Darren Strom

Contrary to some people’s perception, marketing is not what you do to persuade unwilling people to buy, rather it is all about meeting the consumer’s needs and communicating with them through design, words and strategy.

An organisation’s most powerful tool is marketing and if used effectively it can be the difference between a business being successful or failing.

David Ogilvy, a British advertising executive who was widely hailed as “The Father of Advertising” once said:

“In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative, original thinker unless you can also sell what you create”

Marketing is something that most business people ignore because they are either too scared to deal with it, do not know how to go about it, or worse still they have attempted but have failed. Just mentioning the words marketing strategy, target audience or lead generation, is enough to make most business people break out in a cold sweat. It is much more comfortable to wait for “word of mouth” to do the work for you, and that is more often than not a futile approach, unless of course you have done some proactive marketing to start with in order to actually create the word of mouth referrals.

Historically, marketing was shouting your wares in a market, and the one that shouted the loudest sold the most fish!

Prior to the 20th century one’s marketing activity did not have to be very sophisticated. The “market place” was not as saturated and one who could afford to engage in any sort of marketing activity was in a good enough position to attract clients. This is evident just by looking at the adverts of the Victorian times.

An advert for Bunter’s Nervine, a toothache remedy, published in 1896, reads – “‘Bunter’s Nervine, Cures Toothache instantly. Relieves neuralgia instantly. Prevents decay, saves extraction.”

That is obviously a much exaggerated promise and wouldn’t buy
clients in today’s market but it might have worked back then.

Nowadays one has to be much more savvy with one’s marketing. We, like the fish vendor in the market, also need to shout above the “noise”, but in a figurative sense; the “noise” being the wealth of other marketing messages that people are being bombarded with from all different angles

So let’s assume you are ready to take the plunge:

David Packard , the co-founder of Hewlett-Packard said “Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department”

For starters you have to define your target market.

If you don’t understand who wants or needs your products or services, how will you know where to find these people, and what to say to appeal to them?

Many business owners have the mindset that if they focus their attention on targeting their marketing, they will lose opportunities. The strange thing is that the exact opposite is true. You will gain a whole lot more opportunities than you will lose. . The starting point to define your target market is to understand the challenges that you need to address. Once you have a good idea what these are, you can start to work out who is most likely to benefit from your product and how it or your service meets their needs. Ask yourself: What are their needs? What are their obstacles? What do they need in order to be successful in their business?

Something else you can do to refine your target marketing is to see who has already bought your product or service. You can gain valuable insights by releasing the product in a trial phase

Thirdly look at your competition. I am not suggesting you copy ideas or the marketing approach of your closest or largest competitors, but evaluating the competition’s marketing strategy can help you create your own strategy. Bear in mind though, you have to find a way of differentiating and what your offering as unique or better still, approach the marketing message from a completely different angle to your competitors, bearing in mind what added value you have to offer the consumer.

Are you assuming that you know your market?

Rather than make the assumption that most people will need your service or product, reach out to groups of potential customers to get a more realistic composition of your audience and narrow your marketing efforts. You can also conduct surveys, do man-on-the-street type interviews, or organise small focus groups. Focus groups can save you time and money by identifying successful ideas and even more importantly eliminating the disasters.

Don’t try to be “all things to all people”, rather if you sense that you may miss out on another market sector try to target a few separate niches with different marketing. There is nothing wrong with using a process of trial and error if you are not sure who will best receive what you are offering.

Lastly, your retailing strategy can help determine your target market: Will you have a store, a website or both? Will you be marketing only in your home country or globally? For example, an online-only business may have a younger customer than one with stores. A brick-and-mortar business will only target your market to people in the neighborhood.

A word about Client retention – Repeat customers are your best customers as they are 60%-70% more likely to buy from you again – and if you have made them really happy they will sing your praises to others. To conclude let us learn a lesson in Marketing from the collapse of the iconic Kodak brand. For 40 years, Kodak captured 90% of the US film market and was one of the world’s most valuable brands until it collapsed in 2012. Kodak’s story of failing has its roots in its success, which made it resistant to change.

Kodak’s main mistake was the age old thinking that marketing is the art of selling products, what we know and Kodak learnt with hindsight that marketing is about providing a company’s customer base value satisfaction and keeping the company relevant to their customers’ needs.
Darren Strom is CEO of  VMAL Ltd – a London based branding, marketing and web design company and can be reached by email at darren@vmal.co.uk or on 0208 133 3527