In an evolving market and with the developing technology there is no single approach to guarantee your success. Your ability to adapt and your flexibility to tackle different challenges is what will give you an edge over your competitors. In my role as a Commercial executive, I was always fascinated with marketing. When I went to study in the University, Marketing was barely starting as a new domain of studies deriving from Business (In my country). I finished my Bachelors in Business Administration with a load of Marketing optional courses and continued reading book after book and article after article to enhance my knowledge about this field.
One thing I knew for a fact is that real life is not what we study in books when it comes to Marketing (among other things). The 4 Ps (also known as Marketing Mix, which includes: Product, Price, Place, and Promotion) were valid to me at all times since they were the first to attract me in my Introduction to Marketing University course. Adding to the 4Ps or changing them to 4 Cs (Commodity, Cost, Channel, and Communication) to reflect a consumer approach, is just a game of words as I see it.
What am I offering? What am I expecting in return? Where is my offer available? And what are the means I am using to let people know of my offer, is how I actually view marketing. To me it is rather more than just a business transaction. From political figures, to religious leaders, or even a job seeker, you should know how to put your offer in public.
It is all about people. If you have something and people want it they will buy it or buy into it. No matter if it is an item or an idea, no matter if they pay or get it for free, if people like it they will want to get it. The 4Ps approach, the 4Cs, or any other academic approach, are meant to rather explain to us how these things work together, yet they are merely reference points. Although very useful (I used them a lot in real life experiences), some will be surprised at the complexity of the markets and people they will be dealing with.
I am rather faced with this challenge every time I launch a new project or a new service. In a competitive world where monopoly rules do not apply, your chances are that you will probably be the last to offer a product rather than being the first. To be more specific (relating to my own field), what are the chances of a new company to be the first mobile operator in the US? None! (AT&T, Verizon, etc…)
I never worked in my field in the US, I rather picked contract after contract in developing countries. In those markets, new comers in the mobile field still pop up. Even in saturated markets, someone still believes they have a chance to succeed in starting a new business. Most think about positioning (yet another P). They think they have a chance to stand out in the crowd. This is where the challenges begin.
In my field, mobile communication, I am not offering anything new (It used to be new in those markets when I first tackled this field). The mistake that many do is link the product to the price. If I am offering the same product as the existing business, I cut my prices and get a market share. It is not as easy as it seems. I have seen many fall for that. In a market where your competitor is a well established business with a major market share, they are able to challenge you for a long time when it comes to prices. They already paid for their equipment, while you will be struggling to reach a breakeven point let alone the return on investment.
Many variables rule the market and you cannot just simply grasp everything. Humans are not machines. Although we are rather price sensitive (especially when it comes to poor countries), the social status and the individual psychology among others are essential variables to take into consideration.
One of my company’s competitors offered prices that were almost half ours. They surely ensured a market share within the first quarter by doing so. However, I was monitoring their performance all the time. By advertising they were cheaper than others; they actually were advertising that they are cheap. The public understanding became that they are a company offering its services to poor people. At a certain stage, they had almost doubled the number of our subscribers, yet they had the “cheap” subscribers. The Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) we had was 16 USD/ month while their ARPU was about 1.8 USD. In two years time, that company was sold before they went bankrupt.
Although I may have complicated your understanding so far, I honestly think it is rather simple:
- Define your product. It can be an idea or a commodity. You may just want to let the world know that you are there. You may just want to state your opinion. You may just want to share with others. What do you want to do? Set a target: I want to sell canned air! Congratulations, many thought of that before you did! Don’t let that hold you. You are the only one who can measure your own success. Maybe your aim was just to prove a point, by selling one can of air!
- Define a Price. They say that nothing is free. Although your offer may be for free, it costs something to the one buying into it. If it was a commodity, then the other person is paying for it in material substance (it can be money or some form of barter). If it was an idea, they are at least spending the time to hear you or read your article.
- Define a Place. Even a beggar on the street tries to choose the best spot. I never saw a beggar expecting to collect money in the middle of a highway where there is no place for the car to park. I do see them a lot though near traffic lights. It may be your house, your neighborhood, your village, your city, or even the world. How are you going to spread your product is based also on you, and your abilities.
- Define a Promotion. What is the best approach you see fit to spread the word about your product? Is it just by using your mouth? Printing flyers? Using the internet?
Don’t depend on one component; coordinate the usage of the mix. There is no better evaluator to your product’s success other than yourself. You define what you expect. Don’t let fear rule you.
Of course, this is not the correct approach for people who want to make money. It is just how I see marketing being far more spread than just a “simple” business transaction. When I started my website, I wanted to share my opinions with others. I was expecting to have 5 people reading my articles to the end. I wasn’t even expecting anyone to comment, although I hoped they did. Since I re-launched my site (about two months before writing this article) I had more than 130 Visitors who stayed more than 2 minutes reading one article or the other. I had 22 comments, yet only 5 of them were not spam. Did I succeed? According to my targets, I did, but hey, I am human and expect more.
In my professional life, I set much higher standards. I am more cautious because my work provides the food I set on the table for my family. In future articles I will discuss further the marketing mix, from a professional experience. I will talk about positioning, segmentation, ARPU, among other issues I deal with on a daily basis. In a real world there is not a single approach to guarantee success. Sharing your thoughts with others may guide them into finding a solution they were always looking for. Sometimes your product may be just that: Helping others.