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Just mention the word "marketing" to a cookie maker, and she'll most likely want to run and hide under a blankie. We all know marketing is really important, and we know we need to do it, but we don't entirely understand what it is or we're uncomfortable putting ourselves out there. The good news is: most of us are marketing our businesses on a daily basis; we just wouldn't call it that. Marketing is basically getting your business and products known to the people who are potentially going to buy them.
Marketing is NOT standing on a street corner yelling, "I'm the most awesome cookie maker EVER!" or harassing people with your business card . . . although you can do both of these things. It's also not being pushy or rude or "in your face", and it's not about being egotistical. Marketing can be done in a number of ways and not every method suits every person. Yes, even the introverts can find ways to market that do not feel super uncomfortable or "salesy".
To market your business, there are four different tools you can use, commonly referred to as the "four Ps" (a concept developed by E. Jerome McCarthy). All of these things can be used to communicate to potential customers about your business.
Product: This P is all about the actual items or services that you are bringing to the market. Ask yourself: How is your product different than what others are currently offering? What is the quality of your product? Is the packaging premium or budget? What added services do you offer? What does your product actually look like?
Price: Money and how it relates to your product - that's what this P entails! Is your product priced at the high end or the low end of the current market offering? Do you offer discounts of any kind? What are your payment terms? Is your price reflective of the product's quality? (Hint: it should be.) Just like in the car world, there are Ferraris and Hyundais in the cookie world, so there should be cookies at different price points.
Place: This P is about how the product actually gets to your customer. How do they buy it? Do you hold inventory or stock? What is your ordering process? In what places (geographies or outlets) can your product be found? Can your customers buy your product online?
Promotion: Lastly, this P relates to how you communicate to your client about your products and services. For instance, you might place ads on various platforms, do special promotions, employ a public relations firm, or do other marketing activities, like posting flyers, attending events, or sharing in social media.
Each of these items has value in and of itself, but it's how they all come together that makes up the overall marketing plan for your business. Often we think of marketing just as the last P (promotion), but it's really about the much bigger picture. It's important to make sure all of the Ps are giving the same message, or in other words, that your marketing is consistent across each of those areas.
As an example, if you are selling your product online as a high-end, exclusive item, but customers can purchase it at a local discount supermarket with very basic packaging, you can see how you might be sending the wrong message (inexpensive) to the wrong people (supermarket shoppers).
Alternatively, if you promote that you have an affordable product, but your minimum required customer-spend is $300, then you're really only making your products affordable to the high end of the market. Yet, chances are this portion of the market probably wouldn't be attracted to a company that calls itself "affordable" – they'd probably prefer a cookie maker who calls her business "couture", "exclusive", or "luxe". Again, consistency across the 4 Ps is key.
Earlier in this article, I said that most of us are marketing our businesses every day; we just don't know it. If you look at the list of four Ps, you can probably find some ways that you are marketing daily. For instance, the new shiny boxes you just ordered (product); the last quote you properly costed out (price); the new cafe that is going to offer your treats (placement); and the tone of voice used on your Facebook account (promotion) – all of these things relate to marketing your business across the 4 Ps.
You're building a story around your business and your products, and that's what the marketing mix is all about.You're ensuring that all parts of the story come together well enough, so that your product entices the right kind of person (your ideal client) to come to your door.
That all said, great marketing needs to be:
Consistently done - You can't just put out one ad and think that you'll build your whole business that way. Remember for a moment that McDonald's is still doing a whole lot of marketing every single day, yet you'd think by now they wouldn't need to. [EDITOR'S NOTE: But, of course, they do! Every market is constantly evolving, and your business needs to adapt in turn to stay on top of your marketing game.]
Measurable - Is it working? If you put an ad in a local newspaper, you want to know if it worked before you pay for another one. Get your measurement system started by asking people where they heard about you and keeping track of what they say.
Planned - You don't want to be hanging out on December 23 wishing you had promoted your gingerbread houses as a Christmas special. Marketing needs some thinking and planning ahead, so that it gets done in a way that is not overwhelming, and gives customers ample opportunity to make decisions and purchases.
So, how do you get started with marketing if you're just beginning your business? You actually don't need to work too hard to get going! The very first thing that I suggest you do is sit down and make a list of all the different ways people currently hear about you and how you communicate what you do. Next, evaluate those marketing channels. How well they are working for you? Are they generating orders? And how much effort is required to sell through them? If something is medium to high effort but also low effectiveness, it's probably not worth your time. If something is low effort but high effectiveness, you'll want to keep going with it!
The last step is to make a plan for the coming months - six months is a good planning duration to start. As described above, decide which of your current marketing activities you're going to keep doing, and then identify five or six more potential avenues or channels. In your calendar, mark out the avenues you're going to try, and when. Also mark any major holidays or events where you're going to be offering special items. Then, do a bit of what's on your calendar every single day.
Marketing is a little like a treadmill. You get on, and it doesn't move until you turn it on; then as you increase the speed, it goes faster. Eventually, over time, you get faster too. You'll find the same is true once you start with a marketing plan - the more you do it, the faster it goes and the better results it will yield.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: This post is the last one in Michelle's mini business series. If you loved her posts as much as I did and would like to hear more from her on Cookie Connection, please comment below. Perhaps with your help, I'll be able to entice her to continue! ]
Michelle Green is the author of The Business of Baking, the blog that inspires, motivates, and educates bakers and decorators to pursue their sweet business goals.
Photo credit: Michelle Green
Note: This article expresses the views of the author, and not necessarily those of this site, its owners, its administrators, or its employees. To read more Cookie Connection business posts, click here or here.