Whether you plan to work in a company or create your own company, it's useful to understand what is marketing. We often think of marketing in terms of selling a product or service to a buyer, but the real definition of marketing is much deeper. Strategic marketers involve customers in the full marketing plan, from the product research and development to advertising and sales.
Aya Aboelenien, Ph.D. candidate in Business Administration (Marketing) at the John Molson School of Business, and workshop leader for GPLD152 - Marketing Management Essentials, takes us through the importance of using marketing strategically to build long term relationships with customers.
Aya explained that customers have to be integrated in every step of the marketing plan if an organization is to achieve its objectives, be financially sustainable, and have brand recognition. More specifically, she highlighted five elements of a successful marketing plan.
1. Understand the marketplace
Understanding an organization's marketplace involves learning about external stakeholders like competitors, suppliers, government regulators and market intermediators. These stakeholders shape the threats and opportunities in your marketplace. Equally important is to analyze internal factors such as the organization’s strengths and weaknesses. This market information can be acquired through three manners: internal databases (ex. customers’ profiles); market intelligence (ex. investigate competitors long-term goals); and marketing research (ex. asking customers their opinions on new products).
2. Design a customer driven marketing strategy
Once, you have undertaken some marketing research to know you strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, then the next step is to formulate a market positioning statement. A market positionning statement defines your organizations’ goal, including who, why, what and how you are targeting a certain group of customers. It is important that it is unique to your organization.
3. Develop a marketing plan
Once the company understands its marketplace and its unique position, then the next step is to focus on fulfilling customers’ “needs” and desires. This is done through planning the 4Cs (similar to the 4Ps): customer solution (product); cost (price); convenience (place); and communication (promotion). Aya advised us to think about a brand as if it were a personality. For instance, if we thing about a high end coffee shop, then you can imagine a place with a sophisticated and comfortable environment, nice music in the background and a more expensive coffee than its regular high street competitors.
4. Build profitable relationships with customers
Once you know your target customer and your marketplace, then it is time to apply the company’s resources to distribute products and support marketing initiatives. This is the stage when a company distributes its products through certain sales channels (directly or via distributors), at a certain price, and with the help of promotion tools (advertising, public relations, personal selling, social media, etc.). The plan does not only aim to optimize the number of customers who are willing to buy the company’s products but more importantly have a positive experience and become a long-term brand ambassador.
5. Analyze results and adjust the marketing plan accordingly
The marketing management process is dynamic and requires results to be constantly measured and compared to the plan. Management monitors key results (sales, customer satisfaction, webpage hits, average spend per customer, etc.) and competitors’ reactions. If the company is underperforming against the plan, then management must adjust its marketing tactics (ex. adjust prices, add more points-of-sale or increase promotional efforts).
Marketing knowledge is one of the topics in GradProSkills Leadership and Management skill domain that will help you prepare for your career beyond graduate school. If you have an interest in this topic, you may also like our GPLD153 - Consumer Behaviour Essentials workshop.