The Four steps to marketing help you structure the components that make up a brand’s offering, differentiation and marketing.
They have been fundamentally changed by the Internet and need to be looked at in the context offered by digitally connected media and from the perspective of the consumer. How your brand is positioned in the mind of your consumer will ultimately determine your success.
1. Products (and services) Products and services are what a company sells. The Internet enables business to sell a huge range of products, from fast-moving consumer goods and digital products such as software, to services such as consultancy. Online, the experience the user has in discovering and purchasing can be considered part of the product the brand provides.
The Internet has enabled mass customization. For example, Nike (nikeid.nike.com) and Converse (www.converse.com) allow customers to customise their own trainers. The Internet as a distribution medium also makes it possible for products such as software and music to be sold digitally.
2. Price The prevalence of search engines and of shopping comparison websites, such as www.pricerunner.co.uk, www.pricecheck.co.za/ and www.nextag.com, makes it easy for customers to compare product prices across a number of retailers; this makes the Internet a market of near-perfect competition (Porter, 2008).
These stories then go on to build connections between people, ideas, brands and products. Communities of people follow truly great brands because they want to be part of their stories. Apple is a good example of a brand with a dedicated tribal following. People want their products; they want the world to know that they have an iPhone or a Macbook. This kind of tribal following spells success for any brand.
With price differentiation becoming a challenge, especially for smaller players in the market, businesses need to consider differentiating on value. Value is a combination of service, perceived benefits and price, where customers may be willing to pay a higher price for a better experience, or if they feel they are getting something more than just the product.
3. Placement (or distribution) Product distribution and markets no longer have to be dictated by location. Simply by making their products visible online (for example, on a website or Facebook page), brands can reach a global market. The key is to reach and engage customers on the channels they are using – this is why choosing your digital tactics is vital. You want to engage customers on their terms, not yours.
Technology such as APIs, SOAP services, RSS and XML allow information and services to be distributed throughout the world. For example, the API for a hotel reservations database allows a diverse range of websites to offer instant online bookings for hotels in the inventory.
4. Promotion The Internet, as an information and entertainment medium, naturally lends itself to promoting products. The online promotional mix is an extension of the offline, but with some significant differences. For one, online promotion can be tracked, measured and targeted in a far more sophisticated way.
But promotion doesn’t just mean advertising and talking at customers – on the Internet, it’s crucial to engage, collaborate and join conversations, too. Interacting with customers helps build relationships, and the web makes this sort of communication easy. That’s why a good portion of this book is devoted to engagement tactics and tools.