Podcast - A beginner's guide to marketing

In the first episode of a new podcast series, Josh Hall considers the importance of marketing.

Marketing is one of the most important tasks facing any business owner – and yet it is also one of the most frequently overlooked. This is perhaps because it is often misunderstood. Many business owners do not understand why they need to bother with marketing, or they presume that it is something they can only do with a big budget.

Marketing is a broad term. It involves almost every aspect of the process by which you encourage potential customers to buy your products or services. Marketing is therefore at the heart of every successful business.

Marketing is a multi-stage process. To begin with you will probably have to identify your potential customers, and this might involve doing some market research. Then you might decide on tactics to help you sell your products or services to those potential customers. You will then test those tactics, and use the results of your tests to improve. As you can see, marketing is an ongoing process – not a one-off.

You may already have heard of the phrase ‘the four Ps’. This is an important concept in marketing, and is also known as the ‘marketing mix’.

The four Ps are the four most important elements of any marketing campaign. They are product, price, place and promotion.

The product could be tangible or intangible – that is, it could be a physical object like a loaf of bread, or it could be a service. There are an almost infinite number of considerations when it comes to product development. These might include packaging, functionality, and safety.

Pricing is the second P. Pricing decisions might include working out your break-even, developing seasonal offers, and deciding how flexible you can be with potential customers.

Place, the third P, is all about distribution. Broadly speaking this refers to the process you use to get the product or service to the customer. Your distribution methods will depend on the nature of your business, but primary concerns might include developing an efficient inventory system and deciding on the distribution channels you will use.

Finally, promotion refers to your marketing communications – that is, the materials you use to talk to potential customers. Amongst other things you will need to develop a unified tone of voice to ensure that your message is consistent across every channel. You will also have to consider which channels you use.

There is a huge range of marketing techniques that you might choose to explore. These range from the conventional to the bizarre; from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Some businesses can derive great benefit from old favourites like direct mail. This provides you with the opportunity to contact potential customers in a straightforward manner – but it has significant potential drawbacks. Direct mail can be expensive, and it can also result in something of a scattergun approach in which you may not be targeting the people who are most likely to be interested in your product.

Alternatively, you might choose to explore advertising. A well-placed advert in a local paper can be a great way to drum up interest in a new business. Similarly, the internet has provided businesses of every size with the opportunity to deliver a highly targeted message to a large number of potential customers, quickly and at relatively little cost.

There is a limitless number of marketing techniques to investigate. Finding the techniques that work for your business is a key part of developing a successful marketing strategy. So, in the next episode of the Simply Business podcast, we will be looking at how you can measure the success of your marketing activities – and keep building on them to get the results you need.