Since marketing has been taught and textbooks have been printed, we’ve read and learned about the four P’s of marketing; Product, Price, Place, and Promotion, otherwise called the “marketing mix.” Without these, a marketing plan is, well, simply not a marketing plan. Over time though, and as markets evolve and become more sophisticated and competitive, new rules emerge and demand continuous adjustment and fine-tuning of marketing strategies and tactics.
With enough money, a brand can buy enormous exposure. We’ve all seen how brands were built virtually over-night. It comes at a considerable cost, but if you advertise enough, people will eventually recall your brand and its key messages. But how effectively does this translate into sales? More importantly, to what extent do campaigns build long-term, loyal customers versus one-time purchasers? Remember, customer retention is more important than customer acquisition, especially in the long run.
The original four P’s focus on where products are sold, how they are priced, what the products (and their variations) really are, and how they are promoted. The extended marketing mix ensures that your brand really delivers on what you’re promising through promotions, and hence creates a memorable customer experience that’s worth sharing and spreading. Of the additional P’s, the first two highlighted below are critical in building a positive reputation, loyal customers, and an army of advocates that generate more and more sales.
Your business processes are critical in determining whether the promises you’re making translate into actions and value for customers. Going back to the example of mega campaigns, what’s the point of re-branding, making all sorts of promises about ease of service, speedy delivery, and great warranties if the business processes don’t support these claims? Before the marketing campaign can be launched, there’s a lot of background work that needs to be done internally to ensure that business processes are smooth, customer oriented, and result in a pleasant experience. This extends way beyond the sales process and encompasses, more importantly, post-sale care, product exchange or return, billing, invoicing, collections, etc.
At the end of the day, customers do business with people, your people. Be it the sales team or post- sale support staff, this is where the real interaction occurs, and where a promise is finally fulfilled. How well your “people” are trained, or willing to provide a great service will dictate the impression a customer develops about the quality of your customer service and the reputation of your brand. Using an example again, a brand advertises a new product’s speed of sign-up and installation, and a great customer service experience. The ads look great and deliver a strong message. Now people begin to call for more information and to subscribe because they like what they read. This is where this P comes in; are call center agents fully educated about the new service, its benefits, sign-up procedures, and able to convert inquiry calls into sales? Is the sales team friendly, courteous, and willing to go the extra mile to close the sale or process that refund because the product was defective and needed replacement, or simply didn’t turn out to be what the customer needed? Between Processes and People, the quality of your company’s customer service reputation is forged, so putting a lot of time and energy into both will work wonders for future sales (or not).
The look and feel of your shop, offices, or website must reflect what your brand is saying. So, for example, while it would be perfectly okay for an investment banker to have lavish offices, a non-profit organization must feature a modest environment. After all, they wouldn’t want those donors to think that their grants are being spent on fancy furniture. A banker, however, would want to maintain an atmosphere of wealth and lavishness, which at the end of the day is what she is promising her customers.
What this all translates into is common business sense; promises made through marketing programs must simply be fulfilled and kept. Anything less than that, and what a brand is communicating turns into a bluff that is easily detected by customers and shared with others.
About the Author
Pinnacle Business & Marketing Consulting is a results-driven boutique consulting firm that specializes in providing clients with practical and pragmatic solutions to their business and marketing challenges.
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