This article focuses on the concept of marketing and its potential role in a small business organization. Particularly, it describes how the small business owner or manager can apply marketing principles theories, strategies, and tools as a means of achieving success in his or her business.
Several Proper Definitions of Marketing
In the light of the explanations we have provided so far, we venture to offer the following simple definition of marketing:
Marketing is a continuous process whereby individuals, groups or organizations take deliberate steps to ensure that there is a ready, sustained, profitable and satisfying market for their goods and services.
Marketing is about how to facilitate the profitable sale or patronage of a company’s goods or services. It is a set of human activities designed to expedite and facilitate exchange.
It involves the following activities:
- Pricing: Fixing the prices of the goods and services offered by the firm in such a way as to attract customers while ensuring a satisfactory level of profit.
- Distribution: This is moving and making the product or service available to those who need them and at the right time and place.
- Customer Service and Complaints Management: This is a way of doing everything necessary to ensure that customers enjoy the company’s goods and services, encouraging them to voice their complaints and suggestions and taking steps to redress identified grievances.
- Target Market Selection: This is to decide on the human needs to satisfy and the group of customers to focus on.
- Product Development and Management: To create and develop needed products and modifying and improving on existing products.
- Promotion: Developing a market for the product through advertising, publicity, personal selling, and sales promotion.
The Role and Importance of Marketing
Every business organizations seek to make profits, survive and grow by manufacturing goods or providing services to those who need them to satisfy their needs and wants. Therefore, two principal concerns of every business organization are how to:
- Secure and sustain adequate patronage for its goods and services at such a price as to make a reasonable and acceptable level of profit.
- Produce and offer goods and services which, not only satisfy customer needs and expectations but which do so either as well as, or even better than, those offered by competitors.
Marketing plays an important key role in each of these two areas. Although the actual physical development and production of goods and services are done by production and engineering departments, marketing plays a vital role in ensuring that the goods and services reflect the yearnings and expectations of customers and so satisfyingly meet their seeds.
Marketers study, the needs, expectations, and preferences of the market and relay them to production and engineering staff. This flow of market guides the company in making products that are acceptable to the market.
About the second concern, which is getting patronage, this is the primary responsibility of marketing. As pointed out previously, one way in which the marketer does this is by ensuring that the attributes and features built into the product reflect the expectations and needs of the market, in the first place.
Other ways in which the marketer strives to obtain and sustain patronage for the company’s products are by ensuring that:
- Buyers and potential buyers are kept informed about the product – its uses, benefits, unique features price, availability, and how to use it.
- Customer service is right and that consumer complaints are redressed promptly and satisfactorily.
- The product is priced rightly.
- The product is available at the right locations and outlets at the time when they are needed.
These make us believe that marketing plays a critical role in customer satisfaction, product success, corporate growth, and societal welfare.
Marketing principles, tools, and techniques can also be and are being, applied to secure and sustain customer and public patronage in non-business organizations. Examples of such organizations that can benefit from the application of marketing knowledge are government ministries and departments, parastatals, religious organizations, political parties, social clubs, and other public and private institutions.
Also, irrespective of the industry in which a company operates, its age, size, image location and the goods and services which it offers, the role of marketing is essentially the same, namely, to identify customer needs and to satisfy them at a profit to the business. This is achieved by creating and maintaining a ready market for the company’s products. In the case of non-business organizations, the goal is to secure maximum patronage or response to the organization’s offering at the least possible cost.
One of the best ways to make the beginner appreciate the nature and essence of marketing are to correct certain wrong ideas commonly held about marketing.
To understand marketing, we need to pay attention to certain issues that are critical to understanding the marketing operations of any business.
- Marketing is not an anyhow affair but a continuous activity that does not end with the sale of the product. After successfully getting an order from a prospect, the marketer has to ensure that the items ordered are supplied to the right buyer at the right place and at the right time. And also have to follow through to ensure that the customer is satisfied throughout the use or consumption of the purchased items. More importantly, he should be interested in repeat business from the customer. Every good marketer knows that he has to get the best for his money at all times. It is for this reason that relationship marketing is fast becoming the vogue in well-managed companies. Relationship marketing focuses, not just on initiating and consummating a transaction, but on establishing a long-term partnership with the customer so that the customer would have no good reason to be disloyal.
- Marketing is no longer regarded as the exclusive responsibility of the staff of the marketing department alone. Just as quality should be the concern and responsibility of everyone in the organization, so it is with marketing. Although the professional marketer has the primary responsibility for marketing and the coordination of all marketing activities throughout the organization, it is the responsibility of every member of the workforce to focus on the customer and ensure his satisfaction. In every successful business organization that we know, most members of the top management team are market-oriented; that is, they focus constantly and consistently on satisfying the customer.
- It is generally believed that everyone can practice marketing and that no special training is required to do so. To prove, their point, proponents of this view I may draw attention to the fact that all manners of people, including those who have had no formal education whatsoever, are successful traders. But this is not so. Marketing like Law, Medicine, Advertising, Engineering, and Architecture is a profession. As a discipline, it has a body of teachable knowledge. One requires a formal course of education, training, and certification in the discipline to become a professional marketer. There are professional marketing associations to which practitioners belong and a code of ethical conduct to which members subscribe. Besides, we have already made the point that marketing is a lot more than just trading. For that reason, in the same way that it is laughable and indeed dangerous to allow laymen to practice law and quacks to practice medicine, it is ridiculous and dangerous to allow non-marketers to practice marketing unless under the guidance of someone who is professionally qualified.
- Marketing is not a bag of tricks on how to deceive and cheat a helpless, hapless and passive prospect into buying what he probably does not need. Marketing is about how to genuinely assist and encourage the prospect, irrespective of his status or level to make the most appropriate choices in the market place. The wisdom here is to ensure that the customer is so satisfied with the company’s products and his entire dealings with company employees that he will cherish relating with them continuously.
- The layman believes that marketing is relevant only in a competitive market this idea is wrong. It is necessary for all market types irrespective of the level of competition. Although marketing is certainly more challenging in a typical market situation characterized by intense competition, it plays a vital role even in a monopolistic situation. It is different but also challenging in a market situation where a product has to be rationed because it is in short supply.
- It was once commonly believed, even by marketers themselves, that marketing was exclusively a business function. Although it evolved as a business function, it is now generally acknowledged that marketing is equally relevant and important in non-profit oriented organizations. Therefore, government ministries, other organs of government, political parties, religious organizations, and educational institutions, to name but a few, can adapt and apply virtually all marketing principles, tools, techniques, and strategies to attract and sustain needed patronage from their relevant clients or public.
- Unlike selling, whose goal is to get the prospect to buy immediately, marketing takes both’ a long-run and short-run view. While it is concerned with immediate sales and patronage, it is oriented more towards attracting, retaining and satisfying customers both now and in the long-term. It is concerned therefore with how to endear the company to its customers through the superior capacity to satisfy them better than competitors can.
- Many people wrongly equate marketing with buying and selling. Marketing is not just buying and selling! It is, of course, true that marketing invariably involves buying goods and reselling them to make a profit. But from what we have learned shortly, buying and selling represent only a small fraction of marketing. Another name for buying and selling is trade. Marketing is more than just trading. Trading requires knowledge of marketing although a good trader is not necessarily a good marketer. Marketing involves a set of diverse functions which, among other things, facilitate trade.
- Marketing is not just advertising or its wider ‘sister’ concept, promotion. Advertising may be the noticeable and controversial aspect of marketing, but it is only one of the four component tools of promotion, the others being publicity, personal selling, and sale promotion. Interestingly, promotion is itself only one of the four key sets of tools that the marketer can apply to stimulate a positive market response. The other three marketing tools are the product itself, price and distribution. Nonetheless, advertising is a very powerful tool in the hands of any professional marketer.
- It is still wrongly believed in some quarters that marketing becomes relevant and necessary only when the products to be sold have been developed and produced. Indeed, the most fundamental and critical marketing activities which more than anything else, determine the fate of a company’s products in the market place occur even before the product is produced in commercial quantities. These pre-production marketing activities are concerned with the conception, planning formulation and development of new products.
Finally, marketing seeks to satisfy the customer at a profit.
The needs of the customer must be understood- marketing is an attempt to- provide a solution to a customer’s needs. Responding to customer-needs will work to both the company’s and the customers’ mutual benefit. The customers get what they want and the company makes a profit.
The conclusion to be drawn from these points is that marketing is a crucial function that the entrepreneur needs to fully understand this and accord it the necessary attention and support; that the company’s customers or clients need to be properly identified, studied, understood, cherished, cultivated and satisfied as the only way for the company to survive to grow to make profits and excel, there is no other way to succeed in business in the long run!
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