Business has not always embraced the concept of marketing. Until the 1950s, marketing as a way to reach customers didn’t exist. Unfortunately, many businesses are still stuck in the past where marketing is concerned.
So how do you ensure your business isn’t stuck in yesteryear, but instead is utilizing marketing’s role in today’s global marketplace? You have to understand the value of the marketing concept and where to put the emphasis.
Before discussing the role of marketing today, take a look at where we’ve been so we can understand where we want to go.
There are four major marketing eras in the last century: the production era, sales era, marketing department era, and marketing concept era.
Production era (1900s – 1920s)
During this era, business concentrated on producing products, with an emphasis on distribution. The population was smaller, people had less money, and transportation was not efficient. It was also a less-prosperous time for most people, so money was spent more on necessities than on luxuries. Often, the necessities were set apart from each other with small luxury enhancements (this soap smells better, this soap is softer, this soap is faster).
Sales Era (1930s – 1040s)
Enter Ransom E. Olds, inventor of the assembly line, and men like Henry Ford, who took full advantage of efficient methods of mass producing products for the less affluent, growing population. After the Depression, the economy rose, giving people money to spend. At the same time, transportation improved. Rivers were filled with boats, roads were filled with trucks, and trains carried products to customers across the country. Competition also increased, so companies hired salesmen to convince customers their products were the best buy. The sales era was in full swing. Hello, Ma’am. Can you spare a moment?
Marketing Department Era (1950s – 1960s)
Following World War II, the U.S. economy grew rapidly and so did the middle class. Consumers had more disposable income and more leisure time. As consumerism grew, so did competition among businesses. Companies had to find new ways to attract buyers so marketing departments were formed. One of the first roles of the marketing department was to find new ways to reach and grow the customer base. Advertising programs expanded to include catalog sales, direct mail, and retail stores, for example. Credit was extended to make products immediately available and encourage impulse buying. Buy baby, buy.
Marketing Concept Era (1970s – today)
Increasing marketing didn’t always bring success. Businesses found that marketing could be costly, and that misleading marketing sold products, but also meant higher returns. With multiple choices on the market, consumers were becoming more discerning. Deceptive marketers had to clean up their act. To be successful, companies found that instead of trying to sell a product, they had to listen to the consumer. They had to focus on the needs of the consumer during the planning, production, and distribution, as well as promotion of a product. The marketing concept was born, and it’s become the secret to crafting a successful business in today’s market.The marketing concept coordinates efforts throughout a company. Through market research, marketing departments provide feedback as to consumers’ needs and wants. They also research and provide feedback for effective distribution, pricing, customer credit options and customer services. Marketers also help solve customer problems and cut costs by communicating and coordinating among the different divisions within a company. For small businesses, independent marketing firms provide these services.
The question is, where do you and your business fit into all this? That depends on you. The critical question to ask is, what does your promotion rely on? If you answer only on collateral – web sites that act like a brochure, brochures, advertisement, PSAs, and the like, you’re caught in the 1950s. You’re trying to convince customers the value of your product.
It’s time to join the 21st century and switch gears. To gain the full value of marketing for your business, respond to your customers’ needs, beginning with research to answer the following questions:
• Who are our customers?
• What products/services that we produce do our customers need?
• Where and how can we best make those products/services available?
• What are the best ways to effectively communicate with our customers?
• What problem does our customer need us to solve/resolve for them?
When you put the consumer first and develop what the audience wants, you win. And, so do they. The best marketing win/win you could ask for. Happy customers and happy service providers. When you just try to sell a product to consumers without knowing their needs, where they are willing to shop or respect their need for value, you lose. The value of effective marketing begins with reaching out to consumers to learn what is of value to them and how you can provide it. It’s one effective marketing strategy you can always bank on.