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Focus on the customer. (Marketing).

Strategic marketing is at once a business philosophy and a practical discipline of association management pervading every function of the organization with a focus on the customer and the world in which he or she lives. It requires clear understanding and articulation of the past and present as well as a forecast of what might happen in the future.

Strategic marketing is characteristically outside-in, meaning that your attention originates with the customer, not the association, ultimately helping you to create products, services, and experiences to ensure an ongoing, satisfying relationship between the two. For decades, the four P's--product, price, place, and promotion--have served as the framework for effective marketing management. This framework evolved some 40 years ago in an age of consumerism characterized by caveat emptor: let the buyer beware. Today, organizations need to adopt the four C's--customer, cost, convenience, and communication--in framing strategic marketing initiatives to achieve organizational objectives. Coined by Robert F. Lauterborn, co-author of The New Marketing Paradigm: Integrated Marketing Communications (1997, NTC Business Books), the four C's encourage us to operate our organizations from the customer's perspective. Lauterborn advises the following:

* "FORGET PRODUCT. Study consumer wants and needs. You can no longer sell whatever you can make. You can only sell what someone specifically wants to buy.

* "FORGET PRICE. Understand consumers' costs to satisfy their wants or needs.

* "FORGET PLACE. Think convenience to buy.

* "FINALLY, FORGET PROMOTION. The word is communication."

Lauterborn's approach isn't a marketing fad. It's a fundamental shift in management philosophy and practice, primarily in response to dramatic changes in how people decide to purchase. So, while the product or service is an essential ingredient, it's pointless without a customer. Pricing affects profits, but only to the extent that the customer will buy at your price points. Therefore, your pricing needs to consider cost recovery as well as the customer's intellectual, emotional, and sensate response to paying the sales price.

With the Internet and increased competition, availability of comparable products and services is infinite. How convenient do you make it for customers to acquire your products or services? Are your publications available on your Web site, at your annual meeting, and from other sources?

Fifty years ago, mass marketing worked. Promotion focused on mass distribution of the same message. Since then, consumers have grown up in a culture pervaded with media. Today, old and young alike are inundated with advertising messages. Like any long-term relationship, two-way communication is essential. In today's economy, it's too easy for customers to take their dollars elsewhere.

Excerpted from Smart Marketing for Associations, by M. Michelle Poskaitis (2002, ASAE). Poskaitis is chief executive officer of Originations Marketing LLC, a strategic marketing communication consulting firm in Falls Church, Virginia, and serves as chair of the ASAE Marketing Council.
COPYRIGHT 2002 American Society of Association Executives
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Copyright 2002, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Association Management
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2002
Words:459
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