Business start-up resources

What is Marketing?

Marketing can appear to be a luxury that no business can afford.

Marketing can also appear to be "fluffy" and just for high powered executives that enjoy expensive lunches in five-star hotels.

But real marketing should be at the heart of every business as marketing is about what customers want from you.

In this article, we'll show you why marketing is important and how you can use it to improve your long-term business profitability.

A Marketing Definition

Marketing in its broadest form is identifying and satisfying customer needs at a profit.

Notice there is no mention of communications or expensive lunches!

Marketing is all about customers. Customers buy your products and services that generate profits for your business. It's people like you and me that you need to focus your efforts on to grow your business.

The only reason someone buys something is to satisfy a need they have at that moment in their life. You need to focus on that customer need even before you try to sell your products.

Identifying the customer need

So what exactly is this customer need?

An Example Product

As an example, let's take a "ready meal" sold in their thousands every day in the supermarket.

The ready meal is designed to serve the purpose of providing a complete meal to satisfy hunger by providing a meal in minutes. The product saves time preparing and cooking a conventional meal.

The Need That's Satisfied

The product saves you time by not having to prepare anything in advance. You don't need to purchase the individual ingredients and put them together by following a recipe. It's all done for you to enjoy together.

The customer need is "I need to satisfy my hunger now, and I don't have the time (or don't want to) prepare and cook my meal".

Needs Rather Than Wants or Benefits

If you can break this "need" down for your customers, you're not only closer to understanding why customers buy from you but probably ahead of most of your competitors. Most companies that don't follow this process end up with poor performing products as a result.

Many organisations begin at the wrong end of the argument. How many times have you heard people with a great idea trying to come up with strategies to find customers to purchase it? Consumers only buy something that satisfies their needs so developing something no-one needs is a waste of time.

Dividing customers into target groups

Although you may have found the exact customer need, there'll be many types of customer in this group with different demographic profiles.

Group by Smaller Segments

You should now imagine the different types of customers that have this need then divide them into smaller groups based on their age, geographic area, professional status and income group.

Breaking down the overall need by customer profile means you'll be able to focus your communication activities much tighter. Laser-focused targeting ensures you're not trying to sell to everyone and communicating to people who don't have a need you're satisfying.

The Segment Needs To Be Broken into Smaller Target Groups

If we take the "ready meal" example from above you might have the following customer profiles:

Segment Description
Too Busy Stay at home mums who are too busy because they are looking after their children.
Limited Time Full-time workers who have a long commute and get home late at night.
Convenience People that are going out in the evening after work and need something quick before they meet with friends or going to the gym etc.).
Time-Poor Office staff who eat their lunch at their desk.
Life-Cycle Single men and women who can't or won't cook a meal for themselves.
Promotions All segments that want a restaurant experience at home purchase the special "meal deals" that include a starter, main course, side dish and wine.

Target Niche Markets First

There are probably a few more segments, but this should give you an idea of how to profile your customer groups. Not every company will be targeting the same segments so you'll be able to start off in a niche market to see how well your product or service sells.

Targeting and then dominating a niche is how many successful large companies begin their growth path. It's far easier to create and deliver to a small group and grow than just be a small player in a large market.

Additionally by doing the above analysis you may find groups of customers you never thought about before that offer opportunities for your business.

That's the basic premise of marketing - focusing on your customer need and understanding their demographic profile.

But do you see how marketing should be at the heart of every business, every business plan and every decision a company makes?

Further Reading