The contention is that over the past five years, marketing has changed dramatically. Social media marketing, content marketing and inbound marketing are gaining traction as new marketing theories under the leadership and guidance of marketing practitioners. The convergence of the Internet, social media and mobile access are serving as “game changers” in how businesses of all sizes are connecting with current and future customers. The locus of control and power in the relationship are shifting towards the consumer.
In spite of the change, the value of some marketing fundamentals remains constant. Defining your market, selecting target markets and the value of the motivated state sequence in moving your target market to action are as relevant to marketers today as they were in years past.
Defining Your Market
Not everyone alive today is considered to be in your market. Likewise, neither is everyone who has Internet connection and is online. To be considered as a belonging to the market for your product or service, consumers must meet these three basic criteria: Ability, Willingness and Authority. That is, someone is considered to be within the market for your product or service if they possess the ability to purchase, the willingness to purchase and the authority to purchase what is being offered. Failure to meet any one of the three criteria serves to eliminate members of the broader population from your active market. As an example, for the past twenty years, I’ve dreamed of owning a 50 foot catamaran. Unfortunately, I fail to meet two of the three criteria to be considered an active prospect or in the market for such a boat: I can’t afford to purchase it (four children), let alone to pay for the maintenance, storage and docking fees, and I’m not the chief financial officer in my family (my wife is of Polish, Slovak and Ukrainian heritage from Yonkers – a volatile combination!). So although I aspire to become a potential member of the market should my economic and marital situation change, I’m not considered to be in the market currently. Thus boat manufacturers or brokers targeting me with their promotional efforts are wasting their time and money.
Moving from Market to Market Segments to Target Market
Given the media cost constraints associated with traditional, or outbound, marketing, common past practice was for marketers to look at the population that met the three criteria from above (the market) and to develop segments based upon criteria such as demographics, psychographics (activities, interests and opinions), geo-demographics and/or usage rates. Segments needed to have sufficient size in terms of people and economic buying power and have to be reachable or able to receive your message. Segmentation is an art and an area of potential competitive advantage. Target markets are the segments that you decide to “target” with your promotional efforts. Thus, it’s possible to have developed ten potential segments based upon your segmentation criteria and to decide that only three of the segments are worth pursing (your target markets). The next decision is whether or not to use the same marketing mix (combination of the 4P’s: Price, Product, Place and Promotion) for all three target markets or to develop a unique marketing mix for each. The marketing concept suggests that the latter approach is best. Regardless of the approach used, know that developing the perfect marketing mix is an impossible and improbable goal.
Advances in communications technology have eliminated much of the cost issues associated with reaching your market, market segments and target markets. For the first time in marketing history, reaching all potential members of your market via Internet and mobile promotional campaigns is not as cost prohibitive as it has been in the past. It may be time for you to revisit the need to drill down from market to market segments to target markets.
Motivated State Sequence
The motivated state sequence, also known as AIDA, is a hierarchy of effects model that proposes the stages a potential consumer goes through before reaching the decision to purchase. The four steps are Attention (or Awareness), Interest, Desire and Action. Moving those in your target markets through the four steps requires targeted and different promotional efforts. Some proven strategies include product or service trial, sales promotional efforts and/or differentiating your product or service via a unique selling proposition. My analogy for the process is farming (and hence the graphic at the beginning of this post). In essence, we have to plant a seed for our product or service in the minds of those in our target market, fertilize and water the seed, nurture it after it sprouts and wait for it to mature to harvest. In the AIDA model, harvest is action, or purchase.
Inbound marketing, social media marketing and content marketing utilize the motivated state sequence to move those in the market from unawareness to purchase. Much like farming, predicting when harvest will happen depends on many things beyond your control but proper planning, attention to detail and care in cultivating will produce acceptable yields. Of the three marketing fundamentals discussed above, understanding and using creative AIDA efforts to move those in your market from unawareness to purchase provides the most utility to inbound marketers. Smart successful marketers will continue to develop segments, but increasingly these segments will be defined on the basis of geo-location, language and dialect.
So in spite of the rapid change in the marketing environment, marketing fundamentals continue to provide the foundation on which to build successful marketing efforts. Master the basics and watch your harvest yield more annually.