It is easy to recommend that you make a regular, objective evaluation of your marketing program. It's far harder to accomplish. The ...
It is easy to recommend that you make a regular, objective evaluation of your marketing program. It's far harder to accomplish. The day-to-day pressures of selling, coping with customers and solving basic business problems make it difficult to conduct an effective marketing appraisal.
Usually, only a crisis forces a company to take a closer look at its marketing program: Competition heats up, a new player enters, market conditions change, sales drop, the company introduces a new product or service, or it needs to increase revenues.
Even then, it's difficult to remain objective. That's why it's helpful to have a set of guidelines to evaluate marketing efforts. By knowing what to look for, it's relatively easy to make a proper evaluation of your current marketing efforts. Any of these red flags indicates a problem:
Price is the driving force in getting sales. Perhaps the clearest indication of poor marketing is using the lowest price to beat the competition. Deep discounting, making special concessions and constantly running "special deals" are all primary indicators that customers perceive your company as just a vendor. Customers fail to perceive any value in doing business with you other than getting the lowest possible price. Of course there is a place for reducing prices periodically. But special sales should be controlled and made an integral part of your total marketing program. When your company's only strategy is to use price to lure customers, it has no marketing program.
An inability to differentiate your company from competitors. After playing the losing look-alike game with the big discounters for years, Sears finally came to its senses and decided to create a unique identity based on style. Today's Sears store is a dynamic series of boutiques, offering customers a specialty shop atmosphere at lower prices. Although the Sears turnaround has been costly, it's on target because it has been based on separating the giant retailer from the big box merchandisers. Whether it's retailing, business-to-business services or industrial products, the fundamental issue is creating a special identity that distinguishes your firm from the competition.
Sales incentive strategies that are constantly changing. The pattern is always jumping from one gimmick to another. Behind it is what can be called a "sales-driven" approach: If everyone just pushes a little harder, the quota will be met. All of these are little more than desperation strategies, based on always taking a reactionary stance. Pick up an idea here or there and the next morning it's this week's "new sales program." Without exception, this gives the competition the upper hand. They set the direction and determine the pace. A marketing-driven company, on the other hand, has a unified plan for communicating its message. It is continually presenting itself in effective ways to customers, prospects, the trade press and the public. As a result of consistent marketing support, the sales operation moves forward with clear direction.
Most of the leads come from the sales staff. Of course salespeople should develop leads, but if this is the primary source of new business there is a serious marketing problem. One of the major objectives of marketing is to create leads and conditions that result in sales. Marketing and sales each have a job to do:
· Marketing creates an environment in which customers want to do business with a company. · Sales utilizes the marketing environment to get orders, whether from existing customers or prospects.
Throwing more and more salespeople at the problem is expensive, inefficient and ineffective. Even the best salesperson cannot be at the right place, at the right time, all the time. Only with a well-developed marketing program is your company's presence known and felt when the customer or prospect is ready to buy, making it possible for the sales staff to enter the picture from a position of strength.
Even longtime customers are saying, "I didn't know you did that." If customers and prospects don't have a clear picture of what your company sells, your marketing has failed. The way insurance is purchased is an excellent example of the problem. Customers buy a life insurance policy from one agent, boat coverage from another and their homeowner’s policy from a third - even though the total package may have been available from the first agent. Banks often have the same problem. Few companies actually maximize the sales potential in their existing customer base, let alone continually attract new customers by informing them of their entire product line. What appears to be a sales deficiency is really a lack of marketing. An inadequate (or nonexistent) customer and prospect database. Your database may be the most accurate way to evaluate a marketing program. Something seemingly as basic as a complete, up-to-date, accessible customer and prospect mailing list is a test few companies pass with flying colors.
Most firms have a customer list, but many of the listings lack specific contact names. Mail is directed to "Purchasing Department" or "Engineering" or "Accounts Payable." There are regular invoices, but no communication with others in the business. No business can exist today without information about its customers and prospects. And acquiring that information requires regular, effective communication. Marketing not only involves your message, but the means by which you share that message.
These red flags signal that problems exist with your company's marketing. Whether your business is well established or relatively new, acknowledging that these problems exist should lead to focusing attention on developing a more effective marketing effort.
Bottom line? The best sales environment is one that is created and supported by an active marketing program. When marketing is driving your company's overall strategy, present customers are better served and satisfied, new doors open, former customers are reclaimed and sales personnel spend their time doing what they do best - making sales.