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Marketing and sales

The terms marketing and sales are inescapable in business. In fact, many would argue that one or the other define what it means to do business. 

However, while sales focuses on the method of persuading the target market to buy a product or service, marketing looks at the big picture to make sure the entire project – from design to delivery – is optimised to help sales.

It’s for this reason you need to make sure your sales initiatives and marketing plan see eye-to-eye to ensure a greater chance of success.

Marketing is an umbrella term for the entire co-ordinated process of getting a product or service into the hands of customers.

After identifying the target customer, marketing specialists use that information to inform the aims and design of the product, the optimum price it should be sold at, where and how it should be delivered to the market, and how the market should be persuaded to buy it through promotion.

These elements are called the Four Ps of marketing:

  • Product
  • Price
  • Place
  • Promotion

When this combination of elements works to support each other, they become your marketing mix. A value-leading product, for example, shouldn’t have a premium price tag that doesn’t appeal to its target market.

The channel for sales – in other words through a wholesaler, a retailer or direct to the consumer – is decided as part of the marketing mix under Place.

However, the method of how it is sold is strategized under Promotion, where a lot of the sales, PR and advertising decisions are made.

Each half of this equation should complement the other and fit into an overarching marketing plan.

For example, your business may decide not to share profits with a wholesaler or retailer and instead sell your product or service directly through your own website. However, if you find the advertising and PR support required to push customers to the site uneconomical, you might decide to revisit your distributor options instead.

Even special offers and money-off vouchers that can drive and shape sales on the shop floor are often decided under Promotion in consideration of the rest of the marketing mix, to make sure they are appropriate sales techniques for the product or service being sold.

The influence of market research

Marketing plans are based around the marketing mix, but to optimise each of the four Ps, marketers first carry out market research in a number of key areas.

Customer research

Marketers study the market to determine demand for a new product, and identify target markets so products can be marketed more effectively to the right type of customers.

One of the most common mistakes made by first-time entrepreneurs is that they assume their product or service will appeal to everybody, but that’s never the case. There will always be customer types and demographics that your offering will appeal to more than others, and focusing your attention on appealing to these people is always the most cost-effective way to find success.

The trick is accurately identifying your target markets through the use of surveys, focus groups and other common market research methods.

Hear how a Wellington-based start-up used statistics and data to research their potential market, hone their product, build a case for investment and make better business decisions.

Video transcript

Competitor research

As you’ll see with SWOT analysis (below), identifying threats is an important part of marketing, and threats don’t usually come any bigger than in the form of competitors.

If you research them to find out their strengths and weaknesses, you can use that information to attack them in the right places with an optimised offering or special offer, and defend your weaknesses better by improving in their areas of strength.

Common methods of competitor research include online research and mystery shopping.

SWOT

SWOT analysis is the study of a product or business’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It’s a commonly used strategic tool as well as a product-focused marketing tool that can help you form your marketing objectives.

Say, for example, you identify:

  • your brand reputation in your core market as a strength
  • your reliance on one core product for revenue as a weakness
  • a competitor’s diverse product streams as a threat
  • a current lack of significant players in a related emerging market as an opportunity.

Backed by the SWOT analysis, which has helped you rationalise the decision, you might then take the strategic step to enter that new market to improve your position in all four areas.

Conducting a SWOT analysis helps provide direction by shining a light on what your business does well and what you need to improve.

Strengths and weaknesses are typically inside your business — what are you good at, what are you not so good at — while opportunities and threats are external factors.

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