For many small businesses, their first contact with marketing comes when they need a brochure, website, or trade journal ad. After finding a graphic designer, web developer, copywriter or marketing communications guru, these companies focus their marketing efforts on branding and messaging. In some cases, these companies are unaware of other marketing programs — and graphic designers, web developers, copywriters, and marcom professionals have little incentive to steer them to other areas.

Although marketing communications tools form an important part of any firm’s arsenal, they’re far from a blanket solution. True marketing looks at connecting buyers and sellers in a mutually beneficial way.

From the seller’s viewpoint, marketing should result in prospects, leads, and sales — and improvements to both the top and bottom lines. Marketing should translate into media hits, website traffic, tradeshow visitors, incoming phone calls, direct mail responses, and other interest. Marketing should also convert prospective customers to sales leads, actual sales, repeat customers, and customer references. That means never losing sight of customer acquisition costs, conversion rates, customer lifetime values, and sales figures.

For a seller to achieve those results, it’s important to meet the buyer’s needs. The buyer doesn’t care about the seller or the seller’s products. The buyer cares about his or her own perceived problems — and the potential solutions to those problems.

In pitching a product as a solution to buyer problems, the seller needs to consider the factors that would make that product a whole solution. This means more than just building a product or printing glossy brochures. For a complete solution, the seller considers product, price, promotion, and place — the four P’s of marketing. Next time, I’ll discuss ways successful companies meet buyer needs by managing each element of the marketing mix.

(c) 2004 by Andrea Coutu. Vancouver Marketing Consultant. All rights reserved.