Don’t let me be misunderstood: The importance of marketing

Many businesses don’t understand marketing, but they should as it is absolutely central to their potential for succcess

By Andy Savva |

Published:  14 October, 2019

Marketing is one of the most misunderstood functions found in business. This may have to do with the flashy image that is often associated with the marketing profession. Perhaps it is also seen as something that is only done by marketing people and does not concern the rest of the business.    
Whatever the reasons for any negative image that marketing may have, it is essential to realise that marketing is vital to ensure the survival and growth of any business.  It does not matter whether the business is large or small or what products or services the business supplies, the truth is that marketing cannot be ignored and needs to be a part of the culture of any successful organisation.
Marketing should concern everybody in a business as it sets the context in which sales can take place. Whatever your role, you play a part in setting that context. It’s no different in our automotive repair sector.

While studying for my degree at Loughborough University only a few years ago, I came across a couple of quotes. The first was from Theodore Levitt, a well know professor of business management and a former editor of the Harvard Business Review. He said: “The difference between marketing and sales is pretty simple – sales is a process of getting rid of stuff you don’t want, while marketing is the process of letting people know you have the stuff they both want and need.”
The second was from a Proctor & Gamble executive who said: “The purpose of marketing is to provide services and products that solve people’s problems at a profit.”
This stayed with me. When I thought about it carefully and constantly, I came to the conclusion that both concepts are common. They involve someone other than yourself the customer who responds to your innovative products and services, buys them, thereby making your business life possible.
I believed for years that customers have been taken for granted, ignored, or considered part of the territory in our industry. They were after all, curious, demanding and sometimes annoying. They called incessantly, came by unexpectedly, and questioned us endlessly. In general, they were considered a pain - a cost of doing business. Of course, that was until they started making other choices, taking their business elsewhere to individuals or businesses more responsive to their wishes, needs, wants and expectations.

If you want to survive in this ever-changing business world you have to embrace a new business philosophy, making a move away from mass marketing or transactional marketing to one to one marketing or relationship marketing.
Transactional marketing is all about numbers – nothing else matters.  We’ve all seen the larger corporates like Sky TV, Vodaphone, and utility companies to name a few, offering far better terms for new customers than any existing customer can get. Lack of thought is given to how an existing customer may feel if he or she saw an offer that was never been offered to them who’ve been loyal customers over a number of years –it’s a real kick in the teeth. It’s all about pushing product or service these are not relationships at all. In a transactional business environment, making the sale is the only objective. Relationship marketing is the polar opposite. It’s about as far away as you can get from transactional marketing.
One of the biggest mistakes I see regularly within the garage repair sector is the constant advertising specifically in local press with ‘come and get me’ offers in order to attract new business. Most of these already established business whether large or small will rarely measure the effectiveness of such campaigns or analyse the type of customers they are attracting and indeed very few of these businesses actually understand the ‘diamonds’ that already exist within their database, a concept we looked into at length in the June issue of Aftermarket.
There is no point trying to attract vast numbers of new customers and provide them with a sub-standard service based on a cheap price which can cause severe damage to the reputation of the business. Another factor is that established customers tend to buy more and are less price sensitive and may be less likely to defect due to price alone.
Simply by reminding customers of their vehicles next MOT due date, or service for that matter is the minimum that any garage should be undertaking. Reminding them of specific campaigns such as winter checks or health checks if they are planning long journeys will reinforce that you care about them and keep them safe.
You can expand this two-way communication with news of any success stories within the business. Examples might include charitable fundraising by the business or any employee, training and development that’s undertaken or new services and products being introduced. This will reinforce to your customers that you want to build long term relationships with them.

The customer’s wants, needs and expectations, as well as your need a for a long and profitable relationship with that customer should be at the core of every action and decision. Everything else comes second. Marketing affects everyone; we are all consumers. Most businesses depend on marketing to provide an understanding of the marketplace, to ensure their products and services satisfy the needs of customers and that they are competing effectively.
The basic rationale of marketing is that to succeed, a business requires satisfied and happy customers who return to the business to provide additional custom, in exchange for something of value, typically payment. The customers receive a product or service that satisfies their needs.
Such a service or product has an acceptable level of quality, reliability, customer service and support, is available at places convenient for the customer at the ‘right’ price and is promoted effectively by means of a clear message that is readily comprehended by the customers in question.
Great businesses must constantly assess their customers’ requirements and be prepared to modify their marketing activity accordingly. An assessment of marketing opportunities is an ever-evolving process requiring regular revision and updating.  

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