors, including their age range, gender, job, financial status, purchasing power and so on. What kind of publications do they read? Where are they most likely to shop? What clubs and organisations might they be expected to join? What kind of job or profession are they likely to have? What other characteristics or habits are relevant to your marketing efforts?
Next, paint a picture of your ideal customer. Based on the same parameters you used in creating your existing customer profile, describe your ideal customer in detail. This information will prove invaluable in determining how you can most readily reach him and convert him into an actual customer.
Next, examine your sales people. Perhaps it is you. Maybe you have an internal sales force, or do you sell through independent reps? It is important that whoever is interfacing with the buyer matches well to the customer profile you have just defined or he will be unable to create rapport, an essential ingredient in the sales process. It is not unusual to find women in sales positions in upscale men’s clothing stores. On the other hand, men rarely sell fine clothing to women but are the norm in the heavy equipment industry. Are you and/or your sales people the ideal match for your ideal customer?
Finally, look at your customer support people. Are they right for the job? Do they have the proper attitude and the necessary skills? As with your sales people, are they well suited to deal with the kind of person you have defined as your ideal customer? Taking the time to know your customer and to ensure you have the best people in the critical positions of sales and customer service will yield great benefits to you and your business as you move forward with your marketing efforts.
The second element of your marketing strategy is Price. What do you charge for your Product? How did you arrive at this Price? Is your Price competitive with alternative products in the marketplace? How elastic is the Price of your Product? In other words, how much room do you have to increase or decrease your Price without impacting your ability to sell?
In addition to how much you charge, pay close attention to how you receive payment. Do you accept credit card payments? Is this important to your potential customers? What about personal cheques? If you ship product, do you require payment in advance, or will you ship and bill later? Do you levy shipping charges? What about handling charges? Do you treat your shipping department as a profit center?
All of these questions must be carefully considered within the context of the marketplace. Remember, the prime determinant of your price is your competition. Revisit the competitive analysis you have prepared earlier. Examine your competitors’ pricing models. Be sure yours is competitive.