Marketing is very likely one of the most misunderstood topics in all of business. What exactly do marketers do? Do they promote a product or service? Do they advertise it? Make deals with customers? Sell the product directly? All of the above?
Simply put, marketing is the process by which a product or service is made visible to a customer, and includes the process of making it possible for the customer to buy that product. In today’s high-speed economy, marketing is one of the most difficult things a business does. It is often difficult for any product to get a potential customer’s attention for very long, and even if they do, chances are that customer will have at least one distraction to contend with before they have a chance to make the purchase. Advertisers estimate it is necessary for a potential customer to see an ad for any given product more than seven times before they actually make a purchase. Anyone who is marketing products online will tell you this is likely quite close to accurate.
There are several ways marketing executives and team members can make what they do more valuable to their company and increase the return on investment or ROI measured against the cost of their activities. If you are evaluating a marketing program for your company, these are some things you should keep in mind.
Efficiency of Delivery
One of the first things most companies do when they make their product available to the public is to make the process of buying it as simple as possible. Things like customer accounts for online stores, stored credit card information, automatically billing a bank account and so forth arrange the purchasing process in such a way so as to remove all the potential obstacles. This is vitally important in a world where there are so many distractions and so many reasons to pick something else to do instead of wrestle with trying to make a purchase.
The marketing team’s job is to build this infrastructure for their business so when it comes time for a customer to make a purchase, the sale isn’t lost at the last second because some part of the mechanism fails, the web site isn’t coded properly, the correct bank account is used and charged the right amount and so forth. In fact, a good well-designed purchasing system can become a featured part of a marketing campaign, as it has been for some of the largest and most well-known retailers in the world.
Efficiency is one of the more important elements in a marketing campaign as it helps to keep the team’s stress level down and contributes to the overall energy and well-being of the team members. When marketing is too hard, it makes things difficult, builds up stress and ultimately leads to counter productivity. To avoid stress, good sleeping pattern is what many therapists suggests. Providing good work life balance to team can ultimately help in increasing efficiency.
If the entire economy were a swap meet, the marketing team’s job would be to put their product where most of the foot traffic passes by. While that may sound like a rather simplistic way to describe a marketing campaign, it is essentially correct. Products sell when they are visible, and products are visible when they sell. The two conditions are inextricable from each other.
In retail, this phenomenon is known as location. It is the reason why major malls can charge such sky-high rents to individual shops. Having a pizza slice retail store in the food court of a mall with a quarter million customers over a holiday weekend is far more valuable than having a pizza slice retail store on Interstate 15 somewhere between Baker, California and Las Vegas. Location is key in the retail business, because if customers can’t see the product and can’t visit the store, the chances of selling something are fairly low. On the other hand, if the product is in a great location, the return on investment can multiply many times over.
How a marketing team makes a product visible isn’t simply a matter of advertising. The product has to be visible to the right people otherwise it has no chance of selling. Ten-year-olds are not going to be interested in retirement investing and sixty-year-olds are rather unlikely to want to buy episodes of a streaming cartoon series from a video-on-demand service. This is marketing’s next job.
Who Will Buy?
Identifying a target audience is absolutely crucial for any product or service. Once the marketing team knows who is likeliest to buy something, they can make arrangements to get the product in front of that audience. Not knowing who the target audience is makes the job of marketing anything far more difficult, as it means some or all of the team’s efforts will be wasted trying to get people who have no interest in the offer to buy.
Naturally, figuring out who is most likely to buy something is far more an art than a science. The marketplace is littered with failed companies built on products that made perfect sense on paper, but sold poorly in the real world. At the same time, there are voluminous examples of products that made little sense on paper that went berserk once they got in front of an audience. This part of the marketing equation is dependent on testing and continual improvement, which is known in the industry as optimization.
Marketing overall is likely to become much easier and much less expensive over time, as the continual accumulation of analytics is illustrating for companies which of their activities are working well and which are not. Measuring success is something all marketing teams are expected to do. This kind of adversarial testing will produce winning campaigns and less-than-optimal alternatives, which will help continue to optimize the marketing team’s overall approach.
Ultimately, marketing as a business discipline is really no different than product development. Research and development are expected to constantly improve. Like all economic activity, it is a continual process of improvement and optimization that seeks to accomplish more at a lower overall cost and in a quicker time frame. When both side of the business process succeed, the results speak for themselves.