Follow these strategies and create a successful online business.
Why is demand planning linked to marketing strategy? The reason for this is that if you are selling multiple products, you don’t want to market all the products at all the times. You want to market those products that have the highest demand and thus you can optimize on your marketing ROI.
In any business, it is very important to understand the demand of the products that you are selling and plan the marketing strategy based on that demand.
It needs to be understood that each and every product will not have the same demand on every day. As a seller, you have multiple products (or categories or variants) and you need to ensure that you are at the top of the Pricing game, at the top of the Inventory game and at the top of the Marketing game for the product or set of products that are in demand on a given day.
The graph shows a comparison between Laggards and Leaders. The same concept needs to be applied to different products that you sell.
At a given time, one product might be a leader, but the very next week it might be a laggard. This is purely driven by the demand and how you plan to address it.
In order to ensure that you are always focused on the leader (and not the laggard), the questions that you need to answer are –
- Are you selling product(s) that are in demand by a large set of population? Large set here is defined by your capacity to fulfill. If you can fulfill 50 orders, then 5000 is the set of population you are looking at, and if you can fulfill 10,000 orders, then 1 million is the size of the interested audience that you are looking at.
- Does the demand fluctuate with seasons / times / days of month etc? It definitely does, but what is important here is that you need to understand the exact trend and the amount of surge or drop in demand at the time intervals where you sell. These time intervals can be day specific, week specific, month specific or even hour specific.
- Why will the customer buy from you when there is high demand for your products? This is where you start focusing on the product, pricing and placement. This is a step you perform after you’ve understood about the products that are in highest demand. Features and benefits of the products will drive conversion of traffic to customers.
Here are some market research methods that you can use for demand understanding. This will help you to plan for demand.
- Historical data – Use your historical data to understand the various product / category trends and know which product sells when.
- Competition monitoring – Keep a close eye on your top 5 competitors and see what they are promoting. If you find common products that are being promoted by multiple competitors, then they should be in demand.
- Advertisements review – Monitor Ads (of your product segment) on digital, print, TV and Radio. Ads surge leads to high demand.
Once you understand the demand in detail, it is then time for you to be prepared with supply. This will include procurement, stocking, marketing planning, customer service briefing and logistics set up.
The most important part over here is that most businesses succeed or fail depending on how well they can time their demand planning and execution. You may have all the best products, but do you know what your customer wants at what time? If you don’t then you are selling products that people don’t want (at that point in time).
This is one of the most important marketing strategy of big brands that is often overlooked by small businesses.
Let me start with an example here so that you can understand how a typical business alliance works.
I am an e-commerce company that provides attractive offers to customers. These offers are usually in the form of discounts, but they can be variants of discounts like cashback, or buy 2 get 1, or EMI schemes.
The most important marketing element here is that the e-commerce firm can discount a product only to a certain level or else it would increase it’s losses.
Conflict of interest arises between the seller and the buyer in this case. The customer wants the product with maximum discount and the seller wants to make maximum profits. This has been the ultimate problem and companies who are able to address this creatively are the ones who succeed.
This is where business alliances come in. Think of a company that needs to increase it’s customer base and has an allocated budget for the same. It’s current business goal is to have a large set of registered users which it can later convert to customers.
So the e-commerce company and this company ties up. E-commerce company offers publicity of this company to it’s existing customers and in return the company allocates it’s budget to the purchasers on the e-commerce company (as an additional discount).
Examples of such companies are banks, digital wallets, insurance companies, telecom operators, FMCG companies etc.
Also, remember that in the business of marketing, very few alliances will be for long term, so you need to have a team that will find new alliances and offer something new to the customer every time.
This is probably the simples of the marketing strategies that any and every small business could implement and yet most of the businesses are scared here.
The reason why all small businesses are afraid to exercise this marketing strategy as they don’t want to book losses for the future. They want to make sure that they are growing their business, but more importantly, the business has no risks of future losses.
What most of the small businesses fail to understand is that loyalty solutions are not about future losses, they are about future business. The overall profit margin might decrease a bit, but at the end of the day, it is the actual number that matters for a small business rather than a %.
Let me give you an example –
As a small business, would you want a profit margin of 15% and a total annual profit of 10,000 $
Would you want a profit margin of 5% and a total annual profit of 50,000 $
That’s the trick here. You want more profits or more profit margins?
Designing a loyalty solution is not difficult at all. Let’s take an example.
Suppose your average profit margin for every sale is 8%. This means that you make 8$ for every 100$ of revenue.
Let’s say that you current annual sales is about 50,000 $, so this means that your profits are 4000 $ every year.
Now you want to increase your annual profits to 8,000 $ which means that an additional 4,000 $ of profits.
This is a steep jump from what you are currently achieving and thus you decide to come up with a loyalty solution. The solution is designed to get your existing customers to buy more and more from you.
Currently, an average customer buys twice from you at a total order value of 200$. You have a total of 250 customers in a year.
Now you want to convert at least 40% of those customers to loyal customers so that you can generate additional 4000 $ of profits from them.
Hope you are with me, if not, look at the numbers again.
So now you want to convert 100 customers to loyal customers to generate additional 4000 $ of profits from them, which means an additional 40 $ per customer as profits.
Let’s say that you are ok with 5% profit margins if you achieve your overall target of 8000 $ profits, so this means a total revenue of 160,000 $ or an additional revenue of 110,000 $
110,000 $ of revenue from 100 customers means an additional sales of 1100 $ per customer.
So you come up with a scheme that says
Annual shopping Additional discount
0 – 200 $ none
201 – 750 $ 1% which can be converted to points, example 1000 points
751 – 1300 $ 2% which can be converted to points, example 2000 points
1301 $ and above 3% which can be converted to points, example 3000 points
Come up with a redemption scheme and offer it to all you 100 and new additional customers. The scheme can be revised with time based on the response from the customers.
Loyalty solutions should be designed to generate more profits by means of more revenues.
There are various solutions out there that create loyalty solutions and some are not even monetary. Examples –
- Send personalized, hand written birthday wishes
- Call your customers when you have something exciting to offer (complementary, free, trial etc)
- Inter connect your customers so that they can create a community and benefit from each other
and many more. The list here is simply unlimited. You just need to take the first step here.
Also, no loyalty solutions are permanent. They evolve, they fail, they get modified but they are far far far better than not having a loyalty solution.
The Risk Free Marketing Strategy
Every big business is always risk free marketing. What does that mean?
About two years back, there were 2 back to back print campaigns over a period of the month. The first one was such a big hit that the sales went up by 10x as compared to a normal day. The second one was such a flop that sales jump was not even 0.10x of a regular day of sales.
Now the factors of why that happen can be analyzed and many times the reason is outside the environment we control.
For example a competitor displaying another Ad on the same day with a much bigger and better offer or a national event that diverted the public’s attention, like a football match or the launch of a new product in a different category or the death of a national hero etc.
What is important for every business is to create marketing channels that are absolutely risk free. This means that there is no way the business can lose money in marketing.
In the online world, this is usually referred to as “Cost per sale” model and there are lots of companies who provide traffic at these terms. A slightly less safe method is “Cost per lead” model where payment is made for every enquiry that is generated.
Such methods are quite popular and every large business has a strong base of such affiliates or affiliate networks.
The best part with these affiliate networks is that their priority is higher percentages when they select who they should send the traffic to.
So even if you are a small business, you can compete (or take part of the traffic) with large brands by offering better percentages for every sale. This is your best bet as the method is completely risk free.
Lastly, as a bonus, I will reveal the most important strategy.
Every big brand is focused and active and vigilant. You need to be the same. You cannot just implement one strategy and then sit back and relax. You need to get active, you need to pick up all you know and get started.
Every step will be a learning curve, every day will bring new problems, every day will see several defeats and several victories..
At the end of it all, when you sit back and relax and analyze your day, you will realize how much you have grown and how much you have achieved. The best time for that is now !