20 Aug 2012
By Angelica Moreno
When most people hear the word “marketing” they think “advertising.” It is a common mistake but for small business owners, it can be a costly one. Whether you have a bridal shop, a hair salon, or a jewelry business, good marketing is critical for success.
Entrepreneurs are passionate, driven people who work hard to make their dreams into a reality. Sometimes, the focus on what they have to offer can overshadow questions that should be driving all business decisions: what is it that consumers are looking for and how can your business uniquely satisfy that need? Answering that question is what marketing is about.
Marketing is based on 4Ps: price, product, place, promotion (advertising). We’ll get into the details but for now, let’s look at the big picture.
To get a better sense of the scope of marketing, think of some of the brands you use on a daily basis – Pantene shampoo, Dove body wash, Colgate toothpaste and maybe a Coke at lunch. Why do you use those particular products? What does using those specific brands say about you? The same marketing principles and practices that made these brands successful and desirable to you, the consumer, can be applied to your small business and help you create a strong relationship with your customers. The marketers who manage well-known brands often describe their jobs as being entrepreneurs – just with someone else’s money.
Small business owners know it’s their money on the line which makes good marketing that much more critical. In essence, a Brand Manager working at Procter & Gamble on Tide has much in common with any entrepreneur. Their goals are the same: grow a business by understanding how consumers think and behave to satisfy those specific needs in a way that is clearly differentiated from the competition, thereby ensuring profitability and solid return on investment.
So those 4Ps: price, product, place, promotion (advertising). Each of these has a vital role to play in creating the consumer perception of what a brand is. They are the tools used to build a brand. Compare the Holt Renfrew to Sears. Both are retailers but the two have very distinct positions in the market. Their brands are clearly differentiated not only through the price points, but also through the products on offer, where these retailers are located and how they communicate with their consumers.
Sears often runs TV ads but when was the last time you saw a commercial for Holts? Clear positioning is essential for any brand or business. It is the hallmark of a strong brand because it allows the brand to become something more tangible; with a distinct personality and tone. It is this image that appeals to consumers and allows them to create bonds with brands. Think about it, when was the last time you switched toothpaste brands? Loyalty and repeat sales are the result of strong brands.
Over a series of articles, I’ll examine the 4 Ps of marketing and how these apply to small businesses. For now, take a look at your business, your competitors and your customers. Have you focused on selling consumers what you have instead of focusing on giving them what they are already looking for? Is your business positioning clear or is it getting lost in the crowd? Marketing is at the core of any good consumer focused business so don’t worry if you can’t afford a TV commercial or a print ad. Start where every purchase decision is made: with the consumer.
Angelica Moreno is a marketing professional who has managed the well-known household brands Becel, Hellmann’s and Sensodyne.