Marketing is often thought of as advertising, sales or promotion.  And yes, all of these form part of marketing; but there’s a lot more to marketing than these elements. 

What is marketing?

Marketing is about meeting the needs and wants of customers – finding ways to provide products and services which customers demand.  Marketing provides you with the knowledge to attract and retain customers. A ‘marketing orientated’ organisation is completely focused on understanding its customers so that it can meet their needs better than anyone else i.e. better than competitors.

All of this effort is geared towards enabling an ‘exchange’ to take place – your goods or services in exchange for the customer’s money.

Put simply, marketing is everything you do in order to identify the customer, satisfy the customer and keep the customer.

Your marketing plan

A good marketing plan can help you to:

  1.  Understand your market and where to target your efforts
  2. Establish what customers want
  3. Find and keep customers
  4. Focus and prioritise your resources on activities that will give you the best results
  5. Make marketing part of your everyday activities

Above all, your marketing plan should be produced with one key purpose in mind – to help you achieve your business or organisational objectives.  It can be 2-3 pages or 50 plus – the length is not important. What matters is that the plan helps you to achieve your goals.

The key stages of the marketing planning process, and therefore your marketing plan are:

  1. Current situation – where are you now? You can use tools like SWOT and PESTLE to understand what is happening within and outside of the organisation, and your industry sector – is it growing or getting smaller, what are the key trends, who are your competitors, market share, changing consumer tastes. This stage of the plan should provide you with the information you need to set your marketing objectives.
  2. Marketing objectives – where do you want to be? Typically, marketing objectives focus on things like launching new products/services, acquiring new customers, retaining existing ones, increasing brand awareness, and building brand loyalty.  These should link back to your business objectives and be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound).
  3. Marketing strategy – which way is best? – Your marketing strategy sets out how you plan to achieve your marketing objectives and should provide a broad high-level direction for your marketing efforts. Here, you’ll make decisions about which market segments to pursue, or which products or services to push, which to withdraw.
  4. Marketing activities – how do you get there? This is where things really start to take shape at a practical level.  By using the marketing mix (see below), decisions about each product and service can be taken and adjusted as required.
  5. Implementation – how do you make it happen? An action plan, identifying who is responsible for what, by when, and within what budget.
  6. Monitoring and control – how do you know you’ve arrived? Processes for reviewing progress and keeping on track, using indicators to measure how well you’re doing.

The Marketing Mix

The marketing mix helps you to implement your marketing strategy.  It comprises seven elements that together are used to successfully market a product or service:

  • Product/service What you are selling and how does the customer benefit? Does it meet their needs?
  • Place – How will customers buy your product/service e.g. by phone, online, face-to-face, through a third party?
  • Price – What will you charge the customer? Do you have different prices for different customer groups, different products/services?
  • Promotion – How will you promote your product/service e.g. advertising, PR, direct mail, email, online? Which methods will work best?
  • People Are your staff ready and able to deliver?
  • Process – Are all the processes and procedures in place to make it easy for customers to do business with you?
  • Physical evidence refers to whatever the customer can see before, during and after product

Every product or service you offer will need its own special blend of these seven elements.

Promoting your enterprise

Most of your marketing budget will be spent on promotional activities or other communications, so it is important to understand the range of tools available and when they should be used. Choose them based factors such as what you’re trying to achieve, your target audience, and of course how much you have to spend.

The key promotional tools include:

  1. Advertising non-personal communication that is paid for and viewed via newspapers, websites, TV, radio, magazine adverts, posters, leaflets, brochures. Usually designed to encourage or persuade people to take action.
  2. PR (Public Relations) includes activities such as speaking at conferences, winning awards and competitions, news releases, features, guest columns, photographs, blogging, annual reports.  PR is used to develop good relationships with target audiences and building and maintaining reputation.
  3. Direct Marketing – directly targeting the customer using techniques such as direct mail (post or email), magazine inserts, mail order, online shopping.
  4. Personal selling – face-to-face selling that aims to persuade a buyer to make a purchase, includes door-to-door sales, telesales and demonstrations.
  5. Social media – tools that allow users to network and engage with each other and share opinions and content e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Flickr. By building of communities or networks and encouraging participation and engagement, organisations can connect with users on a personal level, instantly and ‘free of charge’.
  6. Sales promotion – short-term tools used to generate sales e.g. coupons, discounts, competitions, special terms, gift offers.

Promotional activities are particularly effective when they are ‘integrated’ i.e. ensuring communications tools work together to achieve a desired outcome. For example, placing an advert in a magazine that prompts readers to view your website for more details, which in turn promotes a special offer to encourage purchase.

Here are some concise guides that cover various aspects of promotion, many of which have been produced for charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises:

Developing your brand

Your brand is a set of associations (feelings, experiences, attitudes or opinions) that your customers (and other audiences) have with your organisation.  You can influence and shape the perceptions that people hold by developing a strong brand identity and managing your brand effectively (i.e. making sure somebody is responsible for look after the image you’re projecting).

Here are some useful resources providing more information:

Useful websites

  • Access over 200 free marketing briefs and templates on the CIM Marketing Expert website.
  • The Marketing Donut website is packed full of useful resources, checklists, briefs, videos
  • CharityComms – a membership network for communications professionals working in UK charities.