Understanding Your Customers
Your customers have needs, which include:
- Physical needs, such as food, clothing and shelter
- Social needs, such as belonging, status and affection
- Individual needs such as knowledge and self-expression
Your customers have wants, which is the cultural expression of those needs. Americans want hamburgers, while Japanese want a bowl of rice. A company selling dried goods might want a package designer; while a rock band might want a poster.
Customers tend to look for a product or service that meets as many needs as possible. Good marketers are always on the lookout for what needs are being met by their products and services outside the intended needs, and what additional needs can be met through changes and improvements.
Consumers are also looking for value, satisfaction and quality. Value is the difference what they gain vs. what it cost; satisfaction is the perceived performance of the product or service in it’s delivered value; and quality is either its freedom from defects (combined with its value).
- The understanding of customer needs
- Developing products or services with superior value to fulfill those needs.
- And promoting, pricing and distributing them effectively
There are several philosophies of marketing; the most popular currently is the “marketing concept.” Create a well-defined market (all the available potential buyers of your product or service), focus on the customers’ needs, coordinate all the marketing activities that can affect the customers, and make profits by creating long-term customer relationships based on perceived value and satisfaction. This requires you to be market-focused and customer-driven, paying attention to changes in demand.
An example: if you provide print design and your customers start requesting web design, and are willing to pay for it, you find ways of providing quality web design.
- Define your company’s mission
- Analyze your company’s current “portfolio”
- What do you provide?
- What are you good at?
- What’s profitable?
- What do you want to provide,/ where are you going?
- What are your competitors doing?
- Set company goals and objectives
- Create a strategic plan for how to get there
- Market Segmentation: who are your potential buyers? (Many companies pick one market first, and succeed in that market before moving on.)
- Market Targeting: how are you going to reach them?
- Market Positioning: Create a clear, distinct, and desirable image in the mind of the target market of what you have to offer them, hopefully distinct from that of your competitors.
- Marketing Mix: the Four Ps: Product, Price, Placement and Promotion.
If you are going to pursue a market, it is useful to talk with the people who are going to be purchasing in that market to find out what they are looking for. There are other ways of handling research, but assuming you are just starting and on a limited budget, come up with a list of questions you would like to ask, and find 3-6 people in that market who will answer your questions. (This could also be done as an online survey.)
First tell them who you are and what you offer, if they aren’t familiar with you.
- What is your position and do you purchase/hire our kinds of services?
- What services are you looking for?
- What do you struggle with in relation to services like ours?
- What benefits do you perceive from using us?
- What sets us apart from our competitors?
- Who do you see as our ideal customer?
- What would be a good way to reach you or them? (What do you respond to?)
Once you have that all figured out, write it down:
- Current market situation
- Threats and opportunities
- Your objectives and the issues that affect them
- Strategies to reach those objectives
- Actions to be taken
- Budget to make those actions happen
Once you start taking action, ask these questions:
- What are we trying to achieve?
- What is happening?
- Why is it happening?
- What should we do about it?
Ways Of Marketing
Once you have an idea of where you are and where you want to go, it’s time to consider how to get there. Some ways include:
- Business cards
- Social media/blogging/PR
- Promotional items
- Print advertising
- Radio and TV
For more ideas, check out 52 Types of Marketing Strategies.
There are two ways to consider branding:
- The logo and elements of design specific to an organization’s outward appearance
- The totality of how a business does business — its good leadership, ethical behavior, financial viability, and commitment and ability to fulfill the promises its brand represents
If you use the first definition, branding falls under marketing; if you use the second definition, then marketing falls under branding.