If your profit margins are tight, and you are looking for ways to cut overheads, you may wonder whether you need to spend money on marketing. The short answer is that marketing is essential to any business. Marketing is how you attract and keep your customers, and customers are the lifeblood of your business.
Any successful business will have a marketing plan, updating it regularly to take account of changing conditions. An effective plan helps you to let your customers know who you are and what you do, and why they should buy your products or services. Equally importantly, it helps you to understand your customers and so to target them more successfully.
Remember that marketing is much more than just advertising and sales, and relates to every aspect of your relationship with your customers. Part of it is about building up your image. Once you have a recognisable brand, which your customers can trust and identify with, then your marketing and advertising activity will have more impact.
It is also about understanding your customer base, so that you can target your products or services towards their needs. This will give you an awareness of how to pitch your pricing policies, and what additional services customers may require. For instance, you need to understand whether customers want cheap goods that need frequent replacement, or whether they are more interested in durable items with a strong after sales service.
In some cases your market research may indicate that you have different groups of customers (‘market segments’) with differing needs. Understanding this will help you to differentiate what you offer them. This might mean supplying slightly different products, or finding different ways of pricing (for instance, offering ‘end of line’ products at a discount). In some cases, it might just be a matter of advertising differently to various parts of the market. You might want to use social media such as Facebook for your younger customers, and printed magazines for more traditional markets.
However successful your marketing plan, this is not a one-off exercise. Business is never static: customers’ requirements change, new competitors emerge, and your own business processes are likely to alter over time. Money spent on effective marketing will always be the best way of attracting and retaining customers, and ultimately of maintaining the profitability of your business.