Marketing in Today’s Marketplace


Before you can develop a successful marketing plan, you must have a thorough knowledge of the market place. It’s critical to profile your industry. Is it growing, maturing or aging? Each requires different strategies and tactics. You need to have a good knowledge of your competition. In the marketing plan of the future, more pages will be devoted to the competition. The plan will dissect each participant in the marketplace. It will develop a list of competitive weaknesses and strengths, as well as a plan of action to either exploit or defend against them. Compare the strengths and weaknesses of your products or services. Once you have gone through this exercise, you are in a better position to develop a marketing plan that will produce the results you are seeking.

Positioning is an organized system for finding a window in the mind. The human mind is like a bank. The mind has a position for each bit of information it has chosen to retain. To cope with advertising complexity, people have learned to rank products or services in the mind. Think of a ladder in the mind. On each step is a brand name.

For a business to introduce a new product or service, it must move up the ladder of products or service preferences in the customer’s mind. The mind has no room for the new and different unless it is related to the old and familiar.

Let’s look at some examples of positioning so you can see how the system could help you establish a new business or to grow an existing one. The most classic one now is the Samsung Smartphone ad. Their advertising states “the next big thing is here.” If Apple is the best, they must be almost as good as Apple. What do you remember about the Motorola, Nokia and Blackberry Smartphone sale’s message?

How many of you remember the famous car rental ad? Avis stated we are number two. ”We try harder.” Next to Hertz, Avis was number two. How many of the other car rental ads do you remember? Amazon ran a recent ad that showed a Kindle next to the Apple I Pad. They showed two or three frames of each and the last frame was Kindle is $299 and Apple I-Pad was $499. ”Which one is best for you?” You can position yourself away from your competitors. Locally, Robberson Ford used to run an ad that listed all the services they offer to customers. They ended the ad with a statement that said,” This is what sets us off from the other guys.”

Les Schwab is currently running a TV ad that lists all the services they offer their customers on one screen. The next screen has the word ”competitors” on it with a bold “?.” So what does the competition offer? Another famous positioning ad was when 7up placed a picture of a bottle of 7up between a bottle of Coke and Pepsi. The ad stated ”we are the uncola.” Sales of 7up increased 15 percent the next year.

In order to implement a successful tactic and strategy, you need to get into the mind of the customer. A tactic is a competitive mental angle. A tactic must have a competitive angle in order to have a chance of success.

A strategy is not a goal. Like itself, a strategy ought to be focused on the journey of the goal. It’s a coherent marketing direction.

The purpose of the strategy is to mobilize your resources to preempt the tactic. A tactic is a singular idea or angle. A strategy has many elements, all of which are focused on the tactic. Find a tactic that will work and then build it into a strategy. Find one tactic, not two, three or four. Yet marketing battles are won or lost at the tactical level, not at the strategic level. The best marketing moves rarely look like big winners in advance.

The first thing you need to decide is “what” tactic to use. Before you adopt your tactic or strategy, you need to go down to the front and decide are you looking for information or confirmation. Nothing is more important than visiting the scene of the action.


Going down to the front means putting yourself in a position to explore what customers and prospects might be thinking.

Trends vs. Fads. A trend usually involves slow change. A fad is like a fashion: it usually starts much faster and ends more abruptly. Another difference between a fad and a trend is the fact that the fad gets all the press. Trends get much less press because they take place slowly.

Every marketing plan desperately needs a healthy dose of reality. The tactic is the point of attack and the strategy is the process of organizing the operation to give maximum thrust to the selected tactic. There is a time for focus. When a product tries to appeal to everybody, it winds up appealing to nobody. You must understand the issues. What is the problem. What is keeping your business from taking off in the marketplace. The process requires objectivity and intellectual honesty. All too often marketing people fail to isolate and get basic agreement on their number one problem.

You won’t find your problem inside the company. You won’t even find the problem in the marketplace. Invariably the problem is in the mindset of the customer or prospect.

Marketing today is a battle of ideas, not products or services.

The perception is the reality. What you are trying to do in marketing is not to change minds, but to take advantage of the perceptions that are already there. To find an opening you have to seize on a specific and then generalize it. Marketing is a game where the simple idea beats multiple thrusts. Simple ideas are easier to implement and prospects find them easier to understand.

Marketing today is a battle of concepts, not products or services. You have to focus on your competitors and their strengths and weaknesses in the mind. You have to search out that one key tactic that will work in the mental battleground.

Hopefully this article will encourage you to explore positioning as a tool for growing your business. Following are three books I would recommend to you for developing these concepts further: Positioning – The Battle For Your Mind by Al Ries and Jack Trout, Marketing Warfare by Al Ries and Jack Trout and Bottoms Up Marketing by Al Reis and Jack Trout.

To learn more about marketing and other matters for your small business, contact SCORE, America’s free and confidential source of small business mentoring and coaching. SCORE is a nonprofit association of more than 12,000 business experts who volunteer as mentors. SCORE offers free mentoring and low-cost workshops nationwide. Call Gerry Smith at 541-508-1648 or sign up for a free consultation at


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Founded in 1994 by the late Pamela Hulse Andrews, Cascade Business News (CBN) became Central Oregon’s premier business publication. •

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