Marketing for Professionals

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Several years ago, I was riding the Metro subway in Washington, DC and got off at the end of the line.  The location was in a depressed area, and few businesses were there for commuters.  As I waited for my ride, I saw these two boys carrying a huge box of M&Ms in hopes of selling to weary commuters.

I found it amusing that these young men were hustling in such a manner. Yet, this spoke to the spirit of entrepreneurs.  The boys found an unmet need in the market.  Yes, with no stores located in the immediate area, these young men sold a lot of M&Ms to hungry commuters.

With increasing competition abroad, today’s professionals cannot afford to be ignorant in understanding business practices such as marketing.  The problem is that marketing is not second nature for all business professionals.

Sadly, most business owners do not have the time to take a long, drawn-out college course, while others want a simple process for understanding the basic concepts until they can take more formalized courses.  In fact, when you do not have a lot of money to spend on advertising your product, you have to be smarter and more creative in order to stay ahead of the competition. 

Marketing is the cornerstone of understanding today’s economic changes. Philip Kotler and Kevin Keller, authors of Marketing Management, argue the important of understanding marketing concepts for today’s professionals: “The first decade of the 21st century challenged firms to prosper financially and even survive in the face of an unforgiving economic environment.  Marketing is playing a key role in addressing those challenges…Thus financial success often depends on marketing abilities.”

Consequently, marketing gives individuals the ability to understand how to locate these opportunities and what to do with them when you find them.  According to the American Marketing Association, marketing can be defined as an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, capturing, communicating, and delivering value to customers. However, the simplest definition is that marketing is about understanding and satisfying customer wants or needs.

In fact, there are times when customers do not know what they want or desire. Marketing then becomes that linchpin in the process of finding a solution for the consumer.  Traditionally, marketing has been defined in terms of four variables described as the marketing mix, or the 4 Ps: product/service, price, placement, and promotion.

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In fact, the marketing mix is the controllable set of activities that entrepreneurs use to attract or respond to the needs of their target market.  In essence, entrepreneurs attempt to create value for their customers.  Value relates to the customer viewpoint, not that of the business.  Value relates to the benefits the customer perceives they are getting in exchange for their purchase of the product or service.

Business experts Donald Lehmann and Russell Winer point out that inaccurate information or incorrect analysis often leads to poor decisions about marketing a business product.  This flaw can hurt a business attempting to make a profit.  In fact, understanding competition is a point most executives miss.  Some of the questions executives should ponder include: 

  •       Who are my competitors?
  •       What are the competing product features?
  •       What is their positioning strategy?
  •       What markets do they currently own and their future?
  •       How do you distinguish your products from those of your competition?
  •      How do consumers make this distinction in products?

In today’s global markets, organizations cannot operate with a ‘trial and error’ mentality.  In fact, what worked yesterday is no guarantee that it will be successful in the future.  Business professionals who are less knowledgeable about marketing and marketing forces are a liability to organizations that aim for sustainable success.

Successful entrepreneurs understand how to tap into their target market instead of random selling.  Why should the expectations be any lower for today’s professionals?  Therefore, savvy professionals seek to understand and implement effective marketing strategies. 

Please discuss the value of understanding marketing concepts for professionals based on your own work experience.

© 2013 by Daryl D. Green

Customer Value Perception

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Organizations should think strategically when creating value perceptions of their products or services.  In fact, they should seek to establish a formal tiered system where possible. Strategic leaders have a long view on value creation. 

Strategic thinking is defined as ‘the generation and application of business insights on a continual basis to achieve competitive advantage.’ In fact, strategic thinking focuses on value creation by enabling a provocative and creative dialogue among people who can affect a company’s direction. 

Marketing expert Ken Favaro maintains that putting value creation first gives businesses two advantages over their competition in driving for profitable and sustainable growth: the first is capital and the second is talent. In fact, he argued that successful value creators never suffer from capital shortage. 

Yet, this process shouldn’t be done in a vacuum. Customers and all members of the supply chain should provide input so that the expectations are clear. Businesses that pay more would get more benefits (i.e. certain perks, discounts, etc.). Therefore, the value proposition would be enhanced. 

However, being strategically conscious about these business relationships isn’t simple.  Value must be understood and sought out.  Value is viewed as the perceived experience and worth gained from a product or service.  

Organizations should make their product clear to customers; some businesses need to introduce a tiered system, based on value-added services.  For example, if I want cheap fast food, I go to McDonalds.

Therefore, my expectations are lower than going to a five star restaurant.  Customers are very understanding when the seller’s value proposition is clear.

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTOcdjf7X74

Favaro further suggests that putting value creation consistently first requires leadership skills, discipline, and perseverance. He further challenged organizations to demand higher standards from managers who would jeopardize these business relationships.

Mark Johnston and Greg Marshall, authors of Relationship Selling, discuss that perceived value is in the eyes of the customer and varies.  They further argued that customers expect and deserve consistency in the way an organization’s value-added message is put forth.  Therefore, sales professionals’ biggest challenge is selling value. 

Discuss the concept of custom value perception from your own professional experience.

 

© 2013 by Daryl D. Green

 

Ethical Systems in Marketing Management

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Businesses that are serious about good customer relationships must have good ethical systems.  Marketing and strategy are underlying principles that must be addressed for organizations selling abroad.

Mark Johnston and Greg Marshall, authors of Relationship Selling, maintain that customers operating in other countries pose unique ethical concerns for salespeople and management, especially in (1) cultural differences and (2) differences in corporate selling policies.

Marketing strategist Regis McKenna explains that effective marketing is the integration of the customer into the design of the product and designing a systematic process for interaction that will create substance in the relationship. Creating good ethical systems is critical for success.

First, any meaningful ethics program must start with senior management’s behavior. In fact, ethical behavior must start at the top. Salespeople are not the only members of the sales force who face ethical concerns. Management must address significant ethical issues with (a) salespeople, (b) company policies, and (c) international customers and policies. Yet, I do think organizational culture is the cornerstone for understanding the ethical environment.

Trust is the foundation of any meaningful corporate structure.  Gareth Jones and Jennifer George, authors of Contemporary Management, maintain that when leaders are ineffective, chances are good that workers will not perform to their capabilities. Furthermore, senior managers should lead the way by example.

Second, the organization must evaluate the current corporate culture. There are both written and unwritten rules and behaviors that come into play. For example, Enron senior management demonstrated a lack of moral and ethical judgment, which played a critical role in its decision-making (i.e. breaking laws).  Therefore, one must review the organizational culture of the organization before attempting to implement an ethics program.

Last, the organization must be committed to a win-win approach. Managers should get all employees involved. Salespeople face ethical issues all the time. Their input would be invaluable. This fact has a great bearing on ethical behavior among employees. 

Companies need to have a plan for implementing ethics. However, they need to involve the workers. Typically, executives come up with a mandate on corporate policies. HR is forced to implement them.  There is little worker involvement. Yet, ethical conduct impacts everyone. Therefore, managers will get greater buy-in on new programs, such as ethical, if they are involved upfront in the process. 

Please discuss ethical behavior in organizations as it relates to the marketing process from your own professional experience.

© 2013 by Daryl D. Green

Memorable Marketing Messages

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Effective brands provide a lasting impression.  However, loyal is fleeting for most buyers in the absence of a strong brand.  Yet, I have purchased the company’s competitors in some cases, even with these good memories. Solomon points out that individuals’ knowledge about the world constantly updates as they are exposed to new stimuli.

Individuals can continue to receive ongoing feedback that allows them to modify their behavior when they find themselves in similar situations later. Therefore, we use our past experience as a baseline for making new purchasing decisions. Consequently, businesses need to understand how the principle of working memory and long-term memory influence learning consumer behavior.  

The principle of working memory and long-term memory apply greatly to learning consumer behavior. Marketing successfully for most businesses depends on the consumer’s recognition of their products and services.  Michael Solomon, author of Consumer Behavior, maintains that many marketers realize that extensive learned connections between products and memories are a potential way to build and keep brand loyalty.

For example, Arm & Hammer baking soda is one of those long-lasting memories from my childhood in Louisiana. From stopping a bleeding wound to keeping a refrigerator fresh, Arm & Hammer’s products have been associated with multi-purposes.

McDonald’s is another brand to consider for this discussion. An image of the golden arches has a world-wide reputation. For most adults, the memories start in childhood.  McDonald’s has done an excellent job of branding, or brainwashing, us as children.

Yet, I think it’s all about classical conditioning. When we see the golden arches, we think about—FUN. Classical conditioning focuses on visual and olfactory cues that induce hunger, thirst, sexual arousal, and other drives. Therefore, it is easy to see why McDonald’s is doing well and serving millions of people from a variety of countries.

Consequently, buying decisions are influenced by these memories.  Trust is the anchor. Stephen Covey and Rebecca Merrill, authors of The Speed of Trust, note that low trust slows everything—every decision, every communication, and every relationship.[1]

In fact, we are heavily influenced by our parents and teachers.  In addition, our backgrounds influence our purchasing decisions.  However, we are not puppets.  Businesses that create a lasting image of their brands are in the best competitive advantage. 

Please discuss the power of memorable brands from your own professional experience.

© 2013 by Daryl D. Green

 


[1] The Speed of Trust by Stephen Covey and Rebecca Merrill

 

Buyers’ Trust

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Too many businesses lose their focus. They are often consumed with their own quest for profitability at any cost.  Consequently, buyers become less trusting of these companies. 

In fact, countless businesses are making careless mistakes. Former Johnson & Johnson Chairman and CEO Jim Burke explains, “You can’t have success without trust…You tell me any human relationship that works without trust, whether it’s a marriage or a friendship or a social interaction, in the long run, the same thing is the trust about business, especially businesses that deal with the public.” 

Most businesses underestimate the critical attribute of trust in profitability. Any value proposition will fail without TRUST.  Some organizations seek to clearly deceive customers in the short run to gain profitability. It’s a fatal mistake. 

Mark Johnston and Greg Marshall, authors of Relationship Selling, maintain that building trust is essential in fostering good relationships with customers.  In fact, one of the primary tasks of organizational leaders is to foster trust within and outside of the organization.  

Many businesses suffer because they don’t understand their customers and how to meet their needs. Therefore, the message is mixed!  In fact, the manner in which customers are treated have a bearing on their customer satisfaction.

Paul Peter and James Donnelly, authors of Marketing Management, note that building a good relationship with channel members is a critical part of marketing communications. Understanding customers is critical. Therefore, businesses need to provide them the right message is vital.

Furthermore, numerous managers believe they can offer this concept without regard to their employees. Some treat employees poorly and expect them to showcase service with a smile. In this situation, trust is lost. Managers need to model the way in value creation. 

John Hamm, author of Unusually Excellent: The Necessary Nine Skills Required for the Practice of Great Leadership argues that some managers have misunderstood leadership. They feel they can work fewer hours, give their work to others, and not respect employees due to their position or title. 

Yet, managers’ bad behaviors are not without consequences. Employees soon lose their trust in these managers to do the right things. Hamm explains, “When leaders compromise their own integrity, it takes that extra urge out of our bodies that says we’re willing to go the mile.  Therefore, trust as a competitive advantage cannot be underestimated by today’s businesses. 

Please discuss your professional experience with customers and their trust in buying.

 © 2013 by Daryl D. Green

Customer Value Differences

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Companies must focus on value for customers. However, all customers are not the same. Globalization has created all types of problems for businesses.  One of the issues is how to stay ahead of the competition by exploring new markets while keeping the same customer base.  This action is not easy.

Mark Johnston and Greg Marshall, authors of Relationship Selling, maintain that customers expect and deserve consistency in the way an organization’s value-added message is put forth. [1]

Being strategic conscious about these business relationships is not simple.  Marketing expert Ken Favaro further suggests that putting value creation consistently first requires leadership skills, discipline, and perseverance. He further challenged organizations to demand higher standards from managers who would jeopardize these business relationships.

These marketing problems are worthy of the most decorated scientists. In fact, the right value proposition is critical because all customers are not created the same. When organizations place value creation as a high priority, organizations will beat their competition because they will deploy capital better and develop internal talent better.[2]

Customer expectations and customer needs are often different. Management expert Ray Miller further suggests a “strategic trap” for businesses seeking to meet customer expectations. Delivering below expectations is obviously bad.  However, simply satisfying customers will not guarantee customer loyalty either because they are getting nothing more or less than they expect.

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7vwhHLmdWI

Furthermore, some businesses get caught up being efficient in developing cookie cutter solutions for the masses. Yet, they overlook that value seeking customers are looking for products and services that solve their specific needs.

Consequently, employees should be motivated to provide value for customers if the businesses want to be successful.  In fact, this reality involves being compensated fairly, being treated with respect, and being given meaningful work. Finally, companies must understand that customer value expectations are often different. Therefore, businesses that  manage customer expectations effectively will possess a distinctive advantage in the market.

Please discuss your professional experience with customer value differences.

© 2013 by Daryl D. Green

 


[1] Relationship Selling by Mark Johnston and Greg Marshall

[2] Put Value First by Kevin Favaro

Building Relationships with Today’s Customers

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Relationship selling is about creating positive, lasting impressions with customers.  For example, Carrabba’s Italian Grill is one of my favorite restaurants in Knoxville.  During our 22nd anniversary, my wife and I celebrated there.  Our waitress was very attentive to our needs.  In terms of positioning, I think the restaurant is above Olive Garden.  

Yet, even though I had a high level of praise for this business, I became a little irritated when our waitress took a break and left us unattended.  It took us some time to get over that situation.  Therefore, customer satisfaction can be a little fickle and make a customer-centric approach difficult. 

Building relationships with customers is very important for sustainable success for businesses.  However, some customers have a negative reaction to the seller-buyer interactions (i.e. salespersons in retail pressuring customers to buy).  Although selling is about business transactions, selling is also about building relationships. Consequently, the concept of relationship selling is a hot commodity in a hypercompetitive environment. 

 

For this blog, we will examine the basic concept of relationship selling.  Relationship selling requires somewhat different skills than traditional selling as it involves securing, building, and maintaining long-term relationships with profitable customers. 

Furthermore, many organizations simply do not consider customers when planning their sales strategy.  Mark Johnston and Greg Marshall, authors of Relationship Selling, share four relationship mistakes by businesses which are (1) wasting customer’s time, (b) behaving  as a victim instead of an employed salesperson, (3) lacking the understanding of the customer’s business, and (4) bringing problems instead of solutions to the job. 

For example, Carrabba’s Italian Grill failed to adequately address our needs due to a focus on their internal operations rather than how to maximize their profit.  However, it is only due to relationship selling that we will go back. 

Furthermore, Paul Peter and James Donnelly, authors of Marketing Management, suggest that profitable marketing begins with understanding customer needs. Yet, it is a trait that is not gained by accident.  Being a professional in a highly technical field, we are required to possess certain skills and abilities. Finally, serious businesses cannot afford to master the concepts of selling relationships. It should begin today!

 Please discuss your personal experience with relationship selling.

 © 2013 by Daryl D. Green