In the twentieth century, with the increase in the number of manufacturers and industries for specific products, consumers had numerous options to buy from multiple manufacturers. Manufacturers faced the need to differentiate their product and thus mass media marketing was born. Primary channels used for mass media marketing were print advertising, mass mailers, television, radio, and outdoor advertising. The objective of conventional mass media marketing was for organizations to create strong brands and differentiated brand perceptions so that consumers would desire and purchase their products rather than those of competitors.
However, in recent times, the media have become increasingly fragmented with several hundred television and radio channels as well as a large variety of print media including newspapers, magazines, and trade publications. With the increasing popularity of the Internet and, more recently, smartphones, many options now exist for advertisers to reach a global audience using digital media marketing methods such as cell phone apps, Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, QR codes, gamification, and proximity marketing. All of these options have resulted in fragmented new-age marketing. Some characteristics of fragmented new-age marketing are as follows:
These characteristics provide compelling reasons for companies to shift their focus toward fragmented new-age marketing. Marketers evaluate all media in terms of who the target audience is and what media resonates best to arrive at an integrated approach to marketing by leveraging the strengths of various types of media.
Points of parity for a product are those characteristics of a company’s product that are not unique but are rather on par with competing products. Points of differentiation are those areas on which a company’s product outperforms competing products. The company needs to decide which product features and benefits it wants to match with competing products, and those it wants to differentiate from competing products. It is simply not feasible or advisable for a company to differentiate its product on all aspects.
Though points of differentiation provide a company with its competitive edge over the competition, choosing points of parity carefully is also important. Customers should be able to relate the company’s product with a certain product category, so they can understand at a broad level the type of need that the product satisfies. Therefore, some basic characteristics of the product must be similar to other products in its category. If the product fails to meet the basic characteristics that customers expect from all products in the product category, then customers may not consider it for purchase, irrespective of how well the product is differentiated on other characteristics.
In product categories where there are many differentiation options (such as in the software industry), it makes sense to focus on creating sustainable differentiators rather than on blunting the competition’s points of differentiation. Thus, efforts could be better utilized in creating profound points of differentiation. Additionally, differentiation is not always accomplished through product characteristics. It can be created by offering better services or unique packaging, or by implementing more efficient processes that provide a cost advantage.
Let’s try to understand this better with a few examples..
In the past, the ability of major retailers to provide options for customers to purchase products online would have been a point of differentiation. However, as online shopping grows in popularity and more companies develop their e-commerce capabilities to match consumer demand, the ability to facilitate online shopping has become a point of parity among major retailers.
Similarly, Until recent years, free internet connectivity through Wi-Fi was a point of differentiation for some coffee shops; however, as increasingly more consumers have come to expect this service, the ability to be freely connected is quickly becoming a point of parity in the industry.
A company may choose to match a competing product on a point of differentiation, effectively softening that product’s edge. Thus, if the company achieves parity on all the basic characteristics and blunts the competition’s competitive advantage by targeting its point of differentiation, then even a relatively minor point of differentiation can provide the company with a competitive advantage.
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When designing a marketing strategy should you start where you want to be, or where you are?
If you’re a motivational speaker, you’re probably saying, “Start where you want to be.” If you’re a process engineer, you’re likely to say, “Start where you are.” If you’re a marketing strategist, you’re probably saying, “Yes.”
“But it’s an ‘either/or’ question!” they might remind you.
“True, but the answer is still ‘Yes,’” you would answer.
In sales and marketing, there must be a strong focus on goals and objectives, the “where you want to be”bit. “The Corporate Marketing Strategy is defined at a corporate level. It defines the overall marketing goals for the company. These general marketing goals drive more specific marketing strategies for each of the company’s business units or geographies,” saysMarketing Strategy, book one of the SMstudy™ Guide.
Can the company meet these goals? The answer to this lies in the “where you are.” “The strengths and weaknesses of a company determine its internal capabilities to compete in a market and to fulfill customer expectations,” says the SMstudy™Guide. “Strengths provide the company with a competitive advantage and weaknesses place the company at a disadvantage.”
“Start where you are” is one of the “Practitioner 9 Guiding Principles” identified by Axelos, the people responsible for publications coming from the Information Technology and Infrastructure Library (ITIL) of the British Home Office. These principles are designed to help IT practitioners succeed in an increasingly customer- and market-oriented service environment.
One of the key “Practitioner Guiding Principles” is “focus on value.” This is something marketing professionals know very well: their product’s or service’s value proposition. “All successful products or brands need well-planned marketing strategies in place to ensure that they satisfy the goals set by the corresponding Business Unit or Geographic level, and in turn the overall Corporate Marketing Strategy. Marketing Strategy is therefore one of the most crucial Aspects of Sales and Marketing. It defines a product or brand’s unique value proposition, target markets, and the specific strategies to be used to connect with defined audiences,” according to the SMstudy™ Guide.
Arriving at a value proposition involves identifying the target market segment: what are the people that make up this group like? What do they do for a living? For recreation? How do they spend their money? These are very similar to questions that IT developers ask and answer when creating personas for their end users and customers. How will they use this service? When will they most likely access it? What will it do for them? How much is this worth to them? The confluence of service development and marketing is becoming greater and greater.
With the decreasing time between product development and its “hitting the shelves,” it seems inevitable that marketing interests and elements would enter product lifecycles earlier. Which ties in well with “Practitioner Guiding Principle” number 8: collaborate. The real value that developers put into a product after conferring with marketing and management becomes the real value that the sales and marketing people communicate to the customers, who buy that value, take it home and cherish it. Everyone is working together and the world’s a happier place.
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When a researcher collects new data for a specific research project, the data is considered primary data. On the other hand if the data is already available in house i.e. historical data or data received from some other external sources (e.g. industry reports, internet searches, government published reports etc.), the data is considered as secondary data.
The research requirements will vary from project to project, with many research projects requiring both primary and secondary data to solve the research problem. Some research projects can be solved with the sole use of existing secondary data, while in other cases no secondary data exists and the research project can only be solved with the use of primary data.
As a rule, a researcher should always try to collect and analyze secondary data before moving to the collection and analysis of comparatively costly and time-consuming primary data. In some cases secondary data may be inadequate or unusable. When the needed data do not exist or are outdated, inaccurate, incomplete, or unreliable, the researcher needs to collect primary data.
Let’s take an example to illustrate the need of collecting primary data. It is a common HR practice to keep the employees satisfied for most of the medium to big sized companies as studies show that engaged employees are more productive and are better contributors to their employer’s goals and objectives. Employee satisfaction surveys (popularly known as “ESAT survey”) are done to evaluate the satisfaction of employees on key parameters such as satisfaction with senior management, immediate managers, company policies, work environment, hygiene factors and other facilities, training and development, opportunities for personal growth etc. In this case collecting primary data is a must as it is meaningless to use past ESAT survey data for the current workforce.
There are various forms of primary data. Some common types are illustrated as follows:
Demographic Data—Demographic data are related to characteristics such as the gender, age, income, education, occupation, marital status, ethnicity, and social status of the target group. Demographic primary data categorize the target market into different customer segments each having some common attributes which help marketers to focus on a specific segment or create segment specific marketing strategies. For example a fast food (e.g. pizza, burgers etc.) brand may find that preferences of people in the 20–30 age group are different from the preferences of people in the 30–40 age group.
Psychographics and Lifestyle Data—This kind of data is related to personality traits, interests, lifestyle, values, and opinions of the target respondents. Marketers often combine psychographics and lifestyle information with demographic information to obtain an important perspective of the target market.
Intentions—Intentions refer to the anticipated future behaviors of an individual. This is a subject of interest to marketers who want to solve a research problem related to future consumption rate or demand.
Attitudes—Attitudes refer to a person’s feelings, convictions, or beliefs toward an object, idea, or an individual. Since attitude impacts behavior, it is of great importance to marketers.
Awareness/Knowledge—This data refers to what subjects do or do not know about an object of investigation. Information influences behavior and marketers often want to know how the behavior of customers changes with their level of awareness regarding a particular product, brand, object, or industry.
Motivations—A person’s actions are the reflection of his or her inner state. Marketers often want to know the motives that direct specific consumer behavior. Motivations can include users’ category, brand-purchasing motives, value systems, and perceptions among others.
Behaviors—Behaviors are the actions taken by respondents. Questions regarding respondents’ behaviors toward a particular situation can be asked to them directly and can be included in a survey. However, the responses may not represent the actual behavior of the respondents. Observation techniques are more often used to understand the actual behavior of respondents. Purchase behavior is also an important factor; when considering purchase behavior, marketers might categorize consumers as non-users, potential users, first-time users, regular users, or former users.
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The iPad was Apple’s last big innovation launched in 2010. Since then the company has yet to give the people a product that has really caused us to say, “wow.”
Why is this?
In the last five years the company has released upgrades to the iPhone, but I think we can all agree that Apple has mastered the art of the iPhone, so maybe it is time to move onto something else. The company seems to have adopted the, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality, but the problem with this approach is technology is not static. It is changing, adapting and growing every second; so instead of mastering its product, the company should think of advancing with technology by creating a new product.
Apple followed the iPad release with the iPad Pro, which should have provided us all with that “wow” factor that we have been looking for, but unfortunately the device seems more like a copy of Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3. So, instead of creating new, innovative products the company has stooped to mimicking.
This rut that Apple finds itself in can all be attributed to their previous innovations. According to Timothy Wang at Cubic Lane, “the company is at the top of the industry in the terms of revenues. There is really no pressing need to create or change when business is doing so well.”
The company has to get out of the comfort zone they’ve created if they plan on staying on top of the industry. Remember Nokia? The company used to be the leader in the mobile phone industry. If Apple doesn’t change their mentality soon they could become just another disappearing brand.
As discussed in the recent article, “Out with Innovation, in with Maturation,” brand loyalty is the reason for the company’s continued success, but if we, as consumers, aren’t provided with a big “wow” anytime soon we might find loyalty for another brand. I used to love my Nokia, but now I love my iPhone. Maybe I’ll love my Samsung Galaxy next, you never know.
Apple can look to the SMstudy® Guide, the Sales and Marketing Body of Knowledge, to find their answer. As noted inMarketing Research, book two in the six book series, “A 5C Analysis is one of the most popular and useful frameworks in understanding internal and external environments. It is an extension of the 3C Analysis that originally included, Company, Customers, and Competitors. Collaborators and Climate were later added to the analysis to make it comprehensive. This integrated analysis covers the most important areas of marketing, and the insights generated can help identify the key problems and challenges facing the organization.”
An analysis of the company and where it wishes to advance in order to beat competitors and appease their customers can be done with the help of collaborators and climate. Apple needs to stand up to its reputation as the most innovative company in order to stay on top of the technological food chain, and fortunately for the company the SMstudy® Guide is the light at the end of their innovative tunnel.
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A well-planned, comprehensive marketing strategy for a product or brand is essential to its success. The marketing strategy determines the specific resource allocation and activities involved with all other aspects of marketing. The effects of a well-positioned marketing strategy reverberate throughout the entire spectrum of marketing options and therefore should not be treated lightly or given short shrift.
The SMstudy® Guide notes, “marketing strategy defines a product or brand’s unique value proposition, target markets, and the specific strategies to be used to connect with defined audiences. It also specifies the pricing and distribution strategies for a product or brand and outlines the specific metrics, objectives and budgets for all its marketing activities.”
So, what are the basics of creating a comprehensive marketing strategy?
In essence, there are four main areas of research and analysis that should be addressed during the creation of any marketing strategy. They include:
The chosen marketing strategy has far-reaching impact on all other aspects of marketing. In addition, other aspects of marketing work synergistically with the marketing strategy. Consider the following:
Marketing strategy elements such as product features, target segments, and distribution strategy are key determining factors for a robust digital marketing campaign. Product category and product features determine how suitable a product is to be marketed online. Some products or services are more conducive to online marketing than others. Given that digital marketing activities can be integral to a number of other elements of the marketing strategy, the impact of the marketing strategy may be far greater on digital marketing activities depending on the specific product-market combination.
Marketing research provides valuable insights on the performance of a marketing strategy and is helpful when companies need to take steps to resolve issues. Many of the research activities carried out for one process in marketing strategy may also be used by other marketing aspects. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind all the processes of marketing strategy while designing a research project to ensure that additional relevant information is also collected if the incremental cost of collecting that information is acceptable.
Product features and target markets determine how suitable a product is to be sold through business-to-business channels, and how budget and resources are allocated accordingly for corporate sales efforts. Marketing strategy also provides the corporate sales team with market intelligence related to competitors and industry trends, which helps the company to position itself strategically for each business opportunity.
Branding and Advertising
Branding and advertising build awareness of a product with customers and then ideally transitions them to loyal customers. This evolution of trust is made possible by understanding customers’ needs and ensuring that the company’s marketing activities are oriented towards meeting those needs in the best way possible. Customer profiling is a part of the marketing strategy.
Target market segments and product features determine how suitable a product is to be sold through retail channels, thereby determining the budget and resources to be allocated to retail sales. Within retail sales, a company needs to further decide whether to sell directly to the end customer or to use intermediaries such as wholesalers, distributors, and retailers. With the global rise in e-commerce, this decision is generally a complex one and needs to be made in alignment with the marketing strategy where target segments and a distribution strategy have been clearly defined.
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