In last week’s Atlanta Business Chronicle, Ken Bernhardt discussed the changing role of the Chief Marketing Officer – from one who just focuses on marketing, to one who should serve as a strategic adviser to the CEO.
The key to achieving the strategic adviser role is getting closer to the consumer.
Bernhardt goes on to discuss the role of research in gaining that consumer insight even in product development, yet “approximately half of companies surveyed use research in the product development process”.
When was the last time you spoke with your audience? Reaching consumers is now easier than ever with social networking tools like blogs, Facebook, and Twitter.
Monitoring what they say about your products and services can provide great insight on how to position your services or develop new products. It allows you to have an ongoing pulse on your market.
Sometimes more formal research is needed beyond monitoring consumer feedback. An investment in research can easily pay for itself by allowing your company to better focus resources on things consumers want or marketing your product more effectively. And with online research tools, market research is more cost effective than ever.
If you can do only one thing to better market your business, talking with your audience should be that one thing.
Two years ago, who would have thought Coke and Energizer could ever be cast aside by retailers?
Well – it’s happening.
Costco recently announced it was no longer selling Coca-Cola products as a result of a price battle. CVS is dropping most Energizer products and will only carry Duracell and its private label. Following this trend, Wal-Mart continues to move towards its product mix goal of one top brand, one value brand and its private label.
Costco is betting people will continue to come to Costco and buy alternatives to Coke. CVS has used its customer shopping data to predict a minimal sales drop if they no longer sell Energizer.
What should all businesses take away from this?
Few brands are indispensable to the customer. In fact, you know your customers could find a pretty good alternative if you were no longer in business.
So what can you do to become as close to indispensable as possible?
Know your customers
- Why do they choose to buy your product/service?
- What do you offer them that they can’t get anywhere else?
- Why do they buy from your competitors if you aren’t available?
- What do your competitors offer that you don’t?
- How are they using your product or service?
- How do they use your competitor’s product or service?
(These questions can be easily answered through one-on-one interviews and quantified through online research.)
Know your competition
- What are they offering that you don’t?
- What makes them unique in the market?
- Do they partner with other companies?
Upon learning about your customers, develop service offerings that they can only get from your company. Some ideas could be:
- Special hours
- Rewards programs
- Loyal customer specials
- Packaged service offering
- Something extra every time they do business with you (for example, a local Chinese restaurant gives you an extra appetizer as their way of saying thank you)
Why no mention of lowering prices on these lists? Making your brand indispensable is not about price; it is about creating value that your audience can not receive anywhere else.
How are you creating value to make your brand indispensable?
Post your comments so others can learn from what you are doing.
If sales aren’t improving then marketing must not be working. It seems like this is the simplest equation in business, but business is never that simple.
Marketing’s role is to drive leads by changing perception, creating desire, communicating a point of difference and enhancing a brand.
Marketing’s job is to get a positively predisposed audience to call for more information, look for your product on a shelf, walk in your store or visit your web site. From there it is up to you.
So how do you know if marketing is doing its job? Set up a tracking system.
Today there are many tools available to help you set a benchmark and track your marketing efforts. Here is a list from typically least expensive to most expensive;
Asking how a person heard about you
- By formalizing this process you will be able to gain significant insight on what marketing tools are working
- When people request more information from your web site have a question that prompts them to tell you how they heard of you
- Google has a free web analytics product that provides you good insight into how people are coming too your web site
- More robust analytics products exist, but these can get costly
Discreet URL/Phone Number
- Track activity of a specific marketing tactic by driving it to a specific URL or 800-number
- If Public Relations is a tactic you use often, using a clipping service to track stories is useful in justifying the expense
- Conducting online searches also help track where your company has been mentioned in the news
- Use promotional offers tied to specific marketing tactics
- Offer will determine the expense of this endeavor
- Annual tracking surveys will identify changes in awareness, perception and usage
Over the next few weeks we will discuss how to implement these tracking programs.
Warning: If you find out marketing is doing its job then have to look at your operations to see why sales aren’t meeting your goals.