Dallas Business Consultant Elijah ClarkDallas Business Consultant Elijah Clark

Data Mining and Processing

You can develop business and marketing strategies by analyzing customer patterns and behaviors. In a U.S. study, it was found that 93% of customers use the internet for e-commerce-related activities.[1] In addition to general data mining using the internet, social media was also useful for gathering location-based data about customers and identifying patterns of consumer feedback. Other data mining sources include weblogs, forums, wikis, and social media.

Comprehending the needs of your customers can help to establish future direction and define your product status. Additionally, online data mining from social media networks is advantageous for gathering data quicker and easier than surveys and questionnaires. Benefits of data mining include the capacity to better comprehend your customers by knowing and assessing the networks in which they gather. Moreover, data mining is useful for analyzing customer behavior, which can assist in establishing a future course for identifying and implementing your business’s marketing strategies.

 

[1] Flanagin, A. J., Metzger, M. J., Pure, R., Markov, A., & Hartsell, E. (2014). Mitigating risk in ecommerce transactions: Perceptions of information credibility and the role of user-generated ratings in product quality and purchase intention. Electronic Commerce Research, 14, 1-23. doi:10.1007/s10660-014-9139-2

Market Research Methods

Marketing research knowledge has significantly increased in response to growth in disruptive innovations including the internet and technology development. In my experience, I have found that market research has been essential when repositioning my business to support product advancement, and in helping discover marketing opportunities and expanding market shares through various conveyance channels. Additionally, marketing research has helped influence the performance and effectiveness of my marketing strategies by helping to find my ideal customer with little error and without wasting time and resources on customers that were never going to purchase.

To help with analyzing markets, there are two useful forms of marketing research; primary and secondary.

Primary Research. This is a research methodology where you interact with your customers and gather as much information as you can directly from them. The information is generally collected through surveys, questionnaires, feedback forms, and interviews.

Secondary Research. This research relies on information which has been collected by others (blogs, previous researchers, data channels). You should conduct this type of research by collecting and analyzing articles, web pages, and books as references for the collected research data.

Phenomenology. A phenomenology research method uses analysis to capture individual customer experiences. This method is used for unfolding customer experiences by examining the uniqueness and commonalities of events and circumstances. The data collection techniques used in phenomenology research include in-depth analysis, documentary, and observation.

Quantitative, Qualitative, and Mixed Methods

When conducting research, you should first decide the method of research you intend to use. Research study methodologies are characterized as either qualitative, quantitative, or a combination of both, which is referred to as mixed methods. Of these methods, none can be considered the best method without factoring in the goals and objectives of your research.

I know it may seem a bit overwhelming, but understanding research methods are critical if you desire a certain outcome for your marketing efforts. For example, when I’m putting together an AdWords campaign, I would rather put together my campaign based on data collected from a quantitative method versus a qualitative method. Otherwise, I would waste time and money guessing what to do based on trial and error. A quantitative research method is better for helping to pinpoint your customer and develop a more effective marketing campaign.

Quantitative. A quantitative research method is beneficial for collecting data in the form of tests, reliance, probability theory, and surveys for analyzing statistical hypotheses that relate to your business, marketing goal, or research questions. A quantitative research method is best used when you want to analyze numbers. For example, you could use a quantitative approach when sending out a survey where you expect to get the survey results in numerical format, or if the survey has multiple choice questions.

Qualitative. Qualitative research consists of using real-world experiences and interpreting the phenomena. Unlike quantitative research, a qualitative examination is non-measurable. This research method can be used to help you understand and discover experiences, perspectives, and insight of your customers. An advantage of a qualitative approach is that the study participants are not constrained to a predetermined set of responses such as those in multiple choice or numerical questions. Meaning, through qualitative research, the participants would give their broad perception versus clicking a checkbox or radio button like in surveys.

Unlike a quantitative method, a qualitative examination technique can help to assess why customers behave a certain way. The method also helps in discovering boundaries that influence thought by breaking down points of interest and gathering information from in-depth sources. A quantitative method often makes the assumption that there is a singular truth that exists, which does not include human perception. A drawback of using a quantitative approach to collect data is that it is expensive considering the amount of time needed to collect and analyze the data.

Mixed Methods. Mixed methods are useful when you want to combine qualitative and quantitative methods by linking their differences. The key principle of mixed methods is that various forms of data can be collected by using multiple strategies and methods. Mixed methods can assist in reflecting complementary strengths and weaknesses of qualitative and quantitative methods, and produce opportunities for approaches with weaknesses by correcting method biases.

Determining whether to use a qualitative or quantitative method is dependent upon the importance of how you desire to collect your data. Simply stated, qualitative techniques define and describe while quantitative techniques estimate and quantify. When creating a new marketing strategy, neither qualitative nor quantitative measures are more important than the other when determining value and sales. If you are confused on which method to use, testing both measures will help you find the best outcomes.

Marketing Research

It is difficult to be both a specialist in your profession and an expert in understanding your current and potential customers. If your expertise is in being a chef or hair stylist, you shouldn’t expect to launch a top-notch website or marketing campaign using analytics, data analysis, or customer insight without actually taking the time to understand marketing research in the same way that you learned your profession. In developing marketing strategies and enhancing your knowledge, it is essential to conduct market research to better comprehend your customer base and their needs. Like any profession, effective marketing requires time and dedication to gain the experience necessary to properly research and analyze your customers, considering they do not always think, act, believe, or have the same priorities or values as you. The keys to understanding how to grow your business are in researching your industry and target consumer group. Once you have researched your customers and analyzed the data, you need to develop a targeted strategy to grow sales. Only then will your marketing efforts and business flourish.

Marketing Strategy

Marketing plans are crucial for starting and growing your business. A good marketing plan will help your business identify target customers and generate a plan to reach and retain those customers. The marketing plan can be a roadmap to gaining customers and improving organizational success if done properly. Additionally, this strategy can help to define your desired customer by targeting their precise needs based on their demographic profiles which are helpful in identifying targeted customers and creating focused advertisements aimed directly at those prospective customers.

Strategy Development. Carefully developing your marketing strategy and performance will help keep your market presence strong. Without planning, you could potentially waste time and money targeting the wrong audience. Effective marketing is often based on the importance of how your customers perceive your business, and has two important principles:

  • Your business policies and activities should be directed toward satisfying customer needs.
  • Profitable salesvolume is more important than maximum sales volume.

There is no one method of creating a flawless marketing plan. The most effective tried and true method is taking the time to do the necessary research and stay updated on your market and target consumer groups. Monitoring population shifts, legal developments, and local economic situations can help to identify problems and discover opportunities for your business. Monitoring your competitors’ successes and failures is also helpful in devising your marketing strategies.

Marketing Message. The marketing message is the heart of a marketing plan. It details the business’ plan for the marketing materials, how the company plans to achieve its marketing goals and the tactics that will be used to meet them. In addition, the marketing message determines how your business intends to communicate its message to customers. When creating your marketing message, make certain that you focus on how you want your company to be perceived by its customers. Do you want customers to view your business as having good prices, customer support, or quality service? Once you determine your marketing message, you will know the next steps to take for your business.

Distribution. A critical point of your marketing plan is its plan of distribution. The distribution plan details the channels and processes through which customers can make purchases and how your business will reach new customers. The distribution strategy of the plan is considered one of the most important sections of the plan. Examples of an effective distribution strategy include tactics utilizing television, trade shows, and online advertising.

Strategy Milestones cover the business’ major events and achievements that need to occur to keep your strategy on track for success. Milestone events are strategically important for your business and provide an outline of dates and timeframes as to when the events should take place. Additionally, the milestones should be tracked and analyzed with real results. Not sticking to the plan and milestones will likely cause your strategy to fail, particularly, in reaching its expected completion date.

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.

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