Pasta marketing: when to do a check-up

2 July 2014 Off By Pastaria

Periodical checking of the marketing functions is very important if effective and long-lasting plans for success are to be made.

by Marino Rossi

Even company organizational structures must be periodically subjected to verifications on their operations, real check-ups.

A pasta maker must be very clear about the definition of the principal activities entrusted to its marketing department: this is the only way it can implement the main controls to put in place in order to check that the activities are carried out properly. In short, marketing has the task of defining the market needs that the company intends to satisfy, and how it intends to satisfy them.

More in detail, marketing has the tasks of:

• understanding the market’s needs;

• studying the price/product combination that is best able to satisfy customers, thereby ensuring adequate profits;

• identifying the best communication and promotion methods;

• creating the optimum distribution formula for achieving the commercial goals.

It is clear that a marketing function exists in every company, even the smallest ones, although in these cases it may be a mere appendage of the sales department.

In other cases marketing is subdivided between the sales manager and the entrepreneur, with the former engaged in selling and the latter in making products and setting prices.

In the largest companies the marketing function is clearly identified, with a head who often oversees not only the market research and communication staff but also the sales area, and in some cases shipping as well.

The first check to put in place to verify the degree of efficiency and effectiveness of this function is therefore that of identifying the people who have marketing tasks, clarifying their roles and responsibilities.

Clear roles, entrusted to motivated people who have expertise in the sector and in marketing, an innovative spirit, and good skills in market analysis and in synthesizing the main market trends are the basis for having a marketing department that is able to produce good results.

The main task of marketing is formulating and implementing a marketing plan that outlines the company’s commercial objectives and the actions that it intends to put in place to achieve them.

First of all, a good marketing department must constantly monitor the company’s internal situation, seeking to get a realistic picture of the company’s strengths and weaknesses compared to its competitors and the environmental context.

Analysis gives good results if it is carried out at periodic intervals in a formalized way, but it can also be done using an asystematic process.

It is only by means of careful, sincere (even if painful) analysis of the situation that marketing plans can be set up with any possibility of success.

The number one task of good marketing is to understand what the customer wants: what are the characteristics of its market, the developmental trends, the expressed or latent needs, the threats and opportunities.

This does not mean that proper analysis guarantees success (marketing strategies or their execution can be wrong), but an erroneous interpretation of the market is a sure recipe for disaster.

Many companies, especially the smallest ones, are created as a result of good intuition by the entrepreneur, who spots a particularly interesting market segment, understands its mechanisms and identifies its needs.

Over time, however, perhaps due to fear of calling consolidated behaviours into question, a company is allowed to go in different directions from the ones taken by the market.

Also in this case the check that needs to be carried out is relatively simple:

• is the company still capable of listening?

Here it is necessary to know how to adapt to what takes place outside the company, but the fundamentals are the same: the company has to listen with humility and decode the information appropriately.

If the strengths and weakness, the threats and opportunities are clear, the marketing function has to set coherent objectives and a strategy of action to achieve them.

Also in this case the checks to be made are relatively simple:

• are there clear marketing objectives?

• are they expressed in a comprehensible, quantitative form?

• are they consistent with the company’s resources and with the market conditions?

Clear objectives consistent with the resources and the market are the prerequisites for building a successful marketing plan.

Too many companies, especially those where the entrepreneur is also in charge of sales and marketing, have no objectives. If the goals are clear, however, and if one is aware of one’s strengths and weaknesses and knows how the market functions, it is possible to set up an adequate plan of action.

All this is achieved with a suitable marketing mix, that is, the choice of a specific combination of products/prices/communication/distribution.

The check that must always be made is whether an explicit policy exists for each element of the marketing mix, and whether there is an intrinsic coherence between them.

Also in this case one can know everything about oneself and the market, have clear ideas about where to go and how to move, and consequently formulate a coherent choice of products, prices, communication and sales, and nevertheless not be successful. The implementation may be wrong, or a coherent marketing mix may have been chosen that is inadequate for meeting the market’s needs, or one can simply be unlucky and come up against an especially strong, well-equipped competitor.

It is a fact, however, one demonstrated by many studies, that companies that plan and strive to prepare themselves for the future have more success than those that improvise on a day to day basis.

Here are a few points for reflection on some aspects of the implementation of a marketing plan.

A marketing department worthy of the name must be able to plan correctly, but it must also be able to perform the operations necessary for the execution of those plans. A perfect battle plan carried out by poorly led troops is not going to be successful: marketing has to have a positive final result, achieved by monitoring the practical activities.


Product strategy

A suitable price, focused communication and widespread distribution carried out by prepared, motivated operators can achieve a great deal, but without a product that truly meets customers’ needs it is difficult to have lasting success.

Managing a correct product policy is a complex matter, but we will try to focus on a few key points. First of all it must be remembered that it is almost never the case that just one product is sold, but a portfolio of products.

A first fundamental check regards the health status of every product making up the company’s portfolio.

A well-prepared marketing department must also suggest new products to accompany or replace any that may be in decline. If a company allows its product portfolio to age too much, it is going to run into trouble.

Another fundamental analysis regards the way a new product is launched. One must make sure that market estimates are carried out beforehand, preferably with market tests, in order to ensure the initiative’s success.

Careful planning of the activities can significantly reduce the likelihood of mistakes in the launch of a new product.

A few words on price strategy. The fundamental factor for evaluating the ability of a marketing department is once again awareness of the objectives and striving for actions that are consistent with them.

• has marketing carried out constant monitoring of the competitors’ prices?

• is the price in line with the general positioning policy chosen by the company?

• is there a price policy that is known and applied by all the channels?

• is the discount policy consistent with the short-term objectives (promotion, stock reduction, attack on a competitor, etc.) as well as the long-term goals?

A lack of synchronization between product, communication and distribution choices and price policies can cause serious harm to a company’s image. Such choices must therefore be monitored attentively.


Communication strategy

It must be verified that objectives and execution are consistent in this area also.

In particular, the choices of the targets to hit and the message to emphasize must be well defined.

One must then verify that the best media have been chosen to convey that specific message to that specific target (Internet, television, periodicals, trade magazines, direct communication by means of e-mail or regular mail, trade fairs, telemarketing, etc.).

Finally, the analysis of the redemption, that is, of the responses obtained, must be planned with care so as to refine the focus for subsequent communications.

We are still seeing, fortunately less and less frequently, cases where the marketing plans advertising aimed either at wrong targets (pork sausages in Egypt) or in unsuitable media (production systems in banking journals).

The fundamental message for those who deal with pasta marketing is always to have a clear idea what one wants to achieve, assiduously and precisely checking that the steps taken are consistent with the objectives.

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