Several years ago, I was riding the Metro subway in Washington, DC and got off at the end of the line. The location was in a depressed area, and few businesses were there for commuters. As I waited for my ride, I saw these two boys carrying a huge box of M&Ms in hopes of selling to weary commuters. I found it amusing that these young men were hustling in such a manner. Yet, this spoke to the spirit of entrepreneurs. The boys found an unmet need in the market. Yes, with no stores located in the immediate area, these young men sold a lot of M&Ms to hungry commuters.
With increasing competition abroad, today’s professionals cannot afford to be ignorant in understanding business practices such as marketing. The problem is that marketing is not second nature for all business professionals. Sadly, most business owners do not have the time to take a long, drawn-out college course, while others want a simple process for understanding the basic concepts until they can take more formalized courses. In fact, when you do not have a lot of money to spend on advertising your product, you have to be smarter and more creative in order to stay ahead of the competition.
Marketing is the cornerstone of understanding today’s economic changes. Philip Kotler and Kevin Keller, authors of Marketing Management, argue the important of understanding marketing concepts for today’s professionals: “The first decade of the 21st century challenged firms to prosper financially and even survive in the face of an unforgiving economic environment. Marketing is playing a key role in addressing those challenges… Thus financial success often depends on marketing abilities.”
Consequently, marketing gives individuals the ability to understand how to locate these opportunities and what to do with them when you find them. According to the American Marketing Association, marketing can be defined as an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, capturing, communicating, and delivering value to customers. However, the simplest definition is that marketing is about understanding and satisfying customer wants or needs.
In fact, there are times when customers do not know what they want or desire. Marketing then becomes that linchpin in the process of finding a solution for the consumer. Traditionally, marketing has been defined in terms of four variables described as the marketing mix, or the 4Ps: product/service, price, placement, and promotion.
Furthermore, the marketing mix is the controllable set of activities that entrepreneurs use to attract or respond to the needs of their target market. In essence, entrepreneurs attempt to create value for their customers. Value relates to the customer viewpoint, not that of the business. Value relates to the benefits the customer perceives they are getting in exchange for their purchase of the product or service.
Business experts Donald Lehmann and Russell Winer point out that inaccurate information or incorrect analysis often leads to poor decisions about marketing a business product. This flaw can hurt a business attempting to make a profit. In fact, understanding competition is a point most executives miss. Some of the questions executives should ponder include:
- Who are my competitors?
- What are the competing product features?
- What is their positioning strategy?
- What markets do they currently own and what is their future outlook?
- How do you distinguish your products from those of your competition?
- How do consumers make this distinction in products?
In today’s global markets, organizations cannot operate with a ‘trial and error’ mentality. In fact, what worked yesterday is no guarantee that it will be successful in the future. Business professionals who are less knowledgeable about marketing and marketing forces are a liability to organizations that aim for sustainable success.