Simply put, marketing is a term used to encompass all the activities involved with promoting and selling products or services, including market research, branding, PR and advertising.
It’s the way by which you let the world – and more specifically, your future customers, know about you and what you offer so that they will eventually purchase from you.
Marketing is a business discipline which can be conducted many ways, depending on a variety of factors relating to your business and your prospective customers.
It’s also a multi-billion-pound sector of the UK economy, in its own respect.
On average, each of us are exposed to 1,700 advertisements a week – unfortunately, that doesn’t make us all experts in advertising! It does tell us that it’s a hugely successful medium, but that it’s also very ‘noisy’ – lots of other people are doing it – and so it’s a tool to be used wisely.
Advertising has been the medium used to connect with large audiences quickly, and therefore it’s been priced accordingly. But large audiences come with a degree of imprecision – it’s only more recently that advertisers could target specific audience segments.
It’s getting more intelligent, and the price is become more accessible to go along with it.
From better demographic, geographic and behavioural insights around what turns audiences on (and off), to an ever-increasing number of platforms through which to display your messages in a targeted way… In a nutshell, advertising remains an essential, vital part of the marketing mix. Moreover, it’s still the fastest way of increasing general awareness of your brand.
If your marketing objective is to rapidly increase brand awareness or quickly drive a call to action (whether to buy, enquire, enrol etc.) advertising should still be high up on your marketing wish list. Advertising is especially effective if your product or service is relatively simple to understand, because people only spend a few seconds absorbing adverts, depending on the media.
Direct marketing does what it says on the tin – markets directly to people who you already believe will have an interest in your services, ideally in a personalised way.
Traditionally direct marketing was understood to be direct mail and door drops, activities which had a reputation for generating particularly low returns, but where leads generated had a reasonably good chance of converting to actions. These days because the volumes we receive are more manageable, they can generate better returns if they’re the right thing for your audience.
Telephone marketing can be a very effective way of securing interest in your business, particularly in business environments with targeted messaging – good telemarketing is a specialist skill. Mobile and SMS marketing are generally more suited to consumer services.
In both cases, beware of consumer fatigue and making sure your products or services are professionally presented.
Email marketing is the most cost effective of all the direct marketing tools, and if you’re mindful of the rules around collecting and using email addresses it has almost unlimited potential to help market your services. But like advertising, it’s a noisy marketplace so make sure you stand out for all the right reasons.
Central to these ways of marketing is the ‘direct’ part – that is, the data about the people you’re targeting. Data is king, and it’s also an area of regulation so make sure you’re aware of the Information Commissioner’s rules about keeping, using and destroying personal data.
As a business, when you commit to an advertising or direct marketing campaign, it’s you that builds the message. You can tell your target audience whatever you like, but it’s not corroborated messaging – it’s completely subjective. Your target market might be impressed by the description of what you have on offer, but consumers know to take these things with a pinch of salt.
Think of some of the claims you see in adverts – “Best in the world”, “UK’s favourite”, “9/10 cats prefer…”
However, if information appears in the media on a ‘non-paid for’ basis, i.e. as part of an article a journalist writes, the message doesn’t come directly from you. The publication, blogger or broadcast outlet is considered impartial. Immediately your message achieves a level of credibility that ‘paid for’ marketing activity like advertising and direct marketing just can’t provide.
So, if advertising tells lots of people why your product is the best, and direct marketing tells a select few why your product is the best AND why they need it, PR makes the story you’re telling believable by showing that it’s not just you who thinks your produce is worth talking about.
PR is all this and more – public relations activity helps to shape the relationship that you have with consumers, stakeholders, partners and the wider public. And on the other side, PR can also look after your business reputation if less positive things happen.
Ten years ago, digital marketing had moved from the occasional email to several thousand pop-up windows on what felt like every website in the universe!
Now, digital marketing is a very well refined, almost surgically precise way of getting information to a highly engaged audience which consists of 86% of all adults in the UK – digital users across a multitude of devices from PCs to laptops, tablets, smartphones and connected devices.
Digital marketing takes over from direct marketing with e-mails needing a platform to drive potential customers to – how do they find out more/buy/order? Websites can serve a multitude of purposes in a business but you shouldn’t forget their origins as places to share information. Here, content is king, and analytics tools like Google Analytics are a close second in line to the throne. They can tell you exactly what people are doing on your website, where they come from and where they go to, and what they do whilst they’re there – what they’re looking at.
Digital advertising is a very simple translation from the traditional advertising medium, placing adverts on busy commercial websites including search platforms like Google. Still very visual, it drives audiences en masse and needs to be quite a general message.
Social media covers an ever-changing lineup of platforms, but most mainstream are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and for business users only, Linkedin.
Cost is not a barrier to entry for any of these platforms, though they’ll all suck up a lot of time if you’ll allow them, but getting completely free promotion from them is becoming harder and harder to do. That said, you can target quite precise user groups on all those platforms for prices that start at just a few pounds per go.