Client-Centric Marketing Plans For
Stronger Marketing 4 P's And SWOT Analysis
The current competitive environment is the most challenging ever. The Internet, Globalization, the speed of change, all contribute to markets that are tough for sellers. Potential customers have limited time to research and consider purchasing decisions. A flood of information from all sides overwhelms them. Many companies do not survive for long in this frenzied world.
A Marketing Plan is critical in applying company resources in the most effective way to sell to customers. Many companies are comfortable in developing their product/service package but some find the marketing task daunting and tackle it reluctantly. They may start with a SWOT analysis. They consider the Strengths and Weaknesses of their product/service versus the competition. What are the Opportunities? Where are the Threats? Or they may review the Marketing 4 P�s to help them succeed. The 4 P's are
- P #1 -- Product
- P #2 -- Price
- P #3 -- Publicity
- P #4 -- Place
However in adopting this 1-2 approach, 1 - develop the product/service then 2 - figure out the marketing 4 P's, they may already be accepting an approach, which may be very ineffective.
This traditional approach is product-driven or company-centric. We'll make the best mousetrap in the world. Then we'll try to find ways of getting customers to come beating our door down.
The alternative is to be focused on the customers, to be customer-centric. In particular, we first select our particular niche of customers. Then we look at the product/service package to be offered through the eyes of a typical customer from that niche. So we use our niche of customers as our mirror to determine whether our product/service is what they want to buy.
Standing in the shoes of the typical customer in our market niche might seem a small change in perspective. If we instead stand in the company shoes and try to figure out how to sell to this prospective customer, won't we get the same answer? The answer is NO, and in some cases the difference can be the difference between night and day, between success and failure.
This article outlines the customer-centric approach to the Marketing Plan. The steps are very practical and will produce a very different Marketing Plan. Looking at things from the client's point of view provides the very best launch pad for a Sales prospecting and selling approach, which will maximize the company opportunities.
The nature of the world and the nature of markets have changed dramatically with the advent of the Internet. Information flows freely and purchasers can easily get a mound of details on possible purchases. Change is everywhere and people talk about Internet time. A market change, which might have occurred on a time frame measured in years, will now occur against a time frame measured in 3-month periods. Competitors however small can make their presence known on the web. The playing field is much more level. These are all positive aspects of the World Wide Web.
The down side of the web is that very rapidly there is now too much information there and it is increasing exponentially at a staggering rate. Even the best search engines currently catalogue only one sixth or less of sites. So we are seeing an explosion of information flow that is akin to the Tower of Babel. People are becoming stressed at the demands placed on them by this explosion of information. It is difficult for any marketer to be sure that they can send their messages to potential customers and be confident that the messages will get through.
The Market Niche
Given this chaotic world, it is important to apply all your energies effectively to have any chance at all of communicating with your target customers. If you try to sell to everyone, then you will probably end up selling to no one. It is much better to focus on a particular market niche, which is a group of customers who will be the target of your marketing efforts. To really sharpen your marketing efforts, a tight definition of this niche of customers is essential. In many business-to-business sales, it may be possible to create a database of the decision-makers in the client companies. This database is then your niche. This is the only target you will focus on.
This does not rule out that others not in the niche you have selected may become aware of your product/service and may wish to buy. Such fortuitous sales are most welcome but should not divert the aim of your marketing efforts away from your niche market.
There are two checks you should make on your selected market niche. A reasonable target is that EVERYONE in your niche, without exception, should know about your product/service and have a favourable view of it in say 3 years. Your actions and communication efforts should be geared to making this happen. Is this possible? Or is your niche too large so that you will be trying to hit too many people with less than full effectiveness.
The second check is that this niche should be big enough. That means that, with the rate at which niche prospects become aware of your product/service and then buy, the sales growth must produce satisfactory sales revenues to achieve the company goals. A "what-if" analysis done on possible sales scenarios will rapidly confirm whether the chosen niche can fulfill the company's goals.
Once the niche has been selected, the typical prospect in the niche becomes a key in defining the whole marketing strategy. What does that typical prospect really want and how can we make sure that he or she develops the confidence and trust in our company so that they buy from us? We should stand in the shoes of that typical prospect and see what our company and the product/service we offer looks like through their eyes. That niche prospect can become a mirror in which we check out whether what we communicate and what we offer will make the sale happen. The typical steps in a Marketing Plan can be developed with that niche prospect in mind. If we do a SWOT Analysis, then this must focus on this market niche. If we use the Marketing 4 P's then each can be considered with respect to that typical niche prospect.
Swot Analysis and the Competition
In our SWOT Analysis, the analysis of the Strengths and Weaknesses of the competition versus our own company strengths is only considered relative to the needs of the target prospects in our market niche. Indeed a better way of doing the SWOT Analysis is to imagine that a typical potential customer is trying to evaluate which of the potential suppliers is likely to be the best supplier. So it is important to try to get into the shoes of that prospect and be very objective in identifying the strengths and weaknesses. Equally the Opportunities and Threats in the SWOT analysis should be considered as they apply to the Market Niche. Sometimes a market niche is not affected or is less affected by some trends that may be having a major impact on the big players in the industry.
The product/service package must be developed with the needs of the niche customers in mind. A target will eventually buy if his or her perception of the product/service package is one which meets their needs and in which they can place their trust. As Peter Drucker said many years ago, "Help is defined by the recipient".
Equally what the potential purchaser is considering buying is their perception of the product/service package, which may be different from an objective evaluation of the package. A target customer's perception of a product/service package is built up of a host of small impressions. Sometimes the most minor features may have an unexpected impact on the total perception of the package. With technical products, the purchaser may not be able to evaluate the technical capability of the product. So other signs and symptoms may be used to infer the inherent quality of the product. If telephone calls are answered badly, or there are delays in replying to e-mail requests, or there are spelling mistakes in the technical documentation, then the purchaser may infer that the same lack of reliability may be present in the product. Often these small details, which cost very little to get right, may have a disproportionate effect on the purchaser's evaluation of the company.
So role-play as one of your target niche customers. Call up your own company anonymously and pretend to be a potential customer. Check whether the perception you build up is one that gives you confidence in the product/service value and reliability.
The price to be charged for products and services should be determined in the light of the niche prospect's likely cost-benefit ratio and the financial ability to pay according to the payment terms. Given the typical niche prospect, this may suggest the need for extended payment terms, lease arrangements or alternatively may indicate a possibility for asking for initial deposits.
Publicity is the toughest section in any Marketing strategy, given the information explosion and the reduced time purchasers have to consider any documentation. This is also where focusing on the typical niche prospects will give the maximum leverage on effectiveness. How do your prospects get their information? What are the most reliable sources of information they use? Are there particular channels (associations, professional services, such as bankers or accountants, etc.) that are the preferred way by which your prospects receive information? Once more, standing in your prospect's shoes will help you best evaluate the ways they will get information most reliably.
"Place" deals with the distribution channels by which your prospects will be able to buy and receive your products and services. Clearly without defining the niche prospects, it is impossible to set up the best distribution channels.
Selling to the Market Niche
With this approach whereby the members of the target market niche help define the Marketing strategy, the selling approach becomes a natural extension of the marketing approach to prospects.
In the "olden days", companies would make good products and then hang a sign outside their store to encourage people to come in and buy. The marketing 4 P's approach could be seen as a way of making that process more effective. By being more visible through the marketing strategy, potential customers are more likely to come into the store. The hope is that by word-of-mouth combined with the publicity program, purchasers will flock through the doors. This process obviously works and may be the only way if you are dealing with retail markets for low-priced items.
However in other cases, there may be a better way. The Market Niche approach has identified the target prospects, in some cases by name where a database can be set up. This links naturally with the concepts in the book, High Probability Selling: Re-Invents the Selling Process. Jacques Werth, the inventor of the approach, suggests that the key to selling is to contact as many potential leads as possible by telephone. Very rapidly, you determine that many of these leads are not potential purchasers on that occasion. So you terminate the call quickly, perhaps indicating that you will call in a few months if appropriate. You spend more time with those who may be potential purchasers, identifying if your product/service meets their needs and if they are willing to purchase from you. In a sense, this links with the notion that sellers do not sell but rather purchasers buy. The HPPS approach accelerates the process whereby live potential purchasers are contacted and buy from you.
The Market Niche approach has already developed a Product/service/Price package best suited to the target customers, has communicated with them effectively through the Publicity program, and arranged that they can easily be supplied with the product ("Place"). So this preferred niche of customers already is well positioned for the sales process described in the HPPS approach.
Marketing is acknowledged to be the most challenging activity for any company. The increasing complexity of markets and the speed of change means that a shotgun approach will not be effective. The rifle approach involved in targeting a Market Niche ensures that the best possible impact will be achieved.
If you would like this approach to work for you, SMM will be happy to assist you. Our help can be configured to meet exactly the needs you have. Our strengths, experience, creativity and practical common sense can complement those of your company. So write us a Message today on what you're looking for without obligation.
Series Author: Barry Welford
If you would like to read more on SWOT analysis, you may find Newsletter #40, "SWOT That Company Name", of interest. This analyses some major company names such as Yahoo! within the SWOT framework. The Internet has caused some major reweighting of the factors involved.
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