Marketing means, understanding and responding to customer needs.
The concept of marketing is essentially, a concept of customer orientation. For a long time it has been preached by all, Mahatma Gandhi said that the customer is king. What this implies is that products /services are brought not merely because of their quality, packaging or brand name, but because they satisfy a specific need of a customer. It also implies that organizations have to provide services to their customer and that too without any obligation. In other words, marketing means understanding and responding to customer needs, a prerequisite for any organization’s success. And this certainly cannot be ignored by any organization in today’s competitive environment.
However, to be successful any organization has to be competition oriented too. It has to continuously determine its competitive advantage and take steps to further augment it. Thus, the marketing concept involves:
- customer orientation
- competition orientation
- ability to respond to environmental changes (changes in consumer needs, competition, government policy, technology etc.) before competition does. Examples are Sony and Microsoft, who have consistently invested in futuristic technologies and products.
Marketing Orientation and how can it be employed in organizations:
A look at successful marketing organizations in India and abroad leads us to conclude that marketing orientation involves a six dimensional approach.
Successful marketing companies continuously monitor customer needs, wants and preferences. Unfulfilled consumer needs drive their new products development efforts.
Integrated Approach to exploiting market opportunities:
Successful marketing companies integrate all elements of the marketing mix, not merely advertising and selling into a sound business plan that could help them to effectively fight competition. Take, for example, the launch of and subsequent rage for Maggi noodles all over India. The company (Food Specialities Limited) understood customer needs and also effectively serviced it by adopting an integrated marketing mix. Lipton also launched (almost at the same time) macaroni and noodles with an intensive promotion campaign, but failed. Marketing orientation involves a very high degree of preoccupation with the quality of the product. Companies like Hindustan Levers Procter and Gamble (P&G), Godrej, Johnson and Johnson, Asian Paints, have one thing in common – their passion for premium quality products. Their marketing mix emphasises product quality as an important element of their marketing plan.
A successful marketing strategy integrates all elements of marketing mix into a sound business plan that could effectively fight competition.
The above companies look at money spent on marketing not as expenditure but as an investment. In other words, they do not take a short route to success, as there is none. Rather, they look at the market from a three to five year perspective and hence look at maximizing their returns from advertising campaigns or tactical price reductions over these years rather than in just one year. This aspect seems to be ignored by many companies. They are still not prepared to invest in market share development activities and perceive any advertising campaign or price reduction as a marketing expenditure.
Highly Developed marketing systems:
Successful marketing companies have highly developed marketing systems that act as market barometers. All major marketing decisions are taken on the basis of market information emerging from these systems. Test marketing is used effectively for making any change in the marketing mix. Some of the more commonly used systems in these organizations relate to complaint management, customer feedback, customer relationship management (CRM), and today even e-CRM. These systems provide on an on-going basis, market feedback, which organizations can use for enhancing their overall effectiveness, new product development and marketing strategies.
Companies on the path of success have an important characteristic, that is, in these organizations everybody from the chief executive to the lowest level, is market oriented. The customer is given key importance and, accordingly, his interests override organizational interests. The entrepreneurial spirit soars high and people are encouraged to try new ideas. These service standards governed Windsor Manor’s and quality of service. To ensure compliance with these standards, Windsor Manor even communicated the penalty it would pay to the customers in the event of standards not being met. This was the first organization in the hospitality industry to set up and communicate service standards to the customer. Soon after these services standards became the norm in the service industry.
Another important aspect of customer orientation is the speed at which customer’s problems are resolved. Increasingly, this facet determines the competitive advantage of organizations. Give today’s interactive technologies, including toll free phones and call centres, companies now realize that their competitive advantage is determined by their speed of response.