Marketing is often confused with public relations or communications, whereas others may consider marketing as the process of selling, with selling being the final act of ordering and invoicing for a product or service.
In reality, marketing is or should be the process that starts from the conception of an idea; its development to a product or service that can be sold; the support before, during and after the act of sell; and the maintaining of the product/service’s image and presence in the market. Marketing is one of the most central aspects of commercialism, especially when products of added value are concerned. Lamentably, those involved in commodities and then expand in added-value products confuse the difference between selling on price and selling on value. Here comes marketing which, in the case of price-based selling, constitutes only, say, 10 percent of the total effort, whereas in added-value products, marketing can be even up to 90 percent of the process. Perhaps, this is an over-dramatization, but the basic concept is as such.
There is also the mistaken notion that marketing starts and ends in placing an advertisement. Perhaps this is all most can afford, but certainly it is not the only activity of marketing. Advertising works wonders in building brand image and for campaigns launching new products and services, but one can only fit so much information in the limited space of even a full-page advertisement. And, of course, marketing is neither a one-on-one visit to present the new developments of our company. The ground must be prepared before this event by indirect marketing efforts so that the consumer is informed and educated about the science behind our products and services. Otherwise, it remains difficult to convince someone to cover a need that they do not recognize as such.
At the end, what is actually included in the marketing process is a huge discussion, and there are university degrees and countless books dedicated to this subject. What we can all agree for the purposes of our industry – that of animal nutrition – is that marketing includes everything we do to successfully place our product in the market so that it generates significant profit first for our customers and then, and only then, for ourselves. In my experience, what is missing from the marketing efforts of many nutrition companies, worldwide, is the effort to exhibit efficiently their ability to deliver exactly what they promise. In other words, a supplier does not only have to be “really good” in what they do, but people – their potential and current customers – must be fully aware of it, too.
So we come to the very sensitive question on how marketing in our industry should be done. I will defer to the expertise of those more qualified for a comprehensive answer as I can only offer what I consider missing from most companies. In essence, I am offering for consideration what I have seen successful nutrition suppliers do in terms of marketing. Certainly, not all of the actions below will work for all cases, but even if one new marketing activity can boost profitability, the goal of this article will have been accomplished.
Write the book
Successful people and companies write books. Despite the advent of internet, a book remains a mark of authority – right or wrong, this is another discussion. So, if you’re selling organic acids, write a book about organic acids. Don’t expect to make any money from the book, and be prepared for some extensive spending of time. Give out copies of your book to customers and prospects, free of charge.
Write an article
Failing to write a whole book, write smaller, but highly angled articles. Avoid advertorials like the plague, because these are now considered as a tactless, old-fashioned, and very transparent replacements for advertisements. Write for the benefit of your readers and they will reward you. Don’t write about your products. Instead, focus on the science behind them. Shine through the expertise of your technical staff.
Advertise your brand
As we mentioned advertisements so often, we must emphasize the strength of this medium when done properly. Consult first with a highly qualified professional regarding the content, the tone, and the placement of your advertisements. Perhaps, a single, large, two-page brand advertisement might be what you need, but a smaller and more frequent advertisement might also be more beneficial for your goals.
Publish a newsletter
This is easier said than done, but if you avoid the trap of talking about your products, it can be a considerable image-improvement vehicle. Don’t publish one every week, but keep it published regularly. If it cannot be done internally, seek the help of a professional service provider, but always assign an in-house person to oversee, direct and review the process.
Organize a conference
This is where big companies spend their money, only because it works the best. After the conference, write that book or article based on content from the conference. Avoid making the conference a celebratory event for your products. Invite speakers from academia and the private sector. Do not forget to invite your customers.
Be on the internet
Whether you are on social platforms, webinars or technical forums, make it a priority to spend some effort to establish a presence on the internet. Everybody in on the internet today, but you must target your content to match the profile of your readers, so some initial homework is needed.
Write a blog
But don’t expect people to come to your website – nobody visits commercial nutrition websites as often as we want to believe, unless they need something specific. Instead, get it delivered to email accounts (after asking permission) or get your blog associated with a high-traffic website.
Establish a knowledge database
If someone wants to find something about a vitamin or a mineral or how to properly feed a calf, make sure you are the first stop for them to seek out such information. You need a strong database of information (not just your company’s brochures) and you need to let people know such a knowledge database exists (advertise, advertise, advertise). And, by “advertise,” I don’t mean exclusively in this magazine (or any other such as this one). You can do wonders asking your employees to place under their email signatures the website address of your knowledge database. Place it also on business cards, letters and even invoices.
Do not expect to close the sale through marketing. Marketing precedes selling. Marketing makes life easier for salespeople. It educates and informs customers. Some consider this as a double-edged sword: an educated customer may go to competition. If they do, so be it. You will always be the pioneer and, by the time competition catches up, you will already be marketing your next achievement.