The 1970s were a formative time for both business and marketing. Harvard Business Review editor Theodore Levitt argued that instead of producing products and then selling them to the masses, businesspeople should start with the customer in mind to find out what it is they want and then produce it from the information obtained. Obvious but true. Suddenly, the customer was driving business and instead of being told what to buy, they had a choice and were firmly placed in the front seat.
Marketing was now well and truly a crucial part of business by the turn of the decade and it was about this time that Jay Conrad Levinson coined the term ‘guerrilla marketing’. This prompted a shift in thinking and the realisation that unconventional methods of marketing were worthy inclusions into the marketing mix. And still are, I would argue.
The 1990s were the ‘glory days’ in the US at least; increasing numbers of businesses were making lots of money selling to a booming consumer market. Direct marketing had been established and mail order shopping, commercial television, home shopping networks and much more became commonplace for business. The spectrum by the 1990s had truly changed.
Let’s Jump To 2011
Doing business in the era of choice… marketing and business has changed more in the past five to 10 years than in the previous decades. There are three major reasons.
Technology and the internet is the first and, in my opinion, the most important. From search engines to social networking, the majority of people are on the internet every single day, every hour, making it a very important way to reach people. Online shopping means people buy things without ever encountering a salesperson. So marketing has become even more important. What’s more, the internet means we are now selling to a global market – and someone across the world can buy a product from you or look at your website while you are asleep.
Communication has changed, forever. Phones are no longer simply to make calls. Word of mouth is ‘Liking’ something on Facebook, sharing the link on Twitter or emailing a website to a friend.
Finally, a sophisticated market has created an incredibly savvy consumer. People know what they want and they know what it’s worth and, if they don’t, they have the option of being able to Google it and have the answer in no time. Information is everywhere and the consumer wants to feel in control at all times.
Perhaps this is a bit overwhelming and just writing it makes me think that. The real point, however, is that ‘the new world’ has made a marketer’s job more important than ever. Instead of quantity marketing, it’s now all about quality. Gone are the days when taking out an advertisement in the Yellow Pages and a 30-second slot on the TV was enough to win new customers. With many more ways to market than ever before, business owners need professional marketers in order to avoid feeling lost or overwhelmed and to help navigate the field.
Here Is A Practical Example
In late 2011, I am part of a group that is heading to Asia for a friend’s wedding. How did we go about finding accommodation? You guessed right – the internet. We looked at travel blogs, read reviews from a number of online sites and looked at accommodation buying websites, as well as the websites of the hotels directly. Social media was also used for personal recommendations. In 1970, we would have gone straight to a travel agent. How times have changed.
This example demonstrates that there is more than one way to reach your target audience. The marketing mix, as noted above, is more complex than ever. While it is ideal to be across as many of the communication channels as possible, popping up on one or two in the right way is sufficient for consumers to make informed decisions.
The Next Wave, Daily Deals
Daily deals websites like Spreets, Groupon, Scoopon, Jump on It, Catch of the Day, Cudo have been gaining momentum since the launch of Woot in 2004. This new business model, which combines the age-old concept of coupons with the new phenomenon of online social networking, has exploded to create a unique online shopping experience.
Customers buy a deal or special offer from the deal company directly and, from a business owner’s perspective, participating in a deal comes at no upfront cost. The deal company takes a percentage or commission of each sale and all the business needs to do is come up with a package to sell.
Daily deals are reshaping marketing in 2011; however, there is still some uncertainty surrounding these sites and whether they are marketing masterminds or madness. The market is in a growth stage, which means there are still teething problems. The growth though, cannot be ignored.
What does this new deal market mean? For the record, I am not a fan of discounting. This ‘daily deal’ system, however, is a different approach to discounting and gaining new customers and lots of them at a very low cost. Used correctly and in moderation, I think this type of marketing has a level of merit.
Solutions For Success…
All this talk of change is going to make my first suggestion sound incredibly contradictory. Go back to basics. What are we selling? Who are selling it to? Why would they want it? If you can’t explain what a product is or why someone should buy it, then stop trying to do so.
Get to know your target audience. With so many outlets for marketing, you need to work out where your target audience is and how you can reach them most effectively and efficiently.
Remember that although the business and marketing world is complex, your marketing plan should not be. Use all the choices you have to choose from and make firm decisions about where, what and how your business will be marketed most successfully. A complex marketing plan is not only costly but a waste of time; one that is simple but accurate will be far more successful.
Be ruthless when it comes to your media choice and use negotiation to get more ‘bang for your buck’. It is better to be the master of one than a jack of all trades.
Be truthful in your message and the way it is marketed. The information era is unforgiving when it comes to liars, so be as honest as possible in your marketing. More than ever, people appreciate businesses that are genuine and aren’t trying to fool them.
You’re not an expert at everything, so hire outside help whenever you need it.
Subscribe to a wide range of blogs covering topics that your target audience is interested in – it is a great way to quickly acquire information and public opinion for free.
Don’t be afraid of change. Proceed with your head firmly on your shoulders and don’t try to take on the whole market all at once!