No - that’s not a typo! Marketing may be the most complex part of any business, almost everyone thinks they are a marketer but rarely do people actually understand what it means to be “marketing”! The most succinct definition is “Absolutely everything that takes place creating an atmosphere where a sale can take place”. But marketing is better understood when broken into four segments.
Product (or service) has to be developed, designed and produced ready for selling. The market for the product has to be researched. The USP (unique selling proposition) has to be determined. In many cases a high degree of creativity is needed because the marketing strategy and concepts for the product might have been established before the product even existed. People active in the promotional specialty marketing channel (that’s us!) are not normally involved in this part of marketing.
Price is a substantial part of overall marketing. Pricing strategies may encompass market driven competitive forces, brand strength and reputation, guarantees, product support, availability and dozens of other considerations. Marketing’s job is to investigate all these modifiers and establish a price that will enhance the perception of the product. This is very complicated. A few years ago in our annual catalog I had six writing instruments that were essentially the same and all looked like an expensive European pen. I had six different prices with nearly 40% difference between the least expensive and most expensive. All six sold very well. Even when samples were provided and the nearly identical products were side by side, people selected the higher priced product because they believe that it was inherently better.
This same strategy is used to sell luxury automobiles, wine, first class seats on an airplane and almost every other “premium” product.
The opposite end of the pricing strategy is value. This is an area where you get involved in advising your clients about value at the same time you are actively engages in your own pricing marketing decisions. This is where the balancing between marketing and marketing comes in. While you certainly are not part of the manufacturing cost/price equation, how you represent the products we use as media to deliver messages for our clients is a major factor in promotion.
Promotion, the concepts, advertising, incentives, endorsements and public relations that are used to build an appetite for the product also will have you balancing the work you do on your own behalf and for the benefit of your client. Whenever you promote your own business you are actually “auditioning” in front of your client. If your own marketing is well thought out and presented professionally, you stand a much better chance that your recommendations will have authority.
The highest value is perceived when you compare the cost/price to the desired results the client is looking for rather than the item being used. For example, a car dealer knows that the more test drives potential customers take, the more sales will take place. The promotion you may be suggesting to increase test drives only needs a few extra sales to more than justify the investment. The desire for those extra sales is what will motivate your client.
Sales Channel is the fourth segment of marketing. Promotional specialty advertising and marketing, considering suppliers and distributors together (they are actually two separate channels, but that is for another article!) is a sales channel for us - not our clients! Understanding the sales channel the client wants to stimulate is what will determine your recommendations. The target market for the clients products is the target for the marketing you are suggesting.
A client that manufactures whiteboards may look for marketing support in several channels - schools, hotels and corporate boardrooms for example. Understanding the unique aspects of each channel such as potential unit count (classrooms vs. boardroom), major concern (appearance, durability, mounting ease) and product selection may be different for each channel. Offering a “one size fits all” recommendation will likely not get well received by your client. Be ready with several different proposals. Determine if focus on a single channel is how budgets are to be allocated or if it will need to cover some or all channels.
Your own marketing should get no less consideration. While a general message might be fine if you see yourself “selling promotional products”. If however you are building a professional client relationship, you might increase success by being aware of the specific sales channels the client wants to pursue or strengthen and focus (as a specialist) on reaching the potential buyers your client wants to reach. I agree with Albert Einstein - start having some fun!
Gregg Emmer is chief marketing officer and vice president at Kaeser & Blair, Inc. He has more than 40 years experience in marketing and the promotional products industry. His outside consultancy provides marketing, public relations and business planning consulting to a wide range of other businesses and has been a useful knowledge base for K&B Dealers. Contact Gregg at email@example.com.