Controlling a brand's image is one of the major goals of any marketer selling named products as it offers many advantages including making a product stand out from other products, creating a more loyal customer base and, most important, building brand equity. We have noted the importance of establishing a recognizable brand name many times. For instance, last year we looked at how providers of medical marijuana face branding decisions as a way to separate their products from a rapidly growing group of competitors. And a few weeks ago we reported on how the need for building strong brands has led to a growing market for services hired to create unique brand names.

However, for all the work marketers do to control a brand's image, success often comes down to one thing – how customers perceive a brand. That is, what is the first thing that comes to customers' minds when they hear a brand's name or are exposed to it visually (e.g., see image, see actual product). One of the best ways to measure this is to ask customers simply: "What word describes Brand X?" Obviously the type of responses will be varied, such as describing a brand as innovative, ugly, strong, unreliable, etc. While there are certainly hundreds of terms people will use to describe a product, one that most marketers do not want to hear is "cheap."

As discussed in this Entrepreneur Magazine story, marketers need to steer clear from having customers think of their brand as being cheap. Instead, marketers with low price products should create a marketing strategy in which their product is thought to be "affordable." As discussed, the difference is that products perceived as cheap may also be viewed as lacking value, that is, you get what you pay for and with cheap products that is not much. Alternatively, in customers' minds, they are getting their money's worth and maybe a little more with products perceived as affordable. In other words, positioning a product so it is perceived as being affordable places a brand in a much stronger position than if it is being viewed as cheap.

Visitors to KnowThis.com visit the site for many different reasons. There are business professionals who find value in the information we provide in our Tutorials. There are those in educational fields who like to keep up with the latest Marketing Stories. And there are students who find the resources on the site useful for school assignments. However, if there is one marketing topic that draws the attention of all three groups, it would have to do with what the future holds for employment in marketing.

A few weeks ago we discussed what type of jobs will be in demand in the next few years, and we noted that at the top of the list are Market Research Analysts. Now some may think a Market Research Analyst is someone who mainly designs online surveys or collects data by making phone calls to customers. While they may do some of this, when we talk about an analyst position it is much more likely we are talking about people who do much more. Professionals in these positions possess the knowledge and skills to create research instruments, gather data, crunch the results, dissect the information and eventually draw insight from the information that helps guide business decisions. The demand for people who possess these skills is growing rapidly. Moreover, right now, for those who can combine strong quantitative ability with effective communication skills, such as writing reports, presenting results and even socializing with clients, the potential is tremendous.

To help bring this point home is this story from Advertising Age, which offers strong evidence that those who possess strong analytical skills will be in demand. It points to a research company's estimate suggesting that by 2018 demand will far outpace supply, leading to a shortage of skilled analysts. The story also suggests that higher education has been a bit slow in responding with full analytics degree programs, though a quick Google search shows that many schools are now offering analytics certificate programs.

Make no mistake, an analytics jobs does require strong quantitative skills. Yet, for those who possess these skills and may have thought their skills were better suited for jobs in the sciences or the computer industry, market research may just be a better option.

Methods of sales promotion are inherently techniques for encouraging someone to do something. Whether the promotion is in the form of a coupon, rewards program, free sample or many other methods, to most marketers the "something" they are looking for almost always involves customers spending money.

However, methods of sales promotion do not always have to be about building sales. As we note in our definition of Sales Promotion, the ultimate goal in using these methods is to get people "to respond or undertake certain activity."  Yet, getting someone to do something is not only about having them spend money. Parents and teachers have known this forever as they are masters of offering incentives to get kids to do non-monetary activity, such as cleaning up their room or speaking up in the classroom.

The extent to which sales promotion techniques are being used to incent non-monetary activity is discussed in this Trendwatching story. For example, in the U.S. an insurance company is offering its policyholders Amazon money if they attain a fitness goal. To monitor policyholders' fitness level, the company is also giving out free wearable fitness trackers. In Brazil, as part of an anti-smoking campaign, people can place cigarettes in a vending machine and in exchange receive free gifts. And in Canada, police officers are handing out tickets that reward positive behavior by children. The tickets can then be redeemed for various prizes. Other examples discuss how promotions encourage use of sustainable methods of transportation and promote recycling. There is also an example of a shared social incentive program, offered by Fitbit, where participants can help feed those in need by burning off calories.

Overall, the examples presented in the story can offer ideas for any organization that wants to achieve an objective.

As we note in our Targeting Markets tutorial, to be considered a qualified target market, customers must meet five criteria: 1) have a need; 2) are eligible to buy; 3) can afford to buy; 4) have authority to buy; and 5) can be reachable by the marketer. Depending on the product or service, a big problem exists when potential customers have needs for a product (criterion #1) but lack the financial ability to afford the purchase (criterion #3). Of course, we frequently see this with very high-end products, such as luxury goods, which are often not an option for the majority of consumers due to the perceived high price. But, we also see this problem among low-income consumers seeking to satisfy basic needs such as food, clothing and health care.

While many businesses that market basic products will steer clear of trying to figure out ways to address the needs of low-income consumers, others are addressing these consumers by engaging in socially responsible activities. For example, in 2014 we saw how a candy company's social responsibility strategy was helping it enhance the value of its brand.

Yet, making a company look good is not the only potential benefit from being socially responsible. As discussed in this Harvard Business Review story, organizations in France are forming "social businesses" to address issues with economically isolated consumers. The social businesses have three major characteristic: 1) they provide solutions to important social issues; 2) they run a sustainable operation; and 3) they reinvestment profits back into the social business. The story provides insight into how various social businesses work. What is most intriguing is that these businesses are not all about providing low-cost, low-end products. In fact, the way these social businesses operate, many are providing very good quality products at low prices. How they are able to do this, including the relationships that need to be forged among different participants in the distribution channel, is a key takeaway from this story.

Another issue brought up that should also attract marketers' attention is how the social business model can lead to innovative ideas that can be applied to other markets. Several examples are discussed including how automobile company Renault learned that using computer driving games can help boost car sales among younger French drivers.

how-to-sellIn our last post, we mentioned that while advertising may hold more excitement than other forms of promotion, many organizations consider personal selling to be the most critical. However, one might raise the point that there are lots of organizations that do not field a sales force, so isn't selling only of concern to firms with salespeople?

Yes, it is true that many organizations are successful using other methods of promotion to get people interested in their product. For example, let's assume someone clicks on an Internet advertisement that directs them to an online retailer, such as Amazon.com. Once on Amazon, if they make a purchase they are doing so without a person selling to them. While it may be true that Amazon made a sale using an advertisement, it is important to realize that Amazon did not get to where it is today without engaging in personal selling. In its early days, Amazon (like many start-up companies) had to convince (i.e., sell) many others, such as venture capitalists, transportation companies, book distributors and even some authors, to believe in the company. In other words, selling should never be viewed as an activity that is only limited to getting customers to buy. There are other things individuals and companies must sell besides products or services. For instance, consider the following:

  • Librarians face the challenge of getting customers to use their services as the Internet now offers access to numerous information sources previously only available in libraries.
  • A writer, who has completed her first novel, must figure out how to reach a publisher and then convince the publisher to market the book.
  • A parent may have to "sell" their teenager on putting down a video game and dressing in better clothing in order to go to grandma's house for dinner.

In each of these situations, something is being sold. Though it may seem far removed from what most people perceive as selling, the key is whether one person is persuading someone to do something. Whether it is making a purchase, obtaining a loan, accepting a point-of-view, changing attitudes or an infinite number of other behavioral decisions, it all comes down to mastering persuasive communication or selling. This is why we stated in our last post that all marketers (and even non-marketers) can benefit from understanding the skills that make a salesperson successful, including understanding the skills needed for persuasive communication.

LEARNING TO SELL
Since what many people in organizations and social situations do can be classified as selling, it makes sense to expand the learning of selling skills beyond sales professionals. For instance, university librarians may find that understanding selling skills could help to persuade students and other library customers to continue to rely on librarians for key service assistance.

But, how does someone, who is not part of a sales force, learn to sell? Fortunately, there is no shortage of sales training options. Essentially sales training is divided into two camps: 1) Self-Directed Training, where the trainee learns on their own; and 2) Professional-Directed Training, where someone teaches selling techniques.

Options for Self-Directed Training:

  • Multimedia Training – There are many self-directed sales training programs available for purchase, including websites with online sales courses, that include multimedia content such as videos. A simple Internet search should produce many options.
  • Books – A search on Amazon will reveal hundreds of trade books and textbooks on selling. Generally the best are those with the highest sales rankings or have been published in several editions over many years.
  • Online Sources – Check out our Marketing Links section under Personal Selling and The Selling Process for links to other excellent Internet resources.

Options for Professional-Directed Training:

  • Sales Trainers – The sales training industry, where an outside consultant offers on-site instruction, is huge. While more expensive than self-directed training, in-person training can be more effective since it can be customized to an organization's needs. Instructor-led training also offers trainees the opportunity to engage in role play situations to help develop their skills.
  • Local Sales Professionals – Members of not-for-profit groups looking to learn more about selling techniques may want to tap into the knowledge and expertise of some of their local patrons or contributors who are sales professionals. These people may be happy to contribute their time to help with sales training.

Regardless of which training option is chosen, understanding basic selling techniques can help almost anyone perform better in business and social situations. Remember, everyone sells something, so why not learn to do it better.