How do your potential customers develop awareness and preferences for your company and your products?
James M. Borneman, Editor In Chief
For generations, the idea of marketing was elementary. The goal was to "tee up the ball" for a sales force. With promotion laying the ground-work, a sales force then could come in and close the deal. Somehow, however, basic marketing strategies often have been dismissed - maybe because of shrinking customer bases (We know all of our customers.), or cost confusion (Promotion is too expensive - I have 10 trade shows to pay for!); or maybe because the process of marketing has become confused with sales.
There still are strong marketing-focused companies out there, many with coherent plans in place. They strive to build brands, achieve name recognition, and enhance product and service preferences. But think about it - as a textile executive, with all of the choices to be made in running your organization or in managing your part of the company, are you being reached by vendors with solutions? How do companies market to you?
On the other hand, how do your customers develop a preference for your company? What about your products? Do you craft that preference? Are competitors defining the market space, creating awareness and preferences for their products?
Striking A Balance
Today, more marketing tools are available than ever before that create awareness, educate and build brands. Integrating an effective marketing strategy seems to be the challenge. The difference from years past is that more selection can cause paralysis. Striking a balance in the choices that support a serious plan means developing marketing plans that use a range of techniques to meet your goals. Marketing goals often are quashed by the financial demands associated with sales. Let's face it, allocation to single tactics in which the sales force feels directly involved, like trade shows, feels good, but what do they cost?
Isn't the cost picture improved with promotion or a balanced plan?
As a supplier of textiles, how do you balance the need for personal selling, trade show commitments, brand building, and even the travel and expenses of your sales force? It's not an easy task.
The demand for balance also strikes textile industry suppliers - fiber, yarn, machinery and technology. All are challenged by the proliferation of trade show opportunities, global sales demands, consolidation of sales targets, positioning in mature markets versus emerging markets - the list goes on.
The Mix Matters
In 2001, Yankelovich/Harris Interactive conducted a study among 505 executives at US companies with at least $5 million in annual sales. According to the survey, "All three B-to-B media [trade shows, magazines and websites] elicit very strong ratings with respect to helping respondents become aware of new products or services. Otherwise, the three media are different in their relative strengths, suggesting they complement one another.
B-to-B trade shows, with a 49-percent ranking, are highly regarded for enabling "interaction with industry peers," allowing "personal interaction with representatives of companies," and enabling "direct experience with products and services." B-to-B magazines, with a 51-percent ranking, are favorable with respect to being "highly credible sources" and "providing information you can trust."
B-to-B websites, which achieved a 44-percent ranking, rate high for being "primary sources for research" and "providing access to the latest information."
Balancing the budget of a detailed marketing plan takes discipline. Look at the rankings. Look at the cost per contact. Look at the value in developing a balanced plan. For professionals willing to evaluate the costs, an integrated plan can reduce the cost of sales and maximize sales opportunities — something textiles must do to survive. In a global economy, the opportunities for sales can increase, but managing the costs is a must.
Marketing And The Six Steps
Sales and corporate trainers have developed multiple tools through the years to illustrate the relationship between sales and marketing and how they best work together.
The following model has its roots with publisher McGraw-Hill, and has developed a following both for sales training and for explaining the role of advertising and promotion.
The Six Steps:
• Make contact — without contact there is no customer, no sale.
• Build awareness — an important educational step and not easy if you rely simply on your sales force.
• Build preferences — a time-consuming and competitive process.
• Propose — where every good sales organization is focused, but how did you get to this point and how long did it take?
• Close the sale — the bread and butter of selling and the goal of the plan.
• Repeat the process — if you have moved through this cycle, repeat it with another product, product line or opportunity.
For sales and marketing professionals, this may seem basic or unsophisticated. But, whether you make bricks or biomedical devices, the same steps apply to the process.
When asked how other tools fit, the answer is just as simple — use promotion, public relations and advertising to make contact, build awareness and establish preferences. Use selling to propose and close. Utilize a marketing plan to coordinate the effort and pick your repeats.
The question of the purpose of advertising seems always to surface, and the answer is simple. If you work within this model, the sole purpose of advertising is to reduce the cost of sales. Reduce costs? What is the cost of making contact, building awareness and establishing preferences, particularly if you rely on personal selling in this role? Does your company do this efficiently? Are your salespeople focused on proposing and closing? Consider the costs.