By Kathi Boyle, Program Director, CEED
Marketing is doing what needs to be done to have your product and/or service recognized, found, and appreciated in the market place.
Marketing is the lifeblood of your business. Without it, there will be no sales. As Skip Ross, the author of Say YES to your Potential says “The only activity that will ever help you succeed is the one that you do!” This is certainly applicable in marketing.
In many ways, marketing is a trial-and-error process. It becomes easier to predict what will work when you clearly identify your target market – the population most likely to purchase from you. There are four basic aspects of marketing, often referred to as the “4 Ps of Marketing”: product, price, place, and promotion. Each of these is dependent upon the target market:
- You want a product or service the population needs or wants.
- Your pricing has to be affordable and competitive for the group you are targeting.
- The customer has to have access to the product or service you offer.
- You have to advertise where the customer is looking for the product or service.
Marketing is a major cost of doing a traditional business and these numbers need to be incorporated into your financials in order for you to determine the viability of your business before you open the doors. The biggest challenge with putting together a marketing strategy is the fact that many of the puzzle pieces overlap. For example:
- You must clearly define your product or service before you can identify your target market; but, once you identify your market, you often have to redefine your product to fit their need.
- You cannot determine your price until after you identify your costs; and, some of your costs are determined by your location (West Coast vs. Middle America).
If you are having trouble identifying your target market, you might want to conduct a survey. A survey can be used in many different areas of building your marketing strategy. Depending on the information you are seeking in your survey, you can either do a random survey (for target market information) or a select survey (if you know your market, survey your market). It is not difficult to put together a survey if you follow the rules. However, the survey will be of no value if you ask the wrong questions. The right questions are critical. So, here are a few guidelines for conducting a successful survey:
- Know the main question you want to have answered. Are you trying to identify the population, the location, the pricing, or are you trying to determine where to advertise? You can gather information in each of these areas, but the main questions need to be targeted toward the specific information you need.
- Unless you are willing to pay someone to take the survey, limit your survey to six or seven questions.
- Include no more than one (1) fill-in-the-blank question. A good fill-in-the-blank question would be “What would you expect to pay for (then describe your offering)?”
- Include a “throwaway” answer in most questions – an answer that indicates the person filling in the questionnaire could not be a customer. For example, if a person must be of legal age to use your product or service, a “throwaway” answer would be “Under 18.”
- Provide a confidential place to deposit the survey if there are any personal questions on the survey such as age or income. A closed box with a hole in the top is usually sufficient.
- Provide identical writing implements to increase confidentiality. (If someone fills out the survey in a red or green pen, it is obvious who filled it out!)
For the survey to reveal accurate information, you will need to end up with at least thirty “good” surveys – thirty plus surveys that have no “throwaway” answers on them. This will probably require collecting one-hundred or more surveys.
After you have conducted the survey, take all the “good” surveys, total the number of responses for each answer, divide the totals by the total number of “good” surveys, and this will give you the percentage response for each answer. Obviously, the highest percentage answer wins.
It is easier to find 100 people to take your survey if they are rewarded for doing it. There are many promotion items you can order inexpensively, such as pens, key chains, rulers, or shoe horns. The main criterion is that your contact information be on the handout. One very inexpensive, but effective, promotion idea is to purchase some cheese cloth (net see-through fabric), cut the cloth into approximately five inch squares that will hold two or three pieces of wrapped candy (peppermint, Tootsie Rolls, or Hershey Kisses). Then punch a hole in the corner of your business card, put a ribbon (or leather strap for you guys out there) through the hole, and tie the candy up into a little sack. Anyone willing to do a short survey, gets a sack of candy.
Once you have evaluated the survey results, write out a profile of your most likely customers:
- What age group do they fall into?
- Is gender relevant?
- What is their income level?
- What is their education level?
- Are they married?
- Do they have children?
- Where do they shop?
- What magazines do they read?
- What events are they most likely to attend?
Once you have identified your target market, you can narrow your actual customer down by four criteria:
- The customer must have a special need that your product or service can fill.
- They must have the resources necessary to purchase what you have to offer.
- They must have the decision-making ability to purchase. (This is especially important for a business client.)
- The customer must have access to what you are selling. (This is less of a problem today with computer outreach. However, for some products and services, proximity is important.)
Once your product is clearly defined and your target market identified, you can start to put together your marketing plan. What you have left to do is determine your price, establish your location, and develop an advertising strategy. Go for it!