Sign courtesy of Network Café Aungier Street Dublin 2

In the good old days before the internet, marketing meant taking an advert in a newspaper or magazine, or printing a leaflet. If you had a big budget then a TV advert would trumpet your product or service. Today there are many “free” opportunities to get your brand, product and service out there through social media. How do you stand out instead of adding to the noise? Let’s start by defining the word marketing.

What is marketing?

The term marketing has only been in use since 1900 but goods and services have been traded for millennia. So what is this relatively recent phenomenon? I resorted to the said internet for the answer from the Business Dictionary.

The management process through which goods and services move from concept to the customer.

Marketing is based on thinking about the business in terms of customer needs and their satisfaction. Marketing differs from selling because, in the words of Harvard Business School’s retired professor of marketing, Theodore C. Levitt:

“Selling concerns itself with the tricks and techniques of getting people to exchange their cash for your product. It is not concerned with the values that the exchange is all about. And it does not, as marketing invariably does, view the entire business process as consisting of a tightly integrated effort to discover, create, arouse and satisfy customer needs.”

So there you have it in a nutshell. It’s about putting yourself in the shoes of your customer and working out what they want and need. This principle applies as much to services as it does to products. I found this out for myself when I decided that my business needed a rebrand. I wrote about it in this blog post.

The Business Dictionary also defines the fundamentals of marketing as the 4P’s.

  1. identification, selection and development of a product,
  2. determination of its price,
  3. selection of a distribution channel to reach the customer’s place,
  4. development and implementation of a promotional strategy.

So how do you develop a marketing strategy for your business?

It’s not all about being great on social media. That’s important too, but going back to the 4P’s of marketing you need to start with the basics of your product or service.

#1 Product or service

This has to be great, more than great. It has to stand out amongst your competitors. I’ve also written about this in Top Tip #4 . Work on it until your product is perfect, then work on it some more. Product or service development is an ongoing process that is never finished. Your customer and the marketplace are constantly changing so your product or service needs to change with it. The Billy bookcase was one of IKEA’s first products and is still a best seller. To maintain this impressive record, IKEA have updated the product many times to keep it fresh, up to date and in tune with current trends.

#2 Price

One of the most difficult things to get right in any business and I could write a whole blog post on it. It’s also the issue that is hardest to get any competitive information on or discuss with colleagues. My experience is that everyone is sensitive about what they charge for a product or service. People would rather share their last Rolo than share pricing information. (A reference to some brilliant marketing for those of a certain vintage.) Yet you have to start somewhere. It’s probably easier for a product as there is much more information available online. You can pretend to be a customer to find out what your nearest competitor is charging. Or just start with a price and see what the reaction is. No-one will complain if they feel it is good value, but you’ll soon know if it’s too expensive. It’s much easier to decrease a price or quote than to increase it. It’s human nature to love a bargain but no-one likes the feeling of paying through the nose. On Black Friday you expect a bargain but not necessarily the best shopping experience. Going into Brown Thomas you expect to pay a premium price but you also expect a good experience to go with it.

#3 Place – distribution channels

How are you going to place your product or service in your customer’s hand? How do they engage with you? Do you go to them or do they come to you? Do you take your product or service to where your customer is located or do you have a shop or office where they come to you? How do you decide which suits you, your customer and your product best? Every business will have different solutions, the important thing is to ask these questions before deciding on one. Finding the right distribution channels can be the making of your business. If you are a retailer you might have a shop and/or an e-commerce site of your own or sell through Etsy or Amazon Marketplace. If you are selling a service, you might sell through social media and then deliver at your customer’s premises.

Finding the right distribution channel is often confused with promotional strategy, but it’s about how you do business, not how you promote it.

#4 Promotional Strategy

Which brings us neatly to what most people think of as marketing but is in fact the final piece in the puzzle – how to promote your business. And this is also where information overload comes in. There are multiple methods of promoting your product and multiple companies whose business it is to help you and to charge you accordingly. In both instances it is important to focus on what suits your product or service. Quality of content beats quantity every time. Consistency in posting on your chosen channel(s) will reward you with loyal followers.

Think of social media as a way of telling people about you, your company and your products. It is not always about sales but sharing knowledge, information and storytelling. And it’s not free as it will cost you your time, so use it wisely.

Marketing used to be about the full page advert in a national newspaper selling your product. Today’s marketing is more subtle and it is you, your brand AND your product that is all part of your promotional strategy.

Marketing vs Selling

Marketing is a huge subject and I will return to some of its related topics in future blog posts. Needless to say the internet has made promoting your business a lot cheaper and easier to execute, making it accessible to the smallest business.

To quote Professor Levitt again:

In other words, marketing has less to do with getting customers to pay for your product as it does developing a demand for that product and fulfilling the customer’s needs.

Happy retailing!

© Retail Renewal 31/08/18

Retail Renewal offers practical solutions for the ever-evolving challenges of running a business today. Find out more on If you’d like to get in touch with Retail Renewal about your shop or retail project please give Linda a call on 086 8146949. Let us help you to support and grow your business.

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