Marketing Affects the Whole Business
Many people believe that a business makes its product and then uses sophisticated sales techniques to sell it to an unsuspecting consumer at the highest price possible. The market just does not work that way; customers determine what will be made.
The first function of business is to find out what the customer wants, when he wants it, how he wants it delivered and how much he is prepared to pay. A business is forever assessing the market’s changing needs and assessing whether they can deliver them economically. This is the marketing function and it permeates all that the business does.
For example, traditionally, the chickens that we eat are passed through a mild hydrochloric acid bath to cool them after slaughter. Hazeldene’s determined that the consumer would pay a little more for air dried chickens. So they invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in an air drying shed. An investment decision like this involves many facets of the business: market research; engineering; project management; collaboration with retailers; pricing decisions; advertising; changes to work procedures; training and so on. This was an entrepreneurial decision by Hazeldene’s, backing their judgment that the gains in product quality and reputation would yield extra returns to cover the investment.
When businesses decide that they need to improve their processes with a new ERP system they naturally look to buy the best software product. For years, the sales process has focused on a product demonstration. In 2005, we determined that the prospect was in fact looking to improve his procedures, to increase his productivity; the software was simply a means to an end, although that may not always have been obvious. We changed our practices to reflect this. Now instead of rushing to a product demonstration, our consultants work with the client’s staff to discover how their procedures currently work, to learn what their specific requirements are, and to identify where improvements can be made. Our proposal is more about the implementation process than the features of the software. It addresses the client’s real needs and we win a much higher percentage of business.
Like the Hazeldene’s example, this decision changed many aspects of our business: we eliminated our sales manager and product demonstrator; our consultants learned to use their business analysis skills in the sales process; we refined our implementation procedures; we redesigned our proposal template to suit. The relationships between our consultants and the client’s staff changed, becoming more cooperative, making for a much more productive working environment. The biggest impact was the lowering of risk of project failure for ourselves and for our client. By focusing on the client’s needs and paying more attention up front to the problems to be solved, there were fewer surprises as the project progressed, and when there were, they were resolved amicably.