Thursday, May 31, 2007

The central element of any marketing plan is understanding your customers. Why do they buy your good or service? How and when do they purchase the product? Who is the decision maker, who purchases the product, and is that the same person who uses the product? Actually all marketing efforts should be focused on the customer’s needs, and this is even more salient when marketing services. Marketing plans should focus on bringing consistency to the backstage portion of a service exchange that make no difference to the target market, and provide an individualized service experience front stage based on the things that do matter to customers.
Two caveats: First, this requires balancing the effectiveness of individualization against efficiency constraints. Many firms overcome this by focusing on market segments that are large enough to be economically feasible, but who also desire the same attributes in a good or service. The second caveat is that this approach requires marketers have an intimate and local knowledge of the target market’s needs, habits, and purchase patterns. Modern technologies allow us to measure variations in shopping preferences across nations and neighborhoods. Marketing planners adjust the marketing mix (4C’s) to adapt to these macro and micro variations that exist in the customer’s needs and wants. In services this impacts which aspects of the service exchange can be homogenized backstage, and what portions should feel customized on the front stage
An organization’s customer centric approach to marketing planning can cultivate customers as loyal and satisfied as a Labrador puppy with a full belly. The bottom line is customer loyalty can increase market share, improve profit margins and even lower costs by decreasing the money invested in replacing lost customers. To have loyal customers we need satisfied customers. To have satisfied customers we need to know our customer’s expectations and motivations. Marketers need to understand their customers.

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