Developing the right marketing mix is essential to business success. There are two basic steps you must take before developing the marketing mix. The first is to identify your overall goal or marketing strategy. The second is to identify your target audience. Then you can proceed to develop the marketing mix.
What makes a good marketing mix?
A typical marketing mix is based on the four Ps:
- Product – the product or service you are selling
- Price – what it will cost the customer
- Place – where you will sell it or how the customer will receive it
- Promotion – what communication techniques you will use to inform the public about your business.
Other factors you must consider when developing your marketing mix will increase the number of Ps to eight, and add one S. The next P is:
- Positioning – the unique place you hold in customers' minds.
To position your business, ask yourself what is different or unique about you, compared with your competitors. Do you provide better quality, more product and value for the price, or do you simply fill an underserved need in the community?
These are some of the ways to position your business. This can also be considered as part of your differential.
The next P is:
- People – those who will work for you, sell your product or deliver your service, and the vendors who will supply you.
The last two Ps are:
- Profits – what you plan to make, and
- Politics – those laws and regulations that will govern the way you do business.
The S is probably the most important area for continued business with your customers, sometimes categorised as repeat business, but many companies seem to forget about it. It is:
You cannot and certainly will not succeed today without providing excellent customer service.
We discussed earlier how you must know who your customers are, what they need, want and expect, what you must do to satisfy those needs and wants while exceeding their expectations, and then have a system in place to resolve any customer complaints easily.
It is even suggested that your customer service should not necessarily be planned just for the customer "complaint", but that you should have a plan for customer service to be commenced at the first point of contact with the customer before they actually purchase.
Decide your performance goals
Before you finalise the marketing mix for your business, you must first specify the performance goals for your business so that the marketing mix can help you achieve them.
You should already know who your target market is and what niche you want to service; you can prepare the marketing mix to meet those needs. Ask yourself what financial and other business goals, such as expansion or increased profit margins, you want to achieve. Then develop the marketing mix with these goals and objectives in mind.
To ascertain these goals before setting your marketing mix, answer the following nine questions.
- What does the business want to achieve this year?
- How much money do we want to make? What profit margin do we want to achieve?
- Where is the product life cycle and what plans are necessary to compete in this cycle?
- Who is our target market and where do we fit into their thinking?
- What time frame have we set for achieving our business and financial goals?
- What resources do we have to use to develop the marketing mix?
- Are there any legal ramifications or requirements related to our product or service?
- Do we have all the required licences, patents, trademarks and registrations for our product or service?
- Does our product or service infringe any currently trademarked or registered product or service? If so, what plans are in place to overcome this obstacle?
Considerations for developing your marketing mix
Consider the following questions for each product or service you offer:
- Target market selection/market segmentation characteristics
- Products/programmes/services offered
- Distribution channels (accessibility and availability)
- Price (including discounts, incentives and payment terms)
- Types of communication
– Public relations
– Business publications – brochures, flyers
– direct mail
– personal selling
– community service.
Every product/service, or every different market you serve, should have its own marketing mix.
Marketing action plans
Another easy method you may want to use to help you develop both your marketing mix and your promotional mix is the marketing action plan, or MAP. It is a map of what you want to achieve and how you plan to do it.
The headings below will help you develop your MAP. Design one MAP for each goal or strategy.
- Goal: Your goal is a non-specific statement about what you want to achieve.
- Objective: Your objective is a very specific, action-oriented and measured statement of what you will achieve in a certain time frame.
- Actions: Your actions are the tactics you will use.
- Leader: The leader is the person responsible.
You will notice that the first letters of the above headings also spell out "goal" – just a reminder to keep you focused.
The promotional mix
The next thing to consider is the promotional mix – the methods you will use to bring your marketing mix into being.
The promotional mix consists of four elements:
- Advertising: This means paid media placements – the element people are most familiar with.
- Public relations: This includes all publicity efforts. It is sometimes thought that PR is free, but there are costs in staff time, programme development time, and meeting the media.
- Selling: This includes both face-to-face visits and telephone sales.
- Sales promotion: This has to do with all the ways and means to move your product or service into the chosen marketplace.
Advertising is paid media space – in print, on radio or on television. The question you need to ask yourself is whether or not you have the money to advertise. Media people will tell you that if you don't advertise, you will not succeed. This is not quite true. Advertising is just one method of communicating about your business to the public.
If you want to advertise, you need to develop a concurrent theme for the ads that you will place. Keep this theme in place for a period of time to allow people to become familiar with your offering.
You may also want to consider hiring a professional to create your advertising campaign. Remember, though, that any campaign must be considered within the context of your marketing plan, with the sole purpose being to get you more customers. You don't want an agency creating award-winning campaigns that do not sell your product or service.
Prepare a media schedule
Once you have your ads developed, it is advisable to prepare a monthly, quarterly and annual media schedule. These are the arrangements for advertising you will make with the media. For example, you may use just newspaper advertising one month; radio the second and television the third. Your media schedule will detail where the advertising will appear, when, and at what cost.
Measure the effectiveness of your ads
Whatever and however you advertise, code your ads in such a way that you can measure their effectiveness. Having ads that do not bring in business is not very effective.
If you are running multiple ads or using more than one media channel at a time, you need to know which ads are bringing in the business. This is why you have to code them. If it is a coupon, put a number on it, relevant to that ad, to indicate the date it appeared and the newspaper it appeared in. If it is a radio or television ad, have the caller ask for a special person.
There are many ways to track your ads; the above are just a couple of examples. Some of the simpler methods, including cards, flyers, pamphlets and brochures, are a very effective, inexpensive way of advertising your product or service.
Be marketing SMART
Like everything else we do in business, we have to set goals when we set about marketing. The best goals are SMART ones:
Specific: Exactly what do you want to achieve?
Measurable: How will you measure the result?
Achievable: Can you take the necessary actions to make it happen?
Realistic: Don't make a wish list. You must be able to commit to it.
Time bound: What are your deadlines or milestones?
Effective advertising and brand management
The whole organisation must be "attuned" to its marketing messages.
- Many talk about this, few do it.
- Be noticed. Because if you aren't, nothing else matters.
- Recognise changes in your brand's progress, because a brand is never still. Its position in the market changes constantly.
- Market inconsistencies on a brand are sometimes beyond an advertiser's control. So you need to constantly make changes when needed.
- Be different – not a "me-too" company. All companies – even market leaders – should consider their difference if they seek dramatic and continued long-term business.
- Great brand management can create massive business growth. It adds (or saves) jobs, grows real wealth, offers better consumer choice. You should aim for nothing less!
- Excite the market. It doesn't deserve to be bored by your messages.
- Be honest with yourself. Remember: if the ads aren't working, it's nobody's fault but yours. Why? Well, if you're getting great work from your ad agency, and you're turning it down, that's your fault. And if you're getting inadequate work, and you're still employing them, then that's your fault too.
So remember this acronym:
A - Attuned
B - Be noticed
R - Recognise
I - Inconsistencies
D - Different
G - Growth
E - Excite
Develop the brand, develop the business
First of all, it doesn't need to cost a lot of money to produce a consistent and well managed brand. It will, however, involve an amount of time, and planning what is important to the business.
What are the core values of your business?
Try to find what makes the business special. What is the unique selling point (USP)? If possible, incorporate this into the business name, logo and branding.
The key is to have something that is representative and informative. If, for example, you sell hand gliders, incorporate this into your logo, either directly or indirectly, so that people relate to what you do immediately. The goal of a brand image is to ensure that the product is remembered; but, more importantly, it must be for the right reasons, i.e. for what the business does.
Do you have too many logos?
Some companies use three or more logos. In real terms this means extra costs when it comes to printing, clothing and website. Also, if the logo differs heavily, people may not recognise the company as a distinct brand. Reduce the number of logos in order to save money and give the brand a consistent image.
Your house style
Keep records of what fonts, graphics and even copy (words) you use. If a business uses one font in print and another on the web, it can appear that it is not bothered about its branding. With printing, use a consistent colour scheme; it helps with the brand recognition.
Stick to a consistent brand, then reap the benefits. These include a great brand presence, better customer loyalty, and the appearance of a well managed business.
Your corporate image
It is becoming ever more necessary to have a properly designed corporate image. This image is fundamental in tying together all the different aspects of a company's marketing strategy. A corporate image enables the company to build recognition and loyalty with its clients and employees.
The benefit of being recognised through your corporate logo is paramount for increasing your business bottom line. Customers feel comfortable dealing with an organisation that shows a structure in its marketing, and the logo is a major key to the recognition of the company.
Step into the mind and the shoes of the person reading your copy. Everything you write should be designed to meet their needs, wishes, desires, hopes, fears and dreams.
Keep it simple. Don't use language or sentence structure any more complicated than you would use in conversation with someone over dinner.
Benefits, benefits, benefits
You must focus on the benefits of what you are offering, rather than the product or service.
When you buy a new hi-fi, you're probably not interested in how it was made or how many wires it has (the product); you're interested in how it will sound (the benefit).
If you buy a new chair, you don't really care if it took three years for a man in China to make it (the product); you're interested in how comfortable it's going to be (the benefit).
So all of your copy should focus on the benefits.
Remember the magic word – you. By continuing to use the word "you" in your copy, you are forcing yourself to have a personal conversation with the client or person reading it.
Follow this classic rule of copywriting and you can't go far wrong. AIDA stands for:
All of your copy, whether it's a letter, brochure or email, should follow this simple process. First you need to get their attention – normally in a headline. Then create some interest. You then need to turn the interest into a real desire for your product or service.
All of this is useless if the reader does not take action. So make it very clear what action people need to take to begin a relationship with you.
2. Public Relations
PR is probably the most misunderstood part of the promotional mix. Many people think PR is free, or at least very inexpensive. This is a mistake. Whenever you see a story about someone or some company, you can be sure that a great deal of time and effort went into getting that placement.
Another mistake people make about public relations is thinking that just because a press release is sent in to the newspaper, something will be printed. It is true that many pieces in the newspaper have come from press releases. But the release needs to have something newsworthy to offer. Editors will not look at self-serving press releases that are not newsworthy or do not benefit the community.
You should develop a public relations/press release schedule the same way you develop a media schedule for advertising. Make certain, though, that when you send out the press releases, they contain news, not just frivolous matter.
Structuring your press release
Keep the release to two pages at the most. Make sure you identify it as a press release, either across the top or in the upper right hand corner. On the left side of the page, put the date the release was written, who the contact person is, and day and evening phone numbers.
Then, come back to the right side of the page and put the date the release must be used by, or type "For Immediate Release". Next, skip two spaces (your entire release should be double spaced) and put in the title, underlined.
The next line begins with your geographical location – city/town and county or state. As you start to write the release, be very specific. Put the who, what, when, where and how in the first one or two paragraphs. The rest of the release goes from the specific to the general.
Editors will edit your release from the bottom up. So you must get everything that is important for you to say in the first two paragraphs. If the release continues on to a second page, put "More" at the bottom. At the end of the release, put three # signs (or, in the US, the number 30) to show the reader the release is finished.
This part of the promotional mix is the sales effort. It can refer to you personally or to your sales staff. You should plan the number of calls you want your salespeople to make on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
If you don't have one, create an outline of your sales presentation, as well as the sales forms the staff are required to complete. Create presentations for the salespeople to use to get the prospects' interest. There are many methods of doing this in this modern technological era: PowerPoint, podcasts, websites and blogs, to name but a few.
Telemarketing or telesales and direct mail are other forms of direct selling. If you are going to use these methods, make sure what you are doing will not turn the customer off your sales pitch. Many telemarketing companies are turning the market against this method because of the way they do it and, even more, when they do it.
Remember that only you can decide if a personal sales call is necessary for your business or if telephone sales or direct mail is more effective.
If your staff are not trained in all aspects of the selling process, you should give strong consideration to getting them trained.
It has been said that good salespeople are born. While this could be true in many cases, a person can become one of the best salespeople you have providing they have the right training and follow the aspects of the training through to closing the sale. If they do this regularly enough they will become successful and be your best asset in the business.
Anchoring means building a strong foundation to help your prospect to change a situation. You'll find out what motivates that prospective buyer to work with you.
The basis of this technique is: "Today's problems affect performance."
- Today means that you understand the prospect's current situation, and what is happening to them today. Ask them questions to find out what they are working on.
- The second step is identifying problems surrounding their products or services. This isn't always easy: sometimes we don't acknowledge the problems we have and can't articulate them.
- The third step is to find out what effect these problems are having on the prospect's business. Are they affecting the company?
- If so, what are the negative impacts on performance because of these problems – and the consequences?
Have a look at the following example.
- Today, a uniform retailer has 23 salespeople using Outlook or paper-based contact management.
- The problems related to this are that there's no sharing of sales data, there are no sales reports, and management can't predict sales volume. Sales people aren't focusing on selling.
- The way it is affecting the business is that revenues fluctuate and there have been no pay increases for two years.
- Poor performance is the result: sales people aren't learning, new tools to help the selling process are not being developed, and there's animosity between sales and management.
By anchoring a prospective client, you are more likely to close the sale. You create rapport with the prospect – it's a good way to get to know them, and a great topic of conversation.
Using this technique also shows you care about the prospective client and their needs.
Listening and creating empathy are key attributes of top salespeople. And, of course, if a prospect is properly anchored and worth the investment, it is easier to close the sale.
Questions to use when anchoring a sale
To anchor a prospective client such as the uniform retailer mentioned previously, you might ask the following questions.
- Tell me about some of the processes you are using. How do they work?
- Why do you have that number of salespeople?
- What sort of things are you doing to improve sales or turnover?
- What problems are you having in the company (i.e. with your sales)?
- What management problems are you having personally?
- What management problems are you having as a team?
- How are people handling these problems?
- What's the atmosphere like in the company/team?
- How consistent are your sales?
- What's your turnover of people?
- How is the performance of the sales team, given these problems?
- With sales being down, how are things affected?
- What sorts of things are helping your sales team perform better?
4. Sales Promotions
Sales promotions are the special programmes you will offer the public to sell more of your product or service. They are usually time constrained – for example, a coupon that must be used by a certain date.
Sales promotions are also used to move products that tend to be slow sellers, are going out of season, or are temporarily overstocked.
Service providers often use sales promotions to create new business or entice former clients back into the business.
Choosing the right sales promotion
Sales promotions take many forms, and you must decide which is best for your business. The most popular promotions are a discount coupon for your service or a special offer for a particular time period. If you use either one, make sure the promotion expires at a certain date so that you can track its effectiveness.
Consider which type of sales promotion you can use in your business. You will need to think about your budget and your target market, and ask: "Can I afford it, and is this going to reach the people I want to reach?"
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.