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Five steps to marketing success


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Global Office
Corporate Governance

(CNN) -- Every company needs a marketing strategy, and for more than three decades Philip Kotler has been one of the business world's foremost brand strategists.

The author of 35 influential books on marketing, Kotler teaches international marketing at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management in Illinois, one of the top business academies in the U.S., and has acted as a consultant to companies such as IBM, General Electric and Bank of America.

"Every person, every organization, every place, every celebrity is going to be known in some fashion," he says.

"Now you can manage that or you can leave it to chance. I don't know of any sector that is not involved in marketing whether they call it that or something else."

Global Office asked Kotler for his five top tips for marketing success.

1. Come in under the radar

"Building a brand is a roll-out process, not a drop everywhere in the world at one time. Do you know what the best selling imported beer is in the United States? It's Corona. Who would expect a beer from Mexico to be popular? The fact is it's a terrific beer. But they didn't just come to the U.S. and put it everywhere. They went to the cities with a Mexican population -- Los Angeles, Chicago, New York -- and then they put it in restaurants and stores there. The key to brand-building is to have something good that you roll-out in a very intelligent way. Maybe even invisibly for a while because you want to be under the radar screen of competitors."

2. Know your customer

"There are still too many CEOs who identify marketing with selling and advertising. But marketing has evolved to be not only product centered but customer centered. We are saying you've got to understand and choose the customers you want to serve. Don't just go after everyone. Define the target market carefully through segmentation and then really position yourself as different and as superior to that target market. Don't go into that target market if you're not superior.

"We are trying to make the case that it's much more important for a company to be customer-centric than product-centric. The same customer you have for product X, may be available for product Y and Z and so on. And you won't know that if you have separate product managers, each only concerned with selling his or her product."

3. Own your branding

"We are not in a state of competition anymore; we're in a state of hyper-competition. So people are desperately looking for handles -- functional features, emotional appeals -- that will draw people to their product. We should think of owning a word or a phrase that helps to build customer retention and loyalty. Look at how we buy the Mercedes because it's the best engineered car. We buy a BMW because it's the best driving performance. We buy the Volvo because it's the safest automobile. A lot of these companies lose that edge too, but they don't lose the impression."

4. Stay ahead of the competition

"The worst thing is that if something works, your competitors are going to clone it and before you know it anything that you had as a differentiator is imitated by the others. So you're in the business of constant innovation. Constantly asking yourself, 'Three years from now, what will our differentiator be?'

"I had the CEO of a large company approach me and ask me to sign a copy of my book, which I always do, but this was a first edition from 1967. I looked at the book and I said I won't sign it. 'Why not?' he asked. I said, 'That book is from before there was the Internet. It has very little on branding, so I think it's useless.' At which point he said to me, 'Are you trying to sell me a new copy?' And I said, 'Yes, but it's not for my benefit-- I don't need the money." Markets change, so marketing has to change."

5. Make it an experience

"Once in a while we find someone having a whole new approach to a mature market. Starbucks is a very good example where coffee is coffee but they decided to sell it differently, put a higher price, make it good-tasting and make it an experience rather than just some coffee. In fact, I've heard that if Starbucks closed its shops, a lot of people would go crazy. They are in such a habit of going to the Starbucks before work, taking the coffee, and they'd become desperate otherwise.

"There's a big movement to say, 'we're not just adding services to our business and our product, we're actually trying to design an experience.' You'll see that language being used. We're in the experience design business."

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