"Marketing" is a term used to describe the various activities involved in transferring goods and services from producers to consumers. In addition to the functions commonly associated with it, such as advertising and sales promotion, marketing also encompasses product development, packaging, distribution channels, pricing, and many other functions. Modern marketing is often presented as an effort to discover and satisfy customer needs. It is often also a method of inventing products and services and creating a demand for them by artful persuasion.
In most large organizations the selling function is divided into distinct marketing and sales functions. In organizations where symbolic product presentation is all-important and buying decisions tend to be emotional, marketing is given much higher rank and emphasis. Such is the case typically with mature products that have over time achieved a commodity status and therefore persuasion to buy this brand is the central focus. In organizations where the product performance as such remains the chief selling feature, sales activity is dominant. Business-to-business distribution tends to have this character, with the selling burden carried by experts (e.g. in finance), sales engineers, and skilled product-savvy sales people. In some industries, e.g., in Pharmaceuticals, emphasis is evenly divided, with the public bombarded by marketing messages ("Ask your doctor '¦") while "detail men" (and women) are doing technical selling at the doctor's office.
"Marketing" used to mean going to the market—either to sell or to buy. The modern concept emerged in the wake of the industrial revolution in the 19th and 20th centuries. During that period, the proliferation of goods and services, increased worker specialization, and technological advances in transportation, refrigeration, and other factors that facilitated the transfer of goods over long distances resulted in the need for more advanced market mechanisms and selling techniques. But it was not until the 1930s that companies began to place a greater emphasis on advertising and promoting their products and began striving to tailor goods to please specific consumer groups. By the 1950s, and the rise of television as a communications medium, many large companies had developed marketing departments charged with devising and implementing strategies that would complement, and later direct, overall sales operations.
Macro-marketing refers to the overall economic/communications process that directs the flow of goods and services from producer to consumer. It includes 1) the buyer's behavior in seeking and judging goods and services; 2) the seller's efforts to draw and to persuade customers to buy; 3) the physical distribution of goods including warehousing and storage at intermediate stages; 3) product-related activities like standardization, grading, and sorting; 4) the financing of distribution at all stages, not least consumer credit; and 5) the communications processes supporting all of these activities.
Micro-marketing refers to the activities of the individual providers operating within this system. Organizations or businesses use various marketing techniques to accomplish objectives related to profits, market share, cash flow, and other economic factors that can enhance their well being and position in the marketplace. The micro-marketing function within an entity is commonly referred to as marketing management. Marketing managers strive to match products to customers; in this process they are equally interested in getting products customers will want to buy and influencing consumers to buy the products the company wishes to sell.
Micro-marketing encompasses a number of related activities and responsibilities. Marketing managers must carefully design their marketing plans to ensure that they complement related production, distribution, and financial constraints. They must also allow for constant adaptation to changing markets and economic conditions. Perhaps the core function of a marketing manager, however, is to identify a specific market, or group of consumers, and then deliver products and promotions that ultimately maximize the profit potential of that targeted market. This is particularly important for small businesses, which more than likely lack the resources to target large aggregate markets. Often, it is only by carefully selecting and wooing a specific group that a small firm can attain profit margins sufficient to allow it to continue to compete in the marketplace.
For instance, a manufacturer of fishing equipment would not randomly market its product to the entire U.S. population. Instead, it would likely conduct market research—using such tools as demographic reports, market surveys, or focus groups—to determine which customers would be most likely to purchase its offerings. It could then more efficiently spend its limited resources in an effort to persuade members of its target group(s) to buy its products. Perhaps it would target males in the Midwest between the ages of 18 and 35. The company may even strive to further maximize the profitability of its target market through market segmentation, whereby the group is further broken down by age, income, zip code, or other factors indicative of buying patterns. Advertisements and promotions could then be tailored for each segment of the target market.
There are many ways to address the wants and needs of a target market. For example, product packaging can be designed in different sizes and colors, or the product itself can be altered to appeal to different personality types or age groups. Producers can also change the warranty or durability of the good or provide different levels of follow-up service. Other influences, such as distribution and sales methods, licensing strategies, and advertising media also play an important role. It is the responsibility of the marketing manager to take all of these factors into account and to devise a cohesive marketing program that will appeal to the target customer.
The different elements of a company's marketing mix can be divided into four basic decision areas—known as the "four Ps": product, place, promotion, and price—which marketing managers can use to devise an overall marketing strategy for a product or group of goods. These four decision groups represent all of the variables that a company can control. But those decisions must be made within the context of outside variables that are not entirely under the control of the company, such as competition, economic and technological changes, the political and legal environment, and cultural and social factors.
Marketing decisions related to the product (or service) involve creating the right product for the selected target group. This typically encompasses research and data analysis, as well as the use of tools such as focus groups, to determine how well the product meets the wants and needs of the target group. Numerous determinants factor into the final choice of a product and its presentation. A completely new product, for example, will entail much higher promotional costs to raise consumer awareness, whereas a product that is simply an improved version of an existing item likely will make use of its predecessor's image. A pivotal consideration in product planning and development is branding, whereby the good or service is positioned in the market according to its brand name. Other important elements of the complex product planning and management process may include selection of features, warranty, related product lines, and post-sale service levels.
Considerations about place, the second major decision group, relate to actually getting the good or service to the target market at the right time and in the proper quantity. Strategies related to place may utilize middlemen and facilitators with expertise in joining buyers and sellers, and they may also encompass various distribution channels, including retail, wholesale, catalog, and others. Marketing managers must also devise a means of transporting the goods to the selected sales channels, and they may need to maintain an inventory of items to meet demand. Decisions related to place typically play an important role in determining the degree of vertical integration in a company, or how many activities in the distribution chain are owned and operated by the manufacturer. For example, some larger companies elect to own their trucks, the stores in which their goods are sold, and perhaps even the raw resources used to manufacture their goods.
Decisions about promotion, the third marketing mix decision area, relate to sales, advertising, public relations, and other activities that communicate information intended to influence consumer behavior. Often promotions are also necessary to influence the behavior of retailers and others who resell or distribute the product. Three major types of promotion typically integrated into a market strategy are personal selling, mass selling, and sales promotions. Personal selling, which refers to face-to-face or telephone sales, usually provides immediate feedback for the company about the product and instills greater confidence in customers. Mass selling encompasses advertising on mass media, such as television, radio, direct mail, and newspapers, and is beneficial because of its broad scope. A relatively new means of promotion involves the Internet, which combines features of mass media with a unique opportunity for interactive communication with customers. Publicity entails the use of free media, such as feature articles about a company or product in a magazine or related interviews on television talk shows, to spread the word to the target audience. Finally, sales promotion efforts include free samples, coupons, contests, rebates, and other miscellaneous marketing tactics.
Determination of price, the fourth major activity related to target marketing, entails the use of discounts and long-term pricing goals, as well as the consideration of demographic and geographic influences. The price of a product or service generally must at least meet some minimum level that will cover a company's cost of producing and delivering its offering. Also a firm would logically price a product at the level that would maximize profits. The price that a company selects for its products, however, will vary according to its long-term marketing strategy. For example, a company may under price its product in the hopes of increasing market share and ensuring its competitive presence, or simply to generate a desired level of cash flow. Another producer may price a good extremely high in the hopes of eventually conveying to the consumer that it is a premium product. Another reason a firm might offer a product at a very high price is to discount the good slowly in an effort to maximize the dollars available from consumers willing to pay different prices for the good. In any case, price is used as a tool to achieve comprehensive marketing goals.
Decisions about product, place, promotion, and price will often be dictated by the competitive stance that a firm assumes in its target market. Common strategies are to be the low-cost supplier, to be highly differentiated, or to satisfy a niche market.
Companies that adopt a low-cost supplier strategy are usually characterized by a vigorous pursuit of efficiency and cost controls. A company that manufactures a low-tech or commodity product, such as wood paneling, would likely adopt this approach. Such firms compete by offering a better value than their competitors, accumulating market share, and focusing on high-volume and fast inventory turnover.
Companies that adhere to a differentiation strategy achieve market success by offering a unique product or service. They often rely on brand loyalty, specialized distribution channels or service offerings, or patent protection to insulate them from competitors. Because of their uniqueness, they are able to achieve higher-than-average profit margins, making them less reliant on high sales volume and extreme efficiency. For example, a company that markets proprietary medical devices would likely assume a differentiation strategy.
Firms that pursue a niche market strategy succeed by focusing all of their efforts on a very narrow segment of an overall target market. They strive to prosper by dominating their selected niche. Such companies are able to overcome competition by aggressively protecting market share and by orienting every action and decision toward the service of its select group. An example of a company that might employ a niche strategy would be a firm that produced floor coverings only for extremely upscale commercial applications.
An important micro-marketing delineation is that between industrial and consumer markets. Selling to business is often very different than selling to the consumer. The industrial buyer is almost never moved by fancies and emotions and buys on price and technical specifications. To be sure, in many consumer markets the same rules apply as well; where they do, the situation is, of course, the same. Examples are elderly couples buying retirement packages and do-it-yourselfers buying tools. Buyers in the middle levels of distribution, such as wholesalers, think in terms of their customers, the retailers. Retailers, in turn, will view products from the consumer's point of view. Both of these levels, of course, will be very interested in price and performance issues as well.
Technical know-how and deep product knowledge is more valued in selling business-to-business. The industrial buyers will use components or machinery and will wish to satisfy him- or herself on their suitability to a particular end-use of operation. Distribution channel buyers will see the products as items they will have to explain to others or service in-house.
A discussion of marketing would not be complete without mentioning the emerging field of Internet marketing. Increasingly, small businesses have sought to take advantage of the global reach of the World Wide Web and the huge number of potential customers available online. Although it may seem like a completely new field, Internet marketing actually combines many of the basic elements of traditional marketing. "Internet marketing employs the same methods and theory as traditional public relations and integrated marketing—the basic tools for any campaign," Maria Duggan and John Deveney wrote in Communication World.
In their article, Duggan and Deveney outline five steps for marketing managers to follow in putting together an Internet marketing campaign. Whether the campaign is intended to increase awareness of an existing brand, draw visitors to a Web site, or promote a new product offering, the first step involves identifying the target market. As is the case with any other type of marketing campaign, the small business must conduct market research in order to define the target audience for the campaign, and then use the information gathered to determine how best to reach them.
The next step is to develop a strategy for the campaign. This involves setting concrete and measurable goals and tying the campaign into the organization's traditional marketing efforts. The third step is to present the strategy to key decision-makers in the small business. It is important at this stage to develop a timeline and budget, and also to be prepared to encounter resistance among colleagues not familiar with cyberspace. The fourth step is to implement the Internet marketing campaign. The final step, evaluation, should be conducted throughout the process. Online surveys of customers are one source of potential feedback.
In the early stages of forming a small business, a business plan is a vital tool to help an entrepreneur chart the future direction of the enterprise. A good plan will have a marketing component and demonstrate the owner's understanding of how to advertise and promote his or her product or service line. The more the business is narrowly focused on selling, the more important this element will be. Some businesses, of course, will be engaged in activities barely touched by marketing in the modern sense—but will always have a sales component.
As a small business grows, it may be helpful to create a separate marketing plan. While similar in format to the general business plan, a marketing plan will focus on expanding a certain product line or service rather than on the overall business. Such plans will be especially valuable in obtaining financing for ventures relying upon persuading buyers to try novel products not already on the market.
A number of resources are available to assist small businesses in marketing their products and services. It may be prudent to seek legal advice before implementing a marketing plan, for example. A firm with experience in consumer law could review the small business's product, packaging, labeling, advertising, sales agreements, and price policies to be sure that they meet all relevant regulations to prevent problems from arising later. In addition, many advertising agencies and market research firms offer a variety of means of testing the individual elements of marketing programs. Although such testing can be expensive, it can significantly increase the effectiveness of a company's marketing efforts.
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