Image courtesy of Chris Sharp at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
As a professional marketer, you would expect me to say that marketing plays a vital role in any business. And I truly believe it does. But what you might not expect me to say is that some marketing spend can end up being money down the drain.
Let me tell you about a business I know that sells to the building trade to explain what I mean. A branch manager in this business decided they needed to give their front office and sales desk a makeover. He introduced a shiny new reception area with great product displays and waited for the extra sales to roll in. Except they didn't, sales actually fell. The branch manager was confused- he hadn't changed his prices, his stock range was very comprehensive, his sales staff were well trained and he had created a much nicer environment for his customers to visit.
So, he decided to ask his customers why they had stopped buying from him. To his surprise, they told him the business had gone too upmarket with the makeover and was no longer for the likes of them. They preferred to go directly to a stock yard and had no interest in sitting in a shiny reception area. In other words in trying to improve his customers' experience the branch manager had actually alienated them.
Upgrading a shopfront or office area is not in itself a poor investment or money down the drain. But it can become one if it is not something customers perceive as being of benefit to them and worse still leads to a decline in sales. What should the branch manager have done to avoid wasting money?
If he had done some market research (i.e. talked to his customers) at the start, he would have understood what was important to them and what made them want to buy from his business rather than a competitor’s. He would then have been able to focus his time and effort on those things that added value and would positively impact their buying decision. Had he followed this process it is unlikely he would have spent time and money on the front office make-over. Customer feedback would have told him that this was not something they valued.
Effective marketing starts with a business:
Properly understanding the environment it operates in.
Identifying what customers want/need
Understanding whether it can meet these customer needs with the existing offer
Identifying how the business can stand out from the competition
From this a business can review each element of the marketing mix from product through to price, promotion and route to market and develop a marketing plan that will optimise the offer and encourage customer preference towards it.
Not to be too negative about the branch manager, good marketing is also about learning from mistakes and trying something different. Following his customers' feedback, the branch manager closed the front office and erected a cabin in the stock yard that the sales staff operated from and customers could go directly to. This was more in keeping with his customers' needs and expectations.....and sales went up.
Understanding the business environment and what customers want is a critical part of making sure marketing is an investment rather than money down the drain.
If you would like to understand more about how to make marketing an investment rather than a cost, please contact me on +44 (0) 7342697677 or firstname.lastname@example.org. to arrange a discussion.