Before you begin applying the four P’s of marketing to your business, you need to understand the most important “P” of the discipline. The other four, product, price, place, and promotion, all intersect at one point: People.
“People” as in customers. “People” as in the folks who buy your product or service. It doesn’t matter if you are a manufacturer, a retailer, a wholesaler, an inventor, an insurance agent, banker, restaurateur, doctor, lawyer, butcher, baker, or candlestick maker. Without customers, the auto manufacturer’s cars turn to piles of rust. Without customers, a farmer’s corn rots in the silo. If you don’t have a customer, you don’t have a business.
And customers, of course, are people. Attracting their attention, persuading them to buy from you, and ensuring their satisfaction with your product or service all require good people skills.
Doing these things really well is how small businesses grow to be big ones. If that is your goal, I urge you to invest your time, energy, and yes, some money, in learning everything you can about the people with whom you do business—your customers. The more you know about what makes them tick, what they want out of life, why they get out of bed in the morning, the more you will know about things like why they buy your product or your competitors’, what price might make them change their purchase intentions, and which services they think are important and which ones they find a colossal bother.
The behemoths of marketing, companies like Procter & Gamble and Pepsi, have legions of market researchers to find, dissect, and analyze their customers. They can pay for consumer surveys, finance test products, assemble focus groups, and use dozens of other relatively scientific tools to determine the kinds of things a good marketer wants to know about his customers. As the owner or manager of a small business, you probably don’t have those kinds of assets at your disposal. That doesn’t mean you have to operate in the dark, however. You can learn almost as much about your customers as they do by turning to that acknowledged expert on almost any subject, your mother-in-law.
Seriously, information gathered through what is known as “mother-in-law research” can be just as valid as the reams of data gathered by P&G’s army of white-coated market researchers. It will also be a whole lot cheaper and, even more importantly, it will be much more timely and specific to your business.
Dave Donelson, author of The Dynamic Manager's Guide To Marketing & Advertising: How To Grow Sales And Boost Your Profits a how-to book for entrepreneurs and business managers.