Dallas Business Consultant Elijah ClarkDallas Business Consultant Elijah Clark

Marketing Audit

Based on questionnaires obtained by the opinions of marketing experts, it has been determined that marketing audits are a paramount factor in business success.[1] A marketing audit can be an important tool in discovering potential risks within your business’s activities. Within the marketing industry, understanding how or why to market to a certain demographic is a key component to creating a successful marketing plan. To conduct an effective marketing audit, the method should have four major characteristics which include it being comprehensive regarding function, environment, and productivity; independent from decision-making managers; completed using a structured, systematic approach; and that it should be carried out on a periodic basis. A marketing audit can improve your marketing management and business problems by helping to assess and evaluate your business’s marketing ability, strategies, performance and effectiveness, problematic areas, and opportunities.

Having the ability to find and understand your customer, competitor, and product potential will make the process of marketing your product or service much easier. A problem often found in businesses is that they don’t develop marketing strategies or perform preemptive audits. These businesses come to realize, in the middle of their marketing efforts, that they have no real plan or a way to monitor the effects of their marketing campaigns. Having a plan of action serves to pace and organize your marketing efforts. Regular audits can help you identify business strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and risks specific to your industry and market. Furthermore, marketing audits can be used to direct the vision of your business, the value of products offered, and the effectiveness of current, previous, and future marketing efforts and organizational efficiencies. A good marketing audit should also assist with the implementation of a marketing strategy, and help in generating brand awareness and sales.

 

[1] Lipnická D., Ďaďo J. (2013). Marketing Audit and Factors Influencing Its Use in Practice of Companies (From an Expert Point of View). Journal of Competitiveness, 5 (4), 26-42. doi: 10.7441/joc.2013.04.02

Consumer vs Business Markets

In both business and consumer markets, the individual that will use your product or service is not always the same individual that makes the actual purchasing decision. For instance, a husband may purchase a product that his wife needs, or a parent for a child, or an employer for an employee. In these situations, your responsibility is to satisfy the decision maker(s) by providing them relevant information as to how your product or service can enhance their business or lifestyle.

Generally, when I walk into a jewelry store to purchase a gift for my wife, the sales representative will ask questions about my wife, not about me (until we start talking budget). In business, you need to ask the purchaser about the goals or intentions for the product or service, not about their basic needs. To make them happy, you have to sell the expectation that the individual receiving the purchase will be happy. When the decision maker is not present, you can generate more sales by focusing on expectation rather than the moment.

Business Market Purchases. When marketing to a business, you should concentrate on what is most important to the business which often includes statistics, facts, data, and a return on investment. Within the business market, the purchasing decision is generally made by multiple individuals. Your selling strategy should focus on each of the decision makers by way of the individual who sought out your business. This may include giving everything to the purchaser and letting that individual determine how to disperse the content to the decision maker(s).

Consumer Market Purchases. Consumers regularly make purchases based on factors which include value, availability, and emotional connections. In consumer markets, you will either sell to an individual or a couple. An example of a couple transaction is a husband wanting to purchase a new home. To do so, he would need to get his wife to agree to the decision. Similar to a business market, you need to sell to both but primarily satisfy the decision maker, which you should identify as you work to develop the relationship.

In both business and consumer markets, you can go a long way by getting the individual who contacted you to like you. If they like you and your business, they will fight on your behalf to influence the decision maker.

Customer Marketing

Purpose of Marketing

Without marketing, your business is taking the risk of losing customers and revenue. Think of your brand, website, or artwork as a resume. You spend hours or days writing, designing, and editing it to perfection, not to mention the years of enhancing and refining your background with experience and education. After you’ve culminated and perfected your resume, what next? What’s the next step to ensuring that you land that dream job? The appropriate response is to send your resume to employers. In the context of business, that’s called marketing. You must market yourself to win the job. A terribly unattractive resume sent to potential employers has a higher probability of landing a job over a superb resume sitting in a drawer. Without marketing, you will waste time and money creating a great brand that never gets noticed.

Customer Marketing

If your marketing strategy is not structured on the purchasing needs and wants of your desired customer, you are missing the mark in marketing. An effective campaign is one that influences customers to make a purchase. The secret is to build trust and positive brand awareness through attractive and targeted marketing. Additionally, the campaign should aim at solving the customer’s hesitation to purchase. As customers make purchases, a trend will develop, outlining likes and dislikes based on what sells and what doesn’t.

A Hesitant Customer. All customers experience some hesitancy before making purchases. They don’t simply walk into a store or view a website and make a purchase without thinking about it. How long they hesitate is where you should focus your marketing. For example, a product discounted with a “One day only” stamp will make the customer spend less time debating the purchase because of the urgency of the deadline. If you want a today purchase, you should try marketing your product or service so that it positively influences the customer to decide and act quickly.

As a business owner, you have the responsibility to provide customers with the information they need to make a purchase. If presented effectively, the information you provide customers can persuade them to believe they need what your business is selling, even if the product is outside of their immediate desires or needs. In this sense, information used within your marketing efforts are responsible for shaping the needs and wants of your customers. The implication is that, through marketing, you can capitalize on your customers’ internal weakness and persuade them to make a purchase.

A customer purchase is often based on one of three factors; (1) whether the product or service will help the customer be more productive; (2) whether the product or service can satisfy the things or people the customer cares most about; or (3) whether it fulfills a desire or need.

When marketing, you should understand how your product can solve your customers’ problem or situation. If you know your customers’ habits, likes, or dislikes you can market based on how your product will fit into their lifestyles. From there, the customer will be less hesitant to make the purchase and will have a solid answer as to why they need your product.

Setting Your Price

Setting and presenting your price may be the single most important thing to get right in your business. When determining the value of your product or service, keep in mind that pricing low will lower your revenue, introduce a new lower quality customer, and could damage the growth of your business. Low pricing also creates low motivation from you or your team and will often prevent you from going the extra mile for the customer. However, pricing high may give your competition the upper-hand with customers looking to spend less.

How to Price. You should set your price based on the true value of the product or service, which, in addition to the cost of producing any tangible product, includes the cost to cover the tools, software, electricity, employees, etc. In addition, the cost should easily allow you to reach your break-even point. The goal of your price should be to generate sales in excess of 50% above the break-even mark. Never make it a habit of charging your customers based on your lack of knowledge or technology. Your customer should never pay because you don’t know how to do your job properly or efficiently. However, if the customer has a unique problem that involves research and no easy solution, which may include a system hack, training, or simply writing a document or tutorial, you should charge based on the time it takes you to research and resolve the issue. Your customers should not be concerned with the time it takes for you to complete their request. They care about the value you bring. If they believe that you are the best, then your price may not be relevant. If you have tough competition and the customer doesn’t care about the quality you bring, then the price is very important and you will need to also consider the competition and brand reputation when setting prices.

Real vs. Perceived Value. Value pricing attracts value conscious customers. The actual cost of product production determines the real value. In addition, the real value is dependent on the usefulness of the product to the customer as well as the value of the product components. Ultimately, the perceived value is based on how much money the customer believes the product is worth.

For example, in the context of higher education, the perceived value of a college or university among individuals looking to invest in higher education tremendously affects the institution’s price. Students and their families perceive the value of the institution to be within the quality of the education. Consequently, the higher the perceived value of quality, the higher the cost of tuition. Research, however, has not proven correlation between institutional cost and actual quality. Additionally, it was found that perceived value of an institution did correlate with a student’s likelihood of enrollment. Perceived value of an education has three main factors which include, quality, cost, and emotional attachment. Failing to satisfy either of these could jeopardize the student’s enrollment potential as it will affect the student’s perceived value. In marketing, generating excitement can also generate a sale and loyal customers. If a customer is excited about a product, they may ignore the cost and quality factor. If an individual truly believes in the quality and value of a product or service, then the perceived value becomes more valuable than the real value.

 

Your Unique Value Proposition

You can overcome your competition by offering products or services that are unique to your industry. When attempting to set your business apart from the rest with a unique product or service, you may arrive at situations where your customer does not fully understand your unique benefits. You will need to educate your customers on why your product or service is better for their personal or business needs.

A potential setback of creating differentiators such as unique features, services, and benefits, is that you are open to imitation by your competition if your differentiators are not proprietary. In this sense, your uniqueness will last only as long as it takes your competition to mimic your approach. Additionally, by offering too many differentiators or products, your customers could become confused, overwhelmed, or feel that you’re trying to sell them something they don’t need. To resolve this, take precautions and carefully educate your customers on the offerings and the importance and relevancy of the additional products or services.

Value Proposition. Customers have more options at their disposal than ever before, with that in mind, a well-drafted value proposition should be at the core of your sales collateral to solidify your competitive advantage. A value proposition is a statement of promise in terms of overall value delivered to the customer, and is a major factor in increasing sales. A value proposition helps you define how your product is the better solution for your customers’ needs. A strong value proposition is persuasive and outlines why the customer should purchase your product or service over the competition.

Having an effective and unique value proposition (UVP) is of critical importance as it distinguishes your business from your competitors. A UVP should uniquely identify the value of your business and should resonate strongly with your customers. For example, if you offer a product or service for the price of $10, and your competitor offers the same product or service for $11, what stops your competitor from stealing your customer if they match or lower their price? While price is considered a UVP, unless it is tremendously lower than the competition, you need to offer better and more UVPs.

UVPs may include:

  • Better price point
  • Better product quality
  • Better location
  • Better customer service/ hours
  • Better warranty / guarantee

Your business can evaluate and enhance customer benefits through gaining feedback from reviews of current, previous, and potential customers. Through this method, flaws within your business can be identified and needed corrections made. Another valuable method is to monitor your competitors’ marketing efforts, as well as gain insight into your reputation, by reviewing forums, complaint boards, and competitor websites for credibility, design, and customer testimonials.

The Customer Trigger Point

While working on my bachelor degree, I was employed as a student recruiter for a local college in Dallas, Texas. During sales training, I learned lessons that remain current in all my customer relationships: Never ruin a hot lead and know the customer’s trigger point. Finding the trigger point is as simple as asking “Why are you calling or meeting with me today?” Every customer has a reason for the decision to do business with you, at your particular location, with your price, and on that singular day. In education, reasons adult students chose to go back to school included that they wanted to do it for their family or kids, they wanted to change the world, or they wanted to go to school to prove to someone who said or believed they couldn’t achieve a higher education.

In relationships, you wouldn’t marry someone you just met. You date for a short while and get to know their likes, dislikes, and interests. It’s the same with customers. When you have found the customer’s decision-making trigger, you can easily put together a strategy that helps you get to the next stage of satisfying them. The goal of sales is to find and finesse your customers’ trigger point. If a customer wants to purchase your product or service because it would make them more productive, it is your responsibility to continually integrate that productivity trigger in conversations by noting how your product or service could help with their productivity. Once the trigger point is outlined, the sale becomes much easier. Your customer has a reason for doing business with you, and it is your responsibility to figure out what that reason is and make that trigger point your key to developing a successful selling strategy.

Sell What Sells

The goal of any campaign is to generate sales. Therefore, the ideal campaign should build trust, influence sales, and generate brand awareness. The trick to selling is to give customers what they want or something better. As a business, you need to focus your marketing campaigns on the services or products which have proven to generate sales. Your business should target and adapt your marketing strategies to highlight what customers want and will purchase, not necessarily what you want to sell. For example, if Product A (the product you least like) sells more than Product B (the product you want to sell), then you need to adjust your business and focus on the product that is generating a profit and sustaining your business.

When I started as a consultant, I worked under the business name Tex Design Studio (TDS) where I worked directly with customers to sell web design, SEO, marketing, and other services which I outsourced to artists and developers. After a few years, I had discovered that my TDS brand was not growing as I would have liked. Customers were calling the business for me, and me only. They were also Googling my name and referring me any not my company to their family and friends. Considering this, I realized I had been trying to push a brand on customers that they did not want. I wanted so badly to grow the company, that I made it difficult for those customers who wanted something entirely different. As I realized this and adjusted to the customers, I stopped pushing TDS and gave the customers the personal brand that they wanted by renaming my consulting agency Elijah Clark and Associates which proved to be much more successful than TDS ever was or could have been.

The customer is the ultimate power broker within any organization. And as the power brokers, they will set your selling price, name (or rename) your business, help you decide which products to sell, and let you know when it’s time to hire or fire employees. Because of the authority in which customers have on the success of your business, you should structure your marketing efforts on identifying and meeting the customer’s individual needs. Those needs must be met within all aspects of your business including price, customer support, and overall value.

Gaining Attention

Cost leadership is a term used to describe a strategic concept that entails creating a competitive advantage in a business/sales market by producing a quality product or service at a better value compared to the competition. Although cost is in the name, value is the major factor in cost leadership. The quality of your product or service may influence your overall value and increase or lower the cost at which you sell your products or services. You don’t always have to sell at the lowest price or match prices, but you should offer competitive prices and value that is beneficial to both the business and the targeted consumer. Most industries are polluted with low-cost and cheap alternatives, so it may be difficult for customers to understand why you don’t lower your price. Your marketing materials and your staff will need to get across to your customers that you offer a better service than your competition. For example, relay to customers that your product is backed by services that add value to the product such as expert advice and dedicated personnel, bundling capabilities, frequent-buyer rewards programs, and education. Base your marketing on understanding the customer’s needs, and adapt and sell toward that point. For instance, a customer who wants to keep costs down is unlikely to select an expensive company to purchase from. For customers seeking quality results, you should focus your sales pitch on your strengths by providing examples, references, and knowledge.

Some methods for influencing customers to purchase include:

  • Persuade buyers they will achieve worthwhile results.
  • Minimize the perceptionof risk by demonstrating experience, building trust, and inspiring confidence.
  • Connect with customers by listening to, and addressing, their needs and desires from your business.

The difficulty of gaining the attention of customers is not whether you are competitive, but how well you know your customers. Trying to please everyone is a difficult task. Your prices will never be cheap enough, and your quality will never satisfy all customers. By focusing your attention on your key customer demographics, you can put together a competitive package at an affordable price for your desired customer group.

Articles and Press Releases

Another form of marketing includes article writing, press releases, guest posting, and video blogging. Consider attending local group events to link up with blog writers and journalists to see if there is an opportunity for you to work together. By attending these events and getting to know local writers, you can build a list of contacts for both writing and distributing your content. You can also find local groups using many resources including Meetup.com, BNI, conferences, trade shows, and by simply asking friends and colleagues for suggestions. In addition to local distribution methods, you should look to distribute your releases within e-mail newsletters, RSS feeds, and using social media networks. Your business should not only release news of big events and happenings within the company, but should also share stories of awards, conferences, products, and other unique marketplace events and activities.

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