Q. I am starting a business and I need to think about marketing but I don’t know where to start. Can you offer me some advice?
A.This is a common problem. Most people will have heard of marketing, but they don’t know quite what it is. Mark Brewerton, the managing director of Total Marketing Solutions, says that the common misconception is that marketing is only about public relations, websites and advertising. In fact, this is only one element of it. “Marketing is far more fundamental than that, it’s about how a company achieves its profits through developing a product and selling it to the marketplace.” Paul Baines, director of the strategic marketing course at Cranfield Management School, says that marketing is more about hard analysis than designing billboards: “You have to analyse the nature of the market that you want to sell into. You need to ask yourself, how is it changing and what are your competitors doing? You need to know exactly what resources you have to work with and then marry all of these things together to differentiate yourself in the marketplace.”
Q. Can you suggest a strategy that I could use to market my business?
A.Baines says there are four things you need to think about. Firstly, research. Make sure you understand the nature of the market and get as much detail as possible about the customer you are trying to attract. Next, check out your competitors. Find out how much they charge, what they offer and how they differentiate themselves. Only then should you think about how to develop a value proposition. “You have to understand what your customer wants. So for example, a company like Ryanair prides itself on its no-frills concept and that drives its marketing campaign. In contrast, Vertu, the diamond-encrusted mobile phone handset maker, is at the other end of the scale,” says Baines. The most important thing to remember is that value is not about whether or not something is cheap or expensive, but whether your customers will find your service or product valuable to them.
Once you have done that then the final stage is implementation. “Getting the word out is extremely important, especially for small businesses, and now there are many low cost ways to do this,” adds Baines. The internet and social media have become incredibly important as a marketing tool and all entrepreneurs should be aware of their power. If your message goes viral it can have a massive impact on sales. For example, Baines notes that the founder of Blendtec, a maker of blenders, managed to grow sales by 300 per cent through its video willitblend.com. The blender is extremely powerful and the video shows it blending golf balls and other inedible objects to test its strength. The video is now cult viewing on YouTube. Brewerton says that entrepreneurs should never forget their greatest marketing resource: their customers. “They are great potential referrals so cherish and nurture them. After all, advocacy – both positive and negative – is extremely powerful.” Apple is finding this out to its peril after problems were detected with the iPhone 4.