All too often, in my experience, marketing departments and company's General Management don’t spend enough time really understanding the markets in which they operate.
Marketplace assessments and market research can often be seen as once-a-year activities, to be completed quickly, often as a (subsidiary) part of the annual budgeting process. Worse still, the research budget is often seen as an easy target for tactical cost-cutting. This is short-termism and marketing myopia at its most blinkered.
It completely misses the point. In today’s economic climate, and with the sheer scale of Internet business growth rapid, regular and realistic understanding of the marketplace is vital to business growth.
Marketing tools like the SWOT and SLEPTC analyses when properly used can be a great help, but more fundamentally I think marketers need to consider the 3 basic building blocks in any market.
Enter 3 more C’s – (and Mick Jagger and the Archbishop of Canterbury)
(You didn’t think I could really write for very long without alliterating… did you?)
‘C’ is for Customers – Traditionally customers have been treated as segments, large aggregations of consumers with common wants and needs, who are likely to be amenable and interested in a common marketing mix.
Recently however I read an article ‘Crash Diets Don’t Work’ by my friend Professor Malcolm McDonald who questioned the efficacy of this approach, and I quote:
‘I am not talking about the a priori rubbish that passes for segmentation, such as socio-economics – Mick Jagger and the Archbishop of Canterbury are both A’s, but they don’t behave the same. Thee there are demographics. All women between the ages of 18 and 24 do not behave the same. Geo-demographics are equally useless, unless used at a very high strategic level Everyone who lives in my street does not drive the same car, read the same newspaper…………..companies who properly segment their markets never have traded – nor ever will trade – principally on price.’
In my opinion customer expect, and have a right to be treated as individuals, markets of one, with an appropriate marketing mix. The Internet makes this possible.
‘C’ is for Competition – Many companies that I now deal with (and several I’ve worked for) haven’t typically done enough research on their competitors. Many will blindly explain their USP – saying things like ‘our products are better’, ‘we offer better value’ or worst of all ‘we are cheaper’ – without really being able to justify these statements.
Unless you have an in-depth knowledge of your competitors offer you are unlikely to be able to deliver a truly UNIQUE sales proposition, which provides value in the mind of the customer and which can’t be easily copied by the enemy.
‘C’ is for Company – Last, but not least, we should not overlook the data that is contained within our own organisations. We get day by day feed back as the customers money (hopefully) rolls in. We know the performance and margin of every product.
Smart companies also have an ongoing programme of New Product Development and research based on the wants and needs of the marketplace, competitor activity and the internal capacity of the organisation.
Linking these C’s together we need effective competitor and customer feedback – many companies have a field salesforce and almost all have a website which can be used to collect market data and measure customer satisfaction, in real-time.
A good market information system is critical to success - is yours fit for purpose?