Marketing is understanding who wants what you have to offer and letting them know you offer it. Sales is the final step in marketing.
Although classical marketing dictates that you first consider what the customer wants and then resolve to provide that, a small business owner is better off first considering what they want to provide and why. Small businesses will usually have difficulty prospering if the owner’s answers to “why” questions are different than the customers’ answers; either the owner will have no enthusiasm for providing what the customers want, or customers will have no enthusiasm for buying what the business offers.
A small business owner may find that there are not enough people willing to pay enough money for the products offered to keep the business solvent. In that case the business owner will need to decide whether to go out of business completely or whether to adapt the business enough to appeal to a group of customers that can sustain the business; and even in this decision it is useful to understand the owner’s original motivations for starting a business as clearly as possible. It may be possible to preserve the original reason for being in business even if the form of the business or the nature of the product must change substantially.
Although it sounds very simple to let people know that you offer what they want, people are often not able or willing to give a clear expression to what they want. Consider the market for health and wellness. In such a broad market there must be an interaction of many motivations. Here is one major difference that will sort most of the options into two distinct groups: does the health benefit offered require great effort on the part of the consumer, or not? If so, the buyer believes that contentment must be earned with great effort. If not, the buyer believes that contentment is achieved through ease and comfort.
These are diametrically opposed beliefs that can be held by people who might express only that they “want to be healthy.” So marketing must consider not only what people say but what they have done – the choices they have made among the alternatives they have had in the past – and the motivations and beliefs that are likely to drive those past actions. This is as true of business owners as it is of customers; a business owner might say that they “want to help people be healthy,” without realizing or expressing all of their assumptions about what it means to be healthy.
Because an effective marketing strategy requires getting to the essential motivations of the buyer and the seller, our approach to defining a marketing strategy is based on the “5 Why” investigative method, adapted for motivations rather than processes. We will follow this general outline for projects to increase revenues:
- Understand why you chose this business, out of all the possible businesses that could be pursued;
- Understand whether your customers are more often motivated to avoid trouble (e.g. time or expense) or to gain satisfaction (e.g. specialty or premium product or service);
- Evaluate whether the greater current challenge for the business is customer awareness of the product or customer willingness to pay the asking price;
- Evaluate which methods of communication are most likely to be effective, considering business purpose, customer motivation, and business challenge;
- Determine the measurements or indicators that will be used to evaluate the success of the marketing program;
- Evaluate whether an effective marketing program can be achieved with current resources, or whether additional services are needed.
Projects can be aimed at increasing potential customer awareness, improving the rate of converting potential customers to actual customers, increasing the size or frequency of customer purchases, or increasing customer willingness to accept a price increase. All of these projects require a clear understanding of why you want to be in business and why customers want to buy from you.
We recommend our Contingency Consulting services, which shares the benefits of an improvement project between the employees, the owners, and the consultants. Hourly rates are available for those who prefer more traditional arrangements.