Marketing decisions are made in record time compared to decades past. There are so many new tools and new media options. It is easy to get pulled in different directions based on the latest and newest options in an attempt to just keep up. But, it is important to remember these new opportunities are just tools that should be viewed as part of an overall marketing strategy and only part of the marketing toolbox. New does not always mean best, and nothing is really free. Even if we aren't paying for placement or sponsorship, “free” media requires time and energy that might be better spent elsewhere. It may cost us in the long run because of a negative impact on our brand with bad messaging or because we misused a medium when we were targeting the wrong market for our product or service. It can also mean lost opportunity because we were communicating to the wrong group using the wrong medium.
Knowing our customer helps us determine which tools will be most effective and provide the best return on investment. The tools may have changed, but the key to great marketing is still knowing your customer. With so many options, it is easy to lose sight of the need to be targeted in our messages, and targeted with the customer we are trying to reach. The good news is that there are more ways than ever to connect, communicate and create community with your target customer base. There is also more customer information available. Big data usage is here to stay, but marketers have to learn to harness this information (while balancing privacy concerns) as part of an overall marketing strategy to reach the right customers at the right time, and in the right place.
Understanding that your target customer does not want to be sold anything, and they do not want unsolicited interruptions, is a first step. They want to find you and learn about you on their own terms. They really only want to hear or see you if they have given you permission, whether that is direct or indirect. This means that more planning and resources are required to get it right. Without a good understanding of the right customer, dollars and time are wasted. This is true with the start-up entrepreneur who only uses social media and personal direct sales, as well as the largest brand that is spending millions on promotion. No business, regardless of size, wants to waste any resources - money or time. Everyone wants a return on their investment, regardless of the amount.
Customer research is key to strategy, and cannot be skipped. It can take many forms - from large surveys to one-on-one conversations. And, getting the research right is the first step. Some decisions require large tested survey samplings (quantitative research), while other decisions can be based on well-managed and facilitated focus groups or personal interviews (qualitative research). Relying on “hunches” or “gut feelings” to save time and money can cost us in the long run. Every marketing decision should be tied to an overall strategy and a plan that provides guidance for the entire process - from effective research to product development, price, placement and promotion.
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