Marketing as Communication and What It Means for Your Business
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Marketing, as a general rule, is an incredibly broad discipline.
Is it research, design, and production?
Is it advertising and promotion?
Is it pricing, sales, and support?
The answers, as you surely guessed, are yes, yes, and yes.
Most of all, though, marketing is communication.
From what you develop to how you promote it, understanding how to communicate your message is a critical factor in your success.
Although it sounds simple enough, knowing where to start and how to move your marketing initiatives forward is daunting. Further, if you are unable to convey these ambitions, it will prove disastrous to your bottom line,
Let's simplify the process, and take a look at some basic tenets of how to use your marketing to effectively communicate before, during, and after the lifecycle of any product or service.
What is Marketing as Communication?
First, let's better understand marketing itself.
The commonly accepted definition for marketing includes the development and creation of a product or service and the subsequent conveyance of its attributes and benefits to the general public.
No, marketing is not solely advertising or sales – common misconceptions. While it does encompass both promotion and purchase, it extends much further.
Everything from before development up to actual conversion and beyond involves some form of marketing.
As such, marketing defies any singular definition and instead carries with it plenty of variation.
Mention marketing to ten different people and you're just as likely to get ten different answers.
It can be relatively straightforward and simple or multi-layered and complex. You can market with words or images and in both sound or silence.
Marketing's unifying factor, however, is its a flexible enterprise that lends itself to application across practically any industry. Every business utilizes it in one capacity or another.
Are you renting heavy machinery to construction companies or industrial firms?
Are you selling office products to small businesses?
Are you signing up individuals for a webinar on how to get the most out of their smartphone?
For each one of those companies to be effective a marketing plan is necessary.
Now, what about the communication side of things?
The Webster definition posits that communication is an exchange of information or a technique for expressing ideas. From that, it’s fairly easy to see how marketing and communication intersect.
So let’s revisit our three examples of heavy machinery, office products, and the smartphone webinar. Vastly different endeavors to be sure and each requires a keen approach in marketing techniques to prove successful.
While the product, the audience, and the strategy might all vary, the underlying principle remains the same:
You want to communicate your company’s solution as the answer to your customer's problem. You want to do so in the most compelling and informative way possible.
So how do you use marketing to effectively communicate the benefits of what you're offering? It comes down to four principles: know your audience, develop your message, understand the market, and keep in touch.
Know Your Audience
In practically every case, the lifecycle of a successful product or service starts with research. Market and consumer research to be specific.
At this stage, you don't necessarily need a physical representation of your idea, but you must discover if it's viable enough to take the next step. Alternatively, if you do have an established business or service line, you need to learn ways to make it better.
In either situation, you might carry out consumer surveys or undertake broader market research to establish the baseline of what you hope to achieve.
What you're ultimately doing is figuring out who your audience is and if there is a demand for what you offer.
The reason why communication is essential at this stage is that if you don't ask the right questions or understand the feedback you receive, not only will your product be off the mark, but so too will the message you build around it.
For example, you might have a great piece of merchandise, but misunderstanding the reason why people want it can lead to poor outreach and low sales.
Conversely, you might market your service well, but the service itself is lacking. Individuals will eventually figure out it misses the mark and proves inadequate to the solution they seek. The disconnect can result in a substantial long term loss.
Detailed and focused research will not only ensure you develop a winning product or idea, but it also provides you with the foundation for who will buy it and how you should promote it.
Develop Your Message
From there, we take the next step in marketing – messaging.
While each is vital, of the four principles we list, developing the message requires the most focus. It's also the one that links marketing directly with communication.
It's here you'll establish how to make a case for your solution and grow your target audience beyond the first phase of promotion.
Your pitch also serves a secondary purpose, pulling double duty as a means to build your brand into a trustworthy name and convince consumers of other brands to transition to yours.
Ultimately, your messaging is rooted in establishing value. You have the solution, but in your marketing, you must communicate the benefits and value of the offer.
Value in your product.
Value in your brand. And the value that you provide for others.
Understand the Market
You're ready to take your message to the masses, but how and what does this look like?
Depending on your product or industry, market knowledge is often the broadest category in the marketing lifecycle.
Not only do you need to know how to reach your ideal audience and through which channels, but you need to understand price, competition, and retain the ability to make adjustments based on changes in the market.
As you refine your approach, you'll lean heavily on the initial research you performed trying to nail down your audience.
For example, not only should grasp the demands of your ideal client but also their preferred method of communication.
Yes, traditional versus modern forms of advertising is a factor, but also consider are dedicated sales reps a more viable way to initiate sales with your ideal audience.
Perhaps you should take an integrated approach. Focus on a unified story about the identity of your brand to raise awareness for your product. And do so across several marketing channels – both old school and new.
Understanding the market also requires knowledge about other firms in your segment and the strategies they employ. Are they successful? Are you competing with them for the same clients? Are they leaving a gap in the marketplace you can fill?
What about pricing? Is your segment over-saturated with second-rate options? Can you market to the crowd willing to pay a premium for something better? Or is the opposite? Can you gain market share with equal quality, but at a lower price point?
Understanding the market, and everything that goes into it will ensure the ideas and information you provide is more focused and more convincing than anyone else's.
Keep in Touch
Finally, we come to what happens – or, what should happen – after the sale.
If you think that marketing stops after a consumer makes a purchase, think again. The foundation of many businesses is built off of repeat customers or via word of mouth from satisfied clients.
The most successful organizations appreciate post-sales marketing and develop specific plans to help ensure customer retention and repeat business. Initiatives such as:
Customer service and tech support.
Upgrades or product add-ons.
Anything to help support a client after they've invested in your organization's solution is not only good marketing, it’s good business.
The communication aspect at this point might even be more critical. First, it strengthens your brand with a customer. Additionally, the feedback they provide helps improve multiple aspects of your promotion and sales process or the product itself.
This information is invaluable as your work to widen your customer base and increase revenues.
It’s by no means unreasonable to say that marketing is a form of communication.
From the infancy of an idea to the final sale to the support that comes after, effective marketing at each step is often the difference between success and failure – of your product and your brand.
To avoid falling short of your goals, don’t just market your solution – instead communicate your benefit and your value. Research and fully develop your message and expertly convey it.
For further proof, consider some of society’s most widely known, and popular brands.
Sure, those are three established, legacy brands. But they achieved that success largely through understanding what their audiences wanted. Crafting messages that not only appealed to that core group but enticed others to the fold. And delivering again and again on their promises to keep their consumers engaged.
In other words, they don't just market, they communicate.
The same is achievable for your organization.
Maybe you’re not pushing computers, selling soft drinks, or trying to score at the box office, but there is a market for what you have to offer. They’re just waiting for you to communicate it.
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