Every bit as important as the product or service you provide is the marketing you will do to promote yourself or your business. Marketing is work designed to get you more work. And where it’s especially important is in helping you to better know your customers and how you can make a better product or service to meet their needs and wants.
Despite the common misnomer, marketing is more than just promotion (although that is a crucial component to making a competitive business or service. Marketing consists of five fundamentals that, when taken together, can help you to make a competitive stance in the marketplace. In this topic area, we’ll explore the fundamentals of marketing (sometimes referred to as the 5 Ps of marketing) to better understand how both we and our customers can benefit from the value we provide. First we’ll explore the Person at the center of our marketing, our customer. Then we’ll look at the Problem they face, the Product (or service) we offer to help them, how we Price for this, how we Position our brand, and how we can Promote the business.
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Marketing your business or your services is just as important as doing the actual work itself. It’s effort that you put into not only earning more business, but also providing a better work product.
The Five Ps of Marketing
Marketing has the best chances of success with five fundamental elements work together. In business, these elements are known as the “5 Ps of Marketing.”
- The Person: By this we really mean the customer. Who is that you have in mind that would be the best fit to buy your product or service? Everything you or your business does happens because of this person. Knowing this audience’s needs, wants, problems, and preferences will go a long way in not only earning new customers, but in maintaining existing ones.
- The Product: By “product” we mean the thing you actually sell and provide. That could be something tangible like a new app, furniture, pottery, and so on. But it can also mean the service you provide, so really your work product. Either way, it’s what you provide in exchange for money.
- The Price: You have to know what the market will bear for your product or service. Factors such as demand, shifting demographics, unmet needs, and competition also play a role as to how much you can charge for your product or service. Are you priced too high, too low, or just right?
- The Position: Here we’re talking about branding and messaging. In short, how do you talk about and present your business or your service? How do/would your customers talk about them? How do you make sure that your customers’ thinking is in-line with the image you want to project?
- The Promotion: There are several ways to reach prospective customers and to continue connecting with existing ones. But not every customer type wants you to communicate with them the same way. So which way is right?
Tips for Marketing
- Stay flexible but determined as market trends change. Marketing is a practice that you can continually improve. The trick is to ensure that you keep your customer at the center of all your marketing.
- Measure your reach and traction. Not every strategy or tactic is going to work for every kind of audience, so you will need to track and evaluate how well your marketing is working and make adjustments.
- Marketing is problem solving. It’s not just about attracting new customers, it’s about continuing to provide something of value to both you and your customers. Marketing helps you understand the wants and needs of your customers, so you can make a better product or service for your customer.
- Your customer (and your marketing approach) will change over time. Make marketing a regular practice and you can anticipate trends and changes in your customers segments, allowing you and your customers to fully benefit from the product or service you provide.
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The Person at the Center
The Person at the center of all of your marketing efforts is the customer. And to better understand your customer, it’s helpful to know whether you’re running a B2B or B2C kind of operation.
B2B or B2C
In a B2B situation, you are dealing business-to-business. You sell services or products to a business so they can in turn provide value to their customers. An example of this is selling design services to a consumer-packaged goods food company so they can package their new pasta. Or in the case of a service, perhaps you sell tools to auto shops so they in-turn can provide a service to their customers.
In a B2C scenario, you are selling your goods and services as a business-to-consumer. An easy way to understand this is to think of an example such as consumer-packaged goods. Let’s say you open a bakery that serves a neighborhood or small town. While you may have a few catering orders from other businesses in the area, your bread and butter (pardon the pun) are the resident families from the surrounding community. You sell directly to the customer.
Target Market Type
A common mistake in business and contracting is that we often try to be everything to everyone, which is a quick way to make yourself miserable and your business suffer. We can’t solve everyone’s problem, but we can help quite a few. But knowing whose problem to solve is key to figuring out the rest of the marketing fundamentals, such as how to design and price your product or service.
In any case, you want to ask yourself (or better yet, ask your customer!) why they buy what they do, and how they buy those products or services. It will give you some insight into their motivations and how they try to meet their needs and wants.
Primary Target Market
The primary target market (sometimes referred to as your primary audience) is your main customer and they represent your best chance to sell. By increasingly focusing on the details of your primary target market’s realities (demographics, lifestyle, problems) you will have a smaller and smaller pool of potential customers to engage, but your odds of selling to them tend to increase. Get your audience as detailed as possible, but be careful to make sure that the marketplace is still large enough to support your business.
Secondary Target Market
This is the next-most appealing group to your business. In some cases, the secondary market is the end-user of your product. Secondary markets, like children in candy stores, often try to sell-through to the primary target market, which in this example would be their parents. So even though they are not the ones to make the purchase, they are no doubt influential in generating the demand for the sale.
Tertiary Target Market.
Consider the last time a friend or colleague shared a picture or a video of a product they were using or an experience they were enjoying. Their sharing, while not necessarily aimed to get you to make a similar purchase, can and often does often leave an imprint on how that product or service might benefit you. By reaching the tertiary market, such as influencers on social media or in the press, can help you sell through your products or services to your primary market or at least to inform your secondary.
Problems to Solve
No matter which audience you’re working with, you need to understand that you’re working with another human being who either has a problem to solve or an opportunity to seize, and that your job with marketing is to get a better sense of why that problem exists, how they currently solve for it, and to offer a valuable solution.
Get into the habit of regularly interviewing or conversing with your existing customers and those who could use your service but do not. Having a sense of which problems exist for them and why they either did or didn’t choose you or your company helps to ground your own understanding of how you might add more value to your offering.
As mentioned earlier in this topic page, you cannot possibly be everything to everybody, and so understanding how your primary and secondary audiences can be more readily organized can help you focus your marketing efforts, especially when it comes to promotion and customer communication. There are four major ways to organize customers:
Segmentation Types & Attributes
- Geography: The location of our audience, typically local, regional, national, or global. The most microlevel typically explored is by neighborhood.
- Demographics: The age, gender, education level, nationality, religion, and ethnicity of our target market.
- Psychographics: The personality, values, opinions, attitudes, interests, and lifestyles of our target market.
- Behavior: How our target market searches for information, spends money, and communicates (including which communication channels and platforms they prefer to use.)
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Define Your Product
The second fundamental to marketing is the Product. This term is interchangeable with the term service. Basically, we are examining what it is that you or your company provides in exchange for money or other items of value.
What You Make and for Whom
How do you know that you are offering the right product or service for the right audience? When you start to see sales. But in order for that to happen, you have fierst have a great understanding of your target market’s needs and wants before you can offer a product or service that is designed to add value to their lives by either removing or alleviating any problems they have, or in helping them seize opportunities.
How Your Product Competes
If your customer fits neatly into a generational segment, then that will give you a general sense of how they’re spending their resources. It may not be a 100% fit, but more of your customers are likely to fit into these segments than not. Consumers typically make purchase decisions based on perceived value, meaning that the value of the product or service is really up to them and in their minds.
You or your company can compete on quality, access, and cost. While you have final say about your competitive advantage, it’s your customer who ultimately determines which of these is most important. Your job is to continually communicate and survey your customers to get an understanding of how they prioritize those attributes when evaluating products and services that can help them solve their problem.
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Set the Right Price
In order to Price your product accordingly and in-line with what your market is willing to pay, you’ll want to consider what it costs to provide your products and services, plus all the other costs of doing business that come along with it.
Learn what your competitors are charging for similar services or products. Be mindful of how much your product or service goes for in other marketplaces as well, and learn about who makes those purchases. Having this information will help you determine if you should do premium, penetration, or economy pricing.
With this strategy, you keep your price artificially high so you can promote an image of having a premium product. This is one way that some luxury companies try to differentiate themselves from the competition. While this strategy can elevate your brand, you risk alienating customers and driving them to your competitors. What you gain in brand perception you lose in market share
With penetration pricing, you introduce your offering to the market at a low price in order to break into the space. On the plus side, it helps you to get established, but one drawback is that it’s challenging to encourage repeat business when you ultimately raise the price.
When you set your price low in order to make a small margin of profit, you are using economy pricing. This works when you’re able to start delivering the product at scale in bulk or to several customers, and you’re able to draw in large quantities of customers on a consistent basis.
When it comes to pricing, you typically want to come in at a rate that the market feels is fair and provides value for having their problem solved. While you can compare your prices with those of your competitors and with the cost customers pay for other options and workarounds, your best bet is to go to show your product or service to your audience and ask them 1) if they’d pay for what you’re selling, 2) how much they’d be willing to pay.
It’s up to you to balance that with what it costs you to provide the goods or services so you can generate a profit.
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Position Your Product
In this section we’ll explore the 4th fundamental of marketing: positioning.
Believe it or not, this is actually one of the more entertaining (but sometimes challenging) marketing efforts you’ll have to undertake. This is because you may be too close to your own work to see it clearly, and you can actually bias your own thinking.
It is recommended that you experiment with what the perspective of a potential customer would be if they were looking at you or your business. In the end, what the customer thinks of your brand is more important than what you think of it.
Positioning is all about how you want your company or yourself to be known in the mind of your customers. It’s a statement that tells the world who you are, what you do, and why it matters. There are two main components that we’re concerned with when it comes to positioning: branding and messaging.
With branding, you are letting a name, logo, or other identifying feature represent you or your company in the marketplace. It’s what differentiates you from competitors and sets you apart, in a way letting customers know what you’re about and the value they can expect from you or your business.
Brands speak to the market and create a perception about the value you provide through the carefully constructed mix that includes logos, vocabular, taglines, and ultimately your interaction with the customer which valides the image you’re working to project.
Messaging is how you talk about and present yourself, your business, and your product or service.
With messaging we’re trying to make ourselves and our companies relatable to prospective and existing customers, which means we are trying to combine the key benefits of our work and the value that work provides in a simple message. It tells your target market what you do, how you do it, and why it matters.
Marketing does not just happen at arms length. Some of the most powerful marketing you do will be done by in person or through remote networking opportunities. In either case, you need to be able to clearly and succinctly explain who you are, what you do, and what you want. One method is to use a type of formula to create an elevator pitch, named as such for the average length of an elevator ride (less than 30 seconds).
Hello, I’m <your first and last name>. My company, <company name>, is a <product type> that provides <target market> experiencing <problem statement> by <your solution>.
Let’s look at an example of how this comes together.
Hello, I’m Daniela Morrison. My company, Morrison’s Morning Buzz, is a coffeehouse chain that provides coffee lovers in small towns who miss the elegance of a big city coffee shop with fine baked goods and premium coffee drinks.
Nice, right? So how did Daniela from Morrison’s Morning Buzz do this? Easy. She followed these four steps that you can use to build your elevator pitch:
- Identify yourself and your company (you can bypass the company field if you are an independent contractor).
- Tell the person you’re speaking with exactly what you or your company do and for whom.
- Identify the problem as simply as you can.
- Tell us how you, your company, or your product solve your market’s problem.
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Promote Your Hustle
Now we will discuss the final fundamental: Promotion.
When working to promote your company or yourself, you must first think back to what you learned about your target market, and in this case the first thing you want to know is how that market predominately communicates, how they get their information. You want to know if they’re primarily mobile or desktop users. Which social media platforms do they use? Wherever your market is getting its information, that’s where we want to be, too.
Nowadays most everything about communication is digital, which is good because the cost of digital marketing is fairly cost effective provided you convert prospects into buyers.
In the spirit of the Undocuhustle lifestyle, we can begin to promote our business through digital means quickly and inexpensively. Some digital promotion tools that are readily available to you now include websites, social media, and email marketing.
The first order of promotions is to get your website up and running.
Building a basic website that communicates your brand, your story, and your product is fairly quick and easy. Software services such as Squarespace or WordPress enable you to find and purchase a URL and to begin building your page using templates.
With social media you can connect with your audience in a very broad or direct manner. Follow the lead of your customers and meet them where they are. If they tend to shy away from certain social media platforms, then it doesn’t make sense for you to market to them on that platform. Instead, concentrate your energy by being in the same online social space as them.
Use rich media such as powerful images and compelling videos to tell the story of you, your business, your product or service, and how it solves their problems. Use social media to start adding value to their lives before they even become a customer.
With email, you can use a Google business account to keep business emails separate from work emails, and you can also set up your email account to run through Google as well so that you have a professional email address with the same extension as your website URL.
Keep in mind that not all of your email communications have to be written letters. Instead, develop a monthly newsletter about your industry, craft, or expertise that might add something of compelling value to your customer’s day. You can also use this strategy as a touchpoint to follow up with customers after they’ve made a purchase to gauge their satisfaction and encourage repeat business with coupon codes (for example.)