Business start-ups
I was speaking to a colleague over the weekend, discussing a mutual friend who is starting up a new business. It worries me that there are so many entrepreneurs out there who really do not understand marketing. As a marketer, I am sure that you would expect me to big-up the role of marketing, but I can assure you that marketing is a vital component of any business.
Let's take a quick look at what marketing does for a business, and hopefully you will agree with my view. Marketing starts with an evaluation of the marketplace - finding the customers who will be paying you for the products or services you offer. But it is not goo enough just to identify the marketplace - this may be too big for you to tackle, so marketers also segment the market into easily targeted, profitable groups. This allows your efforts to be more successful and targeted - reducing waste.
Once you know the market, you can develop or fine tune your offer to the customers. This makes use of the research you undertake, and the extrapolations you make, including reviewing the state of the competition - you do not want to launch into a highly competitive marketplace where your promotion could be lost.
When you have your product/service right, you need to promote it correctly. I have always said that one of the aims of marketing is to provide sales people with ammunition - the right product at the right price, promoted correctly, properly distributed, etc. So all press releases, adverts, brochures, etc, should promote the product/service to the prospective customers.
OK - so the customers have seen the ads, read the press releases and bought the product - that's the end for marketing isn't it? No - not really, selling something as a one-off is relatively easy to a section of the public - what we call the innovators. The way to make money is to generate repeat business, and build advocacy amongst your customers. This reduces the promotional costs, and spreads the brand to a greater population. We do this by providing customers with great support - 95% of all UK customers leave without ever having complained, so feedback is not often forthcoming, therefore, you need to ensure that the customer support is ready and effective from the start.
You cannot rely on a single product for too long either - your products will die at sometime, and you need t o have some replacements for those products. So marketers can help here too, restarting the process all over again, to develop new and/or replacement products. This will keep your company going, with a decent cashflow.
There are marketing courses for small businesses, but many of them are courses for a qualification, and run for a number of weeks. Colleges should start to address the need for half- or one-day courses for entrepreneurs - not to teach them every aspect of marketing (or any other business skill, for that matter), but to give them an appreciation of the skills and allow them to manage a professional consultant brought in to manage a particular aspect of the business process.