Many business owners just don’t understand marketing. Marketing is not advertising. In fact, advertising is just a small part of marketing.
There are two methods of marketing – the pull of information from your targeted customers and the push of your message back to them.
Let me explain. In understanding what your customers want or at the least what needs they may have, you have to talk to them. You have to converse in some way with them to understand what it is they need or desire. This can come from many forms of conversations like formal or informal surveys, focus groups or (my favorite) simply talking to them face-to-face. You don’t have to talk to all of them, just enough to get a basic idea of the overall market.
Once you understand your customer’s needs – the information that you pulled out of your customers – your company can then take that information in-house and see if it is feasible to provide a product or service to meet that need. This means:
1) Determining if your business can develop a product given current technology, resources, knowledge, etc to actually provide a means to meet their needs (if your customers says they want a flying car – well that just might be impossible today – but, if they say they want something better, faster or cheaper – you just might be the one business to pull it off).
2) Can your business do this at a price point that is attractive to your potential customers and that can also provide your company a reasonable profit – a profit inline with other opportunities in the market (if your business can make a flying car but it would cost $1 million – your customers still might not buy it – also, if you make a product but will only generate a net margin of 10% and have other projects that make net margins of say 15% – you are better off following the other projects – its just better business).
The idea here is that your business is always better served by creating products and services that they actually want and need and not just trying to shove products into the market that your business “thinks” your potential customers want and then hope that they will buy them.
Now, pulling information from your targeted market is not always straight forward. Sometimes consumers (people and businesses) might not actually realize the exact product or service they need. Thus, as they tell you what their pains or needs (where they have issues), your business might have to read between the lines to extrapolate what their exact needs are.
The push side of marketing follows but also builds on the pull side. Once your business gains this information, develops products and services based on that knowledge then it is ready to go back to your targeted customers and let them know about it. Here, you push information back into the market – back to your targeted customers.
This push is usually based on your marketing message – a message that will directly target those who your business wants to serve – a message again based on the information you previously pulled out of the very same market.
Let’s say that you find out from your potential customers that they like your product but do not require all of its current features and do not want to pay your high price – especially for features they will never use.
You take that information, de-engineer your product – leaving in only the features these customers want – and determine that you can reduce the overall price (cost to the customer) by 40% and still make a good profit.
Now, based on that knowledge and your hard work, it is time to create a message – outlining the new product, it’s reduced features or better fit benefits to your targeted customers and, of course, its lower price.
At this point, it is time to push this message back into the market to let your targeted base know what you have done and how they can now get their needs meet. To do this, finally, advertising comes into play. But, you are already ahead of the game.
While you were pulling information from your targeted customers regarding your products or their needs, you also extracted information about when and where they get information regarding products in your industry or even where they look for information in general.
With this knowledge in hand you already know what advertising channels to use. For example, your ad agency is telling you that your business needs to use a mixed, diverse advertising campaign to include national magazines, late night TV and financial journals (which will benefit them more then your business as they have already bought these channels and are just trying to re-sell them to you). But, you quickly tell them no and that you already know that your targeted customers get their information from morning news shows, local newspapers and golfing web sites (just to name a few possible combinations off the top of my head) and those are the channels you will use to push your new, targeted message back into the market.