Ok, I don’t really know what marketing means to me quite yet. You see, I have been in the nonprofit sector for more than a decade. When I entered into my first fundraising gig, marketing was this huge void that was never filled. In fact, I remember a conversation I had with my fellow development team and saying, “If the marketing department would do a better job, I would be able to raise more money for the organization.” Ah, ignorance is bliss. Now that I am a full-time consultant without a marketing department, marketing means something completely different. In this and future articles, I am going to explore what marketing means to consultants, how marketing can help us, and why it is so important to never stop.
Lets start with a couple of definitions on marketing:
American Marketing Association (AMA): “Marketing is the process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion and distribution of ideas, goods and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organizational goals.”
World Marketing Association (WMA): “Marketing is the core business philosophy which directs the processes of identifying and fulfilling the needs of individuals and organizations through exchanges which create superior value for all parties.”
Now that we have a few definitions to work from, lets put this into a format that we as professional consultants can work with. How about: Marketing = money. What? Don’t you agree? I mean really, why are we so interested in marketing if it is not our strong suit? Because dear readers, we need to market ourselves in order to get clients in order to earn money in order to, well, you know how it goes.
So, we want to market ourselves. First we need to identify our clients and determine their needs. This is called market research. A good way to conduct market research is to come up with a survey and give it to present and/or prospective customers. As a tech devotee, I found that sites like http://www.surveymonkey.com are great for creating professional looking online surveys. I must confess, as I write this, I am making a note to myself to develop a survey. What a great way to get input and start a dialogue with potential clients! Why didn’t I think of this sooner?
Enough about me, on to the next step, which is called, market strategy. This is the part where you analyze your competitive advantages. In other words, ask yourself how can you tailor your products and services toward your clients. Keep this in mind as we move on to target marketing.
Target marketing is where we admit to ourselves that we don’t have a whole lot of resources to spend on marketing activities so we wisely concentrate our efforts on key market segments. As you may have guessed, there are several ways to segment a market including consumer segmentation, demographic segmentation and geographical segmentation. Remember, when you are segmenting your target markets, the clients must have the money to purchase your products or hire you for services. Moreover, you need to be sure that the clients are able to access you and/or your products. For example, if MAR Consulting based in Batavia Illinois only offers hands-on workshops and seminars (no online products), they would be smart to focus their marketing efforts on the clients within a 60 mile radius (or consider online seminars for a broad reach).
Another essential point to consider is how your clients will benefit from your services. You’ve already determined that you will profit from this market segment so now you need to identify ways in which they will profit. Come up with ways that your client will save money, resources and time. Maybe your services will help them to reduce expenses or help improve productivity, confidence and morale. Your job now is to know your clients so well that when you make them aware of your services, they will be convinced that you are the only game in town that can meet their needs.
Well, that’s it for now. Please check back next week as we delve into more marketing stuff. In the meantime: What your clients want (hooo) baby, you’ve got it. What your clients need (hooo) you know, you’ve got it.