Business Marketing

Checklist

What you will need to include


Market Research

  • What is happening today in the environment or industry within your business field?
  • What are the full range of needs of your customers?


Product

  • What product(s) are you selling?
  • How will the product(s) satisfy a specific need of your potential customers?
  • Explain the features and benefits of the product(s).
  • What is the niche or unique selling point of your product(s)?


Prospects

  • Who would want your product/business? Give a typical profile of your customers.
  • Where do you find these customers?
  • How many of these customers are there in your area?
  • Will you have enough customers to make your business viable? In other words, is there a market for your product(s)?
  • Who are your competitors?
  • What makes your product(s) different from your competitors?


Location

  • Where will you sell the product? Give details of location.
  • How will you distribute the goods and/or services to your customers?


Price

  • What is the price of your product(s)? How did you calculate this figure?
  • Can you sell the product(s) at this price?
  • Who are your main suppliers that help you to produce your goods and/or sell your services?


Promotion

  • How will you promote your product? What will you say in your advertising?
  • Where will you advertise? Why?
  • How much money has been budgeted towards promotion and advertising?


Packaging

  • What will the packaging of the product(s) and the presentation of the promotional material look like?





What is marketing?

Marketing is, in its broadest sense, listening to the opinions of other people and understanding their perspective on how they see your business and your products and/or services. (1)

It is basically about:

  1. understanding your customers and their needs;
  2. knowing their likes and dislikes and how they perceive various products and/or services available;
  3. providing suitable products or services to fulfill those needs; and
  4. making sensible decisions about your products or services in order to make them improved or look more attractive to the customers through techniques such as product differentiation and packaging (2).

Because marketing requires you to listen to people, marketers try to describe this process as developing a relationship with your customers before selling them something of interest to them. (3)

Why do we have marketing?

We have this beast called marketing because the ultimate aim should be to see the customer happy with what they've purchased and of course yourself too in being able to survive.

Unfortunately, this aim has been blurred a little in the early 21st century as certain business people use marketing to make themselves happy ahead of their customers by selling any kind of mediocre "high-priced" products in large numbers for the sake of being greedy. We call these people the ones who can sell ice to the eskimos or sand to the Saudi people. Like the famous jewellery tycoon named Mr Gerald Ratner who publicly described the merchandise he was selling to customers nearly 12 years ago as "total crap".

Or what about the chief executive of British bank Barclays Mr Matt Barrett admitting to the UK Parliament's Treasury Select Committee he never used the firm's credit card known as Barclaycard to borrow money because it is too expensive. And it isn't because all the competitors are doing the same. The Bank of England for instance are currently providing credit cards with a main interest rate of 3.5 per cent compared to Barclay's 17.9 per cent which would explain Barrett's claim that his product is too expensive.

Apparently Barrett is a 58-year-old Irish-Canadian who joined Barclay in 1999 from the Bank of Montreal. Maybe there is some truth to the idea that Irishmen do apply marketing principles to products in a funny way?

However, real marketing is a more socially-responsible activity of not selling anything to anyone through any amount of pressure sales tactics. It is not just about making money at the end of the day. Rather, it is about making sure you have sold a product based on solid and complete marketing skills which you are confident your customers will be happy with as well.

True marketing is about taking the time to understand the people who may buy your products and/or services, learning about their needs, and trying to see through their eyes what they are looking for when satisfying their needs; followed by choosing carefully or creating a good product or service to meet those needs (because you need to believe in what you are selling either by essentially using those products and/or services yourself or by knowing everything there is to know about the products and/or services), and then emphasising and selling the benefits and advantages it has over other similar products.

See marketing as more than getting the message out there of what's available for people to buy through any clever sales tactic. It is also a technique for knowing what is the message you are trying to deliver (i.e. the products and/or services) and making sure that message is of a high quality once you have understood people properly (part of what we call market research).

Do I need marketing?

Yes you do. Even if by some incredible chance you are not vaguely interested in seeing your customers happy (well you should if you have some emotions and people skills in your business), marketing is vital to the success of any small business for it helps to increase the chances of selling quality products in greater numbers and with greater customer satisfaction than would have been normally possible if you didn't apply marketing skills.

Even the top CEOs of major companies could do with a refresher course in essential marketing as Aussie Home Loans group founder and managing director Mr John Symond has found out with great success:

"Delivering the message is the most important thing a company or individual can do and the lack of marketing knowledge by CEOs and senior executives is absolutely appalling.

'What gave me the break when I was broke 12 years ago was the lack of marketing nous and understanding by the big banks and it really extends throughout so many organisations large and small.

'My message to all organisations is to get out there and market yourself and if you can afford it have professionals to help you...don't think your customers don't understand what's going on." (4)

Why? Because CEOs tend to delegate marketing to a department within a company rather than seeing it as a complete and holistic concept requiring CEOs to participate in the process.

NOTE: You should know what the message is before you can deliver it. Do both and the marketing side of your business will be of a very high quality.

Is marketing and selling the same thing?

Do not confuse selling with marketing. Selling is part of marketing, not marketing itself. The other half of marketing is also about knowing your customers' needs and working out how to improve, differentiate and highlight the benefits of your products and/or services. Once you have this valuable information can you begin to understand how to sell or create a demand for something you have.

And you won't have to torture your victims (we mean, customers of course!) through excessive or annoying advertising or some other technique just to buy what you have once you know your customers! If anything, it would be a turn off if you do. Just good marketing and the rest by way of a simple and clever advert placed in the right area and giving customers the choice of when to see it will make all the difference.

How important is marketing to the business plan?

The critical part of the business plan is to know who your customers are. If you know your customers, you will know where to place your business and how to promote your products.

If for any reason you don't have this part of marketing right now before you have to write your business plan, you might as well go back to your 9 to 5 job in the public service or wherever.

So yes, marketing is extremely vital when answering this question of who your customers are. Good cash flow and manging your finances is fine. Having the qualities to be a good business operator is fine etc. But if you don't have the customers willing to buy your product, then forget it.

Marketing is one of those areas of the business plan designed to force you to ask the really hard question of whether or not your business will succeed. It will help you to be objective about your products and/or services by seeing those products and/or services in the eyes of your customers. Customers are the stakeholders of your business (5). Marketing gives you the skills to make sure the numbers of customers are there and are interested in what you have to offer.

If not, try another product and/or service or make the existing products and/or services better and more suited to the needs of your customers.

Marketing is the cornerstone of your entire business plan.

Should I start on my marketing first before doing any other section of the business plan?

That's a good idea. Unless you are already a marketing expert with a product ready to sell, you should start at the marketing end of your business and eventually everything else will fall into place. If you start anywhere else and you could develop a business with products and services that nobody wants or needs unless you are starting a new industry.

How do I know I have done my marketing right?

There is a simple test you can try out on yourself to determine how well you have done your marketing for the product and/or services you are selling.

Let's begin by listing the five things you know about your product. Do it quickly. In less than 30 seconds, you should have your five items written down on paper.

Now do the same thing, this time by writing down in 30 seconds the five things you know about your customers.

Are you struggling to find more than 3 things about your customers? If so, you need to do some marketing, especially in the field of selecting your target market and niche market.

Don't worry if you had 3 items or less. Most people tend to have a good idea about their product and know little about their customers. That's why marketing was invented so you can find out.

Marketing helps you to move your thinking about the product to thinking about your customers.

So let's have a closer look at the process behind marketing.

Market research - the first stage

Market research is the first stage of marketing. This involves understanding your customers (i.e. Who are your customers? What do people want and need? Would people be interested in your product? How much are they willing to pay for the product?) and your product (i.e. What does your product do? What's different about it? What price will you sell it for? How will you sell it? Is it desirable? Do you get extra value-added services to it?).

Market research, the act of understanding your customers and product(s), may be defined as a comprehensive and non-biased gathering and analysis of data required to solve a given marketing problem.

Good market research is perhaps the most important part of the marketing process and will dictate the success of your business. It is through market research that vital statistical knowledge about your potential customers' location, their needs, who they are, and other factors likely to attract them to a business like your own are gathered. And the careful analysis of such data helps to test the viability of your business idea or new product by focussing more closely at what you have to sell and whether or not it meets the needs of customers.

Identify the marketing problem?

Market research begins by identifying precisely, "What is the marketing problem?" The problem could range from "What products do I sell to my customers?", "Is my product developed correctly to help the needs of customers?", "Where are my customers located?", to "How do I sell my products?"

Start gathering information to help answer your marketing problem

Now determine what sorts of information is needed to solve the problem and how it should be prepared, distributed and collected.

Surveys (or questionnaires) and personal interviews are the most common ways of gathering information (known as primary research data). Or you may consider forming a focus discussion group and then observe and record responses made by group participants about a question or product. Either way, you are guaranteed to collect quality and specialist data for your business because you are having a direct relationship with your customers.

Or you could read magazines and visit internet sites to locate the information you want (known as secondary research data). This may be useful if you don't want to repeat the primary research data work of other marketers. Or, if you have already done the primary research work, to get official confirmation from other marketers of your primary data using secondary research data.

Remember, do a proper market research. None of this anecdotal evidence stuff like "My friend said this or that!" The data you obtain from your research should be from original sources (i.e. the customers) or from reputable places such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Also feel free to rummage through web sites as these can provide enormous information to help you solve your marketing problem. Just remember to choose quality web sites.

By quality web sites we mean those sites which show the source of where all the information was obtained and that the sources look reputable (i.e. the web sites should not say in the bibliography or footnote section words to the effect of, "Data was obtained from the high council of the galactic federation located on Alpha Centauri!").

And if you want confirmation of your primary data, make sure the categories correspond to secondary research material.

When to use primary research

If you can't get secondary research data that meets precisely what you need, you must produce primary research data for your specific business. That's the general rule of thumb.

Also if your secondary data is too old, you would need primary data. Otherwise, if you can find everything you need in the secondary data and something which is accurate and up-to-date, there is usually no need to duplicate the research.

About questionnaires

There are two main types. The administered version of questionnaires involves you filling in the boxes on behalf of the customer. The self-administered version involves getting the customer to fill in the boxes in the questionnaire.

The latter questionnaire is easier for customers so long as you don't ask for their names and addresses. Get a large representative sample of customers to avoid bias in the data obtained.

Test your questionnaire before releasing them to your potential customers

It is a good idea to ask someone who doesn't know your business or yourself to look at your questionnaire. They can see it in a fresh new light. People will have different interpretations of your questions. Any problems will come back to you as, "What does this mean?"

It is probably a good idea to ask strangers for advice, not someone who you know. Strangers will be more objective about what you are trying to do.

Who to survey?

Try to survey the people in your target market. Why? Because you will know the sorts of questions to ask customers, and you will understand the answers people will give you in return. It also reduces the amount of data for you to process because you can focus on what's important for your business.

If you are focussing on the target market, make sure the number of customers you survey is large and is truly representative of the target market. Otherwise you will not be able to make generalisations or draw accurate conclusions about the data for all sorts of situations.

Surveys are usually best done with people of a minimum education level if you want to get meaningful data. Use the interview method if the education levels for customers are lower.

Also be sensitive of conducting surveys in areas where your target market could be affected by certain religious, political and social problems of the day. Who knows? You might get killed asking questions when people don't understand and feel suspicious of your intentions.

When to conduct the survey?

When conducting a survey, make sure you pick your time correctly. You certainly don't want to bother people who are going to the supermarket at peak times (e.g. 5.30pm) and have not had dinner etc. Choose a time suited to your target market. But always be sensitive of people's needs at those times.

Social etiquettes during a survey

When conducting a survey, make sure you ask the customers' permission first to obtain the answers before embarking on an adventure of asking lots of questions.

Next, you should also explain to the customers why you are doing the survey. Customers are usually thinking about other issues, so it helps them to know what you are on about. In person-to-person surveys, say "My name is.... And I am doing a survey on... for the purposes of..."

Surveys to businesses should be done once and once only. Business operators are busy people. The interview method is usually more effective if you set an appointment time. Otherwise, make sure all the questions on the survey are well-chosen and adequate to help you answer your marketing problem.

Next, keep the survey short (in less than 5 minutes). All questions should be able to be answered in the allowable time. Don't mislead people in any aspect of the survey or they will resent you for it.

Remember, even if people say "No, I won't do the survey", don't feel bad about it. It is not your fault. It is just an indication that people have other things to do or may not be a potential customer for what you have to offer.

Having a name tag, having a clipboard, and having a pen gives a visual clue to customers that you are a person conducting a survey. Have a business card ready in case people ask you to prove you are bona fide in your survey work.

Finally, you should ring the manager of a shop to get permission to conduct the survey if you intend to talk to customers in the shop. And don't go around chasing people for information. It certainly doesn't have a good look!

It is all a matter of courtesy really.

What to do with survey results when you are finished?

If survey questionnaires have people's names and addresses on them, make sure they are properly destroyed when you've finished with them. Security shred the questionnaires.

About interviews

The interview method is similar to the questionnaire except that you are engaging with a few customers for up to 90 minutes. The interview method is useful if you have lots of questions to ask. But remember, keep focussed on the marketing problem you want answered and you will know the questions to ask.

For interviews, you look for people that are a high probability of being your target market. They should be reasonably well-informed about your product type.

Arrange an appointment time when to talk to these people. The skill is to engage the people to discuss what they know about something relating to the topic of your interview.

You will have key questions to ask. But always let the customer paint the picture. Use open-ended questions to avoid the "Yes" or "No" answers.

You need to take a pen and paper. Tape recorders can be used, but people may be reluctant. Why? Because they fear what they say could be used against them in a court of law or for some other reason. Be as informal as possible.

Provide coffee, tea and biscuits to make the interview more personal and relaxing. Don't apply this technique when people are busy.

At the end of the interview, write a thank you letter to the person. Explain your outcome to them. The person will be pleased you did.

Difficulties in gathering information about people in your industry

This is not unusual. An industry or marketplace that does not reveal information about itself may suggest it is fearful of its own market share either because of an impending crisis or it is protecting its own market share.

Generally, the more the people working in an industry talks about themselves and their industry, the more helpful and potentially safer (or larger) the industry is. If people are happy to give away for free information about themselves, it shows confidence within the industry.

Also the market could be very small which is why people want to keep quiet for the purposes of commercial advantage. On the other hand, the bigger the market, the more information is released to you.

Crisis or protecting small market share is often the reason for reducing information about an industry and company.

If you are face with a prospect of not receiving information about the people you are researching, you need to ask whether this is the market for you, or find someone in the market who will trust you and conduct a lengthy interview to gather as much information as you can.

When receiving responses from potential customers

Be prepared for null and nonsense responses irrespective of how good your questionnaire might be. People have their own reasons for answering the questionnaires.

Segment the market using the information you have gathered

The next step is to carefully analyse the data collected from your research work. The analysis of the data gathered from the marketplace requires careful interpretation so as to observe and recognise specific patterns in the data known as market segmentation.

The term market segmentation is essentially the process of dividing the market into smaller, identifiable groups or segments. This process is necessary to avoid wasting resources on people who will not buy your product. The aim of market segmentation is to direct your product to the most appropriate and largest segment(s) likely to be interested in your product or service.

As a first step towards segmentation of the marketplace, you could ask yourself which customers will you focus your products on? Should it be the consumer market or the business/government market?

If you want to go into a business-to-consumer (B2C) model, be aware who your consumers are going to be. Consumers equate to households, so it is the mums, dads, kids and other individuals and groups of the world. These people are usually described as the final consumers. So will these consumers be interested in the products you want to sell in the market?

If you want to go into a business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-government (B2G) model, you should remember a couple of things.

Firstly, businesses are there to make a profit. So when selling to businesses, you must show a significant improvement to the bottom-line of businesses (either through significant savings in costs or significant increases in sales).

Secondly, governments have to be fully accountable to the average taxpayers on the street. So they are there to save money and, if they must spend money, to show taxpayers that the money was well spent. Therefore expect a lot of bureaucracy or paperwork. And it will take time to get things done with govenment. You will probably also need to go through a tender process.

Businesses, however, are quicker if they can see an opportunity to streamline and reduce costs and/or make a bigger profit.

Also bear in mind that the quantities of products required by businesses and governments are usually much larger than for consumers. And businesses are often more unforgiving in that they don't want to do the same job twice if the job was not done the first time properly.

How to segment the marketplace

There are many ways you can segment the marketplace using the research data you have gathered.

For instance, you may notice within your data how your customers cluster in certain geographic areas. This is quite common for business and government customers if these are the people you want to target. Marketing experts call this Geographic Segmentation.

To make it easier for yourself, draw a big circle on a piece of paper and smaller circles inside representing each geographic location. When doing this, make sure you don't have circles overlapping other circles. You want each segment inside the larger circle to be individual and distinct.

Or perhaps you can see the customers in your research data have clearly defined gender, age, income levels, education, religion, occupation, or number of children. In which case, you could segment the marketplace according to this information. Marketing experts called this Demographic Segmentation.

Use demographic segmentation only for the consumer market. You don't use it to segment the business and government markets because there is only one person dealing with finances who makes all the purchases.

There is also Psychographic Segmentation where you divide the market according to the beliefs and values of your customers. Segmentation based on this approach is usually more difficult to define and requires people to be at ease to reveal their values and beliefs.

For example, you could segment the market according to people who value good health if health is considered an important selling point in your products. Or you may segment the market according to Catholics who value family life if family life is important for your products.

Psychographic segmentation is only useful for the consumer market (i.e. ignore the business and government sectors).

Or what about the purchasing criteria of people? This one looks at the quality, service, price and so on the customer is looking for. Generally the higher the income (or the middle income earners with a high disposal of income), the more the customer expects quality, multiple features and better service.

Purchasing criteria is again another example of how to segment the marketplace and is better known to the marketers as Operational Variables Segmentation. This one affects business, government and consumers.

As another example of operational variables segmentation is usage rate. Every consumer has a need or want and how often it is met by a product can be measured in terms of the usage rate. This kind of segmentation might be useful if you want to see who are the people who are occasionally using your products and then develop a reward system for these people to entice them to use your products on a more regular basis.

Or perhaps you don't need a reward system. Sometimes the more quantity of a product is needed by certain organisations, the greater they expect a discount. This is often the case in government and business markets.

Or why not use a combination of segmentation methods to focus on the target group?

Segmentation should be well-defined and have adequate numbers of customers

No matter what technique you choose to segment the marketplace, just remember the requirements for effective segmentation are that it must be:

  1. measurable - the size, purchasing power and profile of customer is easily measured;
  2. substantial - large and profitable enough;
  3. accessible - easily reached;
  4. differential - segments are distinguishable; and
  5. actionable - an Action Plan can be developed.

And you must have adequate numbers of potential customers to support your business.

Once the market is properly segmented, can you then select the segments suitable for your business.

Choosing your target market

In marketing terms, the segment that best suits your particular business is called the target market. If you find there are no other businesses serving that particular target market, the segment may also be described as your market niche. For every segment determined from the market research, there will always be at least one customer profile.

Your target market is usually the largest segment containing the most number of customers to support your business and are willing to spend money on your products. Although remember, it is possible for a smaller segment with less customers to be your target market if they are prepared to pay more for your products.

Whichever you decide on a suitable target market, remember to choose the one that not only has adequate numbers of customers who will be interested to buy what you've got, but it must give you a profit. If people are strapped for cash, the target segment may not be as good as another target market that does have the money to spend on your products.

I've found my target market/niche market. But the numbers of customers are insufficient. What do I do next?

Well, at least you are beginning to see the harsh reality of your business. These potentially low customer numbers could be telling you something as far as the future of your business is concerned.

For instance, the low customer numbers may strongly suggest your business is highly specialised in what it does or sells. Perhaps it is a bit like NASA with its few customers willing to pay a lot of money for specialist space-age products. Or maybe your business is in the wrong area and needs to be moved to a place where the customer numbers are much greater.

Or perhaps the business will clearly not succeed no matter what you do to increase customer numbers or at least get a few customers coming back to your business on a regular basis.

However, if you think your business will succeed, you may be able to increase customer numbers by going back a step in your market segmentation process. For example, instead of focussing on your target market or niche market, perhaps choosing another target market altogether or selecting a larger segment of the market would be better.

Otherwise, you must choose different products and/or services or improve your existing products and/or services considerably.

I have too many customers in my target market / niche market. What do I do now?

Do further segmentation. Consider geographic location of your customers as one way to reduce the numbers.

What you're aiming to do in market segmentation is to get the right numbers of customers for your business. If there are too many customers, reduce the numbers through market segmentation. Otherwise stick with a broad market to help make your business viable.

Once you have the right numbers, the process of segmentation will also give you an insight into how to approach the market in terms of promotion, pricing, type of product etc.

What do I do with this market segment I have chosen for my business?

You now have the information to paint a pretty good picture of the type of person who is likely to be interested in your product and business. Marketing experts call this your customer profile.

In your business plan, you should discuss this customer profile clearly in terms of the average age, what their needs are, and anything about their habits and preferences. In that way, you can quickly see whether your product is properly suited to the customer profile you have chosen.

If, for any reason, your product isn't suited to your customer, now is the time to improve your product before wasting any more resources selling it to someone who doesn't want it. Or select an alternative product that better meets the needs of the customers you have selected.

On the other hand, if your product is suited to your customers, you are ready to go to the next stage of the marketing process which is to sell it in the most effective way possible.

The product life-cycle

So you now have a target market and an estimate of the number of potential customers who may buy your products. Now how many will actually buy your products straight away?

According to market research, every product has a life-cycle. The life-cycle begins with the start-up phase where approximately 6% of your target market will pick up on your new product and try it out. This is followed by about 12% of the target market who will take it through the rapid growth.

Then there are about 64% who will say, "Oh so and so is using it, so I will try it too!". This is the mature and conservative lot. Finally, there is the final phase in the product life-cycle known as the laggard stage when competitors introduce new products to compete with yours.

If you are starting a business and you are writing a business plan to convince your bank manager to give you a loan, you should give a conservative figure of the number of people likely to take up your new products in a short period of time known as the "early adopters".

In other words, whatever your total number of potential customers were in your target market, show what 6% of those numbers really look like. If you still have enough numbers of customers to support your business, then you are doing well. If not, then don't worry. These percentages are based on products sold to consumers before the Internet was invented.

Also the percentage of "early adopters" for businesses is considered much higher. According to Kourosh Ghassemi, a senior Australian analyst for small-to-medium-sized enterprise (SMEs), his research revealed that 21% of Australian SME business operators were described as "Early Adopters" in 2001.

If you are still in trouble, use a combination of the introduction and rapid growth figures for a reasonably conservative estimate of the total number of customers who are likely to purchase your products fairly quickly following a good advertising and promotion campaign.

How do I include all this research data and customer profile into my business plan?

We recommend that you provide a summary of what you have learnt from your market research (i.e. the target market, the customer profile etc) in the marketing chapter of your business plan. Leave the actual research data in the Appendices as this can be quite lengthy.

This makes it easier for yourself and perhaps other people (e.g. the bank manager) to read your business plan.

NOTE: Remember, business plans are like web sites. There are a lot of them around and you want to keep them as concise and easy as possible for someone else (or yourself in say 12 months from now) to read.

When writing the results of your research, you should always say, "The market indicates that I can price my products at [x] dollars." Never say, "The market can pay [y] dollars" You must always be open to the possibility of errors in your data sample and how people might behave.

When a clear trend appears in the data, you should try to obtain further corroborative evidence to support the trend. This is especially true of small sample sizes.

Creating a demand - the second stage

Once you know your customers through effective market research, the second stage of marketing is to create a demand for the product (i.e. the selling phase).

Creating a demand for the product means increasing the product's attractiveness in the marketplace. And that requires you to apply the following criterias to the product known in marketing circles as the 8 P's:

  1. Product - What is it that we are selling?
  2. Product Differentiation - What is special about it?
  3. Prospects - Who are we going to sell it to?
  4. Price - At what price do we sell it for?
  5. Place (or Position) - Where do we sell it?
  6. Promotion - How will we sell it to entice others to buy?
  7. Packaging - How do we present it to the marketplace?
  8. Physical Evidence - Does the product exist and can the customer see it?

Some non-profit organisations will also emphasise "People" as the nineth criteria. This is about asking "Who will sell the product?" and "What do they know about the product in order to be really helpful to the customers?"

Remember, not all the P's will be necessary for a product. But always check first before eliminating certain marketing toolbox criterias for a given product.

Whatever you do to create a demand for a product, usually market research, if properly conducted, will give you extensive ideas on who, what, how, where and for how much, to sell a product.

NOTE: Whatever marketing strategies you employ to create a demand for your product, make sure it is consistent and relevant with the niche market you are focussing on.

Do I really need this second-phase of marketing?

Yes you do. You need this second-phase of marketing to help customers notice your products (or services) and to see the benefit of those products to their lives because at the end of the day, not only do you want to see your customers happy but also you have to make some money to survive yourself. It is your business that's at stake.

Do I need to apply all the 7 P's to my second-phase of marketing?

No, not really. Just choose the tools you need in the toolkit to help you sell your products. But remember, if you get one element of your package (7P's) wrong, you could fail to sell the products. Make sure the package is complete and solid. It only takes a little tiny thing wrong to make it difficult for a business to make a sale. For example, widening the aisle to allow customers to see the products (instead of crowding everything together and forcing customers to come up close to the products) can make a 300% increase in your sales. It is very simple things of this nature that can make an enormous difference to how well you sell.

Is the second-phase of marketing about convincing the customer to buy my product?

No, it is not about convincing the customer to buy the product you have. Rather it is about knowing what your customers need and making your products suit the customers' needs to the point of being attractive (i.e. saleable). In the end you should be letting the customer decide whether or not to buy the product.

Encourage people to come to you instead of pushing people. That's the art of true marketing.

Does it mean I have to change my product to make it more attractive?

This could end up being the hard reality you must deal with. Let's face it. Are you willing to buy your own product if you know it isn't exactly what you've wanted? Likewise for the customer. You have to take the customers' perspective and understand how they see the product.

So be prepared to tweak your product offerings in order to make it more attractive. But remember, don't try to change your product to do exactly the same thing as a competitor has done — it will be a waste of time and resources and you will not make a profit. Do certain things to make it different from the ordinary (a technique called product differentiation). For example, if someone comes up with a simple piece of freeware software technology that helps you and your customers to validate credit card numbers and you want to include it in your own product, then that's fine. It is called value-adding to your product. Just so long as you acknowledge where the idea came from. But to make it really sell, look at the technology carefully. You may notice it is dog slow in how it achieves its goal. So why not differentiate your product even more by finding out what's slowing it down? Then fix it and make it faster. Then you will have a different product.

In that way, you may come across an idea no one else has thought of before and for which you may want to include in your product. Or at least help your customers to see the different benefits presented by your product.

If you can improve on it enough, you may be able to sell the technology and your product more easily. But make sure it is simple and easy to use. If it isn't, people will choose what's easy for them even if your product is different from your competitors.

That is one of the crucial steps toward making your product more attractive to the customer.

NOTE: In constantly making products different from the norm, it is not unusual for business operators to express their own differences by creating radical hairstyles, buying the latest technological toys, or even be a little eccentric in their behaviours because of this constant searching for new ways of doing things so they can see the differences. But such differences can make you a great success.

Product Differentiation - Searching for the USP of your product

Let's look more closely at this product differentiation idea.

As you know, for businesses to succeed, they must sell a product. In fact, the product (and the customer) is the business for most people. The product can be either tangible or intangible. An example of a tangible product include motor vehicles and clothing. An example of an intangible product include the energy and time spent in human labour to perform a service.

The key to successful selling of any product is to focus on what is called its Unique Selling Point (USP).

To help you understand the USP concept, ask yourself this: "What is it that makes your product different from others?"

For example, is it is merely cheaper to buy than other products? Or maybe it looks more attractive and colourful, or has more features than other products available from your competitors?

Usually it is not necessary to determine the USP of your product if no other similar product exists in the marketplace. But in the situation where other similar products are already available in the marketplace, the new product has to be sufficiently different and interesting for people to want it. Otherwise you'll be wondering why you aren't selling.

To cite as an example of this is the iMac and iBook computers from Apple Computer Inc. Its radically different design does nothing to improve the functionality and performance of the computer, but consumers apparently love it as Apple Computer Inc. has discovered from its soaring profits over the last two years. Why? Because no one else has done the same thing before on other (notably PC) computers.

Apple has effectively managed to find sufficient product differentiation through a mere change in the box design and one that is attractive enough to help the Macintosh computer sell in reasonable numbers.

And in 2008, Apple has once again tried this differentiation technique by going for a radically super thin and compact laptop known as the MacBook Air. No other PC manufacturer has ever attempted this — hence the popularity of the MacBook Air.

In recent times, marketing experts have considered branding products with love and subtle advertising. In other words, products are being made more emotionally appealing to customers and more apparent to customers in an inconspicuous manner.

Thus all those "in-your-face" advertising billboards can change to a more subtle means of delivery called viral marketing.

For example, an attractive advertiser may intermingle with customers. A customer is selected, the advertiser approaches the customer and will begin a conversation. During the conversation, the advertiser mentions a particular brand or product to the customer in a casual manner. For instance, the advertiser may ask the customer to order in the product for him/her (e.g. a bottle from a bar). Once the customer becomes aware of the product and/or the brand and hears the benefits of it in a process known as whisper marketing (i.e. word-of-mouth) through the advertiser, he/she is likely to be interested in finding out more about the product (e.g. trying it out or asking more questions). And eventually through effective word-of-mouth (6), the customer may spread the (hopefully good) word about the product to his/her other friends and the process continues in a viral fashion.

However, the rational side of how useful, healthy and better is the product not to mention the creative side of how simple, attractive and different is the product should still be important. Ignore these facts and educated people will eventually see through the products and all the sneaky marketing as something undesirable and useless.

This is true of the latest marketing craze known as hoax web sites designed by marketing experts to tintillate or encourage people to talk about a product. For example, the BMW website had recently tried to lure people into thinking that a nerdy scientist has built a moving robot out of the parts of a Mini Cooper 150. Although the story on the surface was false, it encouraged people to initially talk about the real product (i.e. the car itself).

However be careful with this approach. Once a consumer realises he/she has been dudded, the person may not think highly about your product in the long-term and you could lose valuable sales. You are better off getting genuine stories showing the remarkable nature of your products and let consumers see how great your products really are.

Also be careful of how certain marketing techniques are applied. If too many people know about it, the marketing technique may not be as effective as a marketing expert would like.

So try to find (or create) something unique in your product. For example, if you are in the restaurant business and your foods are not all that significantly different from other fine restaurants in your area, consider buying a mannequin and have it stand outside the business premises pointing towards the business. Try to use a mannequin that is unusual and interesting to look at as this has a higher probability of enticing people to look inside and try out what you have to offer. But do be careful. In this more politically correct age, we recommend not using a life-like mannequin that looks like a blonde girl dressed in a bikini and stands outside in a somewhat luried pose! You might actually lose more (female) customers than you think.

Also a successful business is one that can entertain customers in a different way, or keep them preoccupied with something unusual and interesting while waiting for their service or product (if they have to wait for anything these days!). Make the visit enjoyable and interesting. People will come back again and again to a business that provides this level of interest and fun.

In essence, you have got to make your product different. Otherwise, your consumers may have to start calling your product an Unuseable (or Uninteresting) and Short-sighted Product (USP).

Pricing

Pricing is another critical component to the success of your business. The price can either make or break the business. It is as simple as that. Choose the wrong price, and you could fail dismally even if all other aspects of your marketing and business plan in general is spot on.

Do not think your idea of a selling price for your product is correct in order to obtain the desired annual net profit for your business. You need to know something about what a customer thinks he/she should pay for the product, not what you think or want your customers to pay.

To find out what your customers are willing to pay for your product, use market research to (i) determine what your competitors are charging; and/or (ii) ask what a customer would be willing to pay for your product.

Gather all this market data and determine the price ceiling (what the maximum amount a customer is prepared to pay) and the price floor (what the minimum amount a customer is prepared to pay). The actual floor price for the product, however, is the one that takes account of the full cost of producing, advertising and distributing the product.

Now set the appropriate price for the product somewhere between the ceiling price and the actual floor price. Where in this range the product should be priced depends on the nature of your market. If your market is a high disposal income group, position the price towards the upper range. Do the exact opposite for a lower disposal income group.

But remember, if you are selling a product that is no different or has very little difference compared to other similar products from your competitors, make sure your pricing is not too high or consumers will not be able to see the point in buying your product.

Always use common sense when determining a good price for your product.

Other tips

  1. If there is an accepted standard industry price for the kinds of products you want to sell, don't try to sell it too cheaply. Customers who have come to expect a certain price may think there is something wrong with your products no matter how good they might be. You are far better off making your products better for the price.
  2. If selling your products to business, be aware that small business has a limited amount of affordability in what can be bought. When selling to small business, sell at roughly the same as the industry price. If you want to earn more money for your products, go for bigger clients. But make sure the products are good enough to please this top end of the market.
  3. What do customers pay for? People pay for features and benefits. That's all that matters. If the price is acceptable, it will sell well based on good features and benefits alone.
  4. The customer's perception of say a $10 product is seen as higher quality compared to a $2 product. Customers prefer to pay for quality. But make sure the price is not higher than the top-of-the-range product and your product does actually reflect that quality.
  5. The more value you can put into your product for the price, the more you can sell of it. As they say, "Value-add to your service and product".
  6. Don't set a price too low because you feel you haven't got the experience or whatever. Let the market dictate a reasonable price. Do your market research to determine the floor price and the ceiling price and then set your actual price somewhere inbetween. The floor price is the lowest price indicated by customers in a market research survey. Ceiling price is the maximum price indicated by customers in the survey. Of course, this actual price should always be greater than the cost price in order to make a profit.
  7. In selling, try not to give away the price until you have mentioned what you are offering. People have a tendency of saying, "Oh, it's too expensive" when not given any information about a product. Empower people with information first before letting them decide to say "No." based on price alone unless they are clearly not interested in your products.
  8. It is fine to give a price upfront, but be quick to say what the customer will get. You're aim is to be the customer's problem-solver. But get them to be part of the solution too.
  9. Unless customers cannot differentiate your products from the competitors and therefore will make a decision based on price alone, try not to rely on price alone as the selling point. Understand the motivations of people and given them the benefits. Help them to see the other unique selling points of the product and show them how it can fulfil a need by highlighting the benefits. The price won't matter so much later when they see the need met.
  10. Give adequate information about the products to help customers make an informed choice.
  11. Have a formula to ensure consistency in the price. Customers who expect a price for something should be entitled to a similar price.

Place

Location for a traditional over-the-counter shop is important for a successful business (less so with an online business which can be located anywhere in the world, even at the North Pole if you like - now that would definitely clean up the industrial estates of many westernised cities!).

According to marketing gurus, location refers to the position of a small business in the marketplace for the effective and efficient selling of a product to the customer. Generally, a good small business is one that:

  • is located in its niche market area containing the highest number of suitable customers and the lowest number of competitors;
  • is located in a high or an increasingly expanding population area;
  • has the lowest leasing cost to the business premises;
  • has the lowest distribution costs by being close to neighbouring businesses, major population centres, major roads etc;
  • has the lowest insurance costs by being located in a low crime rate area; and
  • makes it easy for the business/product to be noticed and accessed by everyone.

NOTE: The same principle can be applied to buying a house. If you choose well and in the right location (e.g. near employment, shops, transport, entertainment centres and so on), its resale value in a few years is usually quite good and in fact will normally make for an excellent investment.

Promotion

Promotion refers to the marketing technique of informing and persuading the market to buy a product or service from a business.

Promotion is any activity that communicates with your customer. Communication can be either verbal or non-verbal. The non-verbal is the most powerful. The purpose of promotion is to get your name and your products across to your customers. You can do this in many ways.

The five main methods of promoting a product are as follows:

1. Personal Selling

  • Telephone calls
  • Word-of-mouth
  • Reputation
  • Clothing/image
  • Facial gestures
  • Enthusiasm.



2. Advertising

  • TV commercials
  • Radio commercials
  • Magazines
  • Newspapers
  • Cinemas
  • Calendars
  • Shop front
  • Badges
  • Fridge magnets
  • Letterheads
  • Business cards
  • Flyers
  • Sky-riding
  • Hot-air balloons
  • Billboards
  • Brochures
  • Clothing
  • The Internet
  • Mugs / Tea Spoons
  • Confectionery
  • Coasters
  • Playing Cards
  • Pencils
  • Umbrellas
  • Notepads
  • Erasers
  • Banners / Flags.



3. Sales Promotion

  • Introductory offers
  • Samples
  • Coupons
  • Demonstrations
  • Catalogues



4. Publicity

  • Celebrities
  • Sponsorships
  • Charities
  • Competions
  • Logos on sports grounds.



5. Public Relations

  • Lobbying
  • Seminars
  • Lectures
  • News release
  • News broadcast
  • Corporate image.

The challenge of communicating using any of these promotional tools is to cut back on information and just show the essence of what you are trying to say to your customers. The essence of your message can be revealing, provocative, interesting etc. It must also reveal the actual message we are trying to get across. It is about being clear with what we are trying to say to our customers and at the same time find something to catch the attention of the customers.

THE ART OF PROMOTION

When communicating,

  1. First work out why you are doing this and what it is you are trying to say.
  2. Next, give one image or set of words that attracts the customers and gets them ready for the message.
  3. Then below this image or words, give a few more details to help educate and inform the customers about what it is you want to say (i.e. the message). Perhaps even give supporting evidence to back up what you're saying.
  4. To generate a sense of action in your customers, show some kind of reward or reveal power words that makes people feel good about themselves and will want to have the product or whatever the aim is. Also some customers like to be told what to do. Eg. "Call now on..." where the action is calling. Or "I invite you to..." Avoid cliches like "Ring now before it is too late". Other words you can use in your promotions: "Then it is possible for you to...[benefits]". Or "I invite you to try out our..."
  5. You need to provide contact details to explain how to get the product or service.
  6. Finally, either at the beginning or at the end of your communications, customers must know who you are. So give your name (i.e. show your logo and your business name). If the name and logo you have chosen are good, it will be remembered by your customers.

    NOTE: Don't try to be too different in choosing your business name as a means of promoting who you are and what you sell. A good business name has the power to market your business well. But take care. For example if you are trying to sell bras as a necessary product for your consumers, a business name like "The Fun Bag Factory" may not go down too well with consumers. It is better to take the safer route by naming your business like "Bras n' Things" just to be a little more discreet. Try to take a balance in the business name you wish to choose to that it is memorable in a good way but doesn't seem too outrageous.

BROCHURE DESIGN

When advertising in a brochure or letter, no more than half a page of text, and the rest white space. Professional advertising tends to have text in a narrow column and plenty of white space next to it. Occasionally an attention grabbing title text will appear across the white space and into the text block. A small coloured box in the bottom corner reveals your contact details. One good picture and the main title text is usually best placed at the top. Also be prepared to cut back on the text to create that space on the brochure (the less words, the better). Separate general product/service information from the price. Price should be at end. Choose the font type carefully to ensure clarity and interest.

Title should be catchy and interesting. Otherwise the reader may choose not to read the rest of your brochure. Smaller text to explain a little more about your brochure/message. Simple graphic lines connecting to pictures and bordering the text can create professionalism. Writing text in point form is a useful tool for summarising your information.

Testimonials should be written towards the end. Something to quickly remind your customers of who you are should be at the beginning. Your contact details is usually the thing to show. A separate one page brochure of each product inserted into the main brochure explaining the business is a good idea. It stops you from putting everything in one brochure.

The text of the brochure can contain jargon relating to your industry if this is your target market. Use point form to simplify the jargon used.

If targeting businesses, they are usually too busy to read solid print up to 2 pages long. So present your message in point form, plenty of space and show the real essence of your message. You should have most of your message in the title text and a benefit-packed (or how to solve a problem) first paragraph. The rest should be supporting evidence (e.g. testimonials), where to get your products, and how much.

Also try to make the brochure personalised in some way to the person reading it where you can. For example, if you know the customer's name, try to make some space within the brochure so you can hand write his/her name when introducing the customer to the brochure.

THE ART OF SELLING

Selling is the face-to-face approach of talking directly with your customers and meeting their needs through the products or services you sell.

Good selling goes back to the Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. As a sales person, you need to establish where customers are coming from and understand their needs first before selling. A poor sales person will simply try to sell.

A good sales person should be able to take "No." for an answer. Look from the perspective of the customer. They may not need the product you are selling. The art of selling is preparing well, then going out there without worrying about whether or not people are willing to buy.

The problem with selling is that it takes up your time. Brochures save you time by doing the communication for you. It can also be expensive if you are hiring people to sell.

NOTE: L-brain people tend to love this part of marketing.

ADVERTISING

This is the most popular and traditional marketing method for selling products and services, especially for larger businesses. If you have the money, your best form of advertising is on television, followed by radio, newspaper, and brochures dropped in people's mail boxes.

However, because of the costs involved in advertising effectively on the right medium accessing enough potential customers, smaller businesses and individuals utilise other forms of selling and promotional techniques such as guerilla marketing (see below).

TRADE SHOW

Can cost a few hundred dollars to set up the stall. But check how the trade show advertises itself (it should be a lot). Also check who they are targeting, and the type of facilities (a layout of show) and the businesses who are going to be there (i.e. how good should your stall be).

If you're going to a Trade Show, ask yourself, "What do I need to take with me?" "Do I need business cards, brochures, sample products, product demonstrations etc?"

The only problem with this approach is that brochures and other promotional material can disappear very quickly by potential customers where most will probably end up in the trash. But you will get a whole range of customers going through the Trade Show.

Also be prepared to spend up to a week of your time for each Trade Show. And make sure you or someone else who will go to the Trade Show and look after the stall knows something about the products or services you are offering. Otherwise it is a waste of money.

SPONSORSHIP

You sponsor (or pay money for) someone or an organisation in a certain public and popular event. It is building goodwill with people and in return receive publicity for your products or services. It will not create a sale. But it will help to get your name across to potential customers.

However, make sure it does get to your target market before sponsoring the event. Otherwise you will be wasting money.

If you are going to sponsor something, ask to see what benefits are available for your business. It is your money, so ask. Learn to negotiate: "If I pay you this, would you do this for me?"

Sponsorship does not have to be purely monetary. Service industries may provide free services for people in the event as a form of sponsorship.

Remember, sponsorship as a form of promotional can be expensive and is mainly suited to larger businesses.

CO-OPERATIVE ADVERTISING

This involves getting other people to share in the cost in advertising by having multiple products promoted in the same advertisement. But sometimes it is not useful to small business because of the extra administration work.

GUERILLA MARKETING

Is your advertising and promotional budget limited but want to have a big impact in a short space of time? Consider guerilla marketing. The technique is "more about matching wits than matching budgets" according to Guerilla Marketing expert Jay Conrad Levinson. It can be best described through an example:

In 2001, the multinational food company Taco Bell launched a 40 x 40 foot pontoon off the Australian coastline just as the Mir Space Station was about to break up and fall to Earth. The company promised a free taco to American customers if any piece of the Mir Space Station managed to hit the floating target in the ocean. Of course, the chances of any of the space debris hitting the target being more than one in a billion, it gave the company free media coverage.

In other words, businesses simply need high imagination and innovation to be effective in promotion. Other forms of guerilla marketing include viral, social and ambient marketing, which uses everyday objects and the environment as communication mediums.

Guerilla marketing can benefit anyone, but is best suited to smaller businesses and individuals where the promotional and advertising budget is limited.

In 2008, guerilla marketing is now the preferred option over sponsorship and advertising campaigns.

INTERNET ADVERTISING

You best place to advertise online is probably with Google.com, the world's biggest search engine. Why? Because according to Consumer Commerce Barometer Center in 2010, 59 per cent of Australians search online about products and services they consider purchasing. Of course, whether customers actually buy is depended on you and the type of products and services you have to offer compared to your competitors. Google.com can't help you there. But what it can do is help you advertise the things you have to sell.

Sure, create a web site to promote yourself and your products and services. But somehow you need to be noticed by others. Like any brick-and-mortar business, people have to know where you are. Therefore the best place to make yourself known is at Google.com because this is where most people tend to congregate online to find things. When choosing this option, make sure your business can thrive in this environment. Can online customers purchase your products or access services easily from your web site and can you deliver them quickly and easily?

Beyond that, you have two choices of how to advertise with Google.com. You can wait for Google.com to gather data from your web site and present you in their free search engine listings (hopefully the keywords in your HTML pages will bring you to the top of the search engine listings). Or you can pay for advertising to get your business to appear next to and at the top of the search engine listings.

The cost of advertising with Google.com isn't as bad as you think. Certainly much cheaper than advertising on television. In fact, it is one of the most cost-effective approaches you can make to advertising and still be able to reach an extraordinarily large number of people (far more so than television or radio).

How does it work?

Well, most businesses will try the AdWords option of Google.com to help advertise themselves and their products and services. To set up an AdWords advert:

1. Visit https://adwords.google.com/intl/en_au/home/#?modal_active=none.

2. Create an account by typing in your email address and password.

3. Create your advertising campaign options, including specifying whether the advert should appear only for people in your area, or anywhere in the world.

4. Set your budget. This is important as you don't want to go broke advertising to your prospective customers. Set a limit on how much you are willing to pay for advertising on a daily basis and Google.com will ensure you stay within the budget while providing you with hopefully a reasonable advertising service commensurate of your budget. Some businesses might already be fairly well established and well known to customers so a budget of as little as $5 per day may be sufficient. For other businesses, it may pay to set the limit higher especially if you are establishing your business (e.g. more than AUD$50). In addition to this, there is also a cost per click to consider. Your budget should cater for how much you are willing to pay per click (one click usually represents one potential customer) and the limit. As Google.com understands your success is determined by how many clicks people make to visit your site, they need a share of the action for their own profitability. So how many clicks would you need from potential customers to visit your business and make yourself profitable? Set an upper limit on the number of clicks and the cost.

5. Create your advertisement, consisting of a catchy first line and preferably showing your product or service (usually displayed as a hyperlinked underlined blue text) followed by two lines of text for you to explain to customers the benefits and any discounts or other offers as well as a call to action phrase to help entice customers to act now, and your web site address where people can click and visit you (usually appears in dark green without an underline). This advert will appear on the right side of the screen next to the search engine results.

6. Now place yourself in the shoes of your customer and imagine the sorts of words they might choose to search under through Google.com. These words should match the type of products or services you offer for your advert in order to be seen as relevant to the potential customers. Otherwise customers will not click on your business and visit you. Also, be creative in your choice of words and at the same time be very specific. Don't use a broad term like "bakeries" if you know you only offer "wedding cakes". People want to know exactly what you do and what you have.

7. Specifying to Google.com how they can be paid for helping you advertise your business. Enter your payment options and other billing information. By doing this and successfully paying Google.com, you will automatically activate your advertising campaign online. In this section, enter any promotional code of a Google voucher you may receive to get a discount or credit on your advertising budget.

NOTE: It is recommended you give up to several business days for Google.com staff to review your campaign before it will appear in search engine results of prospective customers.



To choose the right promotional technique for your business:

  1. Set aside a budget for promotions;
  2. Choose a range of promotional methods that best suits your business; and
  3. Know your market. That way you can start using your creativity to design the advertising to suit the audience.

Actually the most important part of promoting your business is your budget. You've already done the market research. You already know who your customers are. You have the products to attract the customers. Now it becomes very easy to choose any fancy promotional methods to get your business noticed by the customers. But budgeting is absolutely crucial.

Unless you are one of those very rare people who has thousands or even millions of dollars and don't care which fancy promotion you want to try out, most normal people have to stick to a budget because there is only so much money available to spend on advertising and promotion. Also the choice of the promotion has to help you pay back for the cost of the promotional methods and make a profit for your business. Never overcapitalise on advertising and promotion if you're not going to get anything back. Just keep it trim and tight.

If you really want to keep promotional costs down, the most effective way of saving money in this area in the long-term is to study the art of saying and doing the right thing in front of your customers. Your aim in doing so is to turn your customers into advocates. Let us look at it this way: When someone wants to do business with you, consider them a suspect. But turn them into a prospect and eventually a customer by making them feel welcome in the business and helping them in their enquiries. If they come back regularly, they become your clients. If they talk about your business to other people in a positive way, your client is an advocate. You will then save money in advertising when people become advocates.

Want to know how to say the right thing, whether in a promotional material or in person? According to top salespeople, the secret to learn is not to tell a customer about your product in terms of its features. Instead, provide customers with a glimpse of its benefits. A feature involves describing the product in terms of sight, sound, taste, touch and smell. A benefit involves describing to the customer what the product can do for them. For instance, do not say a trolley has three shelves and a set of wheels; say that the trolley has the benefit of carrying lots of items on it and can move about from place to place with ease.

The benefits are what a salesman concentrates on all day long (in between other lingering and more intimate thoughts!). In advertising, selling the benefits is more important than selling the features. Keep the features on a brochure under the heading "Specifications" at the back somewhere. Keep the benefits on the front of the brochure. Also do not blaringly show the price; or if you must, put it at the bottom or back of an advertising material (or invoice statement). Just concentrate on explaining the benefits first.

The art of selling a product through promotional materials or direct contact with customers is not so much to do with talking, but rather to listen. Do not give the answer; provide the answer. Give them security in what they already know. Use power words to entice people to try something like safety, comfort, health, security, easy etc. Concentrate on power words and you will be concentrating on the client.

Finally, when promoting a product, make sure the product itself is simple, reliable and does exactly what it is suppose to do. In other words, if you promotional material says one thing and your product does something else, don't be surprised to hear from unhappy customers who have brought your product.

Perhaps one of the best ways to find out whether the product will sell in the marketplace and your promotional and advertising material is good is to ask yourself the following questions: "Was that advertising convincing enough for me to buy the product?" and "Is it a product I would buy and use myself on a regular basis?"

If you cannot answer either of these two questions yourself, then you will need to review your promotional and advertising material and/or improve or find a better product.

Once you have the promotional material worked out

Run it through people who don't know your business or yourself. They are the best people for advice.

Frequency of advertising

Another secret to good promotions is being frequent in the number of promotions you provide to your customers. For instance, a few advertisements here and there will usually not be enough to do the job. You have to be relatively persistent by advertising regularly.

To help you understand the importance of frequency in advertising and promotions, have a read of the following story claimed to be written by one Thomas Smith in London back in 1885:

He figured it out a long time ago.

  1. The first time a man looks at an ad, he doesn't see it.
  2. The second time, he doesn't notice it.
  3. The third time, he is conscious of its existence.
  4. The fourth time, he faintly remembers having seen it.
  5. The fifth time, he reads the ad.
  6. The sixth time, he turns up his nose at it.
  7. The seventh time, he reads it through and says, "Oh brother!"
  8. The eighth time, he says, "Here's that confounded thing again!"
  9. The ninth time, he wonders if it amounts to anything.
  10. The tenth time, he will ask his neighbour if he has tried it.
  11. The eleventh time, he wonders how the advertiser makes it pay.
  12. The twelfth time, he thinks it must be a good thing.
  13. The thirteenth time, he thinks it might be worth something.
  14. The fourteenth time, he remembers that he wanted such a thing for a long time.
  15. The fifteenth time, he is tantalized because he cannot afford to buy it.
  16. The sixteenth time, he thinks he will buy it someday.
  17. The seventeenth time, he makes a memorandum of it.
  18. The eighteenth time, he swears at his poverty.
  19. The nineteenth time, he counts his money carefully.
  20. The twentieth time he sees the ad, he buys the article or instructs his wife to do so.

Making the process of using and buying easy

And after applying all the techniques to get the product noticed by potential customers, the one thing customers love to see when they get to the product is that's easy to access, use and buy.

Let's give an example. Suppose you wanted to sell software online.

Making it easy to access, use and buy software online is one of the most important things a seller/developer can do. You can advertise on a web site, send thousands of potential customers to a web site, and when they get there, they hope to be able to download and use the product. And when they are happy, to buy it.

The current trend appears to not bother with presenting a page showing the features of a software, but rather just let people download the software. When downloaded, they can open up the software and see the features available for use. However to entice people to buy the software, a limitation in some aspect has to be placed into the software, such as a time-restricted limitation (sometimes up to 10 days). Other limitation methods could be applied. But the most popular is time limitation as this allows users to use all features of a software before purchasing it.

The other advantage of time limitations is that this forces people to enter enough data into the database to the point that if the time expires, the user will usually be forced to purchase a license.

But if you apply this limitation, you might as well try to ask for information from your potential customers (e.g. gather statistics online). For example, ask where users have heard about the software, do they like the web site design, do they like the software, and don't be afraid to request a name and email address.

These personal details of name and email address helps a seller/developer build up a database of potential customers and you could use the email address to send adverts. However, there should be an option for users to say "No" to adverts.

Also, to avoid users making remarks that they prefer to see a Mac OS X interface when selling to Mac users, no snapshot of the software's user interface is best. This may be different with Windows users who usually don't give a toss. Just so long as it has some reasonable design for the interface and does the job well.

The process of making something easy to use and buy also lends itself well to solid, in the hand products.

For example, in this age of tamper-proof jars and wrappers, have you noticed how frustrating customers get when they are trying to open up the packaging of a product to eventually get the chance to use whatever is inside? At other times, customers may try to fight through shelves of other products to eventually find the product they are looking for. You may think this is okay and, at least, you may have sold one product. But if you want repeat selling of the same product to the same customers, you need to make the process of accessing and using a product as easy as possible.

Packaging

Former president of Austin-based GSD&M advertising, Mr Roy Spence, was known to have said: "...what you stand for will be just as important as what you sell." (7)

In marketing terms, packaging refers to creating (i) the image and (ii) the identity of who you are and how you want others to see your business and the products you sell through the appropriate use of colours, designs, ease of use, helpful instructions, and even the application of positive human emotions. For example, the presence of employees and how they feel about working in your business and helping you sell the products, the work location setting (such as in a busy centralised area like a city or in a more tranquil decentralised area such as the rural and natural environment), promotional material, signs, boxes, wrappings around your products and so on are all forms of packaging.

Even the interest and enthusiasm you show in your work will come under this all-encompassing heading. Because customers simply want the product or service does not mean you cannot show enthusiasm and interest in the work you do. This is part of the total packaging.

Identity refers to the interpretation a customer has made of you or your products or what you or your products like to be seen as through the appropriate creation and use of an image. For example, the image can provide identifying features that reflect your stability or professionalism in the marketplace. The image can be a statement and/or a visual aid such as a logo or other means to help create the identity you want others to see in you.

Good image and identity should reflect professionalism and, hopefully, the quality of your business and product. But don't overdo it. Just keep it simple and make sure it reflects the standard you want to achieve in your business and helps you to sell your products.



Handling customer complaints

Part of any good packaging is knowing how to handle customer complaints. Although we don't like to face it from time to time, it is usually inevitable because we are not perfect. Things can go wrong and we need to know how to deal with it. So how do we handle it?

Firstly, acknowledge there is a complaint. Write a letter or say verbally you are interested in listening to the complaint and want to know more. If the complaint is well justified, say "Sorry". If you don't know whether the complaint is well-justified, do an investigation into the complaint by listening to everything the customer has said and find out what you have done in your own business.

Present the findings to the customer to prove you have listened and show whether or not the complaint is well-justified. If it is well-justified, let the customer show how angry he/she is. Sit there and wear it. There is a good chance they will be calmer. If they are extremely upset, remove them to a place where they can vent their anger.

Don't interrupt or they will continue their anger.

The next issue to consider is how to make proper compensation when the complaint is justified. The compensation has to be something that the customer feels is an appropriate measure of their distress. It could be a replacement of the product, or a full refund. Or it could be to say "Sorry".

Do people buy from people, or web sites?

Dr Flint McGlaughlin of MECLABS claims:

"In the B2B marketplace, people don't buy from websites, they buy from people."

In other words, people want to see a face associated with your product. Whether it is a sales representative, or the business owner, showing a face could potentially make the difference in increasing your sales (well, at least to those who expect to see a face when purchasing a product). The face is there to communicate trust to your potential buyers for products that are not familiar in the marketplace.

But do you need to show a face to sell products?

Showing a face to your business to potential buyers (especially if the buyers are other businesses) can be an important step in gaining trust and securing a potential sale. For other buyers (especially for consumers), it may not matter at all. It depends on how good the product is and how well the product is known among prospective buyers. If buyers clearly see the usefulness of the product and want to use it (and receive positive reviews from peers), it is not likely they will sit and wait for a face representing your business to appear just to purchase what you have. A classic example would be Woolworths. The company may or may not put a face on its web site when promoting their products. But everyone knows how valuable food is as a commodity and a means of survival, so people won't really care if a face is shown or not.

Likewise, if you are Apple, Inc. and your products are well-known through the world, do you need to provide a face to promote your products? Probably not. It just so happens we know the face of the late Steve Jobs in association with Apple products. But most consumers don't usually think about this when deciding to purchase an Apple product. So long as the product is top-notch, stable and does exactly as is advertised and the people are happy with it, there is really no need to go the extra mile in promoting someone's face. In fact, people know Apple products are simple to use, looks good, does the job intended and very well, and priced just right (actually it is overpriced yet the company has managed to get away with it because the Apple logo has been around long enough for people to know it stands for quality and better products that are naturally more expensive) therefore it is not necessary to show a face to sell the products.

At the end of the day, it comes down to how good and useful your product is and how many people know about it (and whether you want people to know the product exists). If anything, prospective online buyers will be happy just testing the product (if they can download it) and if they are happy will go ahead and purchase it. If not, or if there are other similar products in the market to compete with your own, putting a face to your product could make an enormous difference to your bottom-line.

In the end, it is a judgement you must make regarding the success of your business.

Physical Evidence

In this era of intangible products filling the marketplace such as software and digital e-books, it is important to realise most customers prefer to see something real they can touch and observe.

For major software manufacturers like Adobe Systems, Inc and Microsoft Corporation, this is important if they wish to sell huge numbers of their software products.

That's why the manufacturers will design large boxes to hold a tiny CD with the software. Often this box will contained printed manuals, warranty cards, and more advertisement, just to make people think the money spent is well worth it. It might not be great for the environment, but at least it satisfies many of those people who need to see and touch the product with their very own eyes and hands.

For smaller software manufacturers, on the other hand, this is harder to achieve because of the enormous costs in producing the packaging and the cost to distribute it worldwide (unless the product is extremely popular and can be priced high enough to cover the packaging and distribution costs). As a result, in order to make it easier for customers to see the product, it is not unusual for these smaller software manufacturers to make their products fully downloadable from their web sites and then advertise the presence of the products on various popular software download web sites such as www.versiontracker.com so that enough people will notice the product.

Finally when the software product has been downloaded, the customers can immediately start to use it and see what the product can do before deciding to purchase it.

In the information industry, this is crucial to the success of anyone selling any kind of information to customers, from software to e-books. Make it accessible and tangible as possible and customers will notice it.

Even if you already have tangible products to sell to customers, it is a good marketing strategy to show people how the product was made and where it came from. It provides more physical evidence and helps to convince people of the quality, ethical and other standards you have applied to your products.

For example, if a computer reseller tries to sell you what he/she thinks is a new internal hard disk for your laptop, it is absolutely paramount to see the new hard disk inside its original anti-static protection bag. Why? Because this is your proof that the hard disk is new and will be able to provide you with a minimum of 5 years of operation inside your laptop without mishap (although there is a manufacturer's guarantee that if anything goes wrong within the warranty period you can hand in the hard disk for inspection).

By seeing where the hard disk came from (i.e. it wasn't taken out of someone else's laptop, even if it does work on that other person's machine), customers can feel confident they are being given a quality and brand new product that will last the distance for the price being asked.

For service-oriented businesses, referrals and certificates are another way of getting that physical evidence. It gives customers more confidence in the service you provide.

Incidentally, referrals are also promotions too.

But how do I know my products are going to sell in the marketplace and I have designed my promotional tools right?

Well, there is one more thing you need to know to become an expert marketer and salesperson so that you will have the confidence of knowing whether you are doing the right thing.

To really know whether your market research was done right and your promotional tools are well-designed, you have to understand a little bit about customer behaviour. For instance, what are customers looking for? Why do they buy the things they do? What is the driving force for people's behaviour?

According to psychologists, people (i.e. your potential customers) are motivated to do the things they do (e.g. buy something) because of some fundamental need. Those needs, whatever they are, are described in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs as developed by psychologists.

For the marketing expert working in the present Western "L-brain" economic climate, not only is it customary not to see the words needs and wants as separate terms, but also it is crucial to understand these needs of people when talking to people and selling a product.

Now if you want enough of your customers to come to your business and buy your products, you must ask yourself, "Will my products meet a fundamental need or want in my customers?"

For example, customers need to be well-fed. So will your product help to fulfil that need? If not, then these are probably not your customers, or you are selling the wrong product.

Now there are other customers out there who have a need to feel safe. Will your product help to fulfil that need instead?

Or what about those other customers who have a need to feel like they are belonging to a society? Will your product help to fulfil that need too?

When selling your products, these are the needs you must focus on when talking to people in your surveys and in highlighting the benefits of your products in your promotional material.

So when you say in your brochures that the product is easy to use, for instance, you will know there will be a group of customers out there (hopefully within your target market) who will understand how important it is for them to have a product that is easy to use. A product that is easy to use will give customers greater self-confidence in knowing they can use the product.

Everyone's needs are different and will change day-by-day. The art of a good marketer/salesperson is to be aware of those needs of each potential customer at any particular time and then to sell the customer a product that fulfils those needs. And what we are achieving here is to extract the benefits of your products that help to meet the needs of customers.

Benefits are different from features. Features are something you write at the back of the brochure under the term Specifications. But there is usually something that comes first. We call them benefits. And benefits is what you must present to your customers in order for them to make a connection between your product and their fundamental needs.

Now let's think about this for a moment (Ouch! My head is hurting already!). What benefits do customers find in your products? Easy, customers will be thinking about:

  • Quality
  • Flexibility
  • Features and models
  • Range of choice
  • Presentation
  • Function
  • Reputation (brand)
  • Availability
  • Size
  • Relevance
  • Practicality
  • Useability

and many other benefits. So are your products able to show these benefits clearly?

If not, try to weave into your products, your communications, and your promotional material some of these benefits. Think about the things that enhance health, admiration, amusement, wealth, security and self-improvement and your products will go down well with your customers.

When choosing your words to describe the benefits of your products, be aware what each word you use for your benefits actually mean. In the case of quality, it does not have to mean the best. Quality in the mind of a customer may be nothing more than fulfilling the customer's expectations.

Also paying a high price for your products may not be seen as high quality to the customer. So always choose your words to describe the benefits very carefully.

And make sure you can deliver on all those benefits to your customers. Because if you can show the benefits and deliver them as you claim through your products, you will have the right stuff to sell your products to customers as easy as selling ice cream to the eskimos.

I've tried all this marketing stuff and I still can't sell my product. What's going on here?

This is a difficult one to answer. Could it be that you're selling a service instead of a solid in-the-hand product?

If this is true, then what might be happening is that the more personal the service, the more the customer perceives a risk. They don't know what it is like until it happens. Thus your potential customers may be reluctant to try out your service. So try to minimise the risk. Let the consumer consume at time of purchase. And try to build their confidence and trust in your business in having made the right choice.

Perhaps you can value-add to the service by providing something free and price it well to entice enough customers to try out your service. Experiment a bit with your service until you hit a formula that works for you.

Otherwise, ask yourself is this the service or product I want to be in and want to provide to my customers? In the worse case scenario, you may have to try a different service or sell a more desirable and useful product for your business to be more successful.

So that's it!

Well, that's the essential information about marketing. Marketing is nothing more than basically understanding people's needs (a bit of psychology to put it another way), looking at your customers (the research side) and then making sensible decisions about your product in order to make it more attractive to the customers you want to target using the 8 P's (the toolbox side).

Don't worry if people say it is suppose to be 4 P's, 7 P's etc. Who cares? You must choose the thing that will help you to make your products sell well in the marketplace.

That's all there is to it!




Marketing automation tools

Well almost everything. Thanks to some clever marketers, there is one other thing you may wish to consider. It relates to online businesses and the availability of automated marketing tools to help you gather accurate information about your web site visitors and present certain marketing recommendations (such as the delivery of appropriate web content on a web page suited precisely to the potential buyer)

It is another marketing tool in your arsenal for maximising the success of your business.

As we speak, there is a push among the major businesses with an online presence (i.e. a web site) to find ways to automate much, if not all, of the work of a marketing expert in gathering, analysing and making marketing decisions reasonably accurate profiles of online visitors who choose to browse through business web sites, storing this information in a database system, analysing the profiles for evidence of an interest in certain products or have a potential interest depending on where people have been visiting in a business web site, and in presenting to the visitors who are likely to fit the target market of the business alternative and more targeted information known as the nurturing process to increase the chances of a successful sale for the business.

The process is known as demand generation where effectively you are trying to increase the demand for your products and/or services by tailoring the experience and type of information presented to potential buyers who meet the target market of your business.

The difference between Lead Generation and Demand Generation

Lead Generation

Whatever techniques you employ to generate leads such as bulk email sendoffs, creating a social media web page for your business, advertising on TV or in Google, telemarketing, web site registration of users, attending events, and direct meeting with the prospective buyers, a certain amount of inquiries or replies (i.e. the leads) will be generated. This is called lead generation.

Demand Generation

Includes lead generation, but also applies marketing techniques to help extract the "high prospect" leads and present the likelihood of a sale taking place via a numerical figure for managers to understand known as a lead score (crudely speaking, it is a bit like scoring with someone on a first date except in marketing it means the likelihood of making a sale) and in implementing techniques to turn these "high prospect" leads into sales via a process called lead nurturing such as relationship building and providing free information (a kind of recognition that no one can make an immediate sale no more than a person can score with a person on the first date).

It should be remembered that people who do show an interest in a specific product and/or service of your business but choose not to buy straight away are called prospects. Prospects are not the same as buyers. Think of a prospect as like finding a speck of yellow metal at the bottom of a gold prospector's pan, except you don't know whether the metal is, in fact, gold or another yellowish looking metallic material resembling gold called fool's gold (made of a pyrite mineral) until you do more nurturing. For these people, more targeted nurturing techniques are required to create a sale (i.e. gold for the business).

Thus not all "high prospect" leads will lead to a sale. To maximize the chances of making a sale from these "high prospect" leads, you need to apply certain marketing automation tools and techniques to nurture the leads towards a demand for something your business has to offer and ultimately make a sale (i.e. the propects become your buyers — and if the products and/or services are good, your free advertisers by word-of-mouth and promotional experts for the long term as well).

Step 1 - Know your target market

To give more details of what happens, the first step in demand generation using these whizz-bang hi-tech marketing automation tools is to know something of the target market of people you have chosen to focus on for which you believe the products and services will sell (i.e. there will be a demand for the products and services by a reasonable number of customers to help support the business for a long period of time). Check your business plan for further details. For example, do you know the industries who will be interested in your products? What's the revenue size? Do the number of employees within your organization play a role? Do they have a budget? When are they anticipating making a decision?

Step 2 - Create a profile

The second step is to gather a basic profile of each and every person visiting your business web site (if you are selling online) or who have made an enquiry via telephone, email or letter.

Profiling involves associating each visitor with some kind of unique identifying feature. It can be an IP address, or the visitor could be asked to supply a name and contact information in a short online survey form (assuming he/she chooses to provide accurate personal information for the business) before supplying them with a reward such as a free download of a PDF document, video or software tools. The rewards are designed to develop trust in the people visiting your web site and helps to make you seem more credible and able to deliver on the claims in your products and services which in turn can lead to a sale for your business.

This is exactly how Manticore Technology does it. As stated in the Best Practice — Supercharge your Demand Generation with Marketing Automation document available as a free download (after you have provided your contact details):

"Utilizing the progressive profiling feature, each time they're required to complete a registration form to, say, download a whitepaper or sign up for a webinar, different questions can be asked. the first registration form may ask for their contact information; the second visit it may ask what their interests are (allowing you to enter them into a lead nurturing program). On a third visit, you may ask them if they are the decision maker or if they're looking to purchase within a certain time frame. as they move through the qualification process you can continue to profile them. all of this information is gathered to help create a profile that you can add to the persona and send to the sales rep when the customer is qualified and determined sales-ready."

When it comes to implementing these survey forms, don't ask for too much personal information. People will resent it and move away. Keep surveys absolutely as short as possible. And if it is possible to gather the information by other means without interrupting people from enjoying your web site, then it is often implemented by the business to save on time and money and minimise angst for the potential buyer. If somehow you can't, no doubt you will need further surveys. In the case of a web site survey, you want the person to at least give you his name and some means for you to contact him before giving him more free information. Just as Manticore Technology has developed in its own web site and have understood how to gather information using its own marketing automation tools, once your name is determined (you have to enter this yourself on their short survey form unless you decide to put in a bogus name), the company can begin gathering a profile of you through simple things like which web pages you visit within the company's web site, the sorts of products you might be interested in and have downloaded, as well as emails you have clicked on.

In really sophisticated forms of this online profiling activity, some marketing automation tools can actually track people visiting different web sites before and after they have visited your official business' web site (e.g. as happens with Google.com and Facebook.com). Link this up with people's Facebook accounts and the ability to recognise faces in photographs, and who knows how much of a profile a company can glean from potential customers as they visit certain web sites.

On the other hand, if working out the name is not possible or people refuse to provide this, the best businesses can do is gather the IP address of those visiting a web site.

But lets ignore this aspect for the moment.

At any rate, for this profiling information to work and give the marketing automation tools the power to decide and act upon that information in some appropriate way, it has to be stored somewhere. So naturally all profiling information must be kept in a database system.

If you are unable to gather information about users online, you can approach it from another way. You could, for instance, decide to send off brochures, email messages and other materials to prospective buyers who might become leads. When a lead is received it will be like a raw inquiry about your products. Marketing automation tools simply help you to capture and store all of these raw lead inquiries into one reliable place - generally a contacts database system.

Once there is enough information gathered into the system about these potential buyers, the next step is to develop a persona.

Step 3 - Develop a persona

Okay, so you have a qualified lead by way of someone making an enquiry, or you know which individuals have visited which page in your web site. What do you do next?

Well, you could go out there and try to do the hard sell of the products and services to the customer. Or, you could be more effective in the selling process by first understanding the customer. It is called developing a persona. Or another word used by marketing experts is profiling but to a deeper level such as working out what the customer is really interested in, what they are looking for, the fears they have in using your products and/or services and so on. Because once you have good profiling and a persona on someone, you can do more than just sell a product or two. You have the potential to sell many more products relevant to the customer's needs and for the long term with the right customers if you present the right information they want to see and listen and at the right time.

It is about going deeper into someone's mind in terms of understanding the customer's fears, attitudes, values and perceptions. Then you can more effectively sell the product by focusing on those things of importance to the customer and showing how the product will benefit the customer and change his/her perception and attitude as well as solving the fears relating to what needs to be done to something which is clearly more positive, easy to use and effective in terms of what your products and/or services can do. And to tailor and show the products through good education and examples of how the products will do the job with ease and simplicity in order to make the decision easier for the prospective buyer.

As Tony Zambito of Goal Centric said:

"Most B2B companies are seller- centric... but that's changing as more companies are recognizing the importance of marketing, reaching out to customers and buyers. Building personas is not a tool — it's a strategic process."

Step 4 - Apply marketing concepts to your leads

The next step is to analyse the information on potential buyers through the leads or the people just visiting your business web site. In other words, you have to apply some marketing concepts to the data in order to determine what people are doing, why and how to position your business to take advantage of the situation in order for you to maximise your financial success through the right decisions.

This the aim of this analysis is to determine in the end the likelihood of a sale taking place with each visitor in the simplest way a manager can understand via a lead score number. Should the generated score number by the automated tool fall into a high category because the customer has met certain sales criteria set by the manager as well as various marketing requirements in terms of the customer's demographics, interests and other aspects considered suitable for the business (i.e. specifying the target market), the visitors are put through a nurturing process to help convert these high prospect leads into sales.

Otherwise the marketing analysis will present detailed statistical information to a manager about the range of people who have visited your business web site as well as those in your database and tell you where people have been visiting before arriving to your web site, where they will go next, which web pages they have visited in your web site, and how many of those have made enquiries or expressed an interest in some aspect of your products and/or services.

The lead score number generated by a marketing automation tool is based on various factors such as the information you have supplied on your sales criteria for your type of business and not just the people making up your inquiries or gathered from your web site such as their demographic, firmagraphic and activity level. While some leads might be disqualified based on your sales criteria, it is sometimes best left to the automation tools to consider all the factors until a score lead number is generated and presented. From this, you can quickly decide whether the lead is worthy of applying further efforts on your part in order to achieve a sale.

Indeed, many quality marketing automation tools do have the knack of considering various marketing factors such as the buyer's cycle (e.g. Where are they at?) which, from a marketing expert's perspective, is considered important to determining how best to approach the buyers in the right way in order to increase the chances of a sale taking place but sometimes may be overlooked by you, the manager of your business.

For example one buyers cycle initiative considered important is having a social media marketing role in your business. Because it seems, according to Manticore Technology's brochures discussing their own marketing automation tools :

"...the SiriusDecisions 2010 Summit report showed that 51% of buyers cited peers as the most trusted source for initial research and 29% continued to consult them throughout the buying cycle. This confirms that social media marketing should play a certain role in your demand generation strategy."

In other words, people (especially the younger age group) tend to look at social media sites such as https://www.facebook.com/ to get advice and gather information about what other people think about a product. And if it is good, the chances of purchasing the product will increase. The buyer's cycle at the present time is, therefore, clearly in observing these social media sites to obtain information needed to make an informed decision on what and when to buy. Thus the automation tool may be able to determine, for example, where the users came from just prior to visiting a web site and present this information to a manager in a statistical sense so that he/she can decide the best places to position the products and services and provide the right information beyond simply advertising on a web site.

Otherwise, when it comes to a single visitor coming to your web site, you are looking for a high lead score reaching an agreed level as entered by you into the marketing automation system once the visitor is somehow identified and their needs understood. When the score has reached the prescribed level, you would want to act quickly on the lead thereby helping you to focus on the leads most likely to turn into a sale. Remember, should you rely on the lead score number, it will dynamically change over time depending on the activity level of the leads. So if you don't act in one moment in time, it could be irrelevant at a different time frame. When the lead score does reach this critical point considered important for your business to act upon it is called a qualified lead.

Step 5 - Nurturing the lead

The final step is, in fact, the nurturing process. This simply means doing things like showing dynamically a different set of information on a web page that specifically targets the needs of the visitor more directly and presents special deals to help make it more attractive as a buying proposition for the visitor. Or it could involve a recommendation by the marketing automation tool to make a follow up call if the visitor has provided his/her contact information for your business database.

Either way, the chances of making a sale are increased when you follow this process.

When it comes to the content of your web site, the marketing automation tool will choose different content for each visitor depending on the thing they are interested in. And you can then tailor the information on certain web pages to meet those interests and possibly address the needs, attitudes and perceptions these people may have which requires these products to solve for them in the simplest way.

According to a recent survey from Marketing Sherpa and KnowledgeStorm, 61% of technology buyers want content that directly addresses the issues they face at each point in the decision process.

The dynamically-tailored content generated by marketing automation tools must be followed up with a call to action such as "Buy Now!" or "Purchase before [date] and you will receive a free [giveaway item whose costs are already incorporated into the price of your original product]". Certain marketing experts will no doubt help you with this aspect for a certain fee through the right selection of words, suitable choice of content, as well as testing and optimization of the entire content process at every step. Fortunately the marketing automation tools can go a long way to doing this work without the intervention of marketing experts.

Among the work involved in creating dynamic content includes optimization in order to get your product higher up the rankings in search engine listings through the right choice of words in your content as well as the keywords and description in the meta data tags of, say, your HTML pages on your web site (the place where you are promoting and selling your products, of course).

Another way of driving prospects to your web site is in the amount of high quality education-rich content you provide on your web site and whether this is highly targeted to the needs of those prospects. In fact, your web site is termed your Lead Generator. As Menticore Technology said:

"As you drive prospects to your website, you can track their activity (even anonymously in some tools). But what if you notice that they visit, but they don't convert? Use this opportunity to ensure your website is providing education-rich content to entice your prospect to learn more, allowing you to engage in a dialogue with them."

A summary of automated marketing tools and demand generation

From a Demand Generation and handling lead enquiries point-of-view, the purpose of marketing tools is to gather together these raw lead enquiries, developing a profile of your potential buyers, and presenting the information these people need to see in order to increase the chances of a sale taking place while minimizing, according to analysts, up to 60% of these inquiries being disqualified only to find later that approximately 80% of those being disqualified actually end up buying a similar product to yours from another company.

Marketing experts can apply these tools for your business.

Or, for online businesses, marketing automation tools are now available to do everything of what a marketing expert does, except do it automatically and faster through a software package. The software is linked to your web site and any other sources of information and includes any specific custom criteria you need to enter and the software can present to you a summary of relevant marketing information in terms of a lead score together with any other information you might need to create the right sales approach for your prospective buyers.

Furthermore the automated tools are there to increase the conversion rate of turning prospects into buyers because of their speed of analysis and delivery of tailored content. There are many marketing factors to considering when doing this such as where and how to optimize aspects of your organization, what to include in your content to show to potential buyers, creating the right customer surveys etc. Marketing automation tools are simply there to help you cover many, if not all, of these factors. Because in the end the tools are designed to help you make more informed decisions and so increase the likelihood of higher sales taking place within your business.

And to do it, all you have to do is build trust through good communication and the conversion rates will naturally go up for your business. To achieve this, give the right message, the right offer, and do it for the right audience — the trifecta of demand generation program success as Menticore Technology puts it.

It's the message that's important than the medium. The medium is only important if you know the target audience is expecting the message to be delivered through a particular medium. Beyond that, make sure the message is right. As they say, content is king. But all this is only possible if you have a very good product. If you don't, no amount of marketing will save your business.

Thus these marketing automation tools are really designed to expand the power of your typical Contacts Relationship Management (CRM) — that is, address book systems for storing contact information — as well as your content management system (CMS) which is usually your web site to the point of being able to dynamically present to the right users, the right message and for them to receive the right offers at the right time (i.e. when the users are online and visiting your web site).

Vendors of marketing automation and demand generation tools

We've mentioned Manticore Technology as one experienced group involved in the development and selling of an effective marketing automation tool for online businesses. Certainly they aren't the only group to be involved in this field. For example, you will find numerous players in the business of providing marketing automation tools such as Act-On Software, Genoo, Publitrac, and many others.

The tools are usually provided as a service run by the marketing firm at their own premises for which your business would pay a monthly fee and in return you would receive detailed reports of who and what's been happening as your visitors peruse through your web site as well as personalised services to gather information about your target market, understand your products and services, and make recommendations and perform adjustments on your approval on how to optimise your web pages. The cost varies significantly according to this comparison table from Wikipedia of demand generation service providers, ranging from $199 per month to $10,000 per month with some allowing no service fee to be paid should there be no visitors passing through your web site in any one particular month. The high costs for what appears to be essentially the same or similar products may suggest higher levels of personalised services and other factors to consider.

Additional tools to help with your marketing

Finally, if you need more help in planning your marketing for your business, the following documents may come in handy:

  1. Marketing Planner