To market or not to market … what a question!

Jan. 1, 2011
As a vendor in today's marketplace, where do you fit in the greater scheme of the marketing machine and what can you do to take better advantage of all the opportunities available to you?

In the beginning there was the product or service. Those who produced these bartered them for the things that they needed. As time went on, more and more people wanted more and more of the product or service. As the populations increased, more people became producers or provided a service, and more products and services were invented to be bartered or traded. At some point in our history, well before the famous Greek marketplace known as the 'agora,' a market appeared.

Maybe it was two farmers from different villages meeting on a trail exchanging gossip when others using the trail decided that they needed what the farmers had with them right then and there. Or maybe it was a flint knapper and arrow or spear maker that met and decided to merge their respective talents. In any case, it is not as important how the first marketplace came into being as it is that it came into being.

As these marketplaces increased in number, size and complexity, it became increasingly necessary for producers and servicemen to distinguish their products or services from their competitors in order to sell them. Whether offering a better deal, better product, superior craftsmanship, after sale service or the appearance of one or all of these things, the vendors all vied for the customer’s business. So marketing became defined not by osmosis or magic, but by the necessity of competition.

What that competition did over thousands of years was to promote better and more focused marketing: a pinpointing of a particular interest or feature of a product or service in order to distinguish it from others like it and to ultimately sell more of it than the competitors. Eventually bigger, better, new and improved became the clarion call of marketing. Truth and reality were, and are, oftentimes left behind in the headlong rush of bringing in the customers.

Marketing in the 21st century
Fast forward to today. Along with the growth of products and services, marketing has reached its zenith. We are being marketed to every second of every minute of every day, or 24/7/365 in the common vernacular. Whether referred to as print advertising, billboards, retail, e-tail, spam or electronic media, we are being bombarded incessantly by marketing. We get advertising mail in our mailboxes and on our computers and telephones. We see it on buses, cabs, cars, clothing, food packaging, airplanes, submarines and more. There is almost no surface or electron that cannot accommodate some sort of marketing idea.

So, as a vendor in today's marketplace, where do you fit in the greater scheme of the marketing machine and what can you do to take better advantage of all the opportunities available to you?

Making the most of it
No matter the size of your company, there are marketing schemes that can benefit your business. The advent of the Internet has made it possible for even a one-man shop to reach out and touch potential new clients for little or no money out of pocket. The returns on "e-tailing" are phenomenal and the latest statistics are encouraging even in the present economic downturn. A company with a little larger budget for marketing can utilize print media in conjunction with radio and the Internet to get their message out. Still larger shops or those that are a bit more aggressive and less risk averse can use local television ads, adding that venue to the others mentioned above for complete media saturation.

Defining your customer base and selling to them is the key to having an effective marketing strategy. As an example, a one-man shop can usually afford small print ads in local "shopper" papers. This keeps his client base local and gives him the ability to service more people in a smaller geographic area. If that shop were to host a website at a nominal cost per month (less if he were to design the site himself), and place the URL in his print ad as well as his business card and service stickers, he is driving his customers to a place that he can use to sell products and services in a low pressure environment. Adding in discount coupons for services that only web users can get, or putting details of new products or services in the site, the one-man shop has developed a marketing strategy that is at once highly cost effective and extremely focused.

Likewise, larger shops can target architects, engineers, project managers and contractors by developing websites that sell the company's expertise, performance on similar projects, perhaps awards for past performance or quality. This style of marketing is the wave of the future as more and more of your clientele move further into the Internet community.

It is now possible for companies that either never thought of or could not afford broad-based marketing plans to have very effective, high quality programs that can focus with laser-like precision on the markets that they desire to penetrate. With so much marketing available for so little money, there is no reason not to give it a try. It's a brand new day, use it.

The Brooklyn, N.Y.-born author is a retired third generation master plumber. He founded Sunflower Plumbing & Heating in Shirley, N.Y., in 1975 and A Professional Commercial Plumbing Inc. in Phoenix in 1980. He holds residential, commercial, industrial and solar plumbing licenses and is certified in welding, clean rooms, polypropylene gas fusion and medical gas piping. He can be reached at [email protected].

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