The Value Proposition

Why should a consumer buy from you?

Competitive Advantages

What makes you better than your competition?

Choosing A Differentiation Strategy

You chose a target market, now what?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Marketing 101: The Microenvironment - Competitors

I want to start this week's post with a bit of caution: even though there may not be a lot to write, this part of the Micro-environment is by no means small or light.  In fact, it is complex, requires a lot of thought and study, and must be properly evaluated.  It's your Competitors.

The marketing concept states that in order for your marketing to be successful, your business must provide greater customer value and satisfaction that your competitors.  In other words, you must do more than simply adapt to the needs of your target customers.  Let me state this again:  You must do more than just give your customers what you think they need, or they say they need.  You must gain a strategic advantage by positioning your products and services against your competitors in the minds of your customers.

This is all about positioning.  You have to differentiate yourself from your competitors.

You can't do this unless you study your competition.  You have to study them, their products, their marketing messages, and figure out how to stand out above them.

This takes time and a lot of studying.

Remember, no single competitive marketing strategy is best for all companies and situations.  You need to take into account your size and position compared to your competitors.  Large firms with dominant positions in an industry can use certain strategies that smaller firms don't have the ability to from a resource standpoint (money and manpower).  But being large is not enough.  There are winning and losing strategies for all sized businesses.  Small businesses must find the strategies that give them larger rates of return. 

When is the last time you took a hard look at your competition?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Marketing 101: The Micro-environment - Customers

Next in the Marketing Micro-environment, we come to Customers.

Customers are the key to sales.  If you don't have customers, you can't sell anything. Managers must continually study customer needs and try to anticipate how they are developing so they can meet these needs effectively now and in the future.  However not all customers are the same.  Managers must actively study five distinct categories of customer markets.

Consumer Markets
Consumer Markets are made up of individuals and household units.  These customers buy products and services for their own personal use.

Business Markets
Customers in Business Markets typically purchase products and services that will be further processed or used in their own internal business processes.  These customers are commonly referred to as B2B, or business-to-business customers.

Customers in Reseller markets purchase products and services specifically to resell them to others for a profit.  Well known resellers in the United States are "big box" stores, such as Target or Walmart.

Government Markets
Customers in Government Markets consist of government agencies that purchase products and services from private companies, and provide public services or transfer products and services to others who they deem need them.  Some industries are much more dependent on Government Markets than others.

International Markets
Customers in International Markets are buyers who reside in other countries.  These buyers include consumers, producers, resellers and even governments.

A business will typically sell it's products and services to multiple Customer Markets.  Customer markets can also provide areas for a business to grow into.  Each market requires it's own special strategic marketing to properly "sell" to it's distinct type of customer.  Each Customer tastes and preferences will also change at different rates, and are effected by larger economic factors in different ways at different times.  A good marketing manager will always have a good sense of what is going on in each of the Customer markets he or she is strategically marketing to.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Marketing 101: Microenvironment - Marketing Intermediaries

It's time for Marketing 101.  We're still discussing the Marketing Microenvironment.  This week let's discuss Marketing Intermediaries.

Marketing Intermediaries are businesses that help your company to promote, sell, and distribute your products and services to your customers. They can include resellers, physical distribution firms, marketing service agencies, and financial intermediaries.

Resellers, such as Target or Best Buy, are distribution channel businesses that help your company find customers or make sales to them.  There are now numerous large reseller organizations (think big box such as Target and Amazon) that have enough power to dictate terms, or even shut out other manufacturers (or even you) from larger markets and groups of customers.  It is absolutely important to have great relationships with resellers.  It is a give and take situation.  Often times, especially with larger organizations such as Walmart, you must be willing to follow their pricing or selling guidelines in order to gain access to their customers.  It may cost you money to get your product on their shelves, or be featured in their advertisements.  Unless you have a long, successful relationship with these resellers, you will typically have to supply them product and services on their terms.  In these situations, successful sales of your product in their stores will be what builds leverage for you in the relationship.

Physical Distribution Firms
Physical Distribution Firms help your business stock and move goods to their points of origin and to their destinations, ie: from the factory to a warehouse and then to the stores.  It is often much more economical to rely on these companies, because logistics is their specialty.  To build a logistics team and infrastructure is often very expensive to do from scratch, and is only really necessary when you are moving massive amounts of goods in highly specialized and time critical ways.  If you are manufacturing internationally, make sure you develop a good relationship with a firm that knows the in's and out's and politics of getting product in and out of ports and dealing with customs. 

Marketing Services Agencies
Marketing Services Agencies usually consist of marketing research firms, ad agencies, consultants, and media firms.  These companies exist to help you find and target your customers.  These businesses typically help to fill in the holes in your marketing staff.  Research firms provide you with qualitative and quantitative data on markets and customers.  Ad agencies help provide fresh, outside creative ideas for your campaigns and strategic marketing efforts.  Agencies can bring multiple types of marketing experts to your business without you having to staff people for each discipline.  Consultants can service the role of internal marketing staff on a temporary, campaign or project basis.

The key to using Marketing Services Agencies is to partner with them to help you with your weaknesses.  Whomever you use, make sure they are filling a hole that you haven't filled yourself on staff.  Make sure that they are invested in bringing you results.  You must keep constant tabs on them: are they doing the right work?  Are they investing your dollars properly?  Are they performing at a level that meets your expectations?  Are they truly concerned with achieving success for you?  Do you have a good working relationship with your account executives?

Financial Intermediaries
Financial Intermediaries help you use money.  They typically include banks, credit companies, insurance companies, other businesses that help you conduct financial transactions or insure against the risks associated with the buying and selling of goods and services.

Marketing Intermediaries are a crucial part of the marketing microenvironment.  You must have effective partnerships with these key elements of the microenvironment if you are going to successfully give value to your customers and get value from them.  Now is as good a time as any to evaluate the relationships you have with your marketing intermediaries.