Marketing is a great profession. I’ve worked in or with marketing teams for almost my whole career. From the outside, others see marketers as those who come to work late and seem to party all night. They’re always watching TV or jetting off to exotic places to talk about advertising.
For people working in operations or finance, marketers just don’t seem to be doing a very serious job; they’re always having too much fun. I’m sure you’ve already heard such comments.
Well, as you yourself know, marketing IS fun, but it’s also a lot of hard work, often close to 24/7 on many occasions. So does all that hard work pay off? Not always in my opinion. And why? Because marketers don’t always ask the right questions!
If you work in marketing, you already know the 5Ps – people, place, product, price and promotion. However, the problem with them is that when you find an issue with one of them that needs attention, you know the “what” but not the “how”.
So I suggest you work with my 7Qs instead. Each question explains not only what to check, but why. And if you can’t immediately answer any of them, then perhaps you need to do a little more work and a little less partying!
Q1. Who are your customers?
The first “P” stands for people and often that is taken to be “Do you know to whom you are selling?” The answer is always yes and that’s accepted as sufficient.
Instead, ask yourself who your customers are. I don’t mean just their demographics. I mean who they really are; what, where and how they use or consume your brand. And especially the why of their attitudes and behaviours. If you can’t give all these details about your customers, then you’re in serious trouble. See “12 things you need to know about your target customers” for more details on defining your customer persona.
Q2. How are your customers changing?
Hopefully, you answered Q1. without any hesitation – you did, didn’t you? And it’s great that you know a lot about your customers, but people change.
Are you following how your customers are changing? Are you keeping up with them and their new opinion, needs and desires? Do you know the impact of the latest trends and technologies on your customers’ behaviours? Do you know how these changes may alter your market in five, ten or even twenty years from now?
There are countless examples of brands that have disappeared because they didn’t keep up with the changing needs of their customers:
- Kodak who didn’t understand the impact of digital photography.
- Borders bookstores who didn’t get into eBooks.
- Motorola, once the leader in smartphones, who didn’t embrace new communications technology.
- Sony who resisted MP3 and lost the portable music player market that they had led for years.
- Blockbuster who survived the transition from VHS to DVD, but failed to adapt to consumers’ demand for home delivery.
The easiest way to be ready for any future changes is to prepare for them, by developing future scenarios. (>>Tweet this<<) How many possible future customer changes have you already prepared for?
Q3. What does your brand stand for?
I don’t mean it’s marketing identity or slogan; I mean how your customers or your competitors’ customers would describe it, its image? Is it strong and consistent? Does it align precisely with its identity or the positioning you want today? Do you follow the developments in its image regularly? Do you adapt your advertising and promotions to strengthen its desired image and eliminate negative changes before they impact your brand’s image? Is it authenticated by your customers’ experiences with your brand? It should be a direct reflection of your brand’s (internal) identity and promise. (>>Tweet this<<)
You should be able to describe your brand in one or at most a couple of sentences, using the words and ideas you want it to stand for, like these:
- McDonalds offers “quick, convenient, family-oriented and fun, casual dining.”
- Bic disposable pens, lighters and razors offer “high-quality products at affordable prices, convenient to purchase and convenient to use.”
Q4. How are sales and distribution?
I don’t mean just the totals. I mean the local specificities. The regional differences and anomalies. Do you know why they occur? Do these differences result from cultural differences, alternative traditions or usage, historical reasons or just distributor practices? Even if you work in marketing and not sales, understanding weekly, monthly and annual trends all mean increased understanding of your customers and their differences.
If you don’t know why your brand is doing better in some regions than others, then you’re probably missing opportunities for growth. (>>Tweet this<<) Always play to your strengths and correct your weaknesses as soon as they are identified.
Q5. Do you know what your brand is worth?
I don’t mean how much it costs to manufacture or to distribute. I mean how it is valued by the end user. How does your brand’s value compare to its current price? Incorrect pricing could mean that you are leaving money on the table!
If you are priced lower than your customers’ perceived value of it, you could be asking for more. If you are priced above the perceived value of your potential customers’, you are stopping many new customers from buying into your offer, as they don’t think you’re worth it.
Either way, you could be earning more and possibly selling more too. (>>Tweet this<<)
Q6. Are you using the right channels for your communications?
Many marketing plans are still just a rehash of last year’s, especially when it comes to advertising and promotions. With today’s huge array of media opportunities, both on and offline, it is important to choose the most appropriate ones for your customers.
If you answered Q1. completely then you will know which ones they are currently using most often, and if you are also able to answer Q2. you’ll know how these are changing or likely to change in the future.
Wasting money with outdated media plans and channels no longer used by your customers is still one of the biggest challenges of marketing. Make sure it’s not yours.
For a fun piece on the topic, check out “
Q7. Is your messaging consistent and complementary?
Answering Q3. means that you know what you want to stand for and the image you want to portray. Image metrics will tell you which of them need to be boosted, depending upon the desired changes.
Do you want to attract new customers, support current customers, or develop your image in a certain direction? Appropriate analysis of your image data will give you all the information you need to adapt your messaging and strengthen the positioning you have chosen for it.
For more details on image analysis check out the section in Denyse’s latest book “Winning Customer Centricity: Putting Customers at the Heart of Your Business – One Day at a Time.” It’s been called “A must read for today’s and tomorrow’s marketeers“ by none other than Paul Pohlman, Unilever’s CEO!
So there you have them, the seven questions that I believe will bring you greater results than just using the marketing 5Ps. What do you think? Next time you review your brand’s performance, why not give the 7Qs a try? They will provide you with a clearer picture of your brand’s current and future development opportunities, and more importantly, will identify the actions you need to take to progress its growth.
If I’ve missed any important points that you check regularly for your own brand, please share your thoughts below by adding a comment. I’d love to hear your own ideas and success stories.