As we explain in the Personal Selling tutorial, selling is a form of promotion in which one party “uses skills and techniques for building personal relationships with another party … that results in both parties obtaining value.”  While we present this as a definition of selling, the fact is, this definition applies to any situation in which Party A seeks to get Party B to see the value in something Party A is offering.  

Of course, most people equate this situation to a seller trying to persuade a prospect to buy a good or service.  Yet, in marketing the need to be persuasive is not exclusively about selling something in exchange for money.  Convincing someone to make a decision applies to many marketing (and business) situations that are outside of the sales area.  For example, it may be an advertising manager attempting to convince a client to accept a new direction for their next advertising campaign or a retail store manager attempting to convince an employee to restock store shelves using a more efficient method or a not-for-profit marketing manager attempting to convince a group of volunteers to stay at an event for more time then they committed.

No matter what the situation, the “skills and techniques” required to get to the end goal of convincing another party to do something almost always requires the use of methods of persuasion.  So what does it take to be persuasive?  Certainly the steps involved in selling outlined in The Selling Process tutorial are a good place to start but for more specific examples check out this story in Time.  The article provides seven attributes that are commonly found by those who are considered persuasive.  What seems most noteworthy here is that persuasive people exhibit all these attributes, not just a few.  As might be expected, most of the skills discussed revolve around effective communication and also being able to understand human behavior.  Fortunately, all the skills mentioned can be learned, practiced and refined by almost anyone.

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If the average business person was asked to describe, in few words, what marketing is all about, it is highly likely that terms such as customer, advertising and selling would be contained in their description.  Of course, each of these terms is easily associated with what marketers do to get customers to make a purchase decision.  

However, it is just as likely their description would not contain any reference to any issue related to what is involved in delivering products to customers, such as ordering systems, shipping options and warehousing.  Yet, product movement is a crucial component in the process of getting products to customers and, as a result, a key variable in customer satisfaction.  While product movement is far from being the most glamorous part of marketing, for many product marketers and retailers, it may be as important as any other decision.

Appreciating the importance of product movement leads us to this story from Internet Retailer.  The story provides a very nice background on the technologies used to deliver products to customers as quickly as possible.  In particular, the story focuses on high-tech warehousing technologies that enable online retailers to ship products nearly as fast as they receive the order.  Called “fulfillment” technology by those in the business, the types of technologies utilized and the amount of money invested by companies can be quite impressive.

While warehousing may not be the most visible part of a successful marketing strategy, for product manufacturers and retailers an efficient system for moving product is necessary in order to get the right product, to the right customer and at the right cost, and to do so as quickly as possible.

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Is it possible a company can trick customers into thinking a product is of higher quality than it really is?  Sure!  Salespeople have been accused of doing this since the dawn of selling (likely back to the beginning of commerce thousands of years ago).  Advertising is another culprit with claims of manipulating a product’s true value by using trick photography and, more recently, computer-generated images (CGI).

Yet, promotion is not the only way to paint a high-price image of a product that may really be less valuable than it appears.  As discussed in this story from Time, several researchers suggest product packaging can also play a crucial role when it comes to customers’ perception of the worth of a brand.  

It is interesting to see what elements of a package are key to affecting customers’ perception.  As discussed in the story, these elements include visual cues that come from the colors and the texture of product label.  Also, perception may be impacted by design features, such as how the package feels when held and whether the package presents a functional appearance.  Finally, the sound the packaging may produce, such as a pop when the product is opened, may send certain signals such as freshness or security.

Together these factors not only convince customers that products are high-quality, these also pursued customers to accept the product at higher prices compared to competitors offerings.

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Building a sustainable business usually means an organization will look to enter markets that offer the potential for long-term revenue.  Within an existing market, a marketer will often enter only after they have carefully developed a plan of action, which often includes conducting market research to ensure sufficient demand exists.  For a new market created with the introduction of innovative new product, the marketer will spend considerable time and money building their own demand, particularly when few in the market know about the product or the company.

But then there are times when demand just comes to the marketer with little warning and with little effort on the marketer’s part.  In these cases, it is better to be lucky than to be good.  This is what happens when unexpected trends sweep a market.  While some of these trends will gain a foothold and last for some time, others will quickly reach a peak then just as quickly decline.  We see this all the time in fashion, food, diet and exercise industries.

According to this story from CNN, it is also what is happening in the musical instrument market where ukulele sales are spiking.  Apparently the trend is being driven by customers who are likely spreading the word by sharing their experiences on social media and by well-known artists who have adopted the instrument.

However, as pointed out in this story, ukulele sales have come and gone over the years.  So, it would be wise for any marketers looking to take advantage of this rise in interest to do so fairly soon before the sound of sales at the cash register fades away.

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A number of famous brands have built their reputation not only by providing strong products but also by recognizing the importance of being socially responsible.  As we discuss in the What is Marketing? tutorial, being socially responsible means a company shows concern for the markets in which it operates, including caring for people in these markets as well as the physical environment in which it conducts business.  Well-known companies that are widely recognized for their socially responsible behavior include Ben & Jerry’s, Newman’s Own and Whole Foods.

One way companies exhibit socially responsible behavior is by providing support for social causes.  In fact, it can be argued that Ben & Jerry’s, Newman’s Own and Whole Foods are as well-known for the social causes they support as they are for the reputation of the products they market.  So from a brand management perspective, the value of these brands may not be built solely through traditional marketing decisions (product, price, promotion, distribution) but also by the socially responsible decisions they make.

This story from Fast Company looks at another company that has adopted social responsibility as a key strategy for helping build value in its brand.  The company, Kind Healthy Snacks, markets healthy snack products and its sales have grown nicely since it was founded 10 years ago.  While in the story the company president emphasizes product taste as the key reason customers purchase their products, a significant percentage of customers also cite the company’s active role in various social campaigns has the reason they buy Kind’s products.

Aside from the importance of social involvement in shaping Kind’s image, the story also discusses other marketing decisions that distinguish this company from competitors, including the company’s decision to eschew fancy product names and the use of relatively simple packaging.

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