Philip Kotler has suggested that satisfying customer needs through the four Ps does not go far enough. We should, he says, be ‘delighting customers’ by using the ‘four Cs’. Thus the product, viewed from the customer’s point of view, becomes Customer Value. Price is the Cost to the customers, which may include time, effort, inconvenience, etc. as well as money. Place, from the customer viewpoint is convenience. Promotion is all about Communication with the customers. In the late nineties and beyond success will be determined by the ability to go beyond the bare satisfaction of needs and on to the creation of delighted customers.
This approach ties in with the concept of Total Quality Management (TQM), which requires the commitment in by everyone in the organization to constant improvement in the quality statement: ‘perfection is not enough.’ Since quality is determined by customers’ perceptions and preferences, it is only by working closely with customers that we can deliver the customer value that will make them ‘delighted customers’ in Kotler’s phrase.
For ome companies optimal quality means that the product provides the consumer with an experience that meets, but does not exceed, expectations. According to this viewpoint, there’s no sense in incurring added costs in providing what amounts to excessive quality. However, other firms strive to exceed consumers’ expectations in order to produce high levels of customer satisfaction and, in turn, brand loyalty.
The Importance of Timing
Another important factor, which runs through all marketing decision, is timing. The best product in the world will fail if it is launched before there is a ready market for it. To be too late may give competitors a chance to establish themselves in the market. A product launch for an expensive new product that coincides with a recession, and consequently low consumer expenditure, will face far more difficulty that if it is timed to meet an upswing in the economy. To get into the shops by Christmas, a new toy must be ‘sold in’ to retailers by August, and probably needs to be shown at the Toy Fair in the previous January.
The Vital Spark
There is a serious danger felt in the writing about the topic of marketing, and in the whole idea of marketing as a course of study, that by analyzing each aspect of it and trying to understand thought processes behind it, one will start to believe that marketing is the all about the careful analysis of one alternative against another. It is not. To study all these processes may be an aid to successful marketing, just as the study of strategy may help a successful general, but marketing, like war, is about activity. It is doing, not merely thinking. To be successful at it, one must be creative as well as analytical, aggressive as well as meticulous.
Many companies mistakenly see marketing as a combination of specialist rather than as a total approach to business which should involve the whole organization. The pressure of detailed routine has turned most marketing people today into maintenance men. All this is the very opposite of offensive marketing, which is a set of attitudes and techniques designed to exploit the marketing situation fully. It requires a company to monitor every major new development in its markets and to respond to competitive moves by counter-attack, not by imitation.
Marketing is about winning votes from customers in the marketplace, it is about beating competitors to the punch, it is about making optimum profits. Above all marketing is about spotting customers’ needs faster than anyone else, satisfying them better than anyone else and in the process making better profits than anyone else. It is about exploiting opportunities more than about avoiding problems. The study, the analysis, the weighing of facts and alternatives are all important, but the creative aggressive competitive spirit is equally necessary. The right marketing mix is the fuel, but it needs igniting by this vital spark. (660 words)