Marketing for Small Business
Having been involved in sales and marketing in one form or another for most of my working life, it still amazes me that “marketing” is still commonly considered to be another term for sales promotion and advertising, and in the online age the definition seems to be shrinking still further. In reality, marketing consists of a wide range of activities that touch almost every part of any business, and in this blog I want to cover marketing for small business. The basic elements of marketing are considered to be the 4 Ps:
- Place (or distribution)
These elements are the variables that businesses can control in order to best satisfy customers in the target market. The following is just a brief description of these elements, each can be considered in great depth.
The product is the physical product or service offered to the customer. Product decisions include aspects such as function, appearance, packaging, service, warranty, etc., and decisions are made by matching those aspects against customer needs and wants, competing products and businesses, and at what point in its lifecycle the product or product group is (growth/mature, etc.).
Pricing decisions need to include assessment of profit margins, competitor pricing, product lifecycle and possible pricing response of competitors. Pricing considerations include not only the list price, but also discounts, financing, and other options such as leasing.
Place (distribution) decisions are those associated with the channels of distribution that are used to get the product to the target customers. The distribution system performs transactional, logistical, and facilitating functions. Distribution decisions include market coverage, channel member selection, logistics, and levels of service.
Promotion decisions are those related to communicating with and selling to potential customers. This includes advertising, public relations, media types, etc.
While these elements of the marketing process, for small business or otherwise, are widely taught, another marketing mix approach is Lauterborn's 4Cs (Bob Lauterborn, professor of advertising at the University of North Carolina, USA), which presents the elements of the marketing mix from the buyer's, rather than the seller's, perspective. It is made up of Customer needs and wants (the equivalent of product), Cost (price), Convenience (place) and Communication (promotion).
Consideration of these factors can be crucial to most marketing decisions, and they also lead to consideration of the role of marketing psychology, where emphasis is placed on understanding how customers think, feel, and select between different alternatives (e.g. brands, products and retailers).
Also key to effective marketing, and especially more so in the online world, is an acceptance of marketing not as a fixed process but as a dynamic one. While the internet has made it easier for customers to research purchasing decisions, it has also made it easier and less costly for competitors, both established and new, to enter your market space and to change their competitive offering.
That means that more than ever you need to regularly assess your own product mix, gather information about how that product mix meets your customers’ needs, what’s happening to pricing in the market, are your competitors introducing new or improved products, etc.
So as you can see, marketing is not just advertising, and it’s not a fixed or superfluous process. Effective marketing for small business is just as important as it is for a large corporation and if we ignore that fact we place our businesses at risk of failure.
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