By Alyson Dutch
Marketing. Sales. PR. Promotions. Online marketing. Guerilla tactics. Direct response TV. What does it all mean and how do you know which is for you? Never fear, the product launch maven is here to reveal the truth and help you navigate this new process of getting your product into the right hands. Talk about the right hands — that, in a nutshell, is what marketing is. But before I go into details, let’s start from the beginning and back up to a 10,000 feet view and you can see this in context.
Every company, or creator of a product/service, consists of 3 parts: the product itself, the operations and the marketing. The product or service includes everything it takes to have a tangible thing/service; this may include the research and development, the creation of the prototype, sourcing of materials, manufacturing, packaging and inventory systems. Operations are all of the systems and people it takes to make a business run. At the moment, those “people” are probably only you and perhaps a few outside vendors or independent contractors. Included in the operations of a company are the systems that in the viewpoint of Ray Croc (creator of McDonald’s and the master of replication) are 100% repeatable and anyone, with instruction, can re-create. And, speaking of Ray Croc, he’s one cat you should read about; I recommend Grinding it Out: The Making of McDonald’s by Ray Kroc. Did you know that McDonald’s isn’t a restaurant, but one of the most brilliantly executed operational marvels of our lifetime? Aside from reading about him, I had the good fortune of learning this from my uncle who was his VP of Marketing back in the 50’s when McDonald’s was just getting started in Ohio. He has some incredible stories about their early days that I’ll share with you another time. Operations are systems for your company developed to stand alone without you. If the operations manual for your company was handed over in exchange for a nice fat check when you’re ready to exit, it would be a turnkey business for someone else to run and grow. Marketing is anything you do to get that product into the hands of not only someone who wants and needs your product, but will happily and easily pay you for it. So, therefore, what marketing modalities every company chooses will be different.
So, follow the logic here (and by the way, it is backwards), if the marketing is based on who your paying customer is, who are they? Do you have some good guesses about where they are? What makes them tick? Do you know why they want, or better yet, do they need your product? There are many questions to ask yourself about your customer, much of which will be conjecture in the beginning, but as soon as you have up to three customers, two of whom are similar, you’ve got a line to go on.
Here’s a big secret: as you are developing your product, begin developing a picture and list of attributes of your customer. And, do not take one step further, or spend another dime, until you are exceedingly clear on this. I cannot tell you how many entrepreneurs I meet who have a great solution for some problem they’ve experienced and are so incredibly enamored with it, they don’t care what anyone thinks (except waxing poetic about why it’s so incredible). Guess what? That’s not a business; that’s a vanity project; and an expensive one. If you are truly interested in making a scalable product/service that becomes your retirement, the only thing you should care about is your customer and why they will want to pay you for something. So, if your customer thinks that the shoe laces on your new sneaker should be green instead of blue, or the design needs to change, you better darned well do it. Why? Because they are your customer and you have no business without customers.
So, let’s focus on marketing. What exactly is it? How does it work? What are its many faces? It starts with the “marketing umbrella,” under which there are many different ways to get your product into the hands of the customer who will pay you for it. Here is a list of some of the different varieties of marketing:
Sales / distribution *
Word of mouth
Direct response TV
Awards and recognition
Pay Per Click
Search Engine Optimization
And, the list goes on.
So, how do you know which method will work best for your product? Should you employ one or perhaps several of them together? This is a question that only you can answer based on who your customer is and where you think they gather in numbers. It may be that your target customer is someone who hangs out at the Moose Lodge. So guess what? Sampling your product there is a good idea. You may have an online business that sells a product that is desired by those who ride the bus every day. So, your marketing should probably be on buses and on bus benches. Just because you have an online business, by the way, does not necessarily mean that you only market online. You certainly want to ensure that you are directing traffic to your website, but it better be from those bus riders. Maybe they are online buying bus tickets. See how that works? You just think backwards and it becomes quite easy. It’s not rocket science; but it’s incredibly practical.
A few words about *sales. Like all the other modalities I mentioned above, sales is also a method used to get a product into the hands of someone who wants to buy it, but it’s the one marketing aspect in this list that is 100% necessary, no matter who your customer is. As for the rest of the list, you have choices about which to use. You have no business without sales.
When you start a company, the marketing is an integral part of the launch. The best way to approach it is to create a marketing mix. Use an Excel sheet to list all the marketing methods you might use to find your customer. Choose the ones that you can afford first and build from there.
If you’d like a sample of a marketing mix and descriptions of all the marketing methods above, go to The PR Handbook for Entrepreneurs website and click on the banner for Inventors Digest readers. My special gift to you.