Practical Ecommerce

Marketing’s 2 Most Important Tasks

The modern marketing department — particularly at small and mid-sized businesses — has two vital and distinct tasks. The first is to provide business and market intelligence to support decision making. The second is to communicate authentic company values to engage and retain customers.

In larger organizations these roles are likely to be divided with a marketing communications group handling the latter and a market research group doing the former. Small businesses rarely have the luxury of specializing these tasks so that the same team of workers must do both. The worst of situations could have an inexperienced marketer guessing at how advertising or promotions might impact a business.

Business and Market Intelligence

As a small business seeks to grow sales and improve operations, such as cutting shipping costs or managing customer service better, business and market intelligence may provide crucial information that will help business managers know where to focus resources and provide a way of measuring how well the company is doing.

Business intelligence is focused on understanding how a company is actually functioning internally. Business intelligence data might include how many orders are received and processed daily, which sites or promotions are driving site traffic, how long operators spend on customer service calls, or even how long it takes someone to write a new product description.

Business intelligence data may be used to:

  • Improve productivity as it identifies inefficient processes;

  • Identify areas of possible cost savings;

  • Provide insights about how important customers engage and interact;

  • Explain how existing customers discover sales or promotions;

  • Identify which advertising vehicles are driving traffic or conversions;

  • Help align operations with overall business strategies.

Market intelligence tends to look specifically at the business’s external environment. This discipline will analyze the larger market and the business’s position in that market.

Market intelligence may help to:

  • Identify the size of the total addressable market (TAM) for a product or segment;

  • Determine the business’s current share of the market;

  • Compare the company’s growth, advertising, marketing, and performance to competitors;

  • Identify alternative sales channels;

  • Discover new markets or consumer segments;

  • Find new or underused marketing opportunities;

  • Show decision makers how a company must change.

Used together, business and marketing intelligence provide significant insights. For example, if a business wanted to use the Boston Consulting Group Matrix to decide which product lines are likely to generate the best long-term results, it would need information about its own customers and sales as well as information about the market at large.

Similarly, if a retailer wanted to know how its business compared to the typical American retailer over time, that retailer would need to have its own annual revenue data, its year-over-year revenue growth and the U.S. Census annual retail trade data. If a company found that it was tracking well above the average, it might have a different strategy moving forward than if it found it was trailing the national average.

Ultimately, the business and marketing intelligence should help business leaders make decisions about the company’s goals and strategies.

Marketing Communications

Once goals have been set and a strategy has been developed, it is time to communicate. A fairly standard definition of marketing communications is that it is the process or act of describing product value to potential customers for the purpose of selling that product.

In the past, marketers have very often depending on advertising to communicate to many customers at once. More recently, marketing departments have begun to use more of the business and market intelligence collected to seek to connect with shoppers individually. This has meant that marketing managers and directors have had to develop a blend of skills that frequently include writing code, designing graphics, and engineering measurable campaigns.

The marketing communications task will:

  • Provide customers with product information;

  • Explain the benefits of a product;

  • Describe how the product fits into a lifestyle.

For ecommerce merchants, these communications often take the form of:

  • Website performance, since it is a content delivery mechanism;

  • Email marketing;

  • Content marketing;

  • Social media marketing;

  • Various forms of advertising.

How the 2 Roles Are Integrated

It has already been stated that business and market intelligence can be used to help set goals and develop a business strategy. Those goals and strategies are used as the basis for the marketing communications task, informing the communicator what should be accomplished and guiding decisions about what is communicated, when it is communicated, and how it is communicated.

In the process of communicating product value in accordance with business goals and strategy, marketing will also collect customer information, based on interaction with the communications in a variety of media. This new customer information becomes a data source for the group’s ever improving business and marketing intelligence task.

Effectively, the dual-purpose marketing department is part of a virtuous cycle that using consistently improving data to make increasingly better business decisions and provide continued customer feedback.

Armando Roggio

Armando Roggio

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