The key to successful marketing is finding the right marketing strategy—including your message, timing, and method of communication—to reach and influence your consumers.
Marketing is the process of teaching consumers why they should choose your product or service over those of your competitors, and is a form of persuasive communication. It is made up of every process involved in moving a product or service from your business to the consumer. Marketing includes creating the product or service concept, identifying who is likely to purchase it, promoting it, and moving it through the appropriate selling channels. There are three primary purposes of marketing:
- Capturing the attention of your target market
- Persuading a consumer to purchase your product
- Providing the customer with a specific, low-risk action that is easy to take
If the objective of your business is to sell more products or services, then marketing is what helps you achieve that goal. Anything that you use to communicate with your customers in a way that persuades them to buy your products or services is marketing, including advertising, social media, coupons, sales, and even how products are displayed.
Four Stages of Marketing
Companies must go through multiple stages of marketing to ensure their products or services are ready for selling.
- Ideation: Marketing starts when you develop an idea for a product or service. Before launching a product or services, you must decide what you are selling, how many options are available, and how it will be packaged and presented to consumers.
- Research and testing: Before you can take your idea public, you should perform marketing research and testing. Marketing departments usually test new product concepts with focus groups and surveys to gauge consumer interest, refine product ideas, and determine what price to set. Researching your competitors can help you set an optimal price and generate ideas for positioning your brand in an existing market.
- Advertising: The information you gather in your research will help you define your marketing strategy and create an advertising campaign. Campaigns can include different forms of media, events, direct advertising, paid partnerships, public relations, and more. Before beginning an advertising campaign, set concrete benchmarks that you can use to measure how effective that advertising campaign is.
- Selling: Determine where and how you plan to sell to customers. Consumer product companies, for example, sell to wholesalers who then sell to retailers. In the industrial market, the buying process is longer and involves more decision-makers. You may sell locally, nationally, or even internationally, and some companies only sell their products or services online. Your distribution and sales channels impact who buys your products, when they buy them, and how they buy them.
The Four Ps Model of Marketing
The four stages of marketing can also be mapped onto another popular marketing model known as the Four Ps of marketing. The four Ps in this model are product, price, promotion, and place.
- Product: The procedures you have in place to ensure that your products are ready for selling. Your product (or service) should fill a gap in the market, meet the needs of customers, and stand out from the competition.
- Price: The cost of purchase, including both the sticker price as well as less quantifiable trade-offs that a customer must be willing to make when they purchase your products.
- Promotion: The information you give consumers through targeted advertising to generate interest in your products. Promotions usually have one of two purposes: generate leads or initiate actual purchases.
- Place: Refers to how and where products are sold. All distribution decisions are part of your overall marketing process.
Types of Advertising
There are many kinds of advertising that you can use to promote your business, teach customers about your products, and generate sales. Print, radio, and television campaigns are types of advertising, as are direct mail, email, and internet marketing. If you have a website, it should be optimized for search to help customers find it through search engines like Google, Yahoo!, and Bing. Newsletters, press releases, and articles are also forms of marketing used to capture leads and generate sales. Some companies also use referral marketing, where satisfied customers refer others (often for a reward) to increase business.
The rise of social media platforms has increased the importance of social media marketing, including connecting with customers on social media by persuading them to follow your business, partnering with social media influencers through product placement or paid sponsorships, and paying for advertising on platforms like Facebook or Instagram. The types of advertising that you choose will depend on your budget, type of business, and the preferences of your ideal customers.
The Marketing Lifecycle
Advertising, or promotion, is only one component of your marketing plan. The marketing process begins with the idea for your product and continues until that product is in the hands of a consumer who bought it. Even after a customer has made a purchase, your marketing shouldn't end—a portion of your advertising should be targeted at current customers to ensure they remain customers and increase loyalty.