When you say marketing, many people think advertising. But, as I hope you’re learning, marketing encompasses much more.
Every point of customer contact comprises the marketing of a business. Taken together, these contacts make up the customer experience and are opportunities to either cement their loyalty, or drive them into the arms of competitors.
The smart business realizes this and plans for it. Some businesses claim one thing but deliver another. Other businesses are more seat-of-the-pants: they don’t have a plan for managing these experiences.
The purpose of this assignment is to get you to think about the aspects of marketing other than advertising and to look for real-world applications.
Choose a local business (or local branch of a national/international business) and learn as much as you can about their marketing efforts aside from advertising.
What to Do
Walk into the business as a customer and observe the complete customer experience, using the chart below to guide you. What message do you receive as a customer? Ask yourself what you would do differently—what recommendations would you make to management? You can use the 4 P’s as a framework for your analysis:
Is the product or service they are offering consistent with their claims? What is the return policy in the event you are not satisfied? Is it clearly stated, or do you have to ask? Are there free samples or trial sizes of new products/services? Comment on their packaging and labeling.
Are the prices easy to find, so that customers do not have to ask? This is uncomfortable for some—they’d rather walk out than ask. Are items bundled at a special price that offers the customer a better deal? Are the items priced separately so that the customer only pay for exactly what is needed? What pricing strategy do you think this company uses?
Is the staff helpful, courteous, knowledgeable, and ready to learn about your needs and educate you about their product or service? Does it seem that everyone working there has been given the same training concerning customers? Or not?
Does the physical location offer an experience that is consistent with the message the business is trying to deliver? What does it look like, sound like, smell like? The concrete floors, industrial shelving and high ceilings at Costco are no accident—they are telling their customers that theirs is a no-frills, low-overhead business with the lowest prices to be found.
You might want to try calling the business to see if their call answering messages are helpful or annoying.
Even how inventory levels are managed is part of marketing—is stock always on hand, or do customers show up, only to be disappointed because that item is out of stock? How will that experience affect the customer’s feeling about the business and product or service? Are rain checks offered? (A rain check is a gift certificate or other special given to a customer when a product is not available—e.g. 10% off next purchase).
Promotion Mix (refer to chart below)
Has this business received media attention recently? Search newspaper/internet sources to see if they’ve been in the news. Is it a positive piece that will alert potential customers to their existence, or a media disaster? Are there in-store promotions, specials, contests, etc?
Does the sales person “up sell” you (suggest additional items you might like/need?) Is s/he knowledgeable about the product/service so that you can confidently make a decision to buy?
Are there in-store specials, promotions, contests, etc? Can you sign up to receive a newsletter or email promotions?
Is the web site easy to find and navigate? Does the business come up on the first page of a Google (or other search engine) search?
Comment on your conclusions about this company’s target market, their branding strategy, the resulting brand loyalty of customers (if any), and any recommendations you would make to management to improve the customer experience. Be specific.
The questions above are a starting point. Document as thoroughly as you can your customer experience.
The chart below may help you:
Style—current or obsolete
Sales or in-store promotions
Mailing List and/or Newsletter
Internet: web site, newsletter, search engine ranking
Ambience—interior, exterior & neighborhood
Layout of facility
Frequency of Service
A FEW LAST COMMENTS:
Don’t choose Starbucks to write about—they’ve made your job too easy. But if you want to observe a business that has mastered the concepts we’re discussing, go have a latte.
Don’t choose your current employer. It’s too hard to see your job site through fresh eyes, or as a customer would.
This must be a business with a physical location or storefront—no web-only businesses. Get out there—Safeway, McDonald’s, your local dry cleaners, etc.
Your write-up should be in an organized, narrative or essay style, addressing each of the 4 P’s. Be sure to include your recommendations to management or what you think they should do differently. DON’T copy and paste the questions above and answer each one with a few words. DON’T give me a bulleted list.
(The rest of the assignment is adapted from Marketing Without Advertising: Inspire Customers to Rave About Your Business and Create Lasting Success, a terrific book by Michael Phillips and Salli Rasberry, published by Nolo Press, 2003.
There are 40 points possible:
8 points for discussion of product/service offering.
8 points for discussion of pricing.
8 points for discussion of promotion.
8 points for discussion of place (distribution)
8 points for summary (branding, target market, recommendations)
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